Chelsey Holts currently serves as the Director of Social Media for UNC Chapel Hill’s flagship accounts. In her role, she advises leadership on strategy and reputation and also works with a team to create and amplify engaging content for the school’s various audiences. Check out our interview with her in anticipation of the upcoming Social Media Strategies Summit for Higher Education.

Please briefly describe the structure of your team. How many people are on your team, and where does it sit within the university?

As Director of Social Media for the flagship accounts at UNC, I oversee a team of three (a social media strategist, content producer, and digital media analyst) and two student interns. We are a part of the larger content team within University Communications, working closely with our content writers, videographers, and photographers.

What will you be speaking about at SMSsummit Higher Ed?

My session is about repurposing content in unique ways across platforms. I love seeing how many ways we can take one piece of content and multiply it across platforms. It’s nice to refresh older pieces to tie in new trends or current events, or just take an article and piece it across Instagram Story slides to make it more digestible.

Give us an overview of your role and what it entails daily.

As Director, I oversee and sign off on all the content we produce across our platforms. Most of my day focuses on copyediting and writing and ensuring each post uses the proper style, tone, and voice. I create the content calendar for each week, looking at our website and campus partner sites for content to showcase.

One of my favorite parts of my job is leading the strategy for platforms and ensuring we hit our content goals. I love looking at how our posts perform, recent trends, and what others are doing to see what we can test on our pages.

I also lead a campus-wide group with university communicators, so sometimes, my focus is consulting with them on their content ideas, strategy, and university best practices. I also try to stay up to date on social media trends if we need to shift our focus quickly or if I need to help campus partners navigate any changes.

A big part of my job is managing my team to ensure they feel supported, challenged, and encouraged to share new ideas. I look for opportunities for them to share their current projects and present them across campus. Additionally, there are those days when my main priority is social listening and knowing how to navigate a crisis.

What do you love about your job?

I work at my alma mater, so it’s amazing to be able to create content for the school that helped me define myself. I truly love learning about and amplifying the incredible students, faculty, staff, traditions, and experiences Carolina has to offer, promoting how beautiful our campus really is!

I love diving into social media strategy and analyzing data. It’s gratifying to see a post type or trend perform well, and I also dedicate time to determining why posts aren’t performing well. I enjoy collaborating with colleagues and thinking of creative ways to amplify content.

We recently worked with our campus counseling and psychological services department to share mental health resources and provide information on student services. We did one “come with us on a visit” reel, capitalizing on the “POV” experiences popular on Instagram and TikTok to showcase the location of the building and what to expect from an initial visit. It was fun to simultaneously take that trend and make it informative for students.

What’s the hardest thing about your job?

Social media can be a draining place. You must separate yourself from the account and what people think of the institution. Social media never shuts off, so you’re on call 24/7, and it can be hard to unplug. I try to make sure my team members have that boundary to take time offline, but the hardest thing for me is taking that time for myself and knowing it’s okay to go offline and recharge.

Please describe one of your institution or organization’s social media campaigns that makes you proud.

We recently partnered with our rival, Duke University, to produce some collaborative content leading up to our game in the Final Four. We created a YouTube video we sized down for Instagram Reels, a Twitter thread, LinkedIn and Facebook posts, and Instagram story trivia slides. Overall, UNC’s 110 posts on the historic game received 5.97 million impressions.

The collaboration was something people weren’t expecting, and I’m proud of how we pulled it together on such short notice. I recently presented about the collaboration with the Social Media Manager at Duke (hi, Morgan!) at the CASE Social Media and Community conference in San Francisco. It was so much fun to share facts about the storied rivalry and key collaborations we’ve done in research and scholarship.

I’m also so proud of our Heels of the Hill campaign. It’s the first project I pitched in my role, designed to showcase regular students, their campus involvement, and what they love about Carolina. I wanted current and prospective students to see students with similar interests – or that looked like them – on our Instagram. It’s been wonderful seeing the positive reactions to the series and reading all the things students love about Carolina. That campaign has been able to be repurposed to run during graduation to feature our seniors and during the summer to highlight students’ unique experiences.

Which social media channel is your favorite and why?

This is a tough question! I get so many DIY projects and Amazon cart purchases from Instagram (my husband probably wants to uninstall it), and creating professional content is effortless. I love TikTok and how they lead the pack with updates and user interface experience. Other platforms are drawing on what makes TikTok appealing and incorporating those facets into their apps.

I probably use Twitter the most, as it’s like a newspaper to get current event updates. I like how it’s easy to find trending news and articles, so I usually start my day by scrolling through to see what’s happening worldwide.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a professional interested in starting a social media marketing career?

Never stop experimenting and learning. It’s okay if something doesn’t work on social; at least you tried something new and can learn and adapt. You can use those learnings to modify your strategy and determine what does or doesn’t work.

What’s one other higher ed institution that inspires you on social media, and why?

It’s hard to name one, as I think I discover another fantastic higher ed social team nearly every week. I love UCLA’s TikTok and Instagram content – they do a great job of showcasing the Bruin experience in an authentic, fun way. The University of Michigan has beautiful branding across all platforms that stand out. Colorado State University has some amazing student vlog content that provides a realistic view of what it’s like on their campus. West Virginia does some amazing content with interaction in their Instagram Story, and I think their YouTube is something to be marveled at as they’ve made it appealing to Gen Z.

What are some of your favorite tools to do your job more effectively?

I cannot sing Canva’s praises enough. It’s been great for us to quickly create Instagram Story slides, Reels, and even ad designs. Trello helps with our content management and is an easy way to see what our calendar looks like and what we’ve scheduled at any given time. I like that their interface allows you to drag things around on the board, which is helpful if we need to switch gears quickly and reschedule posts. It’s also nice since we have several team members writing copy to see what everyone is working on and when it’s scheduled.

Talkwalker has been a fantastic tool for us to keep an eye on what’s being said about Carolina. It can be draining to go to each platform and manually monitor, so Talkwalker’s reports on our mentions make the social listening piece of our jobs a bit easier.

Social Media Today is a great resource to see what trends are happening.

Looking forward to 2023 and beyond, what opportunities excite you most about higher ed social media?

I think it’s interesting seeing how Gen Z and Gen Alpha consume and look for content on social media. One of the trends I’m seeing is more raw and unpolished content instead of the more curated, polished content millennials favor, and TikTok is a good indicator of that. It will be interesting to see how higher ed institutions aim to create more authentic content and utilize student influencers in a new way.

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