Watch the video recording of this Office Hours session, or keep reading for a full transcript. For those interested in reading the conversation that took place among participants and the resources shared, the chat transcript is also available below.
Office Hours: Social Media Storytelling
- Apurva Ashok (Project Lead, Rebus Community)
- Karen Lauritsen (Publishing Director, Open Education Network)
- Leigh Kinch-Pedrosa (Head of Marketing & Communications, Pressbooks)
- Sarah Mease (Digital Publishing Assistant, Virginia Tech University Libraries)
- Karolina Karas (Strategist, Marketing and Communications, BCcampus)
- Symphonie Swift (Communications Specialist, OpenStax)
- Kristin Woodward (Teaching and Learning Team Lead, Library, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee)
Apurva: Hi, everyone, welcome to another Office Hours session, my name is Apurva Ashok, I’m the project lead at the Rebus Community. And I’m joined today by Karen Lauritsen and Barb Thees from the Open Education Network. Rebus is a charity that is based in Canada, we offer programs and resources to support all kinds of open publishing efforts. And today, we’ll be talking about the power of social media storytelling #OER.
If this is your first time attending Office Hours, just know that this is a very informal conversation. The format really is to hear from our four fantastic guests today for about five minutes each. After which, we’ll turn the conversation over to you, you can share your questions, your experiences or your thoughts in general. If there are other topics that you’d like us to explore as part of our Office Hours series, or if there is someone that you would like to see on this stage here as a guest, you can always drop in your suggestions.
And Barb or Karen will share a document here where you can submit your suggestions. So, today we have a great line up of guests who will talk about the unique challenges involved in creating stories that resonate with people across different challenges. So, what I’ll do now is handover to Karen to not only introduce our guests, but also share a little bit about the Open Education Network. Karen, over to you.
Karen: Yeah, thanks, Apurva. And welcome everyone. I am with the Open Education Network, as are many people in this call, we are a community of professionals who are supporting one another in creating resources and strategies for promoting open education and higher education. I’m joined by my colleague, Barb Thees, our community manager. And we are delighted to partner with the Rebus Community on Office Hours.
And as Apurva said, we are going to be talking about social media storytelling today, and what a well-planned marketing campaign can do for your OER initiative. So, our four guests are Leigh Kinch-Pedrosa, head of marketing and communications with Pressbooks. Sarah Mease, digital publishing assistant at Virginia Tech University libraries. Karolina Karas, strategist, marketing and communications at BCcampus.
And Symphonie Swift, who is a communications specialist at OpenStax. So, without further ado, we’ll turn things over to them and as they’re talking please feel free to drop your questions into the chat. And once we’ve heard from everyone, we will turn to those questions and start our conversation together. Also, as a reminder, anyone who’s here is very welcome to share their stories and experience also in creating and sharing social media campaigns.
There’s a lot of knowledge and experience among our group, so everyone is welcome to share. So, with all of that said, I’m going to turn things over to you, Sarah.
Sarah: All right, hi. So, I’m Sarah Mease, I am a digital publishing assistant at Virginia Tech and I am also a graduate student at the University of Southern California and I’m studying digital social media. So, my program I’m studying analytics, public relations, content creation, basically who is interacting with what social media content and why. So, I’m learning a lot about how we can utilize social media to promote our textbooks.
This is especially important right now, because of the pandemic and it’s an extremely cost effective way to get information and marketing materials about all of our books out there. So, I want to talk about how we use social media to market our textbook introduction to biosystems engineering and our overall marketing plan for that. So, just a little bit about intro to biosystems, it was published earlier this year, published jointly with ASABE, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
So, this book had a lot of authors, it was written by an international team. It was a really interesting project. So, in developing the marketing strategy for this book, our first stab we just created a simple basic marketing plan, and filled out as much as I could, using our prospective dates, putting in question marks for things we needed to discuss or figure out. So, I have a sample plan like this, I’ll just put it in the chat.
So, if you’re interested in developing something similar, that’s a good resource. I started planning marketing for this book probably six to eight months out before the release. I think it’s important to start planning this out and realizing your goals for this as soon as possible and as early on in the process, so that if you want to pull in other people, you have the time to do that.
So, we just planned out for this book, we planned out who we were targeting, so professors, students for textbooks. And then, I wrote out a positioning statement, which I think is really helpful because as you work so extensively on these projects, you know every little detail and it helps to just think about the basic information, what you need to convey, where it’s available, just the kind of stuff people need to know if they don’t know anything about the project.
So, then I just created the timeline, dates, who was doing what, where things are going to be shared like email, blogs, Twitter. So, then we also contacted our libraries communication director really early on to write our press release, but you can also write these yourselves. So, something we’ve talked about in my graduate program, press releases, I know they seem kind of tedious or maybe outdated compared to social media, but they’re important because they give you something really polished you can widely distribute.
And it is more attention catching if you get a press release in your inbox, rather than just a more casual email notification. So, part of our plan was also utilizing list serves, which you can send out the press release, just a link to the text, the image of the textbook, and you can send it out to your OER list, your subject list, your internal lists. Like for ours, we do the library, and potentially you can connect that to professors who are teaching in the subject and see what list serves they have.
So, this is a good way to just get everything out to people who are already interested in hearing about the book. So, then in terms of social media, we mainly use Twitter, this is just a great way to get short amounts of information out there to start promoting our textbooks. To compose a tweet, I just start with something basic, the name of the book, the link, something short about it.
Tweets with images usually get more attention and engagement, so if you can, it’s good to include one. The cover of the book is usually just a good image to use. And we automate and schedule tweets through Tweetdeck. There are a couple of different services you can use for this, but Tweetdeck is really easy to use, it’s free, it’s available to anyone who already has a Twitter account.
So, if you have it, you already have access to Tweetdeck and some things to remember when composing your tweet. You can add author’s handles, you can tag the organizations you’re working with so they can amplify it. You can utilize these hashtags related to your content or OER works, that your book can be found by people searching through the hashtags.
A lot of people use Twitter professionally, so you can get more engagement than you think if you’re tagging what you’re doing. They can also be amplified by your department or institution this way, and you can gain more exposure through that. So, finally, when using social media or Twitter, it’s important to remember you can tweet out the same topics or links more than once.
So, come up with a schedule to tweet about your work in the upcoming months, so your promotion doesn’t die out. Each time you tweet, you can use a different blurb or focus on a different aspect of the text, so for biosystems like I announced it’s released, and then we tweeted out about how it was created by different authors. And then, we have upcoming tweets planned about the unique way the book was created.
So, we keep talking about it throughout the upcoming months. Twitter is our main social media we use. And whenever we want something posted to Facebook or Instagram, we just do this through the Virginia Tech libraries page. And we have a really easy system, where we just fill out a request and they post it to their channels. This helps the library have more of a cohesive social media presence.
It helps our content to just go out to a wide group of people, everyone following along with the library instead of just Virginia Tech publishing. And then, also when we’re posting our own content on Twitter, we can still have the library share it, so that it’s just more widely shared. And that’s all I have on our planning for that. So, looking forward to answering some questions. Thank you.
Apurva: Thank you so much.
Karen: Yeah, thank you. All right, over to you, Leigh.
Leigh: Okay, thanks, Karen. So, I’m Leigh Kinch-Pedrosa, I used to the be marketing and comms manager at the Rebus Foundation, but now I’m the head of marketing and comms at Pressbooks. So, I just moved over slightly. But before that, I was actually the general manager of a Canadian national storytelling organization, where I produced personal storytelling events and I taught scholars and entrepreneurs how to use personal storytelling in their work.
So, I was really excited to be invited to talk about social media storytelling. My background in storytelling actually coupled with my background in marketing makes me kind of skeptical when people use the term storytelling in social media contexts, because it’s so often just used as a buzzword by marketing influencers who are trying to sell you content services. I do however believe that there are elements of storytelling, particularly like knowing the hook of your book.
Or seeing yourself and your peers as characters that can be deployed in social media in really effective ways. For open there are additional difficulties, specifically that Twitter is the preferred space for the open movement, and it doesn’t support storytelling in the same way that some platforms like Instagram or TikTok do. Twitter is hard because pieces of content like the tweets they’re so ephemeral, and so easily lost out into the ether.
And that’s why driving engagement around the tweet is so vital to successful Twitter campaigns. So, that all said, I think that starting by thinking about your book story is a really great way to start your book’s marketing campaign. What you’re trying to do with story is to find the hook or what makes your book special. When I’m brainstorming about a story, I start with the basic elements of story, and sometimes it’s easy as we mature and move forward in our professional lives to forget the basics.
But if you think back to your elementary English classes, you talk about character, you talk about setting, you talk about plot. And by thinking about these more tangible elements of stories, rather than the big things like theme, you can give your audience something to hold onto and to remember. So, if I were coaching you on how to tell the story of your book, I would first ask you is the author of the book an interesting character?
Or can you build a world around the setting of the book? And that setting could be a physical space or a timeframe. Did something happen in the plot of your book’s creation that is exciting? Did you overcome a significant obstacle? I like to use the example, there’s a book out of the University of Washington Tacoma, called the Black Lives Matter Storytelling Collective Project.
That book is a collaboration with students and it was created pretty recently during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way of creating connection in the classroom, in an extreme circumstance, which would be lockdown in 2020 around the time of the George Floyd protests. So, that would be your historical setting. And that to me is a really great story that offers, I’ll share the link in a second, that offers a lot for an audience to engage with and to remember.
The setting is this virtual classroom during a global crisis, the characters are these two groups of students, who are telling their stories in really unique ways. The plot is one of open pedagogy and collaboration. I really like this book, and if the author wanted to, they could create a super cool marketing campaign out of their book, for their book. I think that everyone has a story to tell.
And that every book has a story, it just takes some reflection, some analysis to find it. So, once you have the story, how do you move that to Twitter becomes the next challenge. There are a lot of limitations with Twitter. That being 280 characters, you can get around that with tweet threads. But there’s complexities with the way that tweet threads are presented. Maybe you don’t have an active Twitter following, so you could have this really great story and nobody will see it.
So, there have to be ways to drive engagement to those tweets, even if you don’t have an active following already. So, you can write short tweets using elements of the story, and then you can drive engagement to those tweets. So, for example, with the BLM storytelling book, you could write individual tweets about a selection of the book’s student authors or using quotes from them about their experiences.
Or you could write a tweet thread about the creation of a book, telling the story from the perspective of the editor. Once you have those tweets, like Sarah, I use Tweetdeck, too, it’s free and way better than the other paid services I find. So, Tweetdeck is great. But simply tweeting is not enough, you have to drive the engagement, so some ways to do that would be to include images, tweets with images perform better than tweets without images.
You have a book cover, you can use it and you can stick it right there, well usually you have a book cover. It’s a good place to start but you can also use a tool like Canva, they have a premium service, but I’ve just only ever used the free service to create really easy images with no graphic design experience. I know that Apurva’s been using it for the Office Hours images, so it’s pretty useful.
And then, you can bring in gifs and emojis to make them stand out, I think there’s nothing wrong with gifs and emojis and I think they’re fun, even in a professional place atmosphere. I also recommend tagging people, like Sarah said, and especially people with a bigger following than you do. And I would just add too, there’s no harm in direct messaging someone and saying, “Hey can you retweet my book?”
Because that little extra comment might drive it, whereas just tagging might not be enough. You can share your tweet in spaces outside of Twitter, Creative Commons does this really well, you’ll see it in the list serves often, if you follow them where they’ll share a blogpost or an event with a link to a pre-formatted tweet. And then, you just share out that tweet, so it’s super easy and quick to get people to share for you and to amplify your message.
Another thing you can do is to ask a question in your tweet and then tag people you want to respond to that. And then, that way you get some sort of organic conversation around it. And then, finally you yourself have to continually respond in that conversation because the more it does, the better it works in the algorithm to bring your tweets to the top. As soon as you start talking about algorithms, I’m lost a little bit.
But up, more is the general thing. And then, finally if you want to see how your tweet is doing, the Twitter analytics are actually very clear and you can access them pretty easily. And I find the engagement metric is the easiest one to talk about. That’s about all I have to say. I have more to say, but I won’t say anymore, because it’s too much. So, thanks.
Karen: Great, thank you, Leigh. And Karolina.
Karolina: Thank you, so I’m Karolina Karas, thank you so much for having me here today. I’m the marketing and communications strategist for BCcampus. And I’m coming to you today from Victoria, British Columbia, on the traditional lands of the Lekwungen and Speaking Peoples. So, just to do a quick summary of what BCcampus does, because we do a lot.
Our primary focus is to support the post-secondary institutions here in BC as they adopt, adapt and evolve their teaching and learning practices, to just create a better experience for post-secondary students. So, we do this through a few different avenues, the first one being open education, which is obviously the lens that we’re looking at a lot of our conversation today. But we also work in educational technologies, learning and teaching indigenization and other special projects and often, they overlap.
So, today, when we’re talking about social media, I specifically wanted to talk about growing communities and building your online community as a way to have those followers become advocates and storytellers for you. So, I wanted to share a brief story about how my team and I have built our community over the past year, during this pandemic. And how we use this community to build storytellers, both on and off social media.
So, at the start of the pandemic, we took a look at our social media, and I immediately noticed we had a small but mighty group of engaged followers, but I like a good challenge, I wanted to grow this community and I wanted to see some fresh faces. And I definitely see some challenges in doing this. I think the biggest one for me was that a lot of folks they don’t want to think about work, no matter how much they love their job or no matter much they may be passionate about open education.
They just don’t want to see it in their personal timeline, and so the question became how do we engage with them? How do we meet them where they want to be? And I’ll admit, at first I wanted to force this, I wanted to meet them on Twitter, meet them on Facebook, make this happen. But that just wasn’t organic, and so instead in the pandemic world that we’ve been living in, the place that these folks we were targeting were most comfortable was in fact on Zoom.
So, I couldn’t do this alone, I can’t take credit for everything that was successful over the past year. I work with really great colleagues, and over the past year BCcampus has offered Zoom webinars, just like this one, where we can share our experiences and share our expertise. So, thanks to this new normal, it was a really easy way to introduce people who may not know BCcampus in a space that wasn’t social media.
And by having my colleagues share their expertise on all things open, ed tech, whatever it might be, my colleagues were able to build trust, share the BCcampus brand, and have genuine human interactions in an online medium through these weekly webinars. But we’re talking about social media today, so how do we get from the webinar to having growth on social?
Well, it wasn’t easy, the next step was really seeing growth in our newsletter subscribers. So, people who were attending our webinars, they wanted to start seeing us outside of the Zoom call and they wanted to start seeing us in their inboxes a bit more frequently. And then, we started seeing those names that were on our webinar list or on our mailing list, we started seeing those names trickling into our social media.
And we started seeing them become more engaged with our daily content, so it became something where we started seeing folks on a semi-regular basis in our webinars to seeing them weekly in our newsletters to seeing them almost daily in our social. And this growth was also reflected in our Google analytic stats as month over month we saw more acquisition coming in through our social channels.
So, after a few hurdles that we jumped over, we eventually started seeing growth in our social and we started seeing these folks being the storytellers for us by resharing our content and engaging with us in the content that we were pushing out. So, if there’s one thing I could stress today, it’s really not enough just to be on social media. There’s a lot of noise, it’s very competitive, and it’s become increasingly challenging to cut through that noise.
So, instead I would encourage you to think about who your organization is, or what your product is and what value you bring to the table. If you’re able to show that in a way that speaks to your target audience, they will engage with you on any number of mediums. And that includes social media, but it’s only once they see that value. And it might seem almost counterintuitive to think about growing your community outside of social media in order to see growth within those channels.
But I think in doing this you will have more loyal followers who become your advocates or become your storytellers for you online. And finally, every path is different to getting to this point that we reached. I think this is something that uniquely worked for us in the insanity that was this past year. But you have to start thinking about how to grow communities in any environment, so once we’re away from the screens and hopefully spending more time together soon, we’ll obviously have a very different strategy.
So, it’s all about constantly pivoting to the time and place that you’re in. And so, that’s really all I’ve prepared. And I don’t want to miss the opportunity to share social media channels. I know that we have a few already in the chat, but I’ll pop all those links in the chat in just a moment. And I look forward to answering any questions you may have after.
Karen: Great, thank you, Karolina. And over to you, Symphonie.
Symphonie: Hi, everyone, I’m Symphonie, and I am the communications specialist with OpenStax. A lot of really great things have already been shared, so I will probably echo some of what’s been said already. But a little bit about my role and about OpenStax just to get us started. So, I as the communications specialist am very focused on brand advocacy. And under that umbrella falls a few things.
It falls our social media, it falls some other marketing things, like email, events like webinars and in the past, when we used to go to conferences in person, those as well. And then, our PR, so I am happy to answer any questions about how it all interconnects for us at OpenStax a little bit later on. But OpenStax is, as many of you probably already know, a free openly licensed textbook publisher.
So, all of our textbooks are OER and we have a pretty big community of over 36,000 faculty adopters. Not all of them are with us on social media, though. And so, I think what Leigh said about Twitter being the space for a lot of the open education community is definitely true and something that we see a lot. We are on Twitter, we’re on Facebook, we’re on Instagram and we’re on LinkedIn.
We’re also on YouTube which is a whole other space. But we’re most active on Twitter, if we have a quota for a certain campaign of how many posts need to go out across social media platforms, the first thing we always think about is Twitter, just because that’s where the community is most active. So, I actually want to talk a little bit about trial and error. I think a really big part of figuring out what’s going to work for you on social media is just testing stuff out.
And so, what we do is we have these phases throughout the year where we’re just testing different styles of post, we’re testing different types of content to share. And just seeing what works, so like Leigh said if you’re using Twitter, go check your analytics because it’s really helpful to know what people are really engaging with and what you can keep sharing in that moment because things will change, periodically.
One type of post with a certain type of content can be really popular and really resonate with your audience over the course of two months. And then, the next three months it just doesn’t register with people. So, constantly checking and trying new things is really important. So, a really big way that we did that and something we discovered over the past six months is we had a really large campaign called Free The Textbook.
And that’s a really common saying in the open community. And that campaign specifically was about looking at inclusive access and really encouraging students and faculty and administrators and people across the education space to look really closely at what’s part of the inclusive access contracts that are running across campuses right now. And to see do these really work for students?
Do these benefit faculty? How does this work if you are advocating for OER? And do you have an inclusive access program on your campus, kind of thing? And I’d say a major takeaway that we found from running that campaign and just seeing what kind of content really helped people and what didn’t, is that basically in this moment especially, your audience they can be your storytellers.
I think that’s already been said, but having your audience be your storytellers is a great symbiotic relationship, not just because you want someone to tell your story and to help you get your mission out there and to help you share whatever textbook or product you have available for other people. But it’s also really important because that is a part of your community that you can fuel and you can help give them a starting point to tell their own stories, as it relates to your work that you’re doing.
So, things that we’ve seen being especially popular right now are really simple tweets that they say the thing, they’re bold, and they just say the thing that people are already thinking. So, I’m looking at our Twitter analytics right now, and one of our most popular tweets that had over 6,000 impressions and over 30 retweets that was just something that I noticed this was a trend on Twitter and on Instagram.
And so, I tweeted textbooks should be free, that’s it, that’s the tweet. That’s a really simple thing. It’s not complicated, it’s not a huge grand idea. But it’s something that resonated with people and it got a lot of engagement and a lot of people were retweeting it and saying, “Yeah, I switched to a free textbook in this course.” Or a couple of students retweeted it, saying, “I love it when my instructors use free textbooks, every textbook should be free.”
And I think that about a year ago that’s something that we wouldn’t really have shared, that’s something that maybe would have felt too bold for us in that moment. But we’re constantly testing and trying and evolving and seeing what actually resonates with people. I think that’s pretty much all I have to share. I’ll also say that it’s really important to monitor conversations that are happening out there, to try and keep an eye on different trends.
Whether that’s conversations around a specific topic, which if you’re using Twitter, Tweetdeck can help you do that, it’s really great. I think Sarah already mentioned using Tweetdeck or somebody did, I hope it was Sarah. But yeah, monitor the conversations that are happening, monitor conversations that seem like they might not be directly related to what you’re wanting to get out in the moment. But conversations that could play a big role in helping you advance your goals.
Karen: Thank you, Symphonie. And thank you, Sarah, Karolina, and Leigh. What a great overview of storytelling and community engagement and marketing. Really appreciate how each of you brought a different piece of this puzzle to the conversation. So, now is the time for community questions. Feel free to unmute if you prefer, or to drop them in chat. Okay, we have our first one.
Question for BCcampus specifically, but would love to hear from others, too. Curious about the level of effort in terms of time and human resources it takes for the development of each newsletter. Great question.
Karolina: Yeah, great question. So, the newsletter is something I work on with my colleague, Cat, and she would know for sure the hours. But that’s a good question, I’d say a couple of hours every week, between sourcing the images that we use, because we do try to have a very diverse and inclusive amount of images that we also use image description for, just to make sure that our audience is inclusive to everyone.
There’s a lot of copyediting involved, and then obviously we’ve got to source all the content from our calendar, our editorial, our community at large. So, I would say at least a few hours a week, but I’m not 100% sure, because I tap in towards the end, as the final eye and my wonderful colleague, Cat, does a lot of the work.
Karen: And what frequency do you send out a newsletter?
Karolina: So, we send it out now weekly. But before I joined the team, it was like once a month. So, BCcampus has grown a lot in the last few years. And we used to take the summers off, because that’s our quiet time in the post-secondary world. But even last summer, we were pushing things out every week, which is just so unheard of for us. So, there’s been really great growth and really great need and want. Thanks, everyone.
Really great growth and want for our newsletter, so we’re really thrilled with how much it’s grown in the last couple of years.
Leigh: I would add to that too that with newsletters, and I think that BCcampus does this, but I know Rebus does it too, it is really helpful to start with a template. Like you’re using MailChimp, go in and spend the time to make a really solid template where you can just plug and play your information later and it’s a lot of upfront work, but it carries out and makes everything much easier later on.
Karolina: And on the topic of newsletters, I didn’t want to put this in my five minutes, because it just didn’t feel like it was the right place to say it, but I think it’s so important that if you have a need or a want to create a newsletter, to do it. Just because newsletters hold, you have so much information in the power of your hands with the list serve, that you don’t necessarily get to keep if it’s the same content on social media.
Because we don’t own our Facebook pages, Facebook does, right? We don’t own our Twitter, so if there’s anything to ever happen to our social media channels, it’s so nice to have that backup, to be able to communicate just because you have full ownership of your list serve there. So, I definitely encourage that if you have the capacity and means to have a newsletter, even if you’re posting something out once a month or once a quarter, definitely focus on growing and building that.
Apurva: Thanks, Karolina. I know there’s a question in the chat from Amy and Amy asks do I have permission now to stop posting on Facebook? And from the sounds of it, Twitter seems like the place for all of the open education work. But Symphonie, I might ask you, because you mentioned how OpenStax has a presence in so many different platforms. Do you find yourself leveraging something like Facebook for specific kinds of strategic activities? And do you turn to Twitter and LinkedIn and the other channels for other kinds?
Symphonie: So, Facebook, we actually have both organic and paid social. So, we do both, we keep our Facebook organic social, which for anyone who’s new to these terms, basically organic social is just the stuff you post that I can even post on my own personal Twitter account, my own personal Instagram account. Paid social is like social media advertising. So, we keep our Facebook organic, social active.
But we don’t get a ton of engagement on it, and it’s interesting because our audience on Facebook is like more than double the size of our audience on Twitter. But it’s just there’s not a lot there, so we do keep it going, just because there’s a lot of people there, and just in case people are coming across things. We don’t want them to maybe miss out on an event that we’re having or anything like that.
But it’s not our main driving force. I would say and I’d love to hear others weigh in on this, but I would say if you’re not getting a lot of use out of Facebook, maybe just consider how you can keep it alive for those people who might come across posts on Facebook, but don’t make it a huge time suck for you where it’s causing a lot of unnecessary work.
Apurva: That’s really helpful, and I know Karen is mentioning how they’ve recently decommissioned their Facebook at the Open Education Network. And on the Rebus end, we’re doing something like you suggest, Symphonie, which is having it open, having it active, but not too active, where most of our communications takes place via our newsletter or Twitter. I know there was another question in the chat from Kristin.
And Kristin asks does anyone have advice or outcomes from posting as the open education unit at your institution versus as the library? And Sarah, I’m guessing given your interactions and connections with many departments within the institution, you might have a lot to say about that.
Sarah: Yeah, I think it’s been very helpful for us to just utilize every one we can. I know Virginia Tech overall has retweeted or maybe referenced some of the stuff we’re doing. But it’s nice to have the library pushing everything out and being very cohesive. And we also have, I’m trying to figure out how to explain this. Our publishing, our OER and the people who help us with communications are all separate teams, but they’re all within the library.
So, I think it is helpful to have the library as a cohesive front on some of our social stuff. I don’t know how helpful that is, but I think it’s best to utilize as much as you can. We get a lot of help from our communications people within the library.
Apurva: And Karolina, BCcampus as well, are you getting input or news from other institutions in the province? How are you sourcing all of that content from all of the communities you support?
Karolina: Yeah, so we have I forget how many, but we have I think about 20 or so post-secondary institutions in BC, please don’t quote me on that. And it’s really great to work on building relationships with them. We definitely found that the best thing to do to help amplify whatever message we’re pushing out is to connect with them directly via email or if we get to know them via a DM on whatever social media channel it is.
But we found that if we put in that extra few minutes of work to type up that email or type up that DM, being like, “Hey, we just shared this announcement about your school.” The engagement rates just shoot straight up and the impact of them lasts for so much longer than just the day that the post went out.
Apurva: Yeah, that’s really helpful, and that ties back to what we were suggesting about how that direct message and that ping and reminder can have such a big impact. And it’s definitely not wrong, it’s definitely something you should be doing.
Karolina: No, we’re all doing our best to have the same goal, the institutions or whoever you’re partnering with obviously wants to bolster the people under their umbrella. And we obviously want to have people come to our blog or retweet our thing. So, I think it was Symphonie who said it’s all about that symbiotic relationship of working together with all the partners that you’re with.
Apurva: Definitely. Well, I’m just scanning through the chat for more questions, and looks like folks are wondering if you could share examples of messaging that worked well and messaging that didn’t work so well. Sounds like all of you are trying and experimenting different ways of communicating. So, if you have examples at your fingertips, we’d love to hear them. And anyone can jump in. Feel free.
Karolina: I’ll go first. So, our most popular post I think of the year so far just for 2021 was a very simple almost PowerPoint type graphic that explained what open educational resources are. It was shared widely with student groups on our Instagram. People ate it up all over LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter. And it was so simple, and it took it back to basics because it was a really easy way for people to be like, “This is what I’m working for. This is what my goal is.”
Or it was an easy way for students to be like, “This is what we need to advocate for in our universities.” So, things that keep it simple and shareable and easy are definitely what I would recommend if you’re looking for messaging that works for you.
Sarah: I also think it’s important to think about who you’re trying to target with your messaging. I know going off of maybe memes and stuff on Twitter might resonate with younger people and students. But if you’re trying to communicate to faculty you might want to have more of a professional presence. But there’s pros and cons to both, and I think there’s a lot to be said for communicating in both ways, if you can.
Karen: Sarah, your comment about reaching faculty connects to something Kristin said in the chat about LinkedIn. I was wondering if any of you could speak to your strategies or thoughts on LinkedIn. And Symphonie, you also mentioned YouTube in passing, so perhaps we could talk about those two spaces and the unique strategies or challenges that people can think about there?
Symphonie: Yeah, so we have YouTube and LinkedIn. Our YouTube is actually really longstanding, we have some super old content on our YouTube account that it’s like a collection of videos that were meant to accompany our books at one point. But we also have other more marketing centric material on our YouTube as well. I want to address the question of LinkedIn.
So, on LinkedIn for us, LinkedIn is really important for yes, connecting with faculty, but it’s also important for putting material out there that faculty can then repost in hopes that the higher ups on their campus might see it. So, it’s a professional platform, so it’s something that faculty are on, a lot of faculty of course are also on Twitter, but faculty are on. But also, provosts are often on LinkedIn.
And so, having that option there we tend to stick with a highly professional level of content on our LinkedIn. Things that we think that faculty might be excited to share, and hope that others in their department might see, so like new book announcements. We also try to share things that faculty or higher ups on campus might be interested in, like new initiatives, new programs, those sorts of things.
So, the fun, bold stuff like that’s it, that’s the tweet, we wouldn’t do that on LinkedIn, we’d be sharing more stuff that’s professional in nature.
Kristin: I was just going to ask if I could, first thank you for your response, Symphonie, but also to observe that I think that’s one of the appeals of LinkedIn to me, you mentioned having more in-depth serious content that faculty could engage with. But for other social media, such as Twitter or Instagram or even Facebook or even emails out to faculty, I get the sense that we are supposed to keep it short and pithy and not overwhelming.
But in LinkedIn, I guess the reason I’m wondering about it is I already have a network there and it’s more personal than having the library presence for social media in my case that we would have in Facebook or emails coming from the library as an institution or the library as an office. And I haven’t done that in the past, but I’m wondering how that could be different, one it would be more personal, but two it would be using my personal professional network to go more in-depth, right?
To give people more to think about, more to read about, that they would be expecting in that platform. So, I appreciate your comments, but I just wanted to share that that was meaningful to me too, so thank you.
Symphonie: Yeah, that is really interesting because I think there is a personal comfort that you have assess of do I want to leverage and share this with my personal network to get this message out? So, that’s a really interesting question that I think a lot of us who are using social media for these kinds of things have to navigate at some point. I don’t know if any other panelists had anything to share?
Karen: Okay. I think it’s interesting too because Kristin, you’re talking about it sounds like your personal LinkedIn presence, whereas some of us have organizational presences. You can have the OEN LinkedIn page and so there is a lot to think about there, if you haven’t crossed the line is the only metaphor I can think of, although it doesn’t sound quite right. But if you haven’t made that change before.
Looking to the chat, Anita is asking about ideas regarding timing, I think there’s a mythology, so I’m very interested also in what our guests have to say about is there a magic time, day of the week or so on that makes a tweet more sticky or more effective? And same question with channels. And then, along the same line, I bet that some of us would love to know which hashtags you use, which I know is a little reductive.
But still, is really helpful for those who are new in this space and trying to experiment and try new things. So, your ideas regarding timing, channels and hashtags, please.
Leigh: I’ll take a stab at timing, you’ll drive yourself crazy, honestly. I tried so hard to figure that out, and there’s just so many conflicting ideas. And then, also, time zones that I honestly would just not. Try the middle of the day, maybe, but the way that the feed works is it’s not necessarily always the most recent tweet, it’s the most recently engaged with tweets that go to the top.
And I think actually, Sarah probably has interesting things to say about this, too, since she’s studying this. But in my experience, it matters a little, but you’ll drive yourself nuts, so just as long as you keep going around it, I don’t think it matters that much. But that might be controversial. The other thing I’ll say about hashtags is I use OER, I use open publishing, I use open education.
But it’s different depending on the context, like it really depends on what you’re trying to do there. And one note about hashtags is it’s an accessibility thing, please capitalize the first letter, if you’re using a multi-word hashtag to capitalize the first letter of every word, because it makes it easier to read.
Sarah: Yes, I agree with everything you just said. I think it’s important to not stress about the timing as much. I know we aim to do the middle of the day, or maybe right after the working hours because often people are more on social media. But I don’t think that’s the most meaningful thing to focus on. We also talk about in my program numbers versus actual engagement.
So, if you create something that’s resonating with them, that they’re engaging with and that’s impactful, that’s much more important than how many people are seeing something or how many people are liking something. So, that’s just something to keep in mind.
Symphonie: Go ahead.
Karolina: No, you go for it, Symphonie.
Symphonie: I was just going to say that I think that the timing question, I agree that timing doesn’t matter and that you can drive yourself mad trying to figure out what time to do stuff. I think it goes back to old email best practices of not sending out emails at certain times of the day or too close to the weekend. So, even at OpenStax, we used to have a rule that none of our marketing emails or email newsletters could go out on Fridays, because no one was going to look at them.
Well, now, everyone has their email on their phone, and their phone is with them all the time. So, people are probably going to see an email if it goes out on Friday. And I think for social media, it goes back to a time when like Leigh was saying the feed was just showing you the most recent post, no matter what kind of engagement it got. So, definitely don’t go crazy trying to figure out the right time.
You can schedule stuff, you can even test if you want to, if you’re scheduling stuff through Tweetdeck, you can try to test out different times and see if there’s something that works. But don’t give it too much energy.
Karolina: Yeah, I agree with everything that was said. I would spend more energy in crafting your content, crafting your community, things like that. It has a better return on investment than thinking about time.
Karen: And who knows, maybe there’s an untapped open education night owl community out there. So, before we move on to what may be our last question and discussion point, I would just like to mention because it’s so on topic that the OEN is looking for a digital content strategist. So, if you have colleagues or others who are working in this space, please share this invitation broadly.
We are still receiving applications and hope to start interviewing next month, and the goal of that position is to do very much what our guests have talked about today. And that is tell the stories of what our members are doing in open education and to share those resources broadly. So, we’re really excited about bringing someone new onto our team. So, looking at what I think are the last couple of questions within our particular theme, and that is Ksenia and then Jonathan and Amy.
I’m hoping that each of our four guests can speak to this. Why are you doing this? It may be easier to answer like according to an organization, but also thinking at the book level or at the personal level. Why engage on social media? And what does success look like? So, I think that’s a nice way to round out our conversation today. So, I’ll hand it over to the four of you.
Sarah: So, I think specifically, and Anita, thank you for answering this a little bit in the chat, with our biosystems book, one of the reasons we wanted to create a social campaign around it was we have a huge international team of authors. We had a ton of different people working on it and getting it out to maybe their countries of origin and having the opportunity for them to share their work and make this a really widespread textbook, which I think the goal of this is ultimately so students can have inexpensive, free resources for textbooks.
So, just making sure people are aware of it, they can adapt it, they can use it, students can have access to it, especially if they’re not US based. I think that’s our goal on that.
Leigh: Yeah, I would add to that with we were talking about at the book level, so I work for organizations that aren’t knowledge producing organizations in the same way that my co-panelists are. But the idea behind sharing book information for me has always just been the reason why it’s open is that you want the most amount of people to be able to use the book. And so, it drives adoptions.
And I will say we were talking a lot about metrics, specifically engagement metrics and click throughs and impressions, and all of these things. But there’s in marketing we call it the top of the funnel, where you’re just trying to create a qualitative buzz around open or your book specifically that isn’t necessarily always captured as easily as one-to-one engagement equals adoption.
It’s not as easy a through line as that, but engagement might equal more people interested in open, which is a little bit of a harder thing to nail down. But I would say very important because a greater conversation around open, a greater conversation around open textbooks, benefits everybody who participate in that conversation. And as well people who don’t even know about open yet, so a student might see this bio book that we’ve been talking about.
And they may not be taking bio, but they might ask themselves, hey I would love for my book to be free. And that is a good outcome, too.
Karolina: That’s 100% it’s those vanity metrics that are nice that you can tick off as key performance indicators, that you got the retweet, you got the like, but it’s so much harder to measure what happens when that is shared, when people start having a conversation, how it starts with your tweet, but trickles into other conversations elsewhere. So, I would definitely have metrics so that you have something to fall back on.
But also, give yourself some grace in knowing that some of the stuff that is successful it can be immeasurable, and so you have to just trust the process.
Symphonie: So, I’ll try to answer both questions, so I see that it was mentioned that for the OpenStax brand identity that is important. So, there’s probably two primary reasons why we have this type of work around social media. And one is of course our brand identity is really important when we started publishing textbooks in 2012, nobody knew who we were. And that top of funnel, just getting people to be aware that OpenStax is a thing, social media was important for that.
I think the other really big reason why we have social media for OpenStax is that it’s really part of our mission and how we see the work that we’re doing. So, open education is a movement, and it’s a massive community of people who are empowered by this idea of democratizing knowledge. And in a lot of ways, social media gives an opportunity to democratize storytelling and to democratize different experiences that we don’t normally get to see out in other traditional media.
So, having a space to be active on social media and be a part of those conversations is really important for OpenStax. And I will agree with what’s been said, in terms of metrics. Definitely take the wins where you can find them. So, it might not be that you had X number of people retweet a post. Or that you had X number of people like something. But just that a couple of people were really excited about something that you shared is still really huge.
And if you have to think about numbers, I would say think about them in relation to your audience size. So, I think earlier I said something like we had a tweet that had 6,000 impressions and an impression is basically who’s seen that tweet. That’s great for us, but we have over 9,000 followers on our Twitter account and our followers have followers and they have followers.
So, that’s great, but if you don’t have that many followers, then you shouldn’t get hung up on my tweet didn’t have 6,000 impressions. Like, think of things, if you have to think of numbers, think of them in relation to your audience size.
Apurva: Thank you so much, Symphonie and all of the other speakers. I think what I’m getting from our conversation today is to constantly be reflecting about what you do and the value that you can provide. I think, Symphonie, you said this earlier. And I’m taking away that there is so much work that goes into what looks on the outside like a very simple marketing strategy, which a number of tweets, a number of other areas to engage.
And hearing from all of you, it sounds like there is so much more thought and intention behind all of those actions. So, I really appreciate having the chance today to see it all laid out so clearly. And I hope everyone who’s on the call today can thank all of our guests for sharing their thoughts, sharing their reflections today. Karen, I might turn it over to you to wrap us up for the day.
Karen: Thanks, Apurva. I just want to note that our April session will continue in this same vein, storytelling with anecdotal evidence and data not necessarily on social, but just thinking about different types of stories, different ways to communicate success however it may be defined with your different stakeholders. And to echo Apurva, please join us in thanking Sarah, Karolina, Leigh and Symphonie. And all of you for coming to join us today with your questions, we look forward to seeing you again next month. Farewell.
14:01:54 From Barb Thees, she/her : Rebus Community: https://www.rebus.community
14:02:12 From Barb Thees, she/her : Open Education Network: https://open.umn.edu/oen/
14:02:47 From Barb Thees, she/her : Topics for Future Office Hours Form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScaGr1NCvVnk1C6uKiwkfYWvJcK0QDfwJIZJJV-ckmGK19Wpg/viewform
14:03:56 From Apurva Ashok : Welcome, everyone! Thank you for joining today.
14:05:35 From Apurva Ashok : Introduction to Biosystems Engineering: https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/93254
14:05:41 From Sarah Mease : http://bit.ly/OT_marketing
14:07:16 From Anita Walz : Press release for this book: https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2021/02/univlib-intro-biosystems-engineering-text.html
14:07:49 From Anita Walz : and https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/openvt/2021/02/19/announcing-open-textbook-introduction-to-biosystems-engineering
14:09:18 From Anita Walz : https://twitter.com/VirginiaTechPub
14:09:19 From Anita Walz : @VirginiaTechPub
14:09:29 From Apurva Ashok : Thanks, Anita!
14:10:10 From Anita Walz : @VTLibraries
14:10:20 From Kristin Woodward : Thank you for all the wonderful examles!
14:13:26 From Kathy Essmiller : What was the name of that book?
14:13:28 From Apurva Ashok : Black Lives Matter Collective Storytelling Project: https://uw.pressbooks.pub/blmstorytelling/
14:15:39 From Apurva Ashok : Canva: https://www.canva.com/
14:17:52 From firstname.lastname@example.org : Thanks for sharing the links, Apurva
14:19:16 From Ksenia Cheinman (she/her/elle) : Twitter @BCcampus
14:19:30 From Apurva Ashok : https://twitter.com/BCcampus
14:20:51 From email@example.com : I love the BCcampus newsletter!
14:23:18 From kkaras : https://bccampus.ca/subscribe/?subscribe=
14:24:10 From Barb Thees, she/her : https://openstax.org
14:24:21 From Barb Thees, she/her : https://twitter.com/openstax
14:24:21 From Apurva Ashok : Feel free to begin peppering the chat with your questions.
14:27:07 From Apurva Ashok : Free the Textbook: https://openstax.org/blog/introducing-free-textbook
14:30:38 From Louann Terveer : Just want to say thank you to each of you for sharing, before I need to go-Thx!
14:31:00 From Ksenia Cheinman (she/her/elle) : Q for BCcampus specifically but would love to hear from others too: Curious about the level of effort in terms of time and human resources it takes for development of each newsletter?
14:31:23 From Apurva Ashok : Tweetdeck seems like the tool to accompany all your Twittering. Here’s a link: https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/
14:32:33 From Anita Walz : A weekly newsletter is very impressive!
14:32:45 From Amy Hofer (she/her) : Q for the panel: Do I have permission to stop posting to Facebook?
14:33:44 From Kathy Essmiller : Amy, lol. I do appreciate when people post to FB as well, I have faculty active there who are not active on Twitter, it is helpful to be able to share others’ posts there for them to see.
14:34:31 From Kristin Woodward : Does anyone have advice/outcomes from posting as the OE unit at your institution versus as the Library?
14:34:32 From Ksenia Cheinman (she/her/elle) : Thank you Symphonie for sharing the effective tweet example. Q to all: What other examples could you share of messaging that worked well and did not.
14:36:04 From Karen Lauritsen : The Open Education Network decommissioned its Facebook recently. At this moment, we’re focusing on YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.
14:36:42 From Amy Hofer (she/her) : Thanks for the replies, that is helpful!
14:37:14 From Kristin Woodward : I have wondered whether LinkedIn is a better way to communicate organically with faculty.
14:41:00 From Anita Walz : I would love to hear panelist ideas regarding timing — days of the week, times, etc. that are more effective and less effective times to send messages via different channels.
14:41:32 From Apurva Ashok : I might throw that question back to others on the call — what do you find yourselves resonating with the most? I personally love reading about the people behind OER work
14:43:50 From Jonathan Poritz (he/him) : I have a stupid question: what is the goal of this work? Karolina talked about the goals of BCCampus, and I think I see the importance of OpenStax’s brand identity, but why do other organizations want to do this? E.g., why build social media activity around the Biosystems Engineering textbook mentioned early today?
14:46:30 From Ksenia Cheinman (she/her/elle) : Q: What does success look like in numbers – in terms of visits, engagement, retweets, etc?
14:49:06 From Anita Walz : Hi Jonathan, I can answer your question 🙂 We want people to know about, review, and adopt the book.
14:49:16 From kkaras : Camel case is the capitalization of words in hashtags
14:50:24 From Amy Hofer (she/her) : +1 to Jonathan’s question, I’d love to hear some more answers as well. It’s so helpful to have ideas about goals rather than posting out of a sense of obligation.
14:51:20 From Jonathan Poritz (he/him) : That’s interesting, @Anita. I would guess that there is a small number of people who are qualified to reivew, or might be interested in adopting, any particular book. I wonder if all of those folks are on all social media, filtering out the specifics interestingto them…
14:51:20 From Anita Walz : …continued (Jonathan) … We’re also interested in building and sustaining communities around OER because it is the primary way to find collaborators for ancillaries, get feedback, etc. Wish that we had more time to devote to this.
14:51:27 From Ksenia Cheinman (she/her/elle) : Some great advice on making social media accessible https://twitter.com/CDS_GC/status/1324386338259587075?s=20; there is also an article to go with it https://digital.canada.ca/2021/03/12/learning-to-make-twitter-content-more-accessible/?utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=twitter_accessibility_tips_blog_en
14:51:47 From Karen Lauritsen : https://z.umn.edu/open-content
14:53:43 From Anita Walz : Ksenia, thanks for the social media accessibility links!
14:59:13 From Ksenia Cheinman (she/her/elle) : Thank you so much to everyone for the sharing of your experiences and expertise!
14:59:27 From Jonathan Poritz (he/him) : Thank you so much, great panel and discussion!
14:59:28 From Kathy Essmiller : THank you!
14:59:30 From Josie Gray (she/her) : Thank you so much to all of the speakers!
14:59:34 From Amanda Larson : Thank you!
14:59:36 From Gabby Hernandez : Thank you so much!
14:59:51 From Amy Hofer (she/her) : Thank you, great topic and I appreciate the expertise of the panelists!
15:00:05 From Apurva Ashok : Thank you all!
15:00:12 From Kristin Woodward : Thank you!