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Interview with Marquette University’s Director of Social Media: Tim Cigelske

By Thibaut Davoult

Interview with Marquette University's Director of Social Media: Tim Cigelske image marquette instagram commenting hashtag

Marquette was in the top 20 in our ranking of the most popular universities on Instagram. Today, we’re interviewing its online voice: Tim Cigelske.

You’ll learn how Instagram fits the university’s goal of reaching out and replying to prospective students, as well as nurturing relationships with students and alumni. As you’ll see, creating secondary accounts to fine-tune a voice and cater to different audiences can do good for a university (or any brand, for that matter).

First, could you present yourself to our readers, and your role at Marquette University?

Tim Cigeslske: My name is Tim Cigelske and I’m the Director of Social Media at Marquette. I started in a role 5 1/2 years ago that included PR, media relations and more. But as social media has grown my role evolved to be more dedicated.

How does Instagram come into play within the social media landscape and overall communication strategy for Marquette University?

Tim: As a university, our audience ranges from 18-year-old prospective students to 90-year-old alumni. We have to choose different social channels to communicate with them all, and Instagram is where a large portion of our current and future students can be found. We use it to provide a sense of campus for high school students thinking about Marquette, and share photos from current students.

What are the official Instagram accounts for Marquette University and related organizations?

Tim: We have a list of 11 university affiliated accounts (and counting), which you can find here.

Can you tell us a bit more about @MarquetteU’s audience? Aside from students, do you find that members of the university’s staff also interact with the account? What about parents, and prospective students?

Tim: We have more than 7,000 followers between our two most popular accounts, @MarquetteU and @FatherMarquette. The vast majority of those who interact with us are students and prospective students. It’s such a student-focused platform that we even created an Admissions brochure using Marquette photos that others have shared via Instagram. [Featured in the Father Marquette photo displayed below]

Could you share more details about FatherMarquette? What is the idea behind it? Why do you think it’s so popular?

Tim: Father Marquette was kind of a social media happy accident. It started with a Foursquare account. In order to control a brand Foursquare page, you get a general individual user account. We had to give this account a name, so I just went with “Father Marquette,” the 17th century Jesuit explorer and namesake of our university.
At some point it dawned on me we could actually have some fun with Father Marquette, and his presence grew to Twitter, Instagram and now Snapchat, complete with a mini statue I carry around for photos. His likeliness is also attached to our blog. Father Marquette our official “explorer” who visits places around campus and Milwaukee and shares his travels throughout social media. He gives us an excuse to show off sides of our university and city that wouldn’t quite fit in the context of our more “official” account. He provides a humorous personality and puts a face to social media.
To use a sports analogy, if @MarquetteU is the university play-by-play, then @FatherMarquette is the “color.” I will retweet @FatherMarquette posts from @MarquetteU, so more people know about Father Marquette. But for the most part I try to keep them separate so Father Marquette has his own distinct persona and voice. You don’t want to make him too official, which I think is part of his appeal.

Father Marquette showing off the admission brochure

Now, let’s talk about analytics and how you use them. Do you have any uses specific to Instagram to share with us?

Tim: On a day to day basis, I track analytics to see what kind of content gets the biggest reaction. I look at what gets the most shares, click throughs, retweets, likes on Instagram, etc. Then I simply try to do more of what works.

What metrics are you looking at on Instagram?

Tim: For Instagram, I see what gets the most likes and new followers by looking at Nitrogram. I also track the users that contribute to our regular hashtags, including #marquette and #wearemarquette.

Marquette communicating with a prospective student on a post discovered through the #marquette hashtag

What are your objectives with using Instagram for Marquette?

Tim: Students start posting their acceptance letters on Instagram when they hit the mail, and I can congratulate them there and start engaging with them at that point. It can help give future students a glimpse into campus life, which is one of its primary uses given the age demographics of Instagram.

Interview with Marquette University's Director of Social Media: Tim Cigelske image accepted marquette instagram

What kind of content do you find to be more successful for @MarquetteU? What resonates with your audience?

Tim: Overall, basketball-related content plus photos of sunsets and sunrises over campus get the biggest reactions.

Did you lead any specific campaigns, contests or events on social media that involved Instagram?

Tim: Yes, we have a new student scavenger hunt at Orientation that includes an Instagram component. Students tag what they find on campus with #MUExplore, and the student with the best content (as judged by a committee) wins Marquette gear.

A #MUExplore context entry

Do you have other details you’d like to share with our audience?

Tim: I can remember the first time I knew Instagram was blowing up with our audience. I was welcoming incoming freshman on Twitter by responding to tweets about their acceptance letter. The next day I was perusing tags on Instagram and saw a screenshot of the tweet I sent the day before. At that point I knew prospective students were using Instagram for communication as much as Twitter if not more. We’ve been focused on our Instagram efforts ever since.

If you need a refresher on why we think Instagram has become such an important medium for Universities, and how it can be leveraged, check out our Instagram content tips for Colleges.

What do you think about Marquette’s Instagram and social media strategy at large? Who do you think we should interview next? Let us know in the comments.