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Creating an ‘honorable’ social media presence

Honors student leader Sarah Foote in front of the Honors window

Sarah Foote, a member of the Honors Program Student Leadership Team, designed a creative painting to capture being #RedbirdProud and #HonorsProud.

If you walk around the Illinois State University Honors Program office or listen in on its staff and students, you will soon hear words like “hashtag,” “followers,” “likes,” and “retweets.” It’s all part of the program’s recent push to become more involved in social media platforms and better reach their students. In the last year, the Honors Program went from one Facebook group to an impressive seven different ways Honors students, staff, and alumni can stay connected. It’s a trend students “like.”

“I really enjoy how the Honors Program has amped up their social media presence lately,” said Dillon Maher, a junior public relations major and Presidential Scholar. “Whenever I am scrolling through my newsfeed or timeline and I see the Honors Program pop up, I get a feeling of pride to be a part of such an impressive and challenging community.”

The virtual Honors Program community has recently gone global. Junior international business major Alex Brewer is currently studying abroad in Germany, but he said, “I watch the social media accounts and I think they’re coming along really well. It’s helpful for students to be able to communicate with the Honors Program in an informal way.”

The Honors Program started the 2014–2015 academic year with three platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Now as part of their “Social Media 2.0” rollout, Flickr, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube have all been added. “The social media accounts give faces to the Honors Program members and make it feel like more of a community,” Brewer said.

LinkedIn is seen as a natural evolution to now include more alumni in the Honors community. “As part of the LinkedIn rollout team, I think the LinkedIn account will be a great way for both past and present members of the program to connect to one another,” Maher said.

At every step, the program has included students in their efforts. Honors student leaders have worked with staff to launch social media campaigns and regularly post to the accounts, and have organized competitions and created hashtags for program events. Student leaders have also designed engaging marketing tools to raise awareness of the program’s expanding social media presence.

“The expansion of our ‘virtual community’ has been made possible through collaborative efforts with University Marketing and Web and Interactive Communications,” said Amy Oberts, associate director of the Honors Program. “The recent Social Media Guidelines 2.0 publication provided exceptional guidance, and the addition of matching social media icons at the bottom of every Honors Program Web page has also increased traffic.”

Also included in the site’s collection of social media icons is the addition of two unique tools. The Honors Program has its own online store, and students can access collections of web resources through its Symbaloo Webmix.

To the Honors Program, expanding its social media presence is really about connecting its community of lifelong learners, and that’s a trend that never goes out of style.