Branding your Social Media

Each Office of Research Administration (or however you are aptly named) is merely a part of a greater University or institution. In our case, we are a (relatively) small office of a school within a greater University, but to prevent an identity crisis we claim JHSPH as our home base.  In large part, this is due to us wanting to attach ourselves to an entity that is internationally known, as it affords us visibility that wouldn’t ordinarily be available.

Clearly, universities and colleges alike strive to successfully brand themselves, using mascots, emblems, buildings and apparel to promote their name, recruit new students, and raise money.  As has become quite clear, these institutions as a whole are joining the social media craze with determination, recognizing it as a strong recruiting source that offers large amounts of free publicity.  Facebook and Twitter are regularly used to promote campus events, new awards, sports titles and news, with the hope that these activities will to attract new enthusiasts and retain regular followers.

However, with universities launching entire media campaigns based solely on social media, it is a surprise that so few research administration offices are taking advantage of their benefits.  Even though an ORA doesn’t necessarily need to promote itself to maintain its standing, attaching your office with the institution under which you operate can provide substantial benefits.  Given that Facebook is the easiest social media platform with which to begin, here are a few helpful pointers for you to consider when setting up your page.


Take advantage of your cover photo and profile picture. Both are easily the first chance you have to communicate your connection to your university.  For your profile picture, mascots or emblems are the strongest way to create a connection between your office and the university, as they are visual representations of your university and easily identifiable by others with whom you are connected.  Using a known quantity such as the school logo will make your page more reputable and more inviting for potential followers. Your cover photo is another place for you to help someone to make the connection. For us, JHSPH is a long acronym for someone new to Hopkins to grasp, so we chose an easily identifiable exterior photograph of the Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Alternatively, while we chose not to do so, matching your cover photo to that of your institution provides another visual connection for those who stumble upon your page and reinforce the link between both entities.


Connect with your University on Facebook. Although this is the most straight forward and common sense action, it is often the most easily forgotten.  Simply following or ‘Like’-ing your University’s page is not enough.  Obtaining the social media endorsement of your University (through them following your own page) is a step forward to ensuring that your information is getting to the largest group of people possible. Although this may require some leg work to contact those in charge of social media in your school, the payoff is greatly worth it.


Provide sufficient contact information.  Providing followers additional means with which to reach your office is equally as important on Facebook as it is on your regular school website.  We have updated our ‘About’ section on Facebook with our office contact phone number and general email box to encourage people to contact us outside of Facebook and to provide another avenue to connect with our readers.


Provide links to your events or important information.  Posting bland, static updates is rarely enough to obtain and hold the interest of your readership, so providing links and related information is important for both advertising reasons and information dissemination purposes.  Your goal is make sure that people are getting something out of their participation in your page and have reason to stick around and check back regularly.  Additionally, you want to show up on your followers’ newsfeeds regularly with new information and reminders.  Even something as innocuous as a link to an NIH-hosted reminder will help positively reinforce your readers’ decision to keep tabs on your site.  Universities seldom let their social media go quiet for more than 24 hours, so your ORA should follow suit.


Social Media Spotlight

As much as we would like to believe we are the Lewis and Clark of Research Administration when it comes to social media, there are a handful of Universities whose efforts predate ours in some form or another.  Additionally, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of other offices and Universities using social media to share information and links to that which they find helpful. So, in the spirit of community, teamwork, showing we know how to share, and camaraderie, Social Media Monday will periodically focus on a colleague who is particularly active within the SocMed arena.

We’ll begin with a trip out West to the Office of Grant & Research Development at Washington State University.  We immediately took to OGRD because they regularly maintain their platforms (both Facebook and Twitter), and, in general, publish a great deal of information from myriad sources. OGRD post tips and guidelines almost daily for students, faculty and staff, and further will include articles from various blogs and other news outlets. OGRD will also upload photos from their own events and status updates about the goings on relating to their research.

Besides being a gateway to vast amounts of worthwhile information, OGRD has contributed to the growth of our own platforms.  Thanks to their efforts, we discovered a blog tailored specifically to grant writing, and also began contemplating how to include content specific to student researchers, which we had previously not posted.  (In the spirit of openness, we also should point out that OGRD frequently posts funny cartoons relevant to Research Administration that manage to find humor in an admittedly dry field.)

In generally, we appreciate OGRD’s light-hearted yet substantive approach to Research Administration’s integration with social media, and their ability to include information directed to each group with whom they interact.  The Director of OGRD, Dan Nordquist, also happens to be the President of NCURA, which provides encouragement that NCURA will continue to increase its social media footprint in the coming months.

Social Media and Research Administration (Part III)

Two weeks ago, we began our Social Media Monday series by recounting our early thought processes and exploring our efforts regarding the blog you currently peruse.  Last week, we discussed Facebook and Twitter.  Today, we’ll continue by looking at perhaps the largest work-related social networking site.



Creating a LinkedIn page is pretty straight forward if you’re an individual.  If you want a company page, though, things become more difficult, especially if (like us) you’re an office within a large umbrella entity.  In these instances, if your email domain has already created a formal Company Page, you cannot create your own, regardless of the relationship and overlap between the two entities.  In our case, because “JHSPH” already exists as a Company, we were unable to create a separate, formal account for ORA.  However, again using Sheldon as our admin, we created a group page for JHSPH Office of Research Administration and are still petitioning for a Company page.

The reason we went with LinkedIn is sheer volume. Seemingly every professional has a LinkedIn profile, with updates received via email.  Even though we haven’t yet fully investigated all that LinkedIn has to offer, we’re already aware of its convenience, and its growth potential is chart-topping compared to Facebook and Twitter.

It’s still in its infancy, but the group page will serve as a good place for our discussion groups and potential polls, and allow further interaction between ORA and our colleagues throughout the nation.


Our Wishlist

So, while we’ve accomplished a great deal in the last 52 weeks, there are still other Social Media resources for us to investigate.  What are we excited about? Here’s our short list.

Forecast – Forecast is currently an app for Social Media that tells others where you will be in the future. Imagine everyone being able to see the conferences and trainings you plan to attend!  Here at ORA, there is someone from our office at a conference or training event almost every month, if not more frequently, and we look forward to being able to use Forecast to alert our colleagues to our upcoming trips and coordinate get-togethers accordingly.

Google+ – We realize that Google+ has a long way to go, but it’s predicted to be bigger than Twitter and LinkedIn within the next year. So, we’re keeping it on our radar and learning more about it to determine how we can best use its capabilities.

Mostly, our wish is that you will join us in the Social Media revolution. Social Media is only as effective as the connections you make, and therefore we’re hopeful that more Research Administration offices take the plunge in the coming months.  We’ve had our share of issues, and we’re not yet up to optimal capabilities, but our experiences so far have been wholly positive, and have allowed us to connect with Research Admin colleagues in ways not previously available.

Social Media and Research Administration (Part II)

Last Monday, we began our Social Media Monday series by recounting our early thought processes and exploring our efforts regarding the blog you currently peruse.  Today, we’ll continue by focusing on two more SocMed platforms that comprise our internet footprint.



 Our actions notwithstanding, Facebook should be everyone’s first step in Social Media. It’s straight forward, requires very few steps and is about as idiot proof as it gets. Plus, pretty much everyone and their third cousin already have an account, so you know that you already have a built-in audience at your disposal.  What makes Facebook the ideal SocMed starter is that the only content you only really need to “create” is compiling a list of links to articles that are relevant to a particular research topic.  Consequently, if you are able to surf the web, you are able to locate links and other material to regularly post to your page.

Of course, someone has to actually administer your Facebook page, which, to be effective, requires regular attention.  What we did is probably slightly frowned upon in the Facebook world, as, rather than selecting an ORA colleague to do so, we created a dummy admin account for Sheldon and then used that account to be the administrator for JHSPH Office of Research Administration.

To date, we have used Facebook as a major platform for our Social Media expansion.  We provide links to all of our blog entries, for the benefit of those who don’t go there directly, as well as announce any revised grant deadlines or similar pressing information.  Additionally, we’ll also publicize items that are specific to JHSPH, such as the recent launch of our new Subawards Checklist.  As compared to our blog, which covers general Research Admin issues as well as JHSPH-directed topics, much of the new material posted on our Facebook page is related to school activities.  That all being said, all information dispersed by our office can, in one form or another, be found from our page, and there has been a marked uptick in both “Likes” and pageviews as we’ve structured our page more to our liking.



Tweeting is the most complicated yet simple thing you will ever do. We don’t say this because we want you to be afraid of Twitter.  Rather, we say this because, if you are a bad Tweeter, everyone knows as such and judges you for it.  Just like bad advertising, bad Tweeting can have adverse effects and actually affect your recognition within your professional community.  Selecting the best hashtags, retweeting the best bits from other accounts and increasing your visibility are all difficult activities, and, unfortunately, with respect to the latter, there are few ways to properly measure your footprint outside of who happens to be following your account.

Until recently, Twitter had received somewhat less of our attention than our blog and Facebook page, due largely to us wanting to ensure we did things “just right.”  Compared to Facebook and our blog, maintaining a worthwhile Twitter account requires almost constant attention, be it for posting relevant news articles, retweeting relevant information or posting original content.  However, with our other platforms at a relatively stable point, we have been able to focus more on our Tweets, and, perhaps not surprisingly, that has lead to increased traffic and visibility.

Overall, Twitter has been a good means to provide more focus on our blog posts and our deadlines here in JHSPH.  Additionally, it has allowed us to connect with Research Administration offices throughout the country, as well as public and private sponsors with whom we work on a regular basis.  On a long-term basis, we hope to fully utilize Twitter to its potential so as to give us another foothold on a Social Media platform.

Social Media and Research Administration

Last week, your humble scribes were presenters at NCURA’s annual Regional Meeting in Gettysburg, PA, speaking on the emergence of Social Media in Research Administration and our experiences in setting up our various platforms.  Given the positive response, as well as the questions received concerning how exactly to go about setting up Social Media accounts, we thought it might be beneficial to our readership at large to also learn a bit more about our efforts and where we plan to go.  So, for the next few weeks, we will be featuring “Social Media Monday,” where we break down our own Social Media techniques and how it can apply to your institution. For us, Social Media will only be successful as more and more institutions embrace it, and thus we want to share our processes and encourage you to start your own.



Almost exactly a year ago, a small group was formed within ORA to discuss ways to better communicate with our PIs and departments.  From our initial meetings came the idea to create a Social Media platform for the office that would provide information through simple, easily-accessible means, and we began to investigate the myriad avenues available to us.  As we reviewed and contemplated each potential outlet, it also dawned on us that these same Social Media tools could further be used to reach out to Research Administration offices throughout the country.

Thinking we were late to the party, we spent hours scouring the internet for ideas that we could “borrow” from other institutions as the framework for our new endeavors.  However, the more we looked, the more we realized that few Universities were utilizing Social Media, and we were incredulous that a community at the forefront of research and development was giving the cold shoulder to such effectual informational conduits.  You can’t deny that every person in your office has at least a Facebook account, so why not capitalize on free publicity that doesn’t require super-human computer skills?

Consequently, with very little from which to draw, we jumped in and took on Social Media head-on, tackling a Blog, Facebook and Twitter all at once.  After all, go big or go home.



Our first foray into Social Media platforms was the creation of this blog, which we chose for a couple of reasons: We wanted to create one-stop shopping for answers to commonly received questions, and we wanted to be able to make large amounts of information available to people outside of Hopkins.  When we started BloggingORA last August, we focused primarily on how it would look and what it was going to include.

With respect to the former, our options were generally limited to the constraints of what WordPress had to offer, but we did our best to create a clean, streamlined look that would make reading easy.  Regarding the latter, every question we hear becomes a potential blog post, and, with proper tagging, anyone can simply keyword relevant articles to get instant background from previous entries.

Making a blog attractive as our first Social Media effort were the statistics and control that Facebook could not provide with respect to our footprint.  We wanted to see how many hits we had, how many RSS Feed subscribers, where people were coming from and what they were reading.  Creepy?  Probably a little.  But if we were committed to giving our potential audience what they want, we needed to target our blog posts to what they found most interesting and the topic areas that sparked high readership metrics.

Our inspiration for BloggingORA came predominantly from Sally Rockey’s Blog “Rock Talk.”  As NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research, Sally’s blog is clean, helpful, and straight-forward.  More importantly, it wasn’t just a data dump site for policies, as what she offers is new information, questions and discussion.  We were hooked immediately, and decided to tailor the scope of our own blog accordingly.  Posting about issues that were popping up in our departments meant that we could give people detailed information about issues and relevant topics both real-time and as reference points.

That being said, moving into BloggingORA was not a perfect transition.  Like any project, it had some hidden pit falls.  We were so excited about our social media escapades that we wanted to write every day!  Unfortunately, that’s just not conducive to working in an office with a crazy volume. So, we got on a schedule, allowed ourselves some fun with Sheldon’s Friday posts and are continuing to branch out and contemplate ways to broaden the scope and effectiveness of our blog.

As our baby hits its nine-month birthday, we’ve seen a significant and consistent rise in daily pageviews, and have attracted subscribers from across the country.  Additionally, we are in the early stages of our Guest Blogger program, where research administration personnel both from JHU and the university community at large will touch on subjects of particular importance and explain how their impact on everyone’s activities.  However, even with these developments, we continue to strive to make our blog as effective as possible, and welcome comments and suggestions at every turn.