The companion to the Student Social Media Academy:

The unfiltered discussion board – Welcome to Reddit!

Ready for an honest take about your campus community? Check out the subreddit for your school or local community, you may be surprised!

In March 2021, we discussed what Reddit can bring to us as educators, and why we should be paying attention to this largely untapped area of opportunity for higher ed. Featuring experienced Reddit users and strategists, the session breaks down the function, style, and insights of this discussion forum, sharing rules of engagement for authentic community building.

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). 

[5:30] When did you first discover Reddit?

 

[9:05] How do you describe Reddit to a non-user?

If you look at college students’ other social networks, whether it’s their profiles on Instagram, Facebook, or Tik Tok, they are all very refined and very filtered. There's a lot of pressure to only share what reflects positively on you. With Reddit, there is no such pressure because your username could literally be “collegethrowawayaccount”. This anonymous nature can really let people be more honest, vulnerable, and open in sharing struggles that they are going through, which makes the conversation more honest and believable.

 

[14:11] What’s the culture of Reddit, starting with usernames?

[16:28] How is engagement different on Reddit than other social platforms? 

[19:58] What is a subreddit – and how does this type of community matter in higher education?

 

[22:28] How do you find out if your institution/organization already has a subreddit? And how would you work together with an existing account?

Don’t over strategize in your entry into Reddit. The first step could be to reach out to the moderator by informing them of your affiliation with the university and become a verified account. But the big part about using Reddit is lurking and understanding how people communicate and what they are talking about.

I think it’s important to understand what people are trying to get out of on subreddits, so that you are not trying to force the conversation to go in a direction that it was never intended to.

 

[28:46] What do you see is the difference between social listening, lurking, learning, and taking actions by posting and commenting in subreddits?

[33:53] What are some great practices you have seen on creating a strategy around Reddit?

[38:30] Do you have any suggestions for people who are facilitating conversations and answering questions on subreddits?

[43:00] Who are the most active users of Reddit that higher ed would want to know about?

From a higher ed perspective, the student body is going to be your constituents and target audience. But if you are in marketing, and your focus is brand and awareness, your audience may not be affiliated with your school, but rather Reddit users of a particular area or topic. An example of this is to engage with the neuroscience subreddit and connecting content to the academic expertise of your school.

 

[47:45] What are some examples or case studies that people can check out if they want to learn more about reddit?

 

[52:51] Are there any subreddits you recommend for higher ed people to join?

[56:51] Any last tips for people to consider whether higher ed should pay more attention to Reddit, or why a campus might not be ready for Reddit?

If you are not committed to being truly open and transparent in answering difficult questions about your university, then don’t try to share a canned answer, just lurk around for input.

Embrace the informality, not everything should be a polished response or has to go through 12 committees before it gets posted 7 weeks after the fact.

Panelists

Stephen App, Business Development Manager at Campus Sonar

Steve App is Campus Sonar’s Business Development Manager and Chief Donut Officer. A higher ed loyalist, Steve is responsible for understanding the challenges, pain points, and goals of professionals who work on campus and making sure the agency is well positioned to respond to those needs. An amateur runner, professional donut connoisseur, and staunch defender of the Oxford comma, you can often find him posting Seinfeld gifs on Twitter.

Erika Fields, Senior Social Media Manager at Carnegie Dartlet

Erika Fields is the Senior Social Media Manager on Carnegie Dartlet’s Digital team. With more than ten years of experience in higher education marketing, specifically with social media marketing, she is a true subject matter expert and passionate about helping schools effectively use social media to reach their target audiences.

Austin Braun, Digital Media Strategist  University of Colorado, College of Engineering & Applied Science

Austin Braun is the Social & Digital Media Strategist at the University of Colorado Boulder College of Engineering & Applied Science and is in charge of digital/social publication focusing on increasing research exposure, enhancing reputation, generating organic media pickup and building community relations with collegiate stakeholders ranging from students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Moderator & Community Founder, Josie

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.

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