An Interview with David Jarmul, Duke University

Members of the CASE social media task force are interviewing colleagues at institutions they think are using social media effectively. Below, Nancy Seideman, associate vice president for university communications at Emory University, interviews David Jarmul, associate vice president for news and communications at Duke University

NS: What social media initiatives is your institution currently engaged in?

DJ: We have more than 40,000 fans on the main Duke page on Facebook. We’re aggregating tweets on Twitter, and our videos have been viewed 2 million times on Duke’s YouTube site and 6 million times on iTunes U. Duke’s audiences can find links to all of these outlets from a special social media page we’ve created, which is available off our home page.

Every day we’re reminded of the power of social media. A Duke alumna told us she was riding on a train in Beijing as she followed tweets of Oprah’s commencement address at Duke last year. Another recent example is that within five to ten minutes of posting our recent national lacrosse championship win, we received dozens of comments on Facebook. For alumni and others, Facebook has become an important gathering place where they can interact remotely.

NS: Which initiatives do you think are the most effective or successful, and why? I’m especially interested in hearing about Duke’s live Office Hours program.

DJ: Using, we’re engaging the public live with our faculty. We invite viewers to submit questions and discuss a topic via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter while we talk with the faculty member live online. The project uses these social technology
tools simultaneously to better enable our faculty experts to interact with broad audiences.

Office Hours is still an experiment. Some of our faculty guests have had several thousand viewers live, while others have had fewer than one hundred. We’re working to understand what drives a larger audience. We’ve also created standardized music beds and customized video “bumpers” to brand the experience along with nearly 3,000 other Duke videos that we’ve gathered on our Duke on Demand site, which resembles Hulu and other commercial sites. We’ve done this in close cooperation with other campus units.

NS: Looking forward, what social media initiatives are you considering or exploring?

We’re in the process of redesigning our news center, Duke Today, into zoned editions for different audiences, with a variety of social media features and an extensive use of RSS feeds.  Our goal is to eventually have a series of sections, much as you see on newspaper sites like the Washington Post, as well as options that viewers can personalize according to their interests.

NS:Do you have social media policies or guidelines and, if so, can you share them?

DJ: We do, for our campus communications community. These are online at

NS: How are your social media initiatives organized and resourced?

DJ: Our office is taking the lead for the central Facebook and Twitter accounts. We coordinate with others across campus, who manage dozens of other Duke sites on Facebook and Twitter. I report to the vice president for communications, Mike Schoenfeld, who has been an enthusiastic advocate of these and other efforts.

NS: What do you wish you knew when you were first exploring social media initiatives that
you know now?

DJ: It’s not as scary as some people over the age of 30 think it is.

NS: What’s the most important advice you would give to someone planning to launch any type of
social media initiative today?

DJ: Don’t wait until all of the questions are answered, because you’ll be waiting a long time. Just plunge in and try it!

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