This year Connecticut College’s social media presence has exploded with the creation of the CC Live Twitter account, a Conn Instagram account and various contests aimed at inviting current students, prospective students and even alumni to participate and interact with the burgeoning digital community. Many of you may have received postcards in your mailboxes, encouraging you to participate in the Camel Photo Contest, in which students snap photos related to the hashtag theme of the week (week one was #CamelPride, week two was #CampusBeauty) and post them on Twitter and to the contest website (www.conncoll.edu/photo-contest).
But many of you may be wondering who the man behind the computer is. Last week, The College Voice sat down with Conn’s New Media Producer, Jeff Puklin, and talked about his many responsibilities as Conn’s social media guru. A 2011 graduate from Muhlenberg College, Puklin has a degree in Media and Communications and has had several internships over the years working for Public Relations offices and with a New Media Specialist. He’s had experience creating video content, writing for various websites and managing social media, and has learned that you need a different mindset for managing social media for an institution as opposed to using it for personal reasons. Working for Conn is his first full-time position out of college, and he’s done a lot for the campus community in his short time here.
CV: What are your responsibilities as the New Media Producer at Conn?
JP: My position was created because the college wanted someone who could concentrate on the novelty of content marketing — someone who could figure out how to develop and maintain communities (current and prospective students, alumni and parents), create compelling content and develop online discussions.
I manage the social media for the college, but I work with a lot of departments, clubs and teams to educate them about social media and help develop presences across campus. One of our major goals is to develop a vibrant, digital campus community, and to invite prospective students and outside groups to have a peek into our community.
We created the CC Live Twitter account after looking at analytics and realizing that the audience for our main Twitter and Facebook accounts was primarily comprised of alumni. We wanted to connect prospective and current students to the digital ecosystems. We’re still kind of in the building phase, but we’ve definitely made progress with the new strategy. With CC Live, we have a way to document events across campus, and other groups on campus can report and interact with us. It’s created a network, a close-knit community. We’ve also been able to use it for emergency communication, which has been beneficial with the hurricane and blizzard this past year. Working closely with the Director of PR Deb MacDonnell and the Media Relations Manager Amy Martin, we’ve been able to get our messages across and answer student questions in a direct and prompt fashion.
CV: How do students use and interact with Conn social media? What are some ways that you strive to get students more involved?
JP: We have a number of contests on campus. With the Student Minute Contest, we asked students to submit up to sixty second video clips of their daily routines, which we used as a way to show an authentic view of campus life to prospective students. Many students are already on social media, and this contest helped to provide a sense of community and structure around content that was already being created by our students. There were a number of prizes, and it was pretty successful. We had twenty-eight videos submitted, and we used Twitter, YouTube and Facebook to decide who would win.
Now we’re in the middle of the Camel Photo Contest. By having current students submit photos, we’re looking to show prospective students why Connecticut College is great. We’re using the @ConnCollege and the CC Live Twitter accounts, Instagram and the Class of 2017 Facebook group to show examples and post about deadlines and results. One of the main goals with this project is engagement; we want the contest to add to the vibrancy of the campus community — and digital community. It provides a structure for all of the great videos and pictures being talked about on social media.
CV: Last semester Conn was ranked 98 in the Top 100 Social Media Colleges by Student Advisor. How do you feel about that?
JP: That was the first time that Connecticut College made that list, which was pretty exciting. It’s definitely nice to get recognized for our social media efforts. In the report they mentioned the Student Minute Contest, and I’ve since written a blog post for StudentAdvisor.com about hurricane preparedness and social media communication. I’ve talked with them a lot about the new initiatives that we’re doing, such as ramping up CC Live’s presence and the photo contest. I’m confident that we’ll move up a few spots when the list is announced again this spring.
CV: You have social media office hours now. How have students responded to that?
JP: It hasn’t caught on yet, but I show up every Wednesday from 4 to 5 PM in Cro. I want students to come talk to me. Some students are interested in social media and marketing. I would like the office hours to serve a dual purpose. I would like them to be a resource for staff and faculty. They can serve as an extension of the Publicity Fridays that our office runs, in which we invite faculty and staff to learn about social media. I educate them on how to create accounts for specific departments. My office hours are kind of like a genius bar for an Apple Store (not saying that I’m a genius). But I’d also like the Office Hours to be a time for students to stop by and ask me questions or talk to me about what they’re trying out. I’ve only been out of school for a year, so I want to be seen as relatable to students. Office hours are a way that I can talk to students about ideas, such as how they could integrate social media into a specific event or associate a hashtag with an event.
CV: How do you feel about some of the parody Twitter accounts like @LarrabeeCatz and @BieberAtConn?
JP: The way I look at those accounts is that I think they complement what we’re trying to do with our social media strategy. We’re not sure who these accounts are or who’s running them, but they add a more comedic element to the vibrant campus community. For the Bieber account, it almost feels like the CC Live account helped Bieber catapult to his level of exposure. He’s developed some kind of following on campus, which is somewhat entertaining. The parody accounts show personality. They’re fake accounts, but they add authenticity by showing the creative personalities of our students.
CV: You’re not secretly running the Bieber account, are you?
JP: Everybody thinks it’s me, but it’s not me. We’ve joked around in our office that we’re going to keep an eye out for people carrying around a cardboard cutout. One of the pictures was actually taken in Becker House right under our noses.
CV: Do you think Conn’s social media presence has had a positive impact on prospective students?
JP: One of the reasons the CC Live account was created was to provide a way to give prospective students a look into our college community. I’ve seen a good number of prospective students interacting with the social media and following our accounts. When we did the Student Minute Contest, a number of prospective students wrote messages to us and said that they thought this was a great look into college life and what they could expect. For the photo contest, current students will create the content, but prospective students will be the main voters. This keeps them engaged with what’s happening on campus.
CV: Conn also has an Instagram account. What function does that serve?
JP: Instagram is a great example of a newer social media platform that has really exploded. We saw this as an opportunity to build a community of students and alumni around a photo sharing network. We’ve only had the account for about six months now, but we have close to 800 followers. At the same time, we have to be thoughtful about where we invest our energy. We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin. I work closely with my supervisor, Josh Jensen, to figure out our goal for each account and develop a strategy around that, and think through what resources we need to achieve our goals.
CV: What role do the Facebook groups serve?
JP: I don’t manage the Facebook account; I’m more of a consultant. Monica Raymunt ’09 is our main Facebook manager. For the Class of 2016, the college decided to develop a page for prospective students rather than letting students create their own page and network. We thought it would be interesting to facilitate relevant content, messages and deadlines. This year, we thought we would try a group instead of a page for the Class of 2017 — something on which we can provide different messages and content, but have students facilitate the discussion.
The main Facebook page is focused more on alumni and building an external community. We do something called “Flashback Friday,” which is popular with alums and brings back a lot of memories. For current students, we do post emergency communication and breaking news. I post on Twitter about six to ten times a day in addition to responding to comments (it’s an ongoing thing), whereas with Facebook, we post about two or three times a week.
Follow the College on Twitter: @ConnCollegeLive