Working in higher education likely means something different to every person who finds herself here. For me, it’s opportunity. It’s empowerment. It’s independence. It’s decisions and growth and responsibility. It’s being a part of a place where so many people come together to do, make, build, change. It’s all of the things that were so monumental in my own life as a student at the very institution where I find myself employed today. I love higher ed. But even more, I love this place.

As a social media specialist, it’s admittedly easy to get caught up in the marketing of it all. My days can quickly get tied up in numbers, trends, and research. “Engagement!” “Impressions!” “Reach!” “Blah!” The “social” part of social media can start to feel like a contest to talk to the most people. And at the root, that conversation can become self-serving if we’re not careful. This is marketing, after all. Of course our goals revolve around driving applications and enrollment, and then retention, and so on.

The really cool part, though, is that there’s more.

This week, a student on my social media team wrote a beautiful blog post about the passing of a fellow student. And suddenly, I saw it. Or was reminded of it. My efforts in social media do more than to push university content out into the world. When things work as they should, social media give everyone a voice. We hope to use those voices to amplify our messages, sure, but sometimes our message isn’t what matters.

When I do my job well, I show students that they have a voice, that their voices matter. The mission of higher education goes beyond enrollment and dollars, and so should the goals that we set as social media managers. Let’s build communities and share our stories, but let’s also empower others to tell their own stories.

A million years ago, I was a student at my university. I will forever be grateful for the experiences and people here that shaped me. Today, thousands of new students are going through the very same process of self-discovery and growth.

This job is important. Higher education is important. These students are important. I might not be able to quantify a touching blog post in a marketing report, but the blog post is important, too. Sometimes I just need the reminder.

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