On Being #BoiseState

Two and a half years ago — I sat in an empty cubicle staring at my computer, slightly terrified and completely wide-eyed about what I was about to undertake.

I was hired by Boise State University to lead their top-level social media accounts and interpret the brand authentically through video, audio, images and words every day of the week, sometimes up to ten times a day.

The volume of events, the velocity at which I was going to have to get up to speed, and the driving need finding the heart of the voice was quite daunting.

I undertook this task knowing I was walking right up to the edge of danger each time I posted — the possibility of really messing something up was immensely high. Precedence of people getting fired for colossal screw-ups is well documented. It was also part of why I wanted to do it.

You’ve got to have a strong brand message. Social media is extremely noisy, and everyone is vying for your attention. I’ve lead and collaborated on a lot of brand experiences throughout my career, and I knew I needed to narrow the story I was going to tell into just a few ideas.

To break out from the rest, I chose a set of six words and an emotion to guide the way towards consistent theme-based content.

Collaboration

Innovation

Research

Transdisciplinary

Discovery

Campus Life

+ Experiences

On my first day, the Alumni and Friends Center burned down to make room for their new building, and I dove in and started making choices all over the place. At first, it was a little sparse, and I was scared — but once I got my stride and confidence increased — the game was on.

I did my best to reach out across the campus to collaborate, coach, and strategize with as many colleges, departments, and programs that I could. As a shop of one, it was a challenge to do and connect, but I was always attempting to find ways to be synced for maximum impact.

It’s a hard day’s work juggling even just three platforms 24-hours-a-day. You field a lot of customer service questions. You hear a lot of celebrating, and a lot of complaining, and deal with pron bots hijacking your successful search terms (knowing that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it). On top of all that, you’ve got to understand the fine line of when to act on a social phenomenon or not. Brands are expected to respond to incidents in real time — and crisis communication is a fine art.

The daily drumbeat of news, engagement, brand images, and video content that has pulsed across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, has paid off. We’ve grown all three main accounts by significant amounts with very little budget.

One of the measures of prowess across platforms is a Klout score. Klout is a service that connects all your social media accounts and weighs your efforts across a variety of aspects and provides an overall impact rating number. The average Klout score is 40.

High numbers mean expertise across platforms with significantly influential followers. Within Idaho, Boise State leads the way with an 88, ranking higher than our athletics teams considering the breadth the influence, with a significant difference between Boise State and the other State schools.

A campaign that injected a lot of attention toward the University happened during the 2016 Homecoming Celebration. Historically this is a challenging week for the University — structuring programs and building excitement across campus incorporating Current Students, Alumni, and the Community in the jubilant feeling of Hometown School Spirit.

A co-worker, Haley Robinson, worked with the Idaho Statehouse and a private lighting company to turn the State Capitol Blue and Orange on the Friday night before Homecoming in Downtown Boise. There was no collusion or special favors, organized and paid for by the University with the permission of the State.

A very surface analysis of the results shows that from within our platforms alone, we scored 51,000+ organic impressions of Boise State in that single evening. This number doesn’t even consider user-generated content from all the people experiencing it themselves and sharing themselves. Or all the TV news stations and newspapers who covered it (Idaho Statesman even changed their cover photo to it for several days). Combine all that experience-based user generated content with our Facebook Live video, live Periscope, a formally edited video, and photo galleries — it was a huge hit, garnering big attention online.

One of the effects of my approach to sharing showed up internally. We noticed that our campus partners — people who collaborate in Marketing Minds, managed Websites, and handled their area Social Media — were more able to describe what was happening at the University than ever before.

I didn’t initially realize the extent to which you have to be ready to be continuously blown away by all the spontaneous stuff that just lands in your lap. Brilliant moments you could never plan for but have to take full advantage of when you least expect them. The more you share those experiences, the stronger your authenticity with your audience becomes. It also requires you to look/hunt for those things and spend extended periods of time deep in their matrix.

Along with balancing social platforms, I did my best to connect the admissions and academic calendars to the main website landing pages, hero images, and promo buttons at boisestate.edu.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime job. It came with a diminutive title and yet offered so much open space to explore, with huge possibilities to influence positive gains. I’ll always be thankful that my boss, Greg Hahn, offered me such a tremendous amount of trust and freedom.

In full transparency, I did have to delete some posts, edit spelling and formatting errors where I could, and made a few rookie “didn’t check out all the details before saying something definitive” flubs — but nothing came even close to a career ending mistake. Phew.

Today, I sat in a new cool, open workspace, slightly terrified and completely wide-eyed about what I was about to undertake.

Today was my first day working for another Boise institution — Healthwise. I’ve taken a job as a Senior UX/UI Designer for a health information company that started up in 1975 and continues to pivot into the future by innovating new ways of delivering spectacular content across all kinds of platforms.

It’s possible that two and a half years of living, breathing, and caring deeply about the emerging story of your former alma mater is the lifespan of any one person holding that role. My predecessor, Leigh Ann Dufurrena, created the foundation of what is now a well-respected authoritative voice of Higher Ed in about the same span of time.

I don’t yet know who will follow me, but I can only hope that the next person to lead the voice of Boise State realizes that being the daily heartbeat of an important community voice is a privilege and honor, and one that I’ll always be grateful to have had.