Page Manager Q&A: Thomas Listerman of University of San Francisco

Very excited to introduce my millions of readers to the great social media work of Thomas Listerman at the University of San Francisco. I've been following USF on social media for a few years now, and it has always been a source of ideas and inspiration for me. I follow a lot of schools, even more so since I launched this blog, and I'm not sure if anyone else out there does as good of a job highlighting user-generated content as USF. 

Thomas has about five times as many degrees as me (yes, including a Ph.D., which makes me feel like such a slacker I'm tempted to just throw on a hoodie, grab a skateboard, and ollie off into the sunset), and is in a position where he coordinates the social media strategy for the entire university, including all the accounts from various schools and departments. (Writing that makes me hang my head in shame when I think about what some of the schools at UP do with Facebook and how I have absolutely no control over them.) So, yeah... he knows what's up.

Visit his website for all the places you can find Thomas on social media and some great work samples, and be especially sure to check out Social Media and Email Marketing for Higher Ed, a blog her curates that has some excellent recommendations, thought leadership, and best practices.

Also, check out USF on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest , Tumblr, and YouTube.

1) USF really highlights user-generated content on its Facebook page and with the very cool site. What are some of the ways you get people to use the #USFCA hashtag? Do you stick to digital, or do you do any traditional print advertising too?

I see #USFCA as the natural next step in the development of our social media strategy. Over the past four years we have grown the social media community by 836% on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and now we are at the point where we have the critical size and the resources in place to start curating that community in addition to creating our own content. 

The first step of the campaign to increase the use of the hashtag USFCA was to reach out to selected individuals among students, faculty and staff who are influential and active in social media and give them a heads up. The second step was to announce the new site through the regular e-newsletters to students, faculty, staff and alumni as well as by adding the link on the USFCA home page. The third step will be the introduction of postcards, cool laptop stickers, and warm sweaters featuring #USFCA that we will hand out to recognize our contributors and make our hashtag even more visible on campus.

2) What do you think are some of the unique challenges managing social media in the higher ed world?

I think that managing social media in the higher ed world is a lot of fun. Social media managers at companies or other organizations rarely get the opportunity to work with such a diverse, opinionated, and intelligent community that is engaged with your brand almost by default. The challenge is of course to find ways to actually relate to the everyday experience of your community and identify how your social media venues can be helpful to the situation of so many target groups with different needs (prospective students, current students, alumni, and faculty and staff). A less unique (but very important) challenge is to stay true to your brand and your voice over time. Being responsible for social media at a higher ed institution means that you have to coordinate and train a large group of social media administrators for different departments and offices in best practice and branding coherency. Many higher ed institutions do not even have a position in place that has overarching responsibility for social media strategy. In that way, I am fortunate to be working at the University of San Francisco, and to be in that position.

3) USF does a great job using social media to promote events on campus. A constant challenge I face is the tension between being inundated with requests from all over campus to promote events and not wanting to post too often or hurt my EdgeRank score with low-engagement events ads. How do you balance that, and what are some successful ways you accomplish events promotion?

We do not even attempt to list all events - that's a task for the online calendar. Instead, we pick the most relevant and visual events that can work to engage our community on each specific platform. We only feature events in social media that have a nice graphic presentation and/or are prominent/unusual in some way, and they always support our brand values and attributes. One successful way to feature events has been to use the Facebook photo album and create a set of images that promote upcoming events over the next few months in a nice way, and then share those photos with the organizers via Facebook to enable them to promote these items further. [Editor's note: I saw USF do this and totally ripped off the idea. I have no shame!]

4) Time to brag: What are a few examples of social media work at USF that have been particularly successful?

I want to recognize some very successful colleagues of mine at USF. Charlene is tweeting as itweetUSF and she is doing a wonderful job reaching out to connect with new students and respond to questions and concerns. iTweetUSF is probably one of the best examples I have seen of smart Twitter use in higher education. Also, our Gleeson library is making good use of various social media channels to communicate with students, and were recently ranked #35 by on the list of Top 100 Most Social Media Friendly University and College Libraries.

Hashtag USFCA ( has taken off quickly and indicates that our strategy to focus on featuring contributions from the community that support USF brand values and attributes works really well. The first step of creating this successful public venue was to establish daily monitoring routines using radian6. We monitor and respond to any questions and concerns that mention the university in social media venues on a daily basis, and establishing that process was a great leap forward for us. 

We are proud of how we utilized social media to give the USF community a chance to greet Nobel Peace Price laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi when she visited the USF campus to meet with the Burmese community by having their photos taken together with signs of her quotes. Of course, we are also really proud of the USF Higher Standards campaign and the engagement that the campaign has generated in all social media venues (some of it collected here) and beyond (some references here).

5) Time to spread some love: What are some other colleges you enjoy following and draw inspiration from?

Primarily, we look beyond higher education for inspiration on what the current generation of students is interested in right now, and take cues and inspiration from popular online/social phenomena in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Some examples are "The Bold Italic" (, SFist (, the SF Giants (of course) and the beautiful Facebook page of "San Francisco - the Official Guide" (

In higher ed, Marquette is doing a great job with social media. For example we were inspired by their version of the "Dear Photograph" idea called "Dear Marquette" ( when we used photos from the yearbooks and archives to create informative items that were published during orientation with the headline "Dear USF" to teach new students about our proud history. Texas A&M and Stanford are also good sources of inspiration, and Full Sail University is awesome in terms of how they use photo and video (not surprising).

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