For most academic leaders, social media is a largely untapped resource—one that has great potential. Just ask Michael Dennin, UCI’s Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, Dean of Undergraduate Education, and the winner of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VII 2019 Bronze Award in Communications and Marketing.
The award, which will be presented at the CASE District VII West Coast Conference in Anaheim in February, recognizes “outstanding programs… that exhibit best practices or innovations in the field(s) of communication and marketing.”
“Social media represents limitless opportunity,” said Dennin. “I see it as a tool to promote the values of UCI and the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning. I think of social media as a machine that has the power to spread the merits of education. Not only that, but social media enables me to better connect with students, faculty, staff, alumni and university stakeholders.”
For Dennin, social media is abundant with possibilities for enhancing academia, and he believes many academic leaders are not taking full advantage.
In order to successfully communicate through social media in a way that reflects the character and personality of one’s institution, academic leaders need to not only create and post high-value content, but they need to post consistently. However, in most cases they simply don’t have the time to create a wealth of high-value social media content themselves.
Dennin faced this same problem until he found a solution that leverages the resources UCI already has while also increasing the visibility of UCI’s institutional values.
By utilizing student workers, royalty-free images, and Buffer.com, an online tool for social media management, Dennin is able to schedule content to be posted on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn every day. One of the main forms of content is “quote cards,” which are curated images overlaid with inspirational, educational, or motivational quotes. The system allows Dennin to maintain a daily presence on multiple social media channels. It allows him to deliver consistent, high-quality content in a way that is not only cost effective, but is easily replicated by other leaders.
Dennin’s process sets a baseline of essentially automatic social media activity without requiring him to spend hours posting on every platform every day. His team puts in a concentrated effort to create and schedule the images en masse, then schedules them to be posted, using Buffer. The team can then focus its daily efforts on engaging with Dennin’s growing online community by responding to comments, liking posts, and sharing the content of others. This allows him to spend time on higher value projects like his #DenninInsights YouTube video series, for which he records his thoughts on trending news and topics.
Analytic reports of Dennin’s social media accounts have shown an increase in impressions and engagement over time, proving the efficacy of his strategy. Furthermore, his team is able to use these reports to identify top-performing posts and decide whether to further promote them.
A recent, tangible example of Dennin’s system’s success was UCI’s Giving Day 2018, a 24-hour digital fundraising effort in which UCI raised over $4 million.
“Dean Dennin was one of the top social media influencers during the 24-hour period,” said Brian Hervey, Vice Chancellor for University Advancement and Alumni Relations.
Because his system has been so successful, Dennin has made a concerted effort to share his learnings with the entire campus by hosting monthly social media workshops in which he and his team share their best practices.
Judging by the effectiveness of his system, it is no wonder Dennin has been recognized with the Bronze award. His outreach has promoted the mission of UCI and the OVPTL, enabled him to better connect with students, staff, and faculty, and demonstrated UCI’s commitment to mobilize knowledge, serve the people, and educate the best and brightest.