Engaging Commuter Students with Social Media

umbc social media collaboration summit

UMBCAre you a social media manager for a community college or commuter campus?

It can seem impossible to engage students who aren’t part of a “captive” audience, as you would find on a residential campus. I have found myself at a loss when students on the commuter campus where I work remain unaware of such perks as free FAFSA help, resumé clinics, random snacks and campus swag giveaways.

At the #UMBCSocial Media Summit this month, there were numerous workshops to choose from and an abundance of knowledge to be gained. Here is what I learned at a presentation led by Jessica El-Zeftawy, UMBC’s Alumni Programming Coordinator:

How to Use Social Media to Connect with Commuter Students and Alumni

waffle fries UMBCSAA1. Use fun drawings in addition to your usual photos and videos. If the images are student generated, that is even better. After seeing Jessica’s waffle fries image, I realized that this could be a fun way to mix things up and show some personality.

2. Have a “Why You Love Our Campus” photo contest. The winner gets to pick out a free hoodie at the bookstore. This was a revelation to me, since at The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) we aren’t permitted to give out cash prizes or gift cards. As a college student (and even now) I would never turn down a chance at a free hoodie! Bonus: if you are specific about terms and conditions, this can be a great way to collect royalty free images.

3. Share the wealth. Inform program directors and members of other departments that if they tweet with your username, you will retweet them (when appropriate).

4. Talk to your student staffers. Have you ever asked an open-ended question on Facebook, only to receive no response? It is common knowledge that the more people interact with your posts, the more users the post will be presented to (impressions). Enlist the help of student employees to serve as social media ambassadors to like, share, and comment to keep the conversation going.

5. TAKE VIDEOS. Even if they are not the best quality, people will click them. I’m not saying that you should spam your accounts with clips of a trash bag blowing around the parking lot; I’m encouraging you to explore video as a tool even if you just go out with your iphone and a cheap tripod. Don’t be intimidated by a lack of experience, just do it!

6. Obvious: create a unique hashtag. Less obvious: use hashtags.org to see what’s trending and gauge effectiveness. You can even pick up free lessons on Twitter etiquette.

shut up and take my money7. Set goals to measure your success. Twitter and Facebook’s analytics tools continue to become more user-friendly. Create a social media strategy (custom hashtags, contests, etc.) and follow through with analytics to see what really works.

8. Connect with alumni on Linkedin. Valuable information to boost engagement with alumni on Linkedin can include financial aid information for graduate students, professional development related news, enrollment dates for graduate programs, course sharing opportunities and faculty profiles.

Images provided courtesy of Jessica El-Zeftawy

For coverage of other topics that I learned about at #UMBCSocial, follow these links:

>> Will That Photo Get You Fined?
>> Coming Soon: College Facebook and Twitter #FTW

Will That Photo Get You Fined?

umbc social media collaboration summit

UMBCWhile I found all of the seminars at the #UMBCSocial social media summit to be highly valuable, the Will That Photo Get You Fined? class led by UMBC Communications Director Dinah Winnick really taught me a lot. This important topic is relevant to everyone that posts and shares media online.

For example, as a member of the marketing department at The Universities at Shady Grove (USG), the majority of promotional images that we use can be traced back to our team. Thus, it is important to make sure all of the images we use are correctly attributed. Here is what I learned from Dinah:

>> The Best Places to Get Your Photos:
1. Take your own or buy stock.
2. Use pictures provided by university photographers.
3. Search for photos from government websites.
4. Use photos with creative commons licensing.
5. Explore collections with unrestricted use.

>> How to Organize Photo Archives
This was an issue that I openly asked the class about. USG’s photo library is a lot for one person to manage, and we currently don’t have a tagging system in place. Here were the suggestions I received from representatives of various campuses throughout Maryland:

1. Maintain a private Flickr.com profile as well as a public one.
2. Photoshelter.com
3. Webdam.com

>> How to Protect Yourself and the Work of Others
1. Always include attribution, even if the photo is free. Here’s an example:

randie hovatter bread

Creative commons image courtesy of Randie Hovatter.

2. For campus photo contests, permission is required to share user-generated imagery. An easy way to obtain permission is to provide a link to terms and conditions in the contest guidelines. Include a phrase such as: By submitting creative work, you agree with our [Terms and Conditions].

3. At large campus events which may be photographed or recorded on video, post a notice on the event program or provide a special sticker that people can place on their name tag to avoid being filmed.

For coverage of other topics that I learned about at #UMBCSocial, follow these links:

>> Engaging Commuter Students with Social Media
>> College Facebook and Twitter #FTW

USG Recruitment Folder


USG-RecruitmentMy biggest design project of the Fall semester at The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) was definitely our new recruitment folder. Our marketing team needed to cram as much information into this piece as possible, since USG is a unique campus and also fairly new. As a result, a lot of locals don’t realize that they can earn a bachelor’s degree without leaving Montgomery County. Hopefully they will now!

Here is my shameless plug of the day: USG offers programs from nine Maryland public universities on one campus. The list of schools includes:

• Bowie State University
• Salisbury University
• Towson University
• University of Baltimore
• University of Maryland, Baltimore
• University of Maryland, College Park
• University of Maryland, Eastern Shore

Want to become an Registered Nurse or Pharmacist without driving to Baltimore for class every day? Boom, we have it. Want to major in Hospitality and Tourism Management without relocating to the Eastern Shore? We have that too. There is no such thing as a degree from USG; when you finish your program, you receive your diploma from your home campus (SU, UMD, UMES, et cetera).

Another point that we took special care to emphasize in the folder is that much like you would find on a traditional campus, USG offers a library, gym, bookstore, café and an Office of Student Services. The only thing we are missing are the dormitories. A pretty big perk of working here is that they are paying for me to earn my M.S. in Marketing Management from UMUC. USG makes higher education accessible for a lot of people, myself included.

The bottom line is: If you want to earn a bachelor’s degree at a beautiful campus with free parking while still getting to live at home and eat your parents’ food, then you should visit USG’s Academics page and check out the USG Recruitment Twitter feed.

Click on any of the tiles below to view close-up images of the recruitment folder.

Ninjas Always Get the Last Slice

Urban Evolution Vocelli Pizza Manassas Ad

If you live in Manassas, Virginia and order delivery from Vocelli Pizza, keep an eye out for this coupon to the best gym on the planet, Urban Evolution!

Salil and Malikah Maniktahla from UE are two of my favorite and most creative freelance clients, and their gym concept is truly unique. In addition to the Manassas location, they have brand new facilities in Alexandria and Baltimore. If you are looking for trainers that can give you cat-like reflexes and a Dragonball Z-esque physique, this is the gym for you.

Vocelli Pizza Urban Evolution Flyer

Manassas Vocelli Pizza Urban Evolution Ad

Manassas Vocelli Pizza Urban Evolution Ad

My Mom Will Be So Proud

I came from a very gloomy workplace to a far more upbeat job where I get to interact with many different people and hear a lot of inspiring stories, so I take things to heart very easily. I had to share this nice email that I received today from a student, since I was so touched by the gesture! It is here on my blog forever for me to look at and be reminded of how much my last job sucked how great it is to work on a university campus with such a diverse community of unique students that are willing to take a moment of their day to express gratitude to others.

If you’re reading this, you should send someone a nice email today. If they are like me it will make them totally nerd out in a heartfelt way and share it on all of their social media accounts. Sorry (not sorry), Antoine!

Another little brick for my house in heaven. 😛

“Art Work” is not an Oxymoron

Because I like having money but not too much of it, I went to college and majored in Graphic Design.  On a scale of One to Miracle this puts me at “Unicorn,” because not only am I one of fewer than 6% of college grads under the age of 25 to have full-time work, but I am actually employed as a graphic designer.  If you’re in the process of considering art as a career path, remember that I didn’t fall into my awesome job right off the bat.  I had a full-time job as a designer prior to this, but I quit because my paychecks didn’t always clear and certain people in my close proximity were surfing the personality disorder wave. Sometimes you have to wade through a lot of shit to get to the golden rope, as my brother likes to say.

If art is what you really crave and you think you can achieve full time employment, you must first ask yourself: Could I tolerate 18 months of mental abuse from a short man who shaves his arms before I can level up to a job that includes dignity and retirement options? If you answered “Yes” then congratulations, you are tough enough to be an artist.

“I know it looks like I am drawing a snowman, but this is work.”

– said while designing this year’s company holiday card.


Career results not typical.

Culinary Adventures

I found this while categorizing some photos at work today. This is just one of many shots of me doing things at work that are common to the restaurant industry but on the outside might be considered a little weird. Here I am hanging out with Brian Polcyn, co-author of Charcuterie, and a disembodied head of a pig whose body was contributed to delicious, delicious salami. Brian came to my work a few months ago to teach us the art of cured meats.

It takes a special person to do my job; namely, not a vegetarian.
Randie with Brian Polcyn

Hmm, looks like I have lost weight since then.