Students can be important ambassadors for our programs, institutions, and disciplines. They are able to understand and speak to their peers more effectively than we can. In this episode, Tim Nekritz joins us to talk about how to leverage students as digital storytellers across social media platforms. Tim is the Director of News and Media and an adjunct Professor of Communication Studies at SUNY Oswego.
- Tim Nekritz
- Rachel Reuben – Marketing Communications Consultant
- SUNY Oswego’s Social Media Communities
- SUNY Oswego’s Video Blog Page
- Meg Keniston at St. Lawrence University
- Alyssa Levenberg – former SUNY Oswego student – Alyssa Explains It All, vlog series
- Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Current Magazine’s- Article on Alyssa Levenburg
- Confab – Content Strategy Conference
- Confab Higher-Ed
- Symone Sanders– CNN Political Commentator at SUNY Oswego’s MLK Celebration
- Brian Moritz– Professor of Communication Studies at SUNY Oswego
- Professor Moritz’s 2018 Online Multimedia Publication- Oswego Housing
- SUNY Oswego’s Winter Breakout Workshops
- Dr. Robin DeRosa– Director of the Open Learning and Teaching Collaborative at Plymouth State University.
- Episode 55 of the Tea for Teaching podcast – Rebecca and John sit down with Dr. Robin DeRosa to discuss Open Pedagogy
- TikTok app- “a destination for short-form mobile videos.” – iOS, Android, Amazon
- Joely Rice- TikTok user- @joelylive
- Mic – Anthony Hay- former SUNY Oswego student- multimedia storyteller- Instagram-@micanthonyhay
- SUNY Oswego’s Social Media Users’ Guide
- Todd Sanders – Director of Digital Communications & Social Media at the University of Florida
- Pinterest– What to bring to your dorm, Athletics, Recreational Sports, Oswego rocks!
John: Students can be important ambassadors for our programs, institutions, and disciplines. They are able to understand and speak to their peers more effectively than we can. In this episode, we talk about how to leverage students as digital storytellers across social media platforms.
John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.
Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…
John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer.
Rebecca: Together we run the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at the State University of New York at Oswego.
John: Today our guest is Tim Nekritz, Director of News and Media and an adjunct Professor of Communication Studies at SUNY Oswego. Welcome Tim.
Tim: Happy to be here.
Rebecca: Today our teas are….
Tim: I got blueberry green with just a hint of honey in it.
John: And I have ginger, with more than a hint of honey in it.
Rebecca: And I have my favorite tea, which despite popular belief is not English Afternoon. It’s Golden Monkey, and that’s what I have today.
John: We’ve invited you here to talk about how social media storytelling can be beneficial to students and to institutions. How did SUNY Oswego start it’s student storytelling program?
Tim: It started about a dozen years ago and there was a bit of a trend at the time to have student bloggers. And my social-media mentor Rachel Reuben, at New Paltz at the time, was doing a very good job at it. The idea there is it’s a little bit more authenticity, because I’m a marketing communication person, so can anyone really take my word for anything? And then when you’re talking to prospective college students, honest experience of a student and really, the student is still working for you, they still might sometimes complain about it being cold, or the parking or what not. So about 2007 is when we launched the student blogging project with about seven or eight students. And it was nice and it got a lot of notice at first… really good traffic because it was something new, and I had a really good group of starting students. One of my favorites was Erin who is legally blind, and had a lot of chutzpah. A good example, she had a blog post called, “The Blind Chick Goes Skiing,” and how can you not want to read that blog post. And I tried to get people from a variety of different backgrounds… and this was really before social media was taking off to the degree we see it now. It was a nice thing for prospective students, and we found out that faculty members, current students, alumni, they all consumed it as well and liked it a lot. It’s had its ups and downs along the way. It’s still part of our program but it’s not the main part. But then as social media started to evolve, it’s like, “Okay, well how can we change how they’re telling stories?” And obviously Facebook got bigger, Twitter got bigger, Instagram got bigger. I had interns who were working with Twitter, for example—just simple stuff like live tweeting events, or hockey games, or Quest Day, or something. And then finally, something like Instagram comes along… very visual, very resonant with current students and prospective students. So I had my interns working on that, but also started something called a Laker Takeover, another idea I borrowed from another college, my friend, Meg Keniston at St. Lawrence University. Basically, they have a whole account that’s all Takeovers, all the time. But for us, it was kind of like, “Okay, well I’ll have a student takeover the Instagram account—or do most of the posting for a week and talk about some part of the student life.” And so, like the first one we did was Lizzie Marks who is a women’s hockey player and a future intern of mine. Because everyone knows hockey and that type of thing around here but they don’t know about the preparation, the practice, and the weird bonding activities that are part of a hockey team or any team really. And then just started doing ones for like theater productions, and upcoming things, like there’s a current one for an event happening in Riggs Hall that’s also talking a little bit about life in a residence hall living on campus. And so a lot of it is, “Okay, this thing is happening.” And it started out with me just reaching out to people. Now, students or advisors are coming to us and saying, “Oh, there’s a really cool thing happening this week. Do you think we can work with you on it?” So that the word is out on that. It’s a dichotomy because you want them to be honest, but they’re also ambassadors for the college. No one’s going to be showing off a keg party or anything, but at the same time, it’s the point of view that people really are looking for and between that and the interns… I get stuck in the office a lot… It’s good to have the eyes and ears out there showing them a more authentic college experience and so like Instagram has been kind of our main part for that but the blogs still happen. We’ve had video blogging happening—I think that was probably one of our biggest successes. A student by the name of Alyssa Levenberg basically tweeted at us in our first week and said that if we wanted someone who could tell video stories that “I’m your girl” and I went and I looked at her YouTube channel I said “Yes, this is a good sell”. We came up with the name Alyssa Explains It All for her series. We were never sued by Nickelodeon, so I feel good about that. [LAUGHTER] The idea was, “What is a prospective student interested in?” It’s great because this is fresh to her. She started as a freshman —This is all the stuff that she thought about and lived through in college. So having that authentic approach I think was really really good and plus she was very good at what she does. She’s been doing video blogging and video storytelling ever since she graduated and it got to the point she was actually featured in two stories of the CASE Currents magazine which is pretty good and we were invited to speak at a conference called Confab Higher Ed in Atlanta which is a primary content strategy presentation conference and she was the only student presenting there. And I say “we” because I think they pitied me and didn’t think they could invite her without me… because I talked a little and then she talked and all the questions were for her. But it’s been a good experience because I had a couple of journalism students who came to me specifically on the internship because they realize that blogging and telling stories in that genre is big. Because that’s, for a lot of current journalists, columnist, that type of thing, they will keep a blog… or least have to approach it in that personalized way—and then I’ve had other ones who really parlayed it into parts of their portfolio as far as this shows their ability to organize and present and whether it’s write or perform, I guess you could say it’s a video so it’s really helped them with their professional portfolio. But, you know, again, there’s a marketing reason behind it and a reason for people to understand college life and Oswego in general. Alyssa’s blogs—some of them are Oswego-specific but most of them could apply to any student applying to any college and that’s really what we were looking for. And so those still get a lot of hits on YouTube. They’re three-, four-, or five-years old, but they’re the questions that come up all the time like, “How do I make friends?” and “How do I deal with homesickness?”, “What would I have to do to study or have time management?” that was the idea, to find really universal themes, which is what I like them to post.
Rebecca: How do you train the students or prepare them, and then also make sure that they’re ready to be an ambassador for the college? Especially because you need to be careful about what content they actually are posting.
Tim: It’s an interesting thing, I don’t want to throw them in the deep end necessarily. For a while everyone was having trouble with their first blog entry, and I said, “Just introduce yourself.” Then everyone had a problem with their second blog entry. [LAUGHTER] But I basically told them, “Try to find something that you’re interested or passionate in.” I’ve had students who would pick almost like a beat—like being at a newspaper—whether it’s student involvement, student organizations, or arts and entertainment, or find things that they’re interested and comfortable in writing. I’ve had ones who do listicles, “seven-tips for,” different things to get ready for college. But I also want them to find their voice, I don’t want to be looking over their shoulder and dictating that. And something I picked up very early in the process was you don’t approve blog posts, you approve bloggers. So in other words, you have to have a comfort level with them. We always let them know in front, “You’re an ambassador for Oswego. Oh, by the way, this will be seen by your parents, your professors, probably your future employers. So be sure that you keep that in mind.” It’s generally been a positive experience because they get that. And I think it seems like today’s students, a lot of the ones I work with anyway, are already more professional minded. They understand this is something that’s good for them to get into, to be part of their personal brand, I guess you use. Usually what happens in the semester, like our first meeting is supposed to be tomorrow—as of this recording—where I’m really going to talk to them a little bit, show them our social media users’ guide, ask them to look at some of the posts that we have, maybe other colleges have, and then come back the next week to discuss what they like, what they thought could have been better, and then ease them into it. I don’t give any of them a huge workload for that, for any given time. It’s like, “Okay, you’re covering this event, and you’re covering this event? What are you writing a blog entry on?” I ask them what they’re writing. And also it’s good because it’s expectations. I’m not asking them to do a ton of things, but understanding what’s going on in the first place. And I’m always saying, “Brainstorm, give me an idea.” I’ve never had to say no to an idea, their ideas are always better than my ideas.
Rebecca: What are some misconceptions that new social media storytellers have about storytelling?
Tim: I think, I guess if we were to define social media storytelling, in this way, it’s social media posts that are in service of a personal or a larger story, their journey as a student, or the journey at a college. In a way it’s understanding the difference between me and we. To a degree, we want their personal story, but also, in a broader sense. Let’s say if I had a student at the MLK celebration or something like that. If I had a student covering that for Instagram, it’s not a selfie, “Oh, look, here I am with Symone Sanders.” Its, “Here’s Symone Sanders, here’s what she talked about, here was the crowd.” Telling the story from, I would say somewhat of an institutional perspective or more of a we perspective, what anybody who goes to an event is going to experience, not as personal. And I know that there’s a lot of people who really like their selfies these days. My personal anecdote is, I was at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Oswego like two years ago—and I’m not going to make generational stereotypes—but a lot of people, all the photos they were taking were selfies with them and the parade in the background. And older people like me, we’re just taking pictures of the parade. I think they get it because they’re usually PR, marketing, or communication majors. So they’ve got an underpinning of the larger goal that we have here.
John: So most of the students have been in public relations, or social media, or communication studies?
Tim: Absolutely. Sometimes I’m their second or third social media internship. So it’s really just a difference perhaps in protocol and goals and everything and they understand it. There are exceptions to the rule, like Alyssa—who I mentioned earlier—asked if she could be an intern. We scheduled a meeting and I said, “When can you start?”, because I already knew what she could do, I wasn’t going to do that. We had a social media Laker Takeover with a student named Anna Chichester who was a freshman and I think she was in Pride and Prejudice. And after seeing her Laker Takeover, I said, “Hey, how would you like to be an intern?” But again, they’ve all been PR, marketing, communication, so they know some of the fundamentals of it. So for me, it’s really more adapting that to this job. But again, part of that is not watering down their experience too much because again, they are much closer to the target market than I am. But they all come in with the general skills. I have to tell them about something like accessibility, and tone, and that type of thing. And always spell check, because Lord knows even I will post something with a typo on Twitter, since you can’t edit it. You know, delete it and do it again, a lot of its repetition. So like, they start with some things and then by the end of the semester, or by the time they graduate, you start to miss them.
Rebecca: I think a lot of faculty are curious about using social media to tell the stories of the work that they do too, and trying to get it out. How does that connect to, maybe the work that we do as an institution or this bigger we voice?
Tim: Well, it’s interesting because there have been some questions from various parts about, for example, faculty having blogs. I think that type of thing could work really well, but also the idea of students showing a professor’s work is always good. Like we’ve had some students doing a research internship and they can show a little bit—I know the professors don’t want them to show all. We had a really neat one over the summer, for example, the study abroad course that was engineering students over in Trinidad and Tobago about engineering a steel pan or looking at ways that a steel pan creates noise from an engineering standpoint. And that was fantastic because first of all, they showed some research then they showed, “Oh, tropical stuff,” and you know, “Here we are in this forest.” It was an interesting way to transcribe what’s going on in that course, with something that’s a lot more fun. As opposed to, “Oh, here’s this class. Here’s this class, we studied abroad, we did these cool things.” So it’s trying to find ways to make it more of experience, as opposed to, “Here’s my research, here’s my work.” How can that be fun? I mean, I know there’s people like Professor Brian Moritz in Communication Studies who’s doing a lot of things with students where they might have blogs or they might do things on Twitter. And then ultimately, produce, I guess we could call it an online multimedia publication at the end of the semester on one theme. So I think it’s creativity on the professor’s part. There are professors I know who do class blogs, and I think that’s a really really cool concept to do. I don’t do it in my class just because I have so many other things to cover. But I know when I was at the Winter Breakout for the first-year signature series— which I know was discussed previously— it was interesting to see the people talking about how blogs are really a teaching tool. And students discover a little bit about themselves and how they write, because writing is practice. So for faculty, certainly trying to find students’ storytelling as a way of teaching and self discovery, I think it’s an awesome idea, I’d like to see more of it happening.
John: But also it’d be a nice way of engaging and reflective practice, where they’re working on their learning and reflecting back on it. And its applicability, which is, in general a good practice. But when they post that publicly, either within the class or perhaps more broadly, it forces them, perhaps to think through things a little more deeply than they might if it was just something that was, as Robin DeRosa called it, “a disposable assignment,” where they write it, it goes to the professor, and then it’s never seen again.
Tim: Yeah, and reflecting is a big part of it. I know we have a student here named Joely Rice, aka, “Joely Live” who has 500,000 followers on TikTok. I had to go and see what TikTok was, I don’t totally understand it yet. But…
John: … short videos.
Tim: Yeah, short videos. And basically, she’s doing an independent study. She’s working for something called Rumble—yet another thing I’d never heard of—which is basically a site, it’s almost like an entertainment site involving social media and social media influencers, and other things that I’m like 30 years too old to understand. For the independent study I said, “I absolutely want you to do some reflection papers or videos.” She’s an IMG model. She has her own show on TikTok already, or a couple of shows, a weekly show and a daily show. And for her she said public speaking was the biggest thing because they had to record something and submit it—because it’s an online course… she’s an online broadcasting major… and she said she’d never been so self conscious. All the stuff she does for social media, great. One for a class, she just became so self conscious about it. And I think there’s a lot of that going on because very few of us like to see ourselves in video, or hear our voice. I think for students, just like the rest of us who are going to cringe… but I think they learn more from hearing their thoughts. When they use a blog or video blog I think the reflection that goes into it is fantastic, and then when they read it back it’s almost like they learned a little bit more the second time around as well. As John said, it both commemorates it but it also has a bit more life to it.
Rebecca: I had a really great conversation with my students in my class last night—my study abroad class to the Czech Republic—and I posed the questions like “You have to do this journal assignment. There’s prompts. We talked a little bit about what the content was, and I asked “You’re more than welcome to do something and I can be your only reader, or we can make a blog and we can share the platform and you know, I’ll buy a URL, et cetera, and get it all set up.“ And I was like, “Think about it, you know there’s issues. You’re gonna have a bigger audience, you have to think about that stuff. I’m not grading on how well you’re writing, but like other people are going to read it so you have to think about that. And they all just, “Yeah, let’s do that. Can we do that?” and they were so excited about it. I mean, of course I showed them the blog of the students who went on the India trip. I was like, “Don’t want to be like them? Don’t they have a cool website?” [LAUGHTER]
John: But, are they going to India? But the excitement, perhaps, turned them around.
Rebecca: Yeah well I just showed, you know, they each ended up with kind of a landing page that has all their posts because you can sort by author and things like that and they just thought that was so cool. What they were doing could have a bigger life.
Tim: One of the first things I did to break things out in the blogging project was to get study abroad bloggers. Bloggers who had traveled and are experiencing new things because that’s a lot more discovery there than being on campus perhaps. And then, some of my favorite Laker Takeovers have been that too because they’re so much of an adventure but also, as a college that prides ourself and one of our hallmarks is a study abroad program, that makes perfect sense to show this. And if you’re a prospective student it’s like, “Wow, I hadn’t even thought of studying abroad, this looks awesome…” or our current students. Anybody, they really can visualize it when it happens.
Rebecca: I can share that in that same class we were talking a little bit about the differences in how a place presents themselves online versus their physical experience of the space. So we talked about Oswego as the first… and that we’re going to do the same thing… they’re looking up the websites and the places we’re going and then we’re going to talk about like their actual experience. But one of the things that came up in the discussion was that through some of the social media storytelling that’s happening, they got a really good sense that students get to do really cool things at SUNY Oswego, like research and whatever. And they all said “That’s how it actually is here.”
Tim: Oh, that’s great. So we have actual authenticity.
Tim: Yeah, people ask, “What’s your social media strategy?” and for me, it’s to show that Oswego is an awesome college with awesome people doing awesome things… because that’s a pretty broad guideline, but it is. And so to show, as you said, those student experiences and what you get to do here, that’s what we want to make sure is emphasized. And that also the cool stuff they’re doing happens to be great content, so that sure it doesn’t hurt either.
John: And it’s certainly more authentic when it comes from students’ voices than when it comes from a college website or public relations office and so forth.
Tim: Yeah, absolutely.
Rebecca: In addition to the authenticity and the “we” perspective, are there other things that make for a good storyteller?
Tim: I think it’s nature and nurture. I think some people are just born storytellers and really get how to tell a story. But also I think it’s kind of understanding photography, or iPhone photography, iPhotography, whatever you want to call it, but also from a different perspective. Trying to figure out, “Okay, here’s a photo of a speaker,” or “Here’s a different angle of here’s the speaker and the people reacting to them.” Everybody can take a good sunset photo, but can you find a different angle on it? Knowing that there might be a formula but there’s time to go off that formula. So I think there’s a lot of creativity. Curiosity, certainly. Wanting to know more. I mean obviously a lot of the people who do it, that is one of the things. But it’s like, “Okay this is a really cool thing, but why? What’s cool about it?” and that type of thing. So I think having that type of mind and saying “I’m curious about this, I want to know how it works, and I want to show people how it works in an interesting way.” You can say, “Oh it’s this major, this type of major, that type of major,” but they exist in all majors clearly. For the study abroad one usually I’ll ask the professors and I’m going to say, “Here’s what I want, can you recommend a student or two?” And they often do think about that, like, “Oh, we have this type of person. This is what we’re looking for.” There’s no template for what a good student storyteller is. You know it when you see it. We’ve also recruited people just because we’ve seen them in other mediums, like on Instagram or Tumblr—back in the days when Tumblr was a thing—telling really good stories. We said, “Oh, hey, they’d be great for this, because we see they already do it.” So sometimes there’s that too. You see someone who is a good storyteller and it’s like, “I want them as a part of my team. I’m not sure how, yet. But I definitely do want them involved.”
Rebecca: I think sometimes, especially with our students, they might be really good storytellers if they follow really good storytellers.
Tim: Yeah, exactly.
Rebecca: Because they have a good model.
Tim: Yeah, like one of our best student storytellers who just graduated, Mic Anthony Hay who has, I forgot how many Instagram followers but it’s pretty high. He basically has always been a really good photographer. And he followed a lot of people who are storytellers and he will post a photo, and a story to go with it. And the story is great, the photo is out of this world. And so a lot of it was really looking at what other people did. Because he could have just done photos and they’d be nice, but having that extra layer. It might be a question, or a little bit about his life and then a question for people to answer. Because things that everybody experiences make the most sense or that everybody can think about or visualize, but also, in the blogs especially, having that personal experience and that perspective is a good thing because obviously, it’s about connecting with people and being that authentic, interesting person, but also talking about topics that are of wide interest.
John: Now, if a faculty member or an institution is going to have students work in storytelling in some format, is there any advice that you give them in terms of preparing the students to do this… things to perhaps suggest that they encourage students to do, or to avoid?
Tim: Well, I think it’s always great to have proof of concept. Whether it’s your own institution or another institution where you can point them at and say, “Here’s some really cool blogs. Here’s some really good Instagram accounts. They’re doing things.” So, setting those expectations, having a very clear understanding, and constant communication is important. Because sometimes my student bloggers, one of the things they do is, not update very much just because it’s a perfection issue. They want the perfect blog entry. And I’m like, “There is no perfect blog entry. I’ve been blogging since before blogs existed. I’ve never posted a perfect blog entry.” And then if your an institution or somebody put it together a blogging program, think about it from a recruitment standpoint. I have the pleasure of being the faculty mentor for the women’s hockey team here and they don’t recruit seven goalies and no defenseman, and no forwards. So, you almost want people who like have good visual skills, and people who might be better writers, or students who are very involved in this, and/or a student athlete, and/or an artist or a performer, or something like that. So, if you’re trying to cultivate a very broad experience, think about the different types of students you want. If you’re recruiting students also ask faculty, ask staff members the type of students you’re looking for. But for students in general, it’s like a certain bit of professionalism and accountability, I think. But also knowing that you want them to find their voice to a degree. There’s an institutional voice that every institution has, every faculty member has, every class has. But that individual student voice and how that voice is different than other voices, that’s something you want to definitely encourage. When Alyssa was a successful video blogger, all these other students wanted to make blogs. I could see they had the same mannerisms and the same patterns and it’s like, “Be yourself.” Because it’s in a way it is looking, “Oh, here’s a very successful model”, but it’s like “But no. No two people are alike, cultivate your own style as well.”
Rebecca: You mentioned having a handbook. If faculty were going to do this on a smaller scale rather than like an institutional scale and they were to put together maybe a little handbook or whatever for their students, what are some of the key things that should be included?
Tim: Yeah, well, we have as a social media users’ guide and it talks about the different communities that are out there, the do’s, the don’ts. Don’t be too dense. Don’t throw out acronyms. Be a human being on social media as much as you can. Know that, not everything that you do in social media will be well received, some of it might be ignored, sometimes you have to deal with people who are jerks… how do you navigate that, for example, and do you have a policy for it. But in general, it’s also to a degree about you gotta learn, play a bit on the job. And then it’s always funny, people are like, “What’s your biggest advice as far as, avoiding screw ups?” and it’s attributed to Zappos and Microsoft. Their social media policy is, “Don’t do anything stupid,” which, that’s a life policy, I think in general. [LAUGHTER]
John: And a good thing for students or anybody.
Tim: Anybody, yeah anybody of any age should follow that. And so I think it’s interesting because it’s evolved so much. Social media’s evolved… certainly since I’ve been involved in it and in 2020 it’ll be different than it was in 2019. So it’s just, you want to know what the general things are. And then every new channel that comes along has its own rules of engagement, its own strengths and that type of thing. For a while, we’re putting some more emphasis on Snapchat we had students who were doing Snapchat posts and that type of thing… I wasn’t really understanding because Snapchat’s interface is rather ridiculous… but then we would do the same story on Snapchat and Instagram and Instagram would get 10 times the engagement. And then they changed the Snapchat design and layout and then suddenly our Snapchat engagement went almost down to zero. And it’s like, “Okay, well, this was nice, this was fun. We’ll put stuff there once a while but not going to emphasize it anymore because Instagram really has been where it’s at.” But also, the blogs are always important. A good example is our students will work with the incoming class group like the class of 2023, which for me, just seems impossible that that’s a year, but they’ll see what questions students have. A good example, one year our incoming students had questions about the Equestrian Club, Cheerleading, and the Ice Effect Synchronized Skating. Basically it was female students asking all these questions maybe because males thought they were too cool, I don’t know. But then one of my interns, Ryan said, “Oh, well, I know the President of the Equestrian Club. So he did like a Q & A… sent her questions… She sent it back, boom, quick blog entry, put it into Facebook, we also put it on Twitter, we put it all over the place because a good piece of content can work various parts. So that was an easy thing. What questions are students having over and over and how can you solve those problems? Whether it’s a blog post or an Instagram series, or even is this something that should be on our website? So we’ll see this, and seeing what students are asking what they’re curious about can inform everything that we do outside of social media, from a content strategy standpoint.
John: Have the students had to do much with, say, trolling and such issues? And how have you dealt with that, or encouraged students to deal with that?
Tim: Generally, if they’re dealing with a troll… it’s just a troll that they’re not going to be able to do anything about. So it’s kind of like an ignore. If they’re blogging about something… we’ve had students that are very passionate about things. I had one, Katherine Raymond, who was very much for sustainability and that type of thing… and so she got some pushback blog entries from people who were not necessarily scientifically oriented, I’ll say. And she did a good job of just very respectfully replying to them. You know, sustainability should not be a hot button topic but unfortunately it is. But generally it’s: understand what’s going on and if someone is snarking at them, they’ll ask me whether they think it’s good to engage or not. And sometimes it’s an honest question or that type of thing, definitely the honest questions we want to get answered. Someone just trying to be a jerk towards somebody, there’s no engaging them, it’s not even worth it. But generally student speaking, this has not been an issue for the students, which has been great.
Rebecca: What’s something that you learned about this process without expecting to learn that?
Tim: It’s going to sound like puffery, but just how good students are at this. So many of them have exceeded my expectations and I said, “Okay. They should be okay, they should be good” and they’re great and they’re awesome. And then 5, 10 years later, they’re working in social media and they’re known in certain circles and some of that you’ll see right away, sometimes you’ll see a growth curve. There’s always a lot of trepidation when you’re saying, “Oh, you’re turning this thing over to a student,” you know, “Aren’t you worried?” and they will more times than not exceed my expectations as far as that goes. Getting back to what I talked about earlier, it kind of teaches me what are we not communicating? What do my students have to say? What do incoming students, what are their questions that we could be doing a better job as an institution communicating? I’ve learned a lot about how diverse and rich students lives are because I think, “Oh, they might be doing this and that…,” yeah, they’re in five clubs, and they play in a band and they’re in a sport and all the rest of this stuff” and like, I’m just so impressed by it. Those are students, it’s like, you’re happy they’re representing you. You don’t want every student to come in to join five clubs and do all these things—at least initially—but just finding exceptional students that make me proud to work with them is, I think that’s been the biggest takeaway, the biggest surprise and probably the biggest pleasure from it.
Rebecca: We always wrap up by asking what’s next?
Tim: What’s next. I mentioned TikTok earlier besides the fact that we have a student with 500,000 followers, there’s some schools that are starting to get into it. University of Florida, my friend Todd Sanders is doing some interesting stuff there and it really skews a little bit lower, but … it’s like high school students, that type of thing… and try to figure out, “Okay, do we have content that’s going to make the grade?” I went in, I got a TikTok account, I put some videos on it and said “Eh, there’s not much going on there…” but again, not the target market. So it’s maybe seeing what students can do video-wise there and also working with other operations around campus. For instance, our admissions… someone in admissions said that their students wanted to do like mini-tours of the residence halls because they don’t have time for all of them so they might see a couple and I said, “That’s content we can use too” and it’s content that the Reslife channels can use too so it’s trying to figure out how to work smarter not harder. So if students are doing these nice little videos, let’s find a lot of uses for them… Because video is a great storytelling avenue. It’s why Instagram has thrived and why Snapchat is static, because they’ve been beaten to the punches. It’s why TikTok is huge, even though people either don’t know it or don’t completely understand it. But yeah, so the video storytelling, trying to figure out ways of doing that within this that are manageable. And obviously accessibility is a big issue on like, “Can you tell a story that people will understand if there’s no sound to it?”, and that type of thing. So I think with my current crop of students it’s going to be trying to figure out visual storytelling things. Is TikTok something worth pursuing or not? Because if it’s not, then we just don’t follow through with it. And then you just never know what’s going to be the next channel. We don’t rush into the next channel, you know, the idea is you want a content strategy you want to do it well, or at least start out doing it at least not embarrassingly bad. [LAUGHTER] But so where we started to stay on top of that and a good wrapping up anecdote is when Pinterest started a lot of my friends and other colleges were like: “Oh Pinterest, so it’s a passing fad, no one should jump on it.” I spoke to my students and I said, “This Pinterest thing. I kind of get it but what do you think? Should we have a Pinterest account?” and one of them Jenna Hanson said, “You know, students are always asking what they should bring for their dorms,” she said, “What about a Pinterest board that says ‘What to bring to your dorm’? Or ‘The winter is coming, what should people bring? What are some of the clubs I can join? What are some of the teams at SUNY Oswego?’” and then one person—an alumni, Shane Leibler who’s not here anymore—did a very popular board called “Oswego rocks!” where he looked at like, Billy Joel played here on his birthday once in the 70s or The Doors played here…it was a wilder time… you could get really good acts for almost nothing. And so he did all these things about, almost a who’s who Rock & Roll Hall of Fame of people who played here when they were not known. That’s one that keeps going really, really well because for Pinterest you’ve got to just come up with a good theme and get some stuff to that board but it’s also something you don’t need to update all the time like Instagram or that type of thing. And Jenna has been working in social media ever since she graduated too. So, it’s good and again, when people have this idea and they understand social media… that there’s a strategy behind it and it should solve problems. When students get that, you know that they’re going to do well in it.
Rebecca: Well thank you so much for joining us.
Tim: Thank you for having me.
John: Thank you.
Tim: Thank you for the tea.
John: Anytime… we always have tea here.
John: If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast service. To continue the conversation, join us on our Tea for Teaching Facebook page.
Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.
John: Editing assistance provided by Kim Fisher, Chris Wallace, Kelly Knight, Joseph Bandru, and Jacob Alverson.