Advice and Wisdom from OU’s Jennifer Bowie

By: Jacob Paul

Jennifer Bowie is the executive director of development, advancement communication and marketing at Ohio University. Before earning her master’s degree and beginning her career in higher education at Ohio University in 1999, she worked in healthcare Deaconess Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio in the field of healthcare communications. Jennifer is a professor at Ohio University and also a two-time Ohio University graduate, having earned her bachelor’s of science degree in journalism in 1994 and her master’s of science in communication in 1999. 

Portrait of Jennifer Bowie

Jennifer Bowie (photo retrieved from LinkedIn account)

I decided to interview Jennifer after taking her strategic communications writing class and seeing how passionate and knowledgeable she is about the communications industry.

Jacob Paul – What people/organizations do you follow to stay up-to-date on social media trends?

Jennifer Bowie –

I follow a couple specific nonprofit marketing blogs, one of them is called Kivi’s. On Mashable, I follow Reagan’s PR daily. I also follow another PR weekly, but I can’t remember where it comes from. And then I have two email newsletters I subscribe to that have to do with social media and new media and they’re leadership on social media and then leadership and non-profit or something like that, and those come to me about once a week with just different topics about what’s going to be new on twitter and what companies are using that space really well and that sort of thing.

JP – What do you think is the like most important, or one of the most important upcoming trends in social media, and why do you think it’s important?

JB – what we’re finding, what’s the most important to us in the non-profit space is the continuing trend toward engagement, and that it’s not just about people clicking “like”, but it’s about people commenting on your posts and sharing your posts. For example if for Ohio University we had a contest around Valentines Day that was “your ohio love story” so we weren’t just saying “Ohio’s a place where you fell in love,” we invited people to tell “your ohio love story” so there was a reason for them to respond. We’re also finding that the more multimedia the content is, the more likelihood you have of getting that kind of engagement. That’s involved for us more of a move towards video, and even though we were already very heavily weighted in photography, we’re now even more focused on visual content.

JP – I understand you worked with The Promise Lives campaign. Can you describe some ways your organization used social media to promote the campaign?

 JB – We didn’t do a lot of overt social media work around the campaign. We used twitter primarily to share good news and information about the university so, mostly in the twitter space we were sharing our stories as we put them up in compass or on our website about student scholarship recipients or about donors and pushing that story out. We were just consistently trying to keep it top of mind that “hey, we happen to be in a campaign and here’s all these great stories.” We shared essentially what we sort of call “engagement reminders” through twitter and just a little bit through Facebook so our audience there was invited to be part of the campaign. We did so more often as we wound it down in the last year, but we don’t really engage in specific fundraising on social media. What we do is provide information and news just to keep it top of mind, more informational. So we shared video content that was, you know, people saying thank you, and on the front of the campaign we shared some video content that had to do with the different priority areas but not explicit “make a gift now” because in social media, for us so far anyway, it’s not a place where people really want to interact that way.

JP – Do any social media sites stand out as being the most effective for engaging with alumni and building awareness?

For our alumni population in general we have the largest engagement happening on Facebook. In terms of the number of people who like and follow our pages and share our content, we have the greatest engagement there, and some of that has to do with our population and the age of our population and that, more and more of our graduates who are in their 40s or older are engaging there on facebook. But we know that more and more of our grads in our 20s are not, and they’re finding us on Instagram.

JP – What is one of piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring social media professional?

JB – I think what I’ve learned over the last three years in the social media space is that, though it’s true in communication fields in general that you have to stay on top of best practices and trends, that it is even more critical in the social media space. You have to not allow yourself to be distracted by the new shiney thing happening in social but to keep watching your own analytics and your own needs and instincts in the social space and keep an eye on the best practices because they change constantly. The targets seem to always be moving and once we think “oh we’ve got a good handle on this” Facebook changes the algorithm and you’ve got to start all over anyway. So it’s even more essential than in more “traditional” communication fields that you stay informed and on top of not only what you’re doing, but what else is happening in the space.

* * *

Jennifer lead the marketing and communication effort for the $450 million The Promise Lives Campaign and is responsible for all marketing and communication related to fundraising at Ohio University. After interviewing Jennifer, I realized how important it is to stay on top of trends in the social media and communication industries and to learn from as many different sources as possible. I also learned the importance of encouraging conversation and interaction to build engagement and generate good impressions on social media.

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