For many leaders in higher education, a personal social media account is not a top priority— many abstain from social media altogether. The value of a social media presence for the university may be obvious, but is there any value for the administrators running it?

For Michael Dennin, UC Irvine’s Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and Dean of Undergraduate Education, the answer is a resounding yes. Dennin recently won the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VII 2019 Silver Award for Innovative Use of Technology for his “outstanding and innovative technological applications” of social media to support UCI’s Giving Day 2018. The award will be presented in February at the CASE District VII West Coast Conference in Anaheim.

What’s the secret to this success? Dennin utilizes a social media team to run his accounts. The team is comprised of the staff and student workers of the Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning (OVPTL) and UCI Media, and is led by Iain Grainger, Director of OVPTL Communications and Director for UCI Media, along with Managers Ryan Foland and Will Alvarez. The team’s efforts were employed to maximum effect during UCI’s Giving Day on April 25, 2018.

Giving Day is a 24-hour-long annual UCI fundraising event in which donors can support specific departments within UCI. This past Giving Day, Dennin and his team at the OVPTL used social media to help UCI’s University Advancement and Alumni Relations team raise $4,094,278 in gifts—over double what was raised the previous year.

According to Brian Hervey, Vice Chancellor for University Advancement and Alumni Relations, “Dean Dennin’s team at UCI Media created a total of 112 videos for 43 different areas of the campus. The overwhelming digital splash we made on Giving Day was in no small part thanks to Dean Dennin and his team’s innovative use of video.”

Dennin’s media team created YouTube videos advertising the event beforehand as well as “thank you” videos to share after Giving Day. On the day of the event, his OVPTL team channelled its efforts into engaging with posts, tweeting, sharing videos, and thanking donors. Giving Day 2018 was a massive success, but the CASE District VII Award it earned is certainly not the first time Dennin’s leadership strategies have proven effective.

“Michael’s leadership at UCI has sparked some of the most dramatic and innovative changes the campus has seen in the last 50 years.” said Matthew Princetta, Director of Development at the OVPTL. “He embodies the spirit of constant learning and he’s always finding new ways to reach and connect with people. His use of social media is just one of the more recent examples.”

Some of Dennin’s other social media content creation strategies have included the following:

  • Hundreds of quote cards as a form of always-relevant social media content, scheduled to be posted daily via Buffer on numerous social mediums
  • Weekly studio filmings of Dennin for team to use across various content channels
  • Interviews with Dennin, transcribed and turned into thought leadership articles
  • Live tweeting team support at conferences where Dennin spoke
  • Paid post promotion to boost well-performing posts
  • Dennin’s participation in numerous speaking opportunities, podcasts, and guest blogs

When he launched the OVPTL two years ago, Dennin had in mind the goal of employing a specific and innovative social media strategy. Because of his award-winning strategies, he’s been able to not only assist in fundraising, but to successfully extend the reach and visibility of UCI’s dedication as an institution to “[foster] passionate, enthusiastic and ongoing expansion of knowledge and approaches to scholarship.”

“Initially I suggested that we use the team’s video making skills to make Giving Day videos for the offices that are under the OVPTL.” said Iain Grainger. “I was so impressed with the videos once we made them though, I asked if we could make them for the entire campus. I think we were successful here because we all worked together to achieve the same goal.”

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