Each spring University Marketing and Communications (UMC) hosts the #RedbirdProud Social Media Awards and Workshop, an event recognizing the best uses of social media across Illinois State University’s campus. In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, UMC canceled this year’s event, the sixth annual edition, originally scheduled for April 9 during COM Week. 

Even though the in-person event won’t be happening this year, UMC wanted to take a moment to recognize the winners for their accomplishments and highlight the strategies that made them successful. Here are your 2019–2020 #RedbirdProud Social Media Award winners. 

Best Overall Social Media: Illinois State University Police Department (ISUPD) 

Laura Fox and award

Laura Fox

ISUPD budget manager Laura Fox knew she had social media gold when Pawfficer Sage joined ISUPD in July 2019. Taking advantage of Instagram’s lighter tone and image dependent format, Fox started showing Sage’s daily adventures from her point of viewIn January the department held a Valentine’s Day card design contestThe winning design, created by Breanne Evans, was printed off and distributed by Sage herself during Valentine’s Day. 

Even before Sage became a staple of ISUPD’s social accounts, Fox has consistently found fun and creative ways to spread University Police messages without understating the importance of the work they do. Fox often uses the hashtag #OurCopsCare in her posts and said the use of humor is a way to fortify that messaging. 

Police officers are humans too, and they love to laugh,” Fox said. “Their work can take a heavy toll on their hearts, so they look for every opportunity to find joy in the rest of their day. All I’m trying to do is capture that reality and put it on display for our social media audience. I think our audience can relate as they look to find some laughter and joy as they wade through the stresses of their lives.” 

Most Innovative Use of Social Media: Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CESL)

Emily Nafziger with award

Emily Nafziger

During this year’s record-breaking Birds Give Back fundraiser the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CESL) shattered its giving totals from the previous year thanks in part to a new departmental mascot. 

The Civic Chinchilla was born out of a CESL staff brainstorming session,” marketing and communication coordinator Emily Nafziger said. I pulled everyone together to help me come up with something fun and unusual that would catch attention on social media during Birds Give Back. 

Nafziger’s creativity paid off. CESL received 120 gifts during Birds Give Back after receiving 10 in 2019, raising $9,795 to make a #RedbirdImpact in the campus community.  

When the entire University is posting for similar reasons on the same day, you really have to do something different to distinguish your content and stand out,” Nafziger said. “A cute illustration and some light attempts at humor did just that.” 

Best New Social Media Account: Alumni Association Instagram 

Rachel Kobus with award

Rachel Kobus

The Office Alumni Engagement launched this account in 2019 to better connect with a younger alumni audience and has garnered strong engagement numbers with these connections.  

The account actively shares posts from Redbird alumni such as Christian Stoinev ’13 and 2019 Miss Illinois Ariel Beverly ’17. On Mondays, Alumni Engagement shares news stories about upcoming events and features one of the Alumni Association board members to educate alumni about their alumni representatives. On Fridays the account follows #FlatReggie and the fun times he is having with Redbirds across the country. 

“Although our following is still growing, we see our engagement as high compared to the number of followers we have,” said Rachel Kobus, associate director, marketing and communications. “We look to share university news but find messaging for alumni specifically whether that is sharing photos from an event, showcasing alumni achievements and spotlights, and celebrating all the ways our alumni can continue to remain #RedbirdProud.” 

Most Improved Social Media: Illinois State University Career Center 

Susan Whitsitt with award

Susan Whitsitt

The Career Center examined its 2018–2019 social media analytics with a critical eye and made some big moves to help expand its channels’ reach. Some of the new tactics included the sharing of Redbird stories through the STATE Your Success campaign, producing a monthly educational video series to assist students with their career skills, and the creation of Tuesday Tips.  

Assistant Director for Marketing and Communication Susan Whitsitt said the help of student workers and volunteers made a big difference in how the center’s content was received. 

The photos and videos made were not only able to provide inspiring and helpful information to students but featured many of their peers,” she said.  

The new strategies made a big impact. The Career Center’s Instagram saw the biggest increases, growing from 200 followers to over 940 today. 

We look forward to viewing this year’s analytics to identify how we will take our social media to the next level in the fall,” Whitsitt said.