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The One Year Niche: Blogging about Social Media in Higher Education

One year ago, July 22nd, 2013 I posted what would be the first of my posts about Social Media in Higher Education.
Titled: Student Engagement Through Social Media: #IsItPossible?  I thought I’d share my thoughts from my doctoral program class assignment and was blown away the positive response beyond my classmates on Twitter.
It inspired me to share more about what I was working on in my program, every week called to share more and more.  And I didn’t get sick of it.
When I first considered blogging I was told over and over how I needed to find a niche.  Ugh, how boring I thought.  I am so much more than a niche.  So for a couple years I dabbled. But the more I paid attention to who was reading and responding to my posts, the more I realized the need for this type of discussion.
So here are a few thoughts for you as you consider your niche in blogging:

  1. What do you want to be known for?  Call it your brand, legacy, passion or purpose.  What topics move you at your core, maybe even keeps you up at night or sends you into endless explorations to find answers?
  2. What is out there in the blogging sphere?  Are there already 10 blogs about your niche or maybe only one or two.  Or do you bring a new perspective, for example I felt confident wiggling my way into the social media niche because I applied published research as well as practical experience.
  3. What is your end goal?  Is this a short term challenge or something for the long haul?  Are you looking to have your blog be an extension of your professional life to network or something purely fun to find more balance?

I have learned a great deal this last year, embracing a niche in blogging.  I would be remise if I did not recognize a few people that have lifted me higher, guiding me through this process, pointing out things in me before I believed them and cheering for me along the way.

  • IMG_0021Ed Cabellon: If you have followed bloggers who write about social media in higher education, then you know about Ed.  We began our conversations around doctoral programs, soon finding our common research interests and sense of humor.  I consider him a mentor and friend and will soon be future co-authors.
  • Teri Bump: Teri is a powerhouse in higher education.  Her mentorship and sponsorship to countless professionals at all levels in astounding.  I have learned from her to think more strategically about my blog and career.
  • IMG_0062Jason Meriwether: Jason has been a constant supporter of my blog.  He is a prime example of how to authentically interact through platforms like Twitter to build real relationships.  He carries such a positive energy and is like my personal cheerleader.  I love it!
  • Joe Sabado: Another long-standing blogger, writing about technology in higher education.  We stumbled into each other both on Twitter, but also literally when first meeting in-person.  I find his spirit so uplifting and am very appreciative to have another social media blogger on the west coast.
  • Blogging Bravely Crew: At the NASPA 2014 National Conference I pulled together a rock star group of Student Affairs bloggers.  This group was so inspiring to work with and gave me a community online, once we finally met in-person it was as if we were long time friends!  Thanks Chris Conzen, Amma Mafro, Renee Piquette Dowdy, Marci Walton and recently added Paul Brown.IMG_5451

If are you considering starting or re-investing in a blog, let me serve as a case study for the benefits of finding and fostering a niche.  But also know that it is ok if that niche doesn’t come to you right away.  I had blogged off and on for a couple of years, but nearly the day (one year ago) that I wrote about the research related to social media in higher education things changed.

IMG_2354Blogging has changed my life.  I know that sounds dramatic, but for me it really has.

I have gain friendships, far more important that likes or followers.  I have also been able to explore and further clarify my research agenda.  Because of blogging I have been invited to “the table” to talk technology with both NASPA and ACPA.  I was sought out to write a chapter in a book, two journal articles and moving forward on involvement in two other books.  I’ve spoken at local and national conferences, even a YouTube conference called VidCon.

In my lifetime I have many goals, with this next year to become Dr. Josie Ahlquist – May 15th, 2o15.

But what will always be part of my identity is blogging.  No matter if I move into faculty, consulting, administrative leadership, or all three, I promise I will be blogging.  It is part of me.  And just as important are those that have been reading.  Maybe this is first post you have read, or the 200th.  Many many many thanks.

This blog is yours as much as mine.  I want to be a resource for my colleagues in higher education and beyond.  I also soon hope to provide more resources for future and current college students, maybe even parents.  I am always open and appreciative to hearing your ideas and requests for future posts, so please comment below!

That is what I appreciate about technology like blogging.  A means to share a message globally to many audiences through an interactive platform.  To have an impact beyond the local level and ability to connect to a community who can support and challenge.

 Here is to a terrific year two!

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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