Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

Jon-Stephen Stansel // The Gordon Ramsey of Social Media

This week I’ve cooked up a guest that knows the recipe for a successful social media strategy. You’ll learn why my guest Jon-Stephen Stansel, digital media specialist at the University of Central Arkansas, is the Gordon Ramsey of social media in higher education. Don’t worry, it’s not because he yells during the episode – but he is very passionate about quality. We cover why campuses need to keep flyers off of the web, getting Giphy with your college president and his wishlist for what higher ed leaders need to know about social media and the professionals who are tasked with running university platforms. Bon Appetite! 

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Campus Sonar analyzes online conversations to provide you with actionable insight. Subscribe to our newsletter at info.campussonar.com/subscribe to keep up on social listening insight or download our eBook—The Higher Ed Social Listening Handbook—at info.campussonar.com/podcast.

Notes from this Episode




UCA’s GIPHY channel

GIF by University of Central Arkansas - Find & Share on GIPHY

Clap Applause GIF by University of Central Arkansas - Find & Share on GIPHY

Learn More in J.S. Blog: https://www.jsstansel.com/underscore-social/2018/11/30/getting-giphy-with-it

UCA President Twitter

UCA President Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/houstondavis/


Giphy Stickers: https://giphy.com/stickers

HigherEdWeb Conference 

Case Conferences 

Twitter #HESM 

Book: So you’ve been publically shamed 

Book: Like Wars

Podcast: Higher Ed Social 

Liz Gross


Campus Sonar Social Listening Handbook 

My Blog: Thrive vs Survive: Life as a Social Media Manager

Blog: Social Media is Not An Entry Level Position, by J.S. 


More about J.S.

Jon-Stephen Stansel is a social media professional with almost a decade of experience managing and creating content for higher education, small business, and government social media accounts.

He is currently the digital media specialist at the University of Central Arkansas and has also managed social media for Texas State University, the Texas Department of Transportation, as well as consulting for many small businesses. In addition, he has taught courses in social media management and presented at many national and international conferences including HighEd Web, the International Congress of Technological Innovation in Buenos Aires, and the Association of International Educators.

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Production and a Master’s degree in English both from Arkansas State University. He enjoys photography, reading, typography, and being an early adopter of technology.

Connect with J.S.

Blog: https://www.jsstansel.com/about/

Twitter: @jsstansel

Instagram: @jsstansel

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jon-stephen-stansel-039b3879/

Snapchat: @jsstansel

Connect with Dr. Josie Ahlquist

Twitter: @josieahlquist 

LinkedIn: /JosieAhlquist

Instagram: @josieahlquist 

Facebook: Dr. Josie Ahlquist 

Email: josie@josieoldsite.meljudsonclientportal.com

About Josie and The Podcast

In each episode, Dr. Josie Ahlquist – digital leadership author, researcher, and speaker – connects tech and leadership in education. This podcast will bring you leaders on-campus and online.

From Senior Vice Presidents on Snapchat, YouTubers receiving billions of views and new media professionals. All through the lens of life, leadership, and legacy. Josie hopes you will not only learn from these digital leaders but laugh as we all explore how to be our best selves online and off.

Thanks for listening! 

Josie: Hello and welcome to Josie and The Podcast. This is Josie Ahlquist and I am pumped you are joining me today. This pod features leaders who share everything from their latest tweets to their leadership philosophy. My goal is to connect tech and leadership with heart, soul and lots of substance. But this podcast would not be possible without a sponsor. Campus Sonar is more to me and the show than a hashtag ad.

Online conversation is reality, representing the real life experiences of real people all over the world, but do you know what your reality is? When you’re a hired professional like my guest today, Jon-Stephen Stansel, understanding your reality, your campus’s brand and message, developing strategies that really resonate with your campus community. Well, Campus Sonar’s newest research provides data – Yeah, we love me some data on this show – to define your online conversation, the volume of that, and branded content based on comparable schools. We’re talking about benchmarking, folks, and high ed professionals, we need to be able to review these benchmarks, which is in the report, that compare institutions’ online conversations. So you can download this report at info.campussonar.com\benchmark to find strategic insights they’ve identified from this data analysis and how you can use them to create actionable outcomes that relate directly to your institution’s strategic goals.

Josie and The Podcast is also part of a pretty darn cool podcasting network for higher ed called ConnectEDU. Come check us out at connectedu.network. All right, let’s dig into our amazing featured guest for today.

Jon-Stephen Stansel, also referred to as J.S., is a social media professional with almost a decade of experience managing and creating content for high ed education, small business, and government social media accounts. He’s currently the Digital Media Specialist at the University of Central Arkansas and has also managed social media for Texas State University, the Texas Department of Transportation, as well as consulting for many small businesses.

In addition, he has taught courses in social media management and presented at many national and international conferences, including Higher Ed Web, the International Congress of Technological Innovation in Buenos Aires, and the Association of International Educators. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television Production and a Master’s degree in English, both from Arkansas State University. He enjoys photography, reading, typography, and being an early adopter of tech.

A few highlights from this episode, we talk about keeping fliers off of the web, getting Giphy, and how to feature your college president on social. J.S. also has a wish list for what higher ed leaders should know about being a social media manager. He also has some advice for those in full-time roles as community social media managers. You can find Jon-Stephen and I, of course, both on all the socials. For Twitter, find the pod @JosieATPodcast, I’m @josieahlquist, and J.S. is @jsstansel. All those will be in the show notes to find all of our socials super easily as well as everything we talk about. People posts, all the goodies, find them at josieahlquist.com\podcast. Enjoy.

Josie: Jon-Stephen, welcome to Josie and The Podcast. You are a Digital Media Specialist and all things #SocialMedia for @UCAbears, struggling #Minimalist, which we’re going to have to get into that. This one, #Stoic, I don’t know what that is, we’ll talk about that. Father | he/him | #HESM. And then I had to add, on Instagram you added new #father. So tell us all the things and insights from your bio.

Jon-Stephen: Yeah, there’s a lot to unpack there. The reason why I haven’t updated my Instagram because I’m not so new of a father anymore. It’s been about two years now.

Josie: Okay. You’ve moved beyond the threshold of new into-

Jon-Stephen: To struggling.

Josie: There.

Jon-Stephen: Keeping-my-head-above-water father. That’s a good description of it. There’s that. I think that kind of adds to the struggling minimalist where I try to keep things sparse and minimal, but with a two-year-old in the house, it’s a little difficult as there are constantly, with any child, comes a lot of [inaudible 00:05:07] and a lot of toys, but it’s kind of helped me to keep my things down to a minimum because there’s just less room for that, which is good. I consider myself a bit of a stoic. I kind of play my cards close to the chest. I’m interested in stoic philosophy as well, just all things social media. My title is Digital Media Specialist, which is kind of made to give me room to grow or job security if Mark Zuckerberg decides to shut it all down tomorrow, but my job is 95% social media.

Josie: And you’ve had experience in social, not just higher ed. You’ve had some other industries along the way.

Jon-Stephen: Yes. I took a break from higher ed social and worked for a year running social media for the Texas Department of Transportation. There’s nothing you can say to me on social media that will hurt me anymore. So that was that was a good experience. I learned a lot there. I did their crisis communication during Hurricane Harvey, which was a rough experience, but I felt like in that one year time span I got about a decade’s worth of crisis communication just throughout the hurricane. And then when this job came open at University of Central Arkansas, it’s where I started my career. I left because I wanted to do social media full time and there was not a social media position here at UCA. The position came open, and my wife and I really liked the idea of kind of getting back home, this is my home town, and we jumped at the chance to do it.

Josie: Let’s keep digging into your socials because I’m just a curious person. What was your most recent post on Twitter or Instagram or just any platform that you want to give us a little bit of story behind, why you posted it or just explain what the post was?

Jon-Stephen: I recently just posted a slide from a presentation that I’m working on for the CASE Division IV Conference at the end of the month, and that take a lot of time to put together my slides and the slide reads. Social media is easy to do, but it’s hard to do well. And I think that’s a good sort of mantra for running social media and a way of looking at it, where we all have our social accounts and we know how to use them. A lot of people think they can run social, but I compare it to like driving a car where we know how to get our car from point A to point B, and we can put gas in it, maybe we can change the oil, but if something goes wrong with it, we get in an accident, we need to call a mechanic, and I think that’s kind of the between a typical social media user and a social media professional. That’s where it comes to where it’s easy to do, but it’s hard to do well and do it properly to manage social media.

Josie: Right. Just because you have an Instagram account doesn’t make you an expert, especially running an account for a brand, even outside of yourself. On average, how many slides do you have in a slide deck?

Jon-Stephen: Oh, it varies. This one I’m going to have to trim back. Generally, I go about a slide a minute. I go pretty quickly.

Josie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I need to get my average down because it’s too many. I tend to just want to put so much in there. Even the simplest of topics like Instagram tutorial, you could just keep going so, so many layers.

Jon-Stephen: Yeah. I tell people asking me to talk about social media is like asking a five-year-old to talk about their favorite dinosaur. Once I get going, it’s kind of hard to get me to stop.

Josie: That needs to be a T-shirt. CASE should sell these T-shirts. I can see it now, okay.

Jon-Stephen: I’m open to licensing, if they’re listening.

Josie: Right. Yeah, swag, swag all day. Well, talking about a five-year-old talking about dinosaur, let’s go back to your childhood, young adulthood, and what was your earliest memory of using any kind of technology?

Jon-Stephen: Most likely it was playing the notorious E.T. game on Atari. My dad had an Atari. It was back in the day where my mom would not let us put any sort of VCR, any sort of technology on top of the TV. So whenever we had to play the Atari, he had to get it out of the closet, unbox it, take it out of the Styrofoam, hook it up to the TV. It was a big treat to go out and to get to play the Atari. So I think that was probably my earliest memory using any sort of technology.

Josie: And you played with your dad. It was like a-

Jon-Stephen: Oh, yeah.

Josie: … family affair.

Jon-Stephen: Definitely.

Josie: Oh, neat. That’s so fun. Does he still play video games? Do you still-

Jon-Stephen: Oh, not at all. No.

Josie: Okay. It was just for that time.

Jon-Stephen: Right, just briefly.

Josie: There. And do you play video games yourself?

Jon-Stephen: When I have time. I’m a terrible video game player. I’m not good at it at all. I enjoy it I think from time to time. I think that goes back to my mother just bringing out the Atari every now and then. I’ll binge a video game and then won’t play for about a year, and then something new will come out and I’ll play that and take a break.

Josie: Yeah, comes like seasonally.

Jon-Stephen: Exactly.

Josie: Special occasions. Okay, so this is a little off topic, but not really, Twitch, the live gaming experiences. We’ve got eGames coming to campuses. Do you see a place for a platform like that within strategies going forward in the future?

Jon-Stephen: It’s a possibility. It’s something I’ve looked at, and I’m kind of aging myself. I’m on that cusp of Gen X/Millennial, that kind of brief span where you’re not really sure what you are.

Josie: Yeah, me too.

Jon-Stephen: I look at Twitch and video game streaming with a lot of curiosity, because I think when I was a kid, I never wanted to watch my friends play the video game. I wanted to play it myself, and I don’t quite understand the desire to watch other people play. So personally, I’m going to have to learn more about that culture before I decide, but I think it’s definitely something worth exploring.

Josie: Yeah, there, just keep our eyes on. For now, you do have a number of different platforms and strategies for yourself, for your university, and even some support to your university president, which I hope to dig in a little bit too. You were recommended by a number of people to get on this show. So you are doing something right and I am ready to try to scale that for people listening to this episode. Most of the time when I bring on guests, it’s a lot of campus leaders, maybe someone that’s running programs, but I found it’s important to get content experts that are doing that grind every day, because I get brought in all the time to a campus to speak, but I’m like, “You’ve got experts on your campus to do this too,” but you also blog about it and I had a blast reading your writings. I just like the sass to it.

So maybe just give us big picture like what your role encompasses, and then I want to react to one of your blog posts, Keep Your Flyers on the Wall and Off the Web. I just love it.

Jon-Stephen: Okay, excellent. My primary role here is running the primary social media channels for the university, so the university Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. I create a lot of content for our admissions account as well, but it’s also that higher ed social media job of herding campus social media cats. There are so many different accounts on campus. New ones open up almost every single day, and trying to regulate those and provide support to them as well, do a lot of social media trainings on campus where I’ll go speak to a division and then after that, the floodgates of questions open, and really try and help them to improve their social media efforts.

I try to be a little bit more heavy with the carrot than the stick, because rather than try and play social media whack-a-mole, stopping accounts as they pop open, try and bring as many quality accounts into the fold. Sometimes I’ll fight that battle where I’ll say, “Hey, why don’t you guys consolidate and be stronger together?” I don’t always win that battle, but I think it’s important that we provide that support and say, “There’s not a lot I can do to stop you from doing this, but let’s be sure that you’re doing it right and you’re representing the university in the best way possible.”

Josie: Yeah, I really wanted to ask about that philosophy piece, and I think you spelled it out pretty well, not playing the whack-a-mole, more of the carrot. Because I found that different institutions definitely do play out a different philosophy of going down to detailed approvals and management versus completely the wild west where it’s just [inaudible 00:13:39] know how many accounts they have out there. So it’s refreshing and it’s probably reflective of the culture of your campus too, and what may or may not work.

How do you define a successful account, one that you wouldn’t ever want to see merging or dissolving versus big institutional accounts, those ones with the divisions and student organizations? What are some of those things that you look for?

Jon-Stephen: The account has a clear purpose. It’s posting content, original content, regularly, that’s tailored for the medium. It’s not just putting flyers on social media. It has its own unique flavor, I think. Our campus police department for a long time has been really good, and the officer who was running at the time, he was not a social media person per se. They said, “Here, run this account,” and he just was his own person. I’ll never forget the first snow day. He was drawing, sending out the maps of the roadways and red lines, where not the drive, and then he just posted a map of campus, said, “And here are the campus sidewalks,” and it was just red squiggles all over everything. So he brought his own unique flavor to it and a good sense of humor. That sort of personality, I never want to squash. I want to be open to that. I don’t want to always be a stodgy university voice. So those accounts I keep close to my heart, and I want them to keep doing their own thing.

Josie: I have been so pleasantly surprised with campus safety, university police social media presence. I mean, it’s not all of them out there, but talk about an area of campus that does have sometimes so really have to win over their community, just like you said, just kind of showing that little bit of personality and humanizing it can be so appealing and it can be quite simple. Do you think social within like a department or an area can be done when it’s not a full-time position, like it’s an add-on or it’s more than one person?

Jon-Stephen: Yes, but it breaks my heart to say yes.

Josie: Yeah.

Jon-Stephen: I’ve been in that position where I got my start, I was the international communications coordinator, so I did all things communications for our international office, and social media was one of them. And it quickly became a full-time job. You become a victim of your own success if you’re doing it correctly. It will grow beyond the bounds of part of your job and become all of your job if you’re doing it right. That said, I think that so many departments on campus don’t have the resources and can’t hire a full-time person. I’m the only full-time social media person on our campus for the entire school. So unfortunately, I think limited resources dictate it. It kind of has to be.

Josie: Yeah. I mean, it’s definitely a reality in many cases. So you go out, you provide lots of training and support throughout your institution. What’s some of those common messages that you are trying to help those that if this is just another item on their job duties? What’s kind of those core? You mentioned purpose, having a really clear purpose and consistency. Any other components that you’d share?

Jon-Stephen: I think paying respect to each medium and speaking the language of each social network, so not putting the same thing on Facebook that you’re going to put on Twitter, never linking accounts, not taking shortcuts to social media. I know we just said it’s tough for it to be part of a full-time job, but I think there’s a lot of temptation when there are limited resources to take those shortcuts and maybe link your accounts, or just take that piece of print media that you designed in Microsoft Publisher and put it on Facebook, and not doing that, taking the time to respect social media as a craft and do it properly.

If you don’t have the time to do that, maybe saying, hey, maybe we don’t need to be everywhere. Maybe we don’t need a Facebook account and a Twitter account and an Instagram and a Snapchat and Twitch or whatever, and just focusing your efforts in one area. I think when I give that speech, people on campus feel very relieved and liberated, like, “I don’t have to have it.”

Josie: Yes.

Jon-Stephen: We’re the geometry department, we don’t have an Instagram.

Josie: Right.

Jon-Stephen: They read an article or they went to a conference a few years ago and they said, “Hey, all the kids are on Instagram, you need to be on Instagram too.” And that’s just not the case. That’s not the reality of your situation. Yeah, all the kids are on Instagram, but they don’t want to see the geometry department there.

Josie: Yeah. I mean, unless you really found what that unique voice and story is going to be. But again, as your article wrote, many times what these areas will do, in the best intentions possible because they’re trying to get out this great work and learning they’re doing, is they’ll copy and paste flyers onto places like Facebook and Instagram. And this isn’t a new phenomenon by any means. This has been happening for over a decade. Tell us about what happens in those circumstances that resulted from this post, Keep Your Flyers on the Wall and Off the Web. What’s really did the difference in the medium to then take a piece of print content to make it work on digital or vice versa?

Jon-Stephen: Well, I think I wrote that in a day of frustration where I probably got a dozen request in one day of, “Hey, can you put this flyer on the university’s Facebook page.” It doesn’t work, and I got really tired of explaining the myriad reasons why that’s a bad idea every time I get a request. So I just decided, “You know what? I’m going to make the worst flyer possible, everything wrong in it, and then describe each of the ways why this doesn’t work. And then when I get those requests, I can send them the link to this article.” All of those reasons from the fact that print media, it’s not digital media. Its print media. That flyer that you’ve got where you have your lengthy URL written out, it’s not going to be clickable, your text is going to kill you in the Facebook algorithm, you’ve got information on there that’s cluttered that really is not important. Nobody cares that the department of whatever is sponsoring this.

Josie: Yeah, you left the watermark on one of the photos too. [inaudible 00:20:05].

Jon-Stephen: Right. And I see that all the time, people leave the Shutterstock watermark on their terrible stock photo that they’ve stretched out. And it kind of goes back to the fact that a lot of campus communications it’s doled out to somebody’s other duty as assigned, so an administrative assistant, or it’s a grad student, or it’s a professor who’s on tenure track who’s trying to rack up points so they get tenure, they can put that on their evaluation, and they’re not trained communications person. So it’s not their fault that they’re designing things that are bad. They’re not graphic designers. That’s why there’s design schools, you know?

Josie: Yeah, like you said before, these are advanced set of skills just because you have access to the platforms to really do it well. I mean, it takes a seasoned pro to at least have maybe access too, like they all do with you. So that’s great, you just send them that article, and I’ll make sure to link it in our show as well. Well then, knowing that that doesn’t work, what does work from transforming print to digital, but also maybe just applicable practices on a couple of the most popular platforms, at least for you all?

Jon-Stephen: When I talked to campus departments, I generally, after I show them the flyer, I tell them, the best way to do it is to just keep it as simple as possible, a good quality photo of the event last year, or something that’s really eye catching with a link that gets you to more information on your website, and heaven forbid that that link takes you to the PDF of the flyer. It’s like Gordon Ramsay on Kitchen Nightmares. Every time he goes to one of those failing restaurants, he gives them the same advice, he’s like, “It’s good food, good ingredients, cooked simply,” and it’s the same with social media, just quality content presented in a clear simple manner. It’s great to be clever and have jokes and be witty on social, but if you’re not a witty person, don’t try to be. Just get that information out there in the cleanest way possible, and it will do well.

Josie: Yeah, I think when you try to push I guess even a persona too hard, it doesn’t come natural, it doesn’t come across genuine either, and young adults can really sniff that out on social media. So you’re basically the social media Gordon Ramsay, which I’m lucky to have you on this show to be able to say that.

Jon-Stephen: I’m much more tame in person, but-

Josie: Yeah, no screaming. It’s an internal yelling dialogue.

Jon-Stephen: Exactly.

Josie: But then comes out.

Jon-Stephen: Well, what I like about Gordon Ramsay is it comes back to… I’m always surprised when I watch that show because he always gives the same advice and I wonder like, “Don’t the people that are on the show watch the other episodes and know he’s going to give you the same advice, clean your kitchen and stick to just basic ingredients?” And I think he follows a very less but better philosophy on what he does, and I think it’s the same for social – get that content out there in a very clean, simple direct way.

Josie: Well, I think that’s such a relief to hear, just like you had mentioned earlier telling professionals, if you don’t have time, it’s not working, look to dissolve or close those accounts, is it can’t be simple. We don’t have to have these grandiose video shoot days and multiple Instagram story, like downloads and-

Jon-Stephen: Exactly. You don’t have to have every single thing. There’s no rule saying that you’ve got to have an Instagram.

Josie: But something pretty fun that you all are doing that is a bit innovative and unique is your GIPHY channel. Is it how you say “GIPHY”, GIF?

Jon-Stephen: I’m team hard G all the way.

Josie: Hard G, yeah.

Jon-Stephen: I’m [inaudible 00:23:53] G office. I’m fighting the battle, but I am right, they are wrong. It is-

Josie: You got to pick them.

Jon-Stephen: Right. It is GIF with a hard G.

Josie: Yeah, GIF with a hard G, all right. I’ll include a couple in the notes, but maybe share, because I do have folks that listen that are in positions similar to yours or they want to be. How did this strategy come about? How do you develop these? How do you know if they’re working or not? Is there some analytics in the background?

Jon-Stephen: Definitely. Well, we started the GIPHY channel, it’s about six months back now. And really the idea was we use GIFs on Twitter just all the time. A student says, “Hey, I just got accepted to the university,” we send them a congratulations GIF for… Sometimes it softens the blow when a student isn’t happy about something and you send them kind of a shrug sorry GIF or something like that. But one thing I’ve always been concerned about with those, is there’s an art to picking the right GIF. There’s so many pop culture GIFs out there, and you always want to be sure that you’re not going to alienate somebody by using the wrong one.

I have seen the movie The Big Lebowski about 100 times and can recite it in my sleep, but an incoming freshman, probably not. So if I were to do that GIF, it would be totally lost on them. So kind of knowing without knowing the person that you’re talking to, you don’t always know what the reference there is. So I think we were missing an opportunity here. Why don’t we have University branded GIFs that we can have for those reactions, just kind of in the pocket ready to go? So we had the mascot in for a photoshoot, and I said, “While you’re here, let’s do some reaction GIFs,” and I just took a bunch of flashcards with various emoji on it and just said, “Hey, give me this, give me this, give me this.”

Josie: Nice.

Jon-Stephen: Got several different reactions. We got your basics – congratulations, thank you, thumbs up, thumbs down, things like that. It was really useful, especially as during the first week of classes, students were coming in, we were using them a lot. It was really popular. We put them up on the GIPHY channel, and since we got verified on GIPHY, they’re searchable now, so students can use them, and also where it’s been really successful is that those smaller departments on campus can now use them. So it’s an added resource for them. So they have kind of a branded library of GIFs that they can use in their post, which helps keep them on brand and safe because you never know when a university employee might not know the reference behind the GIF and use something that’s a little inappropriate. So it kind of keeps us safe there too.

And then it went really well and we decided to see if we could get the president involved, and he was just super gung-ho about it. What I proposed to him was that we take some really popular GIFs from pop culture and just redo them with him in the place of whatever celebrity is in the GIF. So we took… It’s hard to describe a GIF, but there’s the thumbs up computer kid GIF, we did one of Justin Timberlake just staring blankly into the camera and you can kind of look at him side by side both the original GIF and our president. It’s almost instantly recognizable. And that was a lot of fun. And then he came to the table too, he brought a list of reactions he wanted to do, which was really exciting, which has been really nice, because he has a Twitter account, he’s very active, very charismatic on Twitter and students love interacting with him. And it gives him something to use as well. So we’ve even seen students send presidential GIFs back and forth to the President, have a little gift conversations with him, which has been really exciting to see.

Josie: That’s awesome. Such a genius move of taking GIFs that already work and that folks know, and then being inspired by that. I mean, that’s the same thing with like viral challenges on YouTube, ones that fit that we can create our own for our campuses, and even being able to capture that content when you knew, oh, we’re already going to have the mascot in today for photos, and then how do we get this other type of content.

Jon-Stephen: Oh, definitely. It was easy to make too. I mean, with the president, we had him in the studio for about half an hour, and then it took me another afternoon or so to you edit the GIFs down, and then it’s up. I mean, a day’s work and it really helped us out so much.

Josie: So six months in, what’s the things that you definitely recommend for those maybe trying to build their own GIPHY channel, getting verified, creating obviously their own GIFs? And what might you be tweaking going forward?

I think the most popular GIFs that we have used are the GIF stickers, the ones for Instagram stories and Snapchat. Those we see the most usage on, and there was a bit of a learning. I’m not an animator at all, but just after a little bit of the school of YouTube and calling a few folks, I’ve learned how to make a few of those, but I always, for holidays, try and make one or two that we can use and let students know that that is out there. I think that’s also another lesson point in launching it, letting students know if you search UCA Bears and GIPHY in the GIPHY menu, that’s how our GIFs come up.

Your first impulse when you’re looking for a GIF and it’s graduation, you’re going to search “graduation” and you’re going to get… Even though our tags are there, there are so many more GIFs that are going to filter it out in saying, “Hey, happy graduation. If you want to use one of these GIFs, search UCA Bears.” And that’s helped out as far as getting our usage up.

I’m not sure how much I trust GIPHY’s analytics, they’re not very robust. They said right now we’ve had about 19 million GIF views. And for a while we were averaging about a million GIF views a week, which sounds really good when I go into my boss’s office and say that, but rumor mill is that when you’ve got your GIF search and all those GIFs appear, each one of those appearances counts as a GIF view. So every time somebody searches UCA Bears, we get as many GIF views as we have in GIFs. So it’s kind of hard to gauge success. I think that the high numbers is symptomatic of it doing well, and also the fact just being able to using our social media listening tools and seeing those GIFs out in the wild organically, tell us that it’s been a productive use of our time.

Josie: Yeah. Well, and I would assume one of the goals is for the community to take over and they’re posting them more than you are.

Jon-Stephen: Exactly.

Josie: So you got your president to do some, and again, we’ll link to some of those. He is only a couple years, a year into, President Davis?

Jon-Stephen: Yes, just a couple of years.

Josie: Okay. He’s on Twitter, on Instagram. I had to really dig to find his Instagram. I don’t know if he wants to be found there. Do you formally support his activity? Are you a cheerleader, guidepost, silent voice?

Jon-Stephen: Definitely a cheerleader. When I got here, he had hit the ground running both of his presidency and his social media presence, and he does really well. That’s him on there. He interacts with students. He’s really very authentic. Whenever I cheerlead him, I wish he would do more of… He already does it, but I’d love to see more put himself out there, so not every post is the official UCA post. He goes to Jack White concerts and post about, “Hey, I’m going to see Jack White tonight.” And to me, that’s awesome. That makes him human, that makes him relatable. He’s got two really beautiful Basset Hounds named Winston and Elvis. I wish he would do more photos of those because they kill every time.

Josie: Maybe you should schedule a photoshoot with them.

Jon-Stephen: Yeah, we did. I’ve got a few in the pocket for whenever National Puppy Day happen, we can post those photos. Those authentic posts are really what I think makes his account.

Josie: And what do you think is part of the ingredients for a campus executive on social? You’ve got skills, you got personality. Somebody listening might feel like it’s just so unattainable, but what can be taught and what really needs to be baked in, or what do you see the ingredients?

Jon-Stephen: I give people the same advice that I use for my own personal account, and I say, be professionally authentic. Talking about what you do at work and being a cheerleader for your school and showing all the great things that are happening and some of those meet and greet photos have to go on there, but also, hey, it’s okay to be a university president and tweet what you eat.

Josie: I love that, tweet what you eat [inaudible 00:32:34].

Jon-Stephen: Yeah. Talk about what you’re reading or say, “Hey, it’s Sunday, I’m going to binge watch Breaking Bad.” That’s fine to do. That’s not non-presidential. I think that humanizes you, helps you to connect with students. And then if you’re not going to reply, don’t do it at all. The student reaches out to you on Twitter, and it’s an appropriate question, you need to answer back. Some presidents of larger schools, of course, don’t have that ability, but at least make an attempt from time to time to do that. When I was in college, my only interaction with the university president was when he served turkey on Thanksgiving in the school cafeteria, but now, students can expect more. They expect that access. I think it’s important that you reach out and grant that to them.

Josie: So follow up to the replying, do you have a philosophy about replying to all or certain topics, or when can they send certain posts to other folks at the institution, or kind of pulling from your crisis management on social experience? What should they have in place, so then when something does hit the fan, they’re not feeling like, “Okay, it’s 2:00 AM and I’m replying to all these things or potentially stepping in it.”?

Jon-Stephen: Right. And there are personal boundaries, and I think people do understand that. Hey, at 2:00 AM the President doesn’t need to tell you whether or not school is canceled tomorrow, because you saw a snowflake. There’s reasonable expectations. But from time to time, jump in on some of those hashtags when a student just says, “Hey, I got accepted to the university.” You don’t have to get every single one of them, but think about the impact that makes to a student who has applied to six or seven different schools and maybe tweeted about it, and one university president chimes in and says, “Hey, congratulations.” Just a congratulations, just the word congratulations goes so far, even a small amount has a huge impact.

From the crisis standpoint, there is a point where in the middle of a crisis, a president would need to step back and say, “Okay, now crisis communications can handle this, or I physically can’t answer every single question about this.” But in that sort of situation, a general statement most likely has already gone out, so that’s covered. That’s what you’re going to say.

Josie: Related to that, working with campus leaders, campus crisis communications and just your years of experience, we got talking a little bit through email about what social media managers wish campus leadership would know or should know, and maybe about who our competitors really are or role modeling or timing of how long things take. So if you had this platform of this podcast, what do you wish leaders would know about the realities of social media managers?

Jon-Stephen: Oh, there’s so much, but when you talk about competition, I think a lot of university leaders need to have good social media role models for their university and be realistic about it and realize that just because the school down the street posted this doesn’t mean you need to post the same. Our competition or not, shouldn’t always be our role models. Look to schools, not just schools in your state, but look to schools throughout the country of who you think is doing well on social media. It’s really important to look just beyond your region because there’re not just the big schools, but there are community colleges that are killing it on social and we just never really see them. Find those role models that you’d want to model your school’s social media after and look at that, not just those other universities down the street. I think that’s vitally important.

And then also realize social media is a constantly changing field. Just because you went to a conference and went to one session on social media five years ago does not make you a social media expert, because everything is out of date at this point. So stay current on it, go talk to your social media manager, and go however many floors in your building or across campus and sit down and talk to your social media manager and set some goals for them. Let them know what your goals are. One of my biggest frustrations I’ve seen in the past, I’ve often felt that if I asked my boss what our goals for social media were, I would get one answer. If I asked his boss, I would get another answer. If I asked the head honcho, I would get a completely different answer. So being sure that our priorities are in line, because your social media manager wants to achieve the goals of the university and knowing specifically what your expectations on social is really invaluable to them.

Josie: So I have a researcher background, and I think the field… Well, the field of social media and digital media professionals, especially in higher ed, I find really interesting. I was one of the keynotes at the CASE Social Media Community Conference last year, and I basically gave a pep talk to the attendees, like you’re doing a good job. The struggles that I was hearing a lot of folks go through because if you really look down to, it’s not just the outputs of social and what ends up on Instagram, and you stated this early on how you’re managing cats, it’s like wrangling up all these cats and you’re really a middle manager times 1000, but you’re also trying to run wrangle a president’s strategy down to a department coordinator. You’re really having to wrap your arms around this entire institution, and a lot of these roles are just given the title of coordinator, where they really should be like, oh, my goodness, like all access something. They’re the voice of the darn institutions and it’s a newer profession, and sometimes even positions at some institutions.

Josie: If you’re a vice president and you’ve got a social media marketing person to your institutional area, get talking to them. What are the realities of these roles? Because I think we’re probably going to see lots of turnover too, because this stuff is 24/7, right?

Jon-Stephen: Oh, definitely. And I think a lot, and not just universities in general, many places, it’s seen as an entry level position, and it’s not. You are the voice of the university. You’ve given the keys to a platform that could potentially reach millions and you need somebody that you can really trust to do it and do it properly.

Josie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So I wrote a little post from that, learning even more of some of the common struggles of social media community marketing managers, about kind of like health and wellness, like how to take care of yourself. So have you learned anything that’s worked for you from the personal side to how you communicate to your team, to your leadership, to make this a realistic and a lasting professional career for you?

Jon-Stephen: A good set of noise cancelling headphones goes a long way. I think the job is filled with distractions, and setting yourself kind of a distraction-free zone and distraction-free time to do some of that real deep work is really important, because otherwise you’re going to get pulled away. So I’ve got my focus playlist on Spotify and my noise cancelling headphones, and I use that to kind of dive deep and get things done in a way that I can maintain my sanity. Also, I think attending conferences and getting in touch with the social media community, managing community, is really important. So many of us are kind of armies of one, and until you’ve run social media for a large organization, you have no idea what it’s like. One snow day at a university, and you’ve seen some things.

So it’s good to have a support group that’s a safe space that you can kind of not only just vent, but share ideas and share the struggles with. I think that would be… Anybody entering social media professionally, I would say, you need to find your tribe.

Josie: And what are some of those conferences or digital or physical communities that have really helped you?

Jon-Stephen: I would say definitely HighEdWeb. That conference by far and wide has been one of the most productive and most fulfilling ones I’ve been to. CASE is great. One thing I’d really like to try doing is kind of going to some more conferences outside of my sphere a little bit because sometimes when I present I’m worried I’m preaching to the choir a little too much, but there’s only so much money and limited time and availability. Then just Twitter has been an incredible resource for me, following the #HESM hashtag. And when I can’t go to conferences, following those conference hashtags has really helped me to make connections and find people that are enormous, just a wealth of resources. I can get on Twitter if I have a question about, hey, is Facebook doing a funky thing for you today? And instantly, I’ve got a ton of answers. So if you can’t make it to conferences, find that community for you on Twitter.

Josie: And I’m also finding more pros are taking their lessons learned into their own content creation like you with your blogging, different podcasts and newsletters, so then we can soak up even more of the highlights and lessons learned. Any other resources you’d recommend from podcasts to books to websites leaders that have everything or nothing to do with social media leadership?

Jon-Stephen: Oh, there’s tons. I’m a constant reader. One book I think every social media person or anybody who uses social media needs to read, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. That’s a fantastic read. I just finished LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media. It was really interesting, really fantastic. I think if you just live in the 21st century, you need to read that. But on top of that, podcasts, the Higher Ed Web podcast is great. Logan and Jackie do a really good job with that. I love every single thing that Liz Gross does. I thought my social media listening game was on point until I started reading her book, I was like, “Oh, there’s a lot of areas I can step up.” That book has been fantastic. The Higher Ed Social Listening Handbook has been really useful.

Josie: We’re a big fan of Liz Gross and Campus Sonar on this podcast. This was not planted.

Jon-Stephen: No, not at all. The book is sitting on my desk right now.

Josie: No, it really is helpful, that’s why I’m like, yes, this will absolutely be a partnership sponsor for this show. Well, to wrap up couple more questions, where can people find you to connect?

Jon-Stephen: You can find my blog is jsstansel.com, and find me on Twitter just @jsstansel, and find me on Instagram at the same handle as well.

Josie: All right, and two questions to finish this out, always end with the same two as we talked about leadership life in the digital age, is if you knew your last post on Twitter was going to be your last, what would you want it to be about?

Jon-Stephen: I think it would mainly be a thank you to every single person that I met on Twitter. There’s so many great people that I would not have connected with if it weren’t for that platform. And really, I think maybe the last words should be the same as the last from the Beatles, “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” And I think the same is kind of true of Twitter, what you give in Twitter is what you get out of it, and I’ve gotten so much out of it and I just would like to give a big thank you. That’s way over 280 characters, so I’d have to narrow that down quite a bit.

Josie: Maybe add a GIF to it.

Jon-Stephen: Definitely.

Josie: Well, so for now, what do you hope the impact is because you are on a platform like Twitter? What is that purpose and why, for you log on day after day?

Jon-Stephen: I hope I’m giving back to what I get out of it. I think there is, of course, a lot of negativity on social media and I hope I’m putting forth something positive there. And also, working in higher education, I feel whether or not you are faculty or staff, we’re all educators. So I hope I’m acting as a good digital role model to the students on campus that follow me and giving back to the profession as well.

Josie: Well, I totally dig that philosophy. And while this is the very first time we’re actually sitting down and chatting, I feel like we could probably have three volumes of this conversation and topic. So I feel like we are cut from the same thread a bit of that philosophy, so it’s such a treat to have you on here and to get to share the Gordon Ramsay social media of higher ed with the world.

Jon-Stephen: Well, it’s been great talking to you, definitely.

Josie: Awesome. Keep up the good work.

Jon-Stephen: Thank you so much.

Josie: So, I hope you can see why I was so excited to get Jon Stansel on this podcast, so much meat and potatoes, and a girl from Wyoming, and a little bit of corn and maybe some apple pie. That just really makes a substantive meal for me. When we talk about social media and leadership and actually the enactment of these strategies, there was just so much of that in this podcast episode. J.S., thank you so much for jumping on. Again, a number of people recommended that I have him on the show, but the more that I started to dig into his blog and his website, he doesn’t blog that often, but when he does, oh, my gosh, they’re evergreen.

Josie: So this posts that we talked about, Keep Your Flyers on the Wall and Off the Web is something I have been preaching over a decade, and you see it every time a new platform comes, especially like a visual platform, for example, Instagram. You see this in folks’ grid, they’re just taking a flyer and they can kind of make it fit. Quick recommendation where you can actually make a flyer still work on Instagram is in stories, and the call to actions that some of those advertisements are asking for, people are more likely to do those in stories and in your grid, in your post anyway. So I wanted to just highlight one paragraph from his blog talking about keeping flyers off of the web. He says, “As a social media manager working higher ed, I get the same requests almost every day, ‘Will you put this flyer on the university Facebook page?’” And he says, “Unless the request comes from the president’s suite, the answer most likely is no.”

So again, this is kind of my message out to you all. If you’re asking these bigger university accounts, or even within your division about asking to share content, really think about what you’ve created for them, and have you put in that extra effort to make sure it actually works within the context of that platform? And he has done it in the past to document to show how it really doesn’t work, and that post is kind of funny how from using stock images to mix texts in a flyer. And if you actually think about accessibility, all that text that these platforms can’t translate, so someone that has any kind of impairment wouldn’t be able to actually see the content anyway. So go find that blog, go share it with your colleagues. It might be a helpful resource to help that learning curve.

The second piece that we talked about that was super fun to find out is about how they’re using GIF, or the debate of GIF or GIFs, right? But on Giphy, you can create your own account as a person, as a department, as an entire university, and for Central Arkansas, they have created a strategy behind it using times where they’re already going to get folks on camera and they just make sure to capture some video as well. And with GIFs, you want to make them really short, and I loved how he was inspired by other popular GIFs that, especially young adults or those that are highly engaged online already would recognize that GIF was already popular in other contexts, and then being able to tap into their university president and be able to make all those dots connect was pretty magical. So go check them out and their GIFs and how their community has started to take them over in their own use.

Third piece that I wanted to highlight was the realities for social media managers, especially in higher education. J.S. has wrote a post about this saying and proposing that social media, those that are tasked with it, especially the main university accounts, this is not an entry level position, and I could not agree more. As social media managers, they’re potentially the first line of defense when things are happening maybe with issues with customer service or crisis communications. They are trying to wrangle up and manage and have a tap into what’s going on across campus every single day. And so honestly, needing access comes with more than the need for a title of coordinator. When you add on the complexities and the challenges of social media and these positions, I think it continues to validate the need for a closer look at this evolving and new profession that higher education has also evolved within its own architecture and hierarchy. I’ve talked about this, the realities of being a social media manager and the health and wellness components behind it.

Now, there is a sacrifice that we give in all different types of positions across campus from you, if you work in residence life, you work where you live and potentially you’re on call 24/7 certain days of the week to being an athletics coach. And then that means that you’re giving up maybe seasons of your life to be on the road. I don’t disregard any other position has any other things they have to sacrifice for life and lifestyle, but social media especially, having it be 24/7, coupled with very, very high expectations, that may not always be aligned with reality or resources. And so I’ve gotten in front of social media professionals in the past, I created these 10 realistic strategies for social media managers. When we talk about balance or health and wellness, and some of it is mindset as well as advocating for yourself for resources or even if that means time off or away.

So I just want to read them out real quick. I’m going to link to the blog so you can check that out. And hey, this is so fitting. They are also brought out in GIF style. So number one, roll with it. You’re going to have to roll with platform changes, expectations. Being able to roll with these changes and evolutions is going to be a huge part of this position.

Number two, you’re going to have to be your own advocate, both in your time away as well as the advocacy for more resources. You’re going to have to see those things potentially before others do. Number three, celebrate the little things, the little littlest of things if it means not just when things go really big and well, or you created this big video, but it could just be one new Instagram story segment that you created that you’re just your own really proud of that you tried something new.

Number four, love your followers, not your likes. We can get really caught up in metrics, and some of them really are significant to pay attention to, but if you really focus on the small or big community that you have more than just the short term likes and retweets that you get daily, then we start to really focus on the most important thing of all, and that’s the people and not just these vanity metrics. And if we can stay more connected with these followers, with these real people, hopefully, behind these accounts, then we can create a longer community building that isn’t just in that moment, it could happen throughout a person’s entire lifetime.

Number five, no mean girls allowed. Okay, I get we’ve got competition to get students to our campuses, to keep them and get them employed, but we need to help each other as social media managers, marketers, higher education professionals. These tools change so quickly that being able to share resources and best practices and celebrate each other, both publicly or privately, is going to be very important as we continue to evolve in this field.

Number six, be a student of students. You may not always have the most consistent access to students, so you’re going to have to go out and get it. Go sit in a residence hall for an afternoon, in a cafeteria, be at that event when things are happening, even if it’s just to pay attention to student behavior and conversation so you can have a better grasp of what’s going on in their lives right now.

Number seven out of ten, recognize others publicly and privately. That really connects back to the no mean girls allowed. Let’s really recognize other folks at different campuses, but also within your campus. You may become frustrated with smaller accounts or divisional accounts or if you’re in a division, all the thousands of accounts that fall under you, but let’s also focus on lifting each other up and celebrating each other.

Number eight, create lifetime fans. This connects back to love your followers, not your likes. Can you really win people over to be fans of the type of content you’re creating and the bigger brand, so you hook them for their entire lifetime and not just for the life of whatever platform it is? Could you create fans so they will go to any platform that comes into the purview of social media for decades to come?

Number nine, find your people. This is sometimes called find your tribe. I sometimes say girl gangs, boy band, whatever you want to call them, find your people. Add each other in groups, email messages, group DMs, whatever it takes to have those people you can go to for troubleshooting, for celebrating. That theme is coming up over and over. Don’t feel like you’re alone. Most of these positions are solo shops and your people may not be on your campus. They may not be even in your field. They may be other social media managers in other industries completely, but go and find them and hold onto them very tightly.

And then fin, just as the mission is of the show, I want you to laugh and learn through the process. These platforms can be fun, and I know on the back end, you may not always see or feel that fun, but allow yourself to laugh and learn through the hiccups. And then again, cycle that all the way through again to helping others as you are learning and openly share that type of experience.

So that’s my top 10. Go find those for social media managers that might need a little pick me up, a little pep talk, and then of course, re-listen to this episode with all the substance that J.S. offered. Jon Stansel, thank you so much for jumping on the podcast. I love learning from you, whether on your blog, Twitter, the type of content that you’re creating for your campus. I offer you some of my favorite cat GIFs as a sign of my appreciation for jumping on the pod today. I’ve embedded a couple in the show notes. Of course, I’ll share those out on social too for your perfect enjoyment because, why not?

Thanks for checking out this episode. Please subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss a single future episode. And please, think about sharing it with your colleagues, friends and family on all those socials that you know and love. Join the conversation, especially on Twitter, tweeting at me @josieahlquist or the pod Twitter, @JosieATPodcast. Remember, all those show notes can be found at josieahlquist.com\podcast.

Hey, did you really enjoy this episode? Think about giving just a little review from a star rating to actually writing in a little of a comment to iTunes or your favorite podcasting platforms. Having those reviews totally help with those silly algorithms that we have to dance around. If you are interested in learning more about all that I do from speaking and consulting to my research or publishing, you can check them out at josieahlquist.com.

Thank you again to our podcast sponsor, Campus Sonar. Make sure to go check them out at campussonar.com. Sending digital hugs, loves, and waves from whatever corner of the world you’re listening from. This has been Josie and The Podcast.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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