As part of ongoing professional development, it's important to keep up to date and learn from the successes and failures of colleagues in higher education and other industries. I've gathered lists of communities, podcasts, blogs, and conferences I regularly recommend to social media professionals, ranging from free and on-demand, to annual fee-based events. And there are so many fantastic resources, I’ve broken them into two posts so I don’t overwhelm you. First, I’m covering communities and podcasts, then stay tuned for part two: blogs, newsletters, and conferences.
Choose a few of these methods of connection to make sure you have a steady stream of news and ideas to keep you informed and growing as a social media professional.
You know the saying, “it's not what you know, but who you know?”
It's absolutely true in higher education social media. Because so many social media managers don't have peers on campus, connecting with peers across the country and throughout the world is invaluable. Communities allow you to gather inspiration, seek feedback, collect quick answers to questions, understand industry trends, and provide or receive empathy. Whether public (a hashtag) or semi-private (Slack or Facebook group), there's a community for you.
In 2015, Kasandrea Sereno, lead advisor at the University of South Florida, started a Facebook group called #HigherEdSocial. It's now grown to include more than 8,000 members from over 50 countries. Multiple discussions each day include new platform features, suggestions for tackling top topics on social media, celebrations of campaigns across the industry, current events, and general support. Answer a few questions to request to join the group.
Another affiliated community is the Higher Ed Comm and Social Media Slack group, founded and moderated by Jonathan Gabriel. With channels dedicated to each social platform, strategy, affinity groups, conferences, and more, you can easily integrate this community with your daily work if you already use Slack. If you're not on Slack, this community is worth joining to experience. Request to join over 1,200 industry colleagues—they even get together for occasional virtual happy hours.
In addition to receiving answers to your questions, the searchable archive in the groups helps you see what's already been shared about popular topics like approving new accounts, crisis communication, or how folks are using the newest social network. Please, use the search feature. Longtime members will appreciate it.
Blacks in Higher Ed Communications
In 2020, TaQuinda Johnson, Social Media Strategist at Eastern Michigan University, and Jamila Walker, Social Media Manager at Old Dominion University, desired a community for people who looked like them. Immediately turning talk into action, they founded Blacks in Higher Ed Communications, a Facebook group that builds a network of Black communicators in higher education.
The group shares best practices, tips, and strategies in the broad field of communications. You’ll find social media managers, but also public relations, marketing, communication, and design professionals. It’s a safe space for Black higher education communicators to provide and receive support, information, and encouragement. TaQuinda says members “can feel comfortable being their authentic selves.” The group description reads, “It’s ok to be HOT—humble, open, and transparent.”
The group has over 100 members and is open to Black or brown individuals who work in higher education communications as well as their allies who work within higher education communications. Request to join.
Higher Ed Digital Community Builders
Another Facebook group, Higher Ed Digital Community Builders launched as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted campuses to think differently about digital engagement. It's a place for higher education professionals to connect and transform how we build genuine campus digital communities and strategic online engagement experiences. While not limited to social media, the 1,000+ professionals in this community share ideas, participate in panel discussions, and even hold virtual Friday brunch discussions. Request to join the group.
Most hashtags aren't communities, but #HESM (short for Higher Education Social Media) definitely is. Search it on Twitter and Instagram for resources and connection opportunities. If I have a quick question for the entire community, my first instinct is to post a tweet tagged #HESM. There are no scheduled chats; #HESM is 24/7 engagement.
STREAM, by Campus Sonar
For professionals interested in data-driven strategy informed by social listening, Campus Sonar offers a community as part of its STREAM membership. In addition to regular industry research reports, blog posts, infographics, and webinars, members have access to an exclusive Slack community to learn from and teach each other as they build audience-centric strategies with social data.
If you want to multitask and get your industry updates while taking a walk, doing the dishes, or commuting, consider subscribing to industry podcasts. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and the publishing cadence of some shows may ebb and flow, but with many of the shows you can count on a valuable archive for your binge listening needs. Speaking of archives, the Higher Ed Live Network released its last episode in January 2020, but the archive is stellar. At its new home with PlatformQ, Higher Ed Live is slated to return in 2021.
General Social Media
These podcasts aren't specific to higher education, but they'll help you stay on top of platform strategy and tactics and gather inspiration from outside the industry. Note they're produced by companies in the social media industry. In most instances, you won't find sales pitches in episodes (other than the sponsor messages). They're truly educational and an excellent example of content marketing themselves.
- Social Pros by Convince and Convert. Co-hosted by Jay Baer and Adam Brown, this weekly podcast usually features an interview with a social media professional discussing how they approach their work, but may also feature authors or leaders at social media companies. Be sure to check out the episodes featuring higher education social pros.
- Episode 435: Jenny Fowler, Director of Social Media Strategy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
- Episode 434: Sonja Likness, Director of Social Media and Content Strategy at Duke University
- Episode 422: Abby Eddy, Assistant Director of Digital Engagement at Purdue University
- Episode 365: Adam Pierno, Associate Vice President for Marketing Strategy at Arizona State University
- Episode 250: Monica Ballesteros, Social Media Manager of the Enterprise Marketing Hub at Arizona State University
- Social Media Marketing Podcast by Social Media Examiner is a weekly, 45-minute podcast that focuses on tactical aspects of social media management. If you want to “navigate the social media jungle,” you'll need to get past the safari-themed intro. Once you do, there are over 400 episodes to catch up on.
- Science of Social Media by Buffer. If you think your attention span is too short for podcasts, this is for you. Each episode is 10–20 minutes. Focusing mainly on data-informed strategy, you'll find statistics packed into every episode—over 200 of them. The hosts occasionally answer listener questions, so submit yours!
Our industry has a thriving podcast community. While no active podcast focuses strictly on higher education and social media (yet), it's a regular topic on most industry podcasts. Here I've described some of the longer-running podcasts in detail, as well as provided links to newcomers that started broadcasting in 2019 or later.
- Josie and the Podcast by Dr. Josie Ahlquist focuses on digital leadership. It's particularly valuable if you're supporting the social media presence of a senior leader—she's interviewed quite a few of them. After wrapping up the fourth season of the podcast in 2020, Josie had interviewed 12 campus presidents, 17 provosts and vice presidents, as well as higher education pros of all levels and creative digital leaders outside the industry.
- Enrollment Growth University by Helix Education. Eric Olsen hosts this weekly podcast with short, to-the-point interviews (usually 10–30 minutes) about—you guessed it—enrollment growth strategies. Eric goes beyond the admissions office, interviewing faculty, social media managers, and fundraisers alongside traditional enrollment professionals. With over 150 episodes in the archive, you'll find something of value. The most unique aspect of this podcast is the YouTube playlist of animations from each episode. Each guest becomes an avatar, and the video features a memorable clip from the episode. If you listen to only one episode, cue up #80: Dartmouth College's Social Media Testing Strategies with Erin Supinka. If you have an extra twenty minutes, I’m on episode 175: Social Listening for Program Research.
- Higher Voltage by eCity Interactive. This podcast released its first two seasons in 2017 and 2018 as Hashtag Higher Ed, hosted by Stephen App. After a hiatus, it returned in August 2020 as Higher Voltage, hosted by Heather Dotchel. The interview-style podcast explores the ins and outs of higher education marketing and the business of higher education in 30–60 minute episodes. The first two seasons tend to feature a single guest, while season three includes two guests per episode.
- Higher Ed Social created by Lougan Bishop and Jackie Vetrano, is a window into the life of higher education professionals. This informal podcast is like listening to friends chatting over coffee or a beer. If you're looking to expand your network, or feel a bit isolated in your role, find a few episodes from the nearly 200 episode archive to listen to. In 2020, Jackie Vetrano stepped back and Jenna Spinelle joined as Lougan's co-host.
Newer podcasts you may want to add to your feeds include:
- 31 Minutes by HA ThirtyOne. “Finding and sharing the best ideas to help inspire higher education marketers, communicators, and leaders of all ilks.”
- Enrollify Podcast by Enrollify/Direct Development. “Equips you with insights into how the latest trends in marketing and technology are affecting enrollment marketers.”
- Enrollment Insights by Niche. “Focus less on the promise of best practices and instead look for the processes and questions that spark internal reflection that will lead to novel solutions tailored to your institution.”
- Higher Ed Marketing Lab by EchoDelta. “Engaging with some of the brightest minds in higher education and the broader world of marketing to gain actionable insights you can use to level up your campus's marketing and enrollment efforts.”
- Servant Marketer by Jenny Petty. “Marketing leaders, marketers, creatives, academics and entrepreneurs share their thoughts and experience with Servant Leadership and marketing.”
- Thought Feeder by Joel Goodman and Jon-Stephen Stansel. “A higher education podcast addressing the digital marketing challenges every college and university faces.”
- Undeclared by Up & Up. “A podcast for higher education marketers who just want to learn it all.”
This isn’t an extensive list, and more industry professionals jump into podcasting each month. If you're connected in the communities detailed earlier, you'll learn about new podcasts.
You’ll also find these resources in Chapter 20 of our free new book, Fundamentals for Social Media Strategy: A Guide for College Campuses. Download it now for even more details on social strategy, research, and best practices.