Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

Student Leaders as Social Media Managers

There is no expert other than students themselves who can better understand, connect, and engage with issues close to their hearts.

When higher ed pros provide students with adequate training, resources, and guidance campus social media platforms have the ability to reach authenticity and relevancy unlike anything else. This is exactly why in March 2021, we gathered a group of brilliant student leaders to share their experiences and lessons as social media managers. Student insights, peer-to-peer interaction, and building on the creative spirit of our campuses drive higher ed. Why wouldn’t we take a similar approach to social media?

About Higher Ed Digital Community Builders

Organized by Dr. Josie Ahlquist, this Facebook group is a clubhouse for higher education professionals to connect, reimagine and transform how we build genuine campus digital communities and strategic online engagement experiences. Every week, community members share resources, discussions, and opportunities to further develop digital communities that serve our students, families, and partners in timely, innovative, and supportive ways.

Highlighted Content from Panelists

Links to what was mentioned during the panel (Click on the Image for Links). 

[1:52] What does your average day look like?


[5:26] What have been some big ideas you’ve brought to the table, or that you feel you’ve executed particularly well?


[15:05] Can you share your experiences approving different campaign ideas, and which platform could you bring voices to content?

Besides working with my team and bringing my own insight to ideas, bringing voices is also about highlighting students on our social media. We do this by bringing other student leaders’ stories to our platform in order to connect students further. The goal was to have students’ frequently asked questions to be answered by their peers.



[20:35] How have you invited other students into the conversation on social media?

When I ask students general questions, students often open up so I can identify things that could add value to our community that they wouldn't have thought of otherwise. Because it’s peer-to-peer communication, students are just more comfortable opening up. This gives them the confidence to open up to the entire campus community, which also creates a ripple effect that makes other students comfortable in interacting with the social media accounts, feeling that they can relate to each other and build mentorship.


[28:30]  How have you integrated opportunities for 1:1 interactions in your social media strategy?

Some of the conversations on social media get heavy, and that’s one of the great things about having the trust to interview students and have student-to-student moments. Because they are willing to say when things are tough, this builds so much trust and equity, and value for the university.


[34:38] How have your students been open and vocal to talk about harder or challenging topics on social media, where they felt that they could be more open about hard times?


[40:37]  What do you enjoy about your job as social media workers? What is something that people who are nervous to hire a student worker should know? 

It’s easier for students to connect with their peers, and they could tell staff about the nuanced culture of the campus that staff don’t have access to.

Working as a student gives me hands-on experiences and taught me things I wouldn’t have learned in class. I now have learned to always add "values" instead of "noise" to the conversation. The advisor becomes a mentor, which is very rewarding.


[49:56] How long have you been working in social media? Where are you heading in your future?

Additional Resources from Josie

Subscribe to Josie’s newsletter, Digital Leadership Download

From speaking, workshops, coaching and consulting, Josie has transformed her services that can be delivered 100% remotely.


Bethany Bulloch, Student Social Media Specialist at Brigham Young University

Bethany graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Public Relations. As a social media specialist, she helps manage the operations of BYU’s official Instagram account, which has consistently stayed ranked in the top 10 in the nation among universities for social media engagement. She has developed key ideas and assisted in the execution of #MyViewFromBYU Instagram story takeover campaign, reaching hundreds of thousands of unique viewers with over 200 takeovers and counting. She also assembled and managed a “street team” of micro-influencers to build bridges between the public relations strategy of the University with the students. With a passion for telling students’ stories, she helps the school in tackling crucial topics such as racism, sexism, homophobia, eating disorders, conflict resolution, mental health, and COVID-19 regulations with thoughtful initiatives.

Abbygale Cloud, Editing, Writing, and Media Intern for New Student & Family Programs at Florida State University

Abby Cloud is a rising senior at Florida State University double-majoring in Advertising and Editing, Writing, and Media. Throughout her (almost) four years at Florida State University, Abby has been involved with organizations such as Dance Marathon at FSU, the FSView & Florida Flambeau, and Arrowhead Advertising, as well as serving as a 2021 Orientation Leader.

Abby has had several valuable experiences in writing and editing, content creation, and social media management thanks to her internship with FSU’s New Student & Family Programs. Upon being introduced to social media management within a higher education environment, Abby is planning to pursue a Higher Education or Student Affairs graduate program to remain involved and dedicated to her passion for higher education communications

Shandreka McCullough, Social Media and Communications Assistant at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith

Dreka graduated from the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith with a B.A. in Communication and Media Studies, minoring in speech. Dreka is very involved on campus as president of Panhellenic Council, a member of Delta Gamma Fraternity, a resident assistant, secretary, and treasurer of the Black Student Association, and a member of the Residence Hall Association. Within her role at the UAFS, she enjoyed engaging with students and promoting campus culture on social media.

Alyssa Osman, Social Media Assistant at the Marketing Department of Youngstown State University

Alyssa is a senior at Youngstown State University studying Communication and Marketing. She is learning and growing through experiences, networking, internships, and campus involvement. As a YSU Social Media Ambassador, she analyzes data, conducts account audits, attends events, creates content, and researches current trends in the industry. She loves working for the marketing department because it allowed her to gain hands-on experience in my field, while connecting with people from different departments across campus.


Rachel Rodemann Putman, Associate Director Of Strategic Communications at University of Arkansas – Fort Smith

Rachel was named the associate director for strategic communications in February 2020 after serving as the interim public information officer since January 2019. She first joined the Office of Marketing and Communications in 2014 as the lead photographer. As her role evolved, so too did her responsibilities. In 2017 she was named social media manager, developing the university’s first social media strategy and social media policy, which have since been used in nationwide presentations on higher education social media use. Rachel also is an award-winning photojournalist.

About Josie, Community Founder

Dr. Josie Ahlquist is a digital engagement and leadership researcher, speaker, and consultant. She teaches teens, young adults, education professionals, and campus executives how to humanize technology tools and prioritize building community online.

Josie absolutely loves fostering and educating about digital community building. So, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she created a Facebook group called the Higher Ed Digital Community Builders, which has grown to nearly 2,000 members. She also created and manages the Digital Community Building Cohort, a mastermind educational program for higher education social media managers to improve online community building strategies.

As a researcher and writer, Josie is extensively published and maintains an active blog and podcast, which have received accolades from EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her new book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education: Purposeful Social Media in a Connected World was listed as an Amazon #1 new release for college and university student life.

She also serves as a teaching faculty at Florida State University, creating curriculum to build digital literacy and leadership skills for undergraduates up to doctorate level students. Josie received her doctorate from California Lutheran University in Higher Education Leadership, Masters in Education from Northern Arizona University. She majored in sociology and human development at South Dakota State University.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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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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