Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Cattolica International

Beyond likes and shares: crafting a digital campus that connects

Jenny Li Fowler is the director of social media strategy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and author of “Organic Social Media.” She oversees developing and executing Institute-wide social media initiatives and campaigns and provides social media consultation and direction for more than 260 departments, labs, and centers. She also manages MIT’s flagship X, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Threads, and TikTok accounts. Prior to MIT, she served as a Social Media Manager and Web Editor for the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Jenny is a recurring correspondent for Hubspot's INBOUND and a recognised voice across the social media marketing space.


What are the foundational elements of building a successful online community for educational institutions, and how can they foster a sense of belonging among students and faculty?

In my experience, the foundation of a successful online community for educational institutions lies in authenticity, and proactive engagement. It's about creating a  platform where students and faculty feel seen and heard. The key is to showcase a wide array of stories that reflect the true diversity of experiences within the community. This approach fosters a sense of belonging by highlighting that everyone's story has value and a place. To achieve this, I focus on active listening and open channels for story submissions, ensuring that we're not just telling stories but also reflecting the community's voice. Participation is encouraged through interactive content and opportunities for direct contributions, making the community not just an audience but active narrators of their own stories. This sense of ownership is crucial for building a connected and engaged online community.


How can social media strategies be tailored to effectively share the stories and experiences of a diverse university community, promoting cross-cultural understanding and engagement?

To effectively share the diverse stories and experiences of a university community, social media strategies must be as multifaceted as the community itself. This means going beyond the surface to find stories that showcase the rich tapestry of backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. It’s not just about posting content; it’s about engaging in meaningful conversations and fostering connections. I make it a priority to use a variety of content formats, from videos to written stories, to ensure accessibility and relatability across different segments of our community. Importantly, I focus on creating content that sparks dialogue and brings people together, promoting cross-cultural understanding and engagement. This approach involves constantly evolving our strategies based on community feedback and engagement patterns, ensuring that our social media platforms are inclusive and reflective of the diverse voices within our institution.


In the higher education sector, how do you evaluate the success of social media initiatives, and what metrics do you find most valuable in gauging community engagement and growth?

Evaluating the success of our social media initiatives in the higher education sector is multifaceted. While traditional metrics like engagement rates and follower growth are important indicators of reach and engagement, I delve deeper into the impact of our content on the community. To me, success is when our content sparks meaningful conversations, strengthens connections, and enhances the sense of belonging among students and faculty. I pay close attention to the comments and interactions our posts generate, looking for signs of positive impact and areas for improvement. Both direct and indirect feedback is invaluable. It informs our content strategy and helps us adjust our approach to better serve our community’s needs. Ultimately, the most valuable metric is the level of genuine engagement and the positive changes we see in our community because of our social media efforts.


Given the rapid evolution of digital platforms, what advice would you offer to higher education professionals looking to stay ahead in leveraging social media for community building?

Staying ahead in the rapidly evolving digital landscape requires flexibility, creativity, and a deep understanding of your community's needs. My advice for higher education professionals looking to leverage social media for community building is to remain authentic and focused on fostering meaningful connections. It's essential to keep abreast of the latest trends and platform updates, but more importantly, to listen to your community. Their feedback and engagement are your most valuable guides. Experiment with different content formats and storytelling approaches to see what resonates best, but always ensure that your efforts are inclusive and representative of the diverse voices within your institution. Remember, the goal is to create a space where everyone feels welcome and valued. By prioritising authenticity and fostering community engagement, you can create a dynamic and supportive online environment that reflects the spirit and diversity of your institution.