Making News on Social Media


This is the number of tweets I’ve posted on behalf of the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Alumni Office since July 1, the beginning of our fiscal year.

There’s a few ways of looking at this tally. The first is that I tweet A LOT over the course of a given week and month. The second is that I’m privy to a staggering amount of information on alumni of HBS. While there’s great variety to what we tweet via @HBSAlumni–including updates on new jobs, marriages, and other details involving HBS graduates–a significant portion of our posts focus on the professional achievements of our alumni. These achievements include funding, awards, and promotions bestowed upon graduates of HBS.

Several months ago, I met with representatives from our development office to  discuss how we could best capture the information I come across via social media. While I have tracked this data on an excel spreadsheet since I began working at HBS, this approach had–and still does–its limitations (i.e., we collect ALL the linked web content we post onto a single spreadsheet so it’s tough to extract the most useful information for our development colleagues. To clarify, along with professional updates, we also share blog posts penned by alumni as well as other web-based content).

So, we decided to modify our approach and the solution was a simple one.

We launched the #HBSalumlife hashtag.

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My Year of Living Dangerously (um, sort of) on Instagram

I am not a risk taker.

I hate riding roller coasters, trying new foods (I could eat hamburgers and french fries every day for the rest of my life and be VERY happy), flying on airplanes, and wearing anything besides my standard khaki pants and white or blue dress shirt.

But, when it comes to my work as social media manager for the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) alumni office, I’m much less risk averse. Each week–if not each day–I’m always trying new things/approaches to engage with alumni, our target audience, via Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

So, when we decided to go “all in” on Instagram last year, I was looking forward to taking the big swings I rarely take in my personal life.

I soon realized, though, that swinging for the fences on Instagram isn’t always the best strategy. Sometimes, singles and the occasional double are far more effective.

But before I illustrate my missteps and how I arrived at our current strategy, it’s necessary to visit the archives.

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How I Helped Increase Alumni Engagement on Social Media by 275%…in One Month

When I started working at the Harvard Business School (HBS) 2+plus years ago, I had some expectations from day one. I figured I’d being tweeting A LOT, that my commute would be a loooooong one (to date, it takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and thirty minutes to reach my office each day), and that I’d be working with some of the most talented people in the field of alumni communications.

What I didn’t expect, though, was to see my vocabulary expand. Words like “pivot,” “disruption,” and “scale” meant something very different to me before HBS.* But, in time, I not only learned the meanings of these words from a business perspective, but embraced one of them in particular.


Scale, in business terms, is defined as “a system that will be able to maintain or even increase its level of performance or efficiency when tested by larger operational demands.” A business that can scale its efforts–by adding more customers, for example–is able to bring in more revenue, hire more staff, and experience significant expansion in other areas.

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Getting Your (Social Media) Game On

My “peeps” fall into two categories.

There are the people I went to high school or college with and then there are those who, like me, work in social media.

I’ve known the first group of people for 15-20 years. They attended my wedding, listened to my cringe-worthy rendition of Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train” in college, and can recall, with surprising clarity, my ill-fated attempt to complete an entire season of NHL 94 (including playoffs) on the Sega game system over the course of a single weekend.

My social media peeps are much different. I’ve only known them for a few years and what they know about me–that I REALLY dig frozen Twizzlers, ABBA, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khanthey have gleaned from reading my blog posts. But, oddly enough, I see my social media colleagues more than the people I’ve known for decades. In some respects, this is intentional. I’ve made it a point to present at more social media-related conferences and, as such, I’ve spent a lot of time with my social media colleagues.

(To be fair, it’s been more difficult to connect with my long-time friends since we live in different states, have children, and are busy with work and family life.)

Last month, I met up with some of my friends in social media at the first annual “Social Media Strategies Summit-Higher Education,” which was held in Boston. The event was a great opportunity to see what my colleagues were working on and there was one particular presentation that resonated with me. It was “Social & Curriculum: Gamifying the Learning Experience” by Corey Pavdeen of T2 Marketing.  Corey’s presentation took a deep dive into gamification, which is defined as a “process of making systems, service, and activities more enjoyable and motivating. Gamification commonly employs game design elements which are used in so called non-game contexts in attempts to improve user engagement, organizational productivity, and flow.”

As social media manager for the Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Alumni Office, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to engage with our graduates so the week after the summit–inspired by Corey’s presentation–I launched a new game at HBS. I dubbed the contest, “Guess That HBS Scene” and the premise was simple. Each week, I would post a different campus-related photo on Facebook and ask alumni to guess what the image conveyed. The first alumnus/a who answered correctly each week would win a prize.

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Emma Stone, Twitter, and Community Building

Last week was Emma Stone-apalooza in the Bochnak household.

Over the course of three days, my wife and I watched The Help, The Amazing Spiderman, and an interview the young starlet had on Conan. The interview–like most Stone gives–was funny, engaging, and entertaining and halfway through the discussion the topic turned to Twitter, with Stone providing the following perspective.

“I don’t really understand the point (of Twitter) unless you’re a musician and you’re sort of advertising a gig or you’re a comedian and you’re doing one-liners or something.” 

Well, Ms. Stone, allow me to “blow your mind” because Twitter definitely has a point and can be used in a number of different, interesting ways.

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Getting My Nerd On…or How I Came to Love Social Media Data

Last week, my wife hosted “Nerd Day” at the children’s theater summer program she runs. All the kids attending the program were encouraged to wear funky glasses, dorky pants, and very unusual shirts. Naturally, as someone who has been known to get his “nerd on,” I was pretty upset I couldn’t participate.

But, fortunately, I was able to get in touch with my inner nerd a few days later through the social media “Year in Review” I assembled.

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Burning Social Media Questions Answered!

Last week, at the invitation of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), I delivered my first ever webinar.

The topic of my presentation--balancing your social media work with everything else on your plate–was inspired by a blog post I wrote on the same topic a few years ago. Following the webinar, I fielded nineteen questions from the virtual audience–a number, which the coordinator of the webinar later informed me, was a record for PRSA webinars on social media.

Audience queries ranged from the broad (“How do you measure social media ROI?”) to the specific (“How do you use LinkedIn in your work?”) and in this post I’ll share my thoughts on some of the most topical questions that were raised.

I hope my feedback is helpful, and please let me know if you have a different take on any of the questions and/or you have any of your own.

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