Episode 39: Community Building with Humor and Heart 

Thought Feeder
Thought Feeder
Episode 39: Community Building with Humor and Heart 
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Austin Braun from Ascend Engine (formerly at the University of Colorado Boulder) joins J.S. and Joel for a special “Lost Episode,” recorded LIVE from the All Day, All Night Conference in June 2021. Can institutional social media accounts… be… funny? And if so, how can you get buy-in to experiment? In Austin’s case, all it took was a willingness to take risks, a supportive boss, and an eye for trends.

Transcript for Community Building with Humor and Heart

Joel Goodman: Welcome to the Thought Feeder podcast. My name is Joel Goodman. With me as always is the irrevocable Jon-Stephen Stansel. This is the first time we’ve ever done this live. And we’re very, very excited to have the amazing Austin Braun on the show today. Austin is a digital and social media professional at the University of Colorado Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science specifically within the University of Colorado Boulder. While overseeing the college’s social media strategy, publication, voice tone, uh, probably a lot of other things that go into that list. He’s also focused on using experimental and informal methods to strengthen the college community. And, he’s got a, a cool, uh, startup that he is working on called Ascend Engineering. He’s actually currently in Chicago because of that. Oh man, I just divulged your location, Austin. I’m sorry. 

Austin Braun: I’m gonna get doxed.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: He’s in a secret bunker, undisclosed. 

Joel Goodman: In a secret bunker somewhere where he is focusing on drones and drone software and, everything else. Anyway, Austin, we’re excited to have you on the show. Thanks for being here. Tell us about yourself and how you got into social media.

Austin Braun: Well, Joel and Jon, thank you so much for having me. It’s an honor to be here with you both and for everyone else in the audience. I’m so excited to talk with you today about sort of what I have to say and the things that I’ve learned. I’ll go ahead and talk about how I got into social media, which is sort of an interesting story actually, um, back in my freshman year of college, that must have been 2015. There was this marketplace for parody accounts. And for those of you who had been on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for quite a while, you’d have your parody accounts with cute dog photos, or, you know, this game right here.

And it would just be all this content. It would be reposts, shamelessly uploaded. And again, this being 2015, a marketplace was being created for that. And it was called the blue marketplace. It’s not the black market. It’s the blue marketplace.

Joel Goodman: It’s the blue marketplace.

Austin Braun: Yeah. And so, so the name of the game was for folks who wanted to A, get into social media full time back before was really a, full on profession in the way it is today.

Um, you would build those accounts and then you would create a network of, uh, amplifiers build audiences. You’d run ad hits, uh, and all this. So I did that for about a year. And I actually was able to make a company out of it. And I was able to do decently well at it for being a freshman in college who had no idea what they were doing.

And from that, I just, it ignited a passion for content in me. It showed me the inner workings of platforms. I just fell in love with it.

Joel Goodman: Awesome. What does a typical day look like for you at CU Engineering?

Austin Braun: Well, there, there’s no such thing as a typical day, right? I mean, as we all do, who, uh, for all professionals in the social media sphere, uh, the first thing we do when we wake up is look at our phones and we go onto, you know, the platform that could be the most, uh, volatile while we were asleep overnight, check the email, make sure there’s no fires to put out.

From there. If there’s nothing that requires my immediate attention, I try. To visualize what the day will look like in terms of content. What I know is coming up. and then it’s all just a blur from there. Cause it just all happens ad hoc.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I think that’s a good way to describe it. I think, you know, you make your plan, your to-do list in the day as a social media manager. And then once you open your email and, and start checking accounts, it’s just from there, it’s kinda like you’re riding the bucking Bronco, right? It’s you know, it could go anywhere.

One thing that really strikes me, you are known for, and I think your accounts are known for is, is really using a lot of humor. And I think you do it really well. I think it’s a skill that not a lot of, a lot of people think they have, but don’t have so, but it’s also one that can be very difficult, especially in a Higher Ed space to navigate, so how has using humor and your, your social accounts helped you achieve your school’s goals? And the tricky part of that question is how do you justify that to those campus stakeholders who might not see the benefit of it?

Austin Braun: Those are two really good questions. The, the benefit is that, and this was sort of the way before the pandemic hit, before everything went remote and online, the benefit is that it gives you sort of this niche audience you can build out, uh, and be informal with. But the value of being informal is so underutilized, especially within the Higher Ed world, because nobody wants the black and white cut and dry jargon canned response anymore, when they send an inquiry and they also don’t want to just talk to a wall when they send you a photo of something or they tweet this at you or they post on your wall, they want that expressionism because they wanna feel like they’re making a connection in the digital place.

So last year when the pandemic hit and everything went online every day was a super bowl day for that kind of content creation, because people were, we all lived this, we were all in our homes and they wanted to feel the connection, uh, in a socially distant world. So they took to their computers to do that.

And when you’re able to have fun and riff with people, create an inside joke with a certain audience and just connect with them on a way that’s not scheduled and pre-planned, and went through 12 different meetings to approve, you can build a great community that will have your back and also engage with you on the content that matters the most.

For example, if there’s a really serious content piece that we put out, we want people to know that it’s a big deal and we’ll talk about it like it’s a big deal. And then two hours later, we can be talking about something much more informal. And from that, it gives this great incentive for new followers, for people to engage, and for people to just really feel like they actually have a connection to the account. And I think that’s valuable. That was the answer to the first question. And the second question was, how do you get away with this, uh, you know, tongue in cheek, uh, with campus stakeholders and the mantra has been, do first, apologize later, and with that comes severe risk. We’ve all typed out tweets and posts and replies and thought, oh, like, could this, could this actually be really bad? But for me, I took the risks and luckily, uh, my manager and my boss and everyone that I work with on the daily is so understanding of, uh, the things that they don’t understand, that the things that they do that they’ve allowed me to sort of just try new things, experimentally, because working at the engineering college, that’s like, what engineering is, you just have to try, otherwise, it’s not gonna ever change. And so we took that approach to our social and we just incorporate humor where we can and it’s been fun.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I think you’re absolutely right too about building that community. I think there’s, there’s a certain level of trust that humor helps you build with your community where they’ll come to your defense too. It humanizes your brand in a way that your audience understands that there’s a real person behind that account a little bit.

Right now I’m working on a project with, with Amazon, for, for the TV show invincible, and it’s a very humorous account. And that audience knows that there’s a person behind it. They enjoy the, the content that we put out and then they will defend it sometimes as well. Right? Or like answer questions for us or you know, from a completely different perspective with the, with the shows, like I can’t tweet spoilers. That’s like the one verbatim thing, like no spoilers, but it’s a comic book that’s been around forever. So somebody might have a question that I just can’t answer and that somebody in the other community will see it and respond because they know what those limits are for the account.

And that, I think that’s really beneficial. But one thing with humor and I struggle with this in, in humor, is, humor on social media is extremely delicate. You know, a lot of brands try to be funny and they, they fall flat on their faces. I think this happens a lot in Higher Ed where somebody has very good intentions and tries to use a meme that they don’t really understand, or come across to use reference another meme, come across very, how do you do fellow kids? When should brands avoid using that, humor? Because people will say, well, you did this on this account. Why can’t we do it on that account?

Austin Braun: Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot of nuance to humor as you say, but more specifically, going back to your original point about the work you’re doing today, your audience knows that you’re somebody, who’s an insider, who’s a fan and is passionate about what you’re tweeting about. The content and also just the way you can, uh, navigate and build a community with that, because every brand that has ever fallen flat on itself, more often than not, uh, it’s because the person running it, doesn’t, they’re not an embodiment. They’re trying to be something else, uh, online and their tone and their expressionism and the way that they’re able to engage and create content reflect that.

So for humor, it, it is so nuanced because it all is subjective on your audience and working in Higher Ed, uh, which has a reputation for being the cut dry academia, that many people know it as, uh, you have to be in the know about what things are happening online. What’s the drama of the day? Like what’s the big meme?

Like, why is this thing trending? This phrase is trending. Okay. But like, let’s look at why that is. Oh, wait. Oh. It’s because there’s an alt-right person that made it popular. Let’s not touch that meme, you have to do your research and it, it can’t be a long process. It has to be instant. You have to do the research and it can’t go through 12 different people, to get published and to do that without having to go through 12 different people, you have to build trust over time.

Joel Goodman: In your mind, like, what has it taken to get yourself to the point where you are comfortable taking those risks, like to, to take the action and apologize later, because I think that’s, kind of a key ingredient that we don’t, that prohibits a lot of social media managers in Higher Ed.

I think across industries, right from doing things that may seem risky. They There’s just a risk averseness, especially in Higher Education, everyone’s very risk averse. There are other industries that are very similar to that, but how do you, how do you go about thinking that way?

Is it just a personality thing? Is it, is it kind of cause cuz I’m that way? Like I don’t, I generally don’t care. Uh, I mean I care, but I, you know, but I think there’s, I think there’s more value in calling things out or in taking risk and seeing what sticks than not, but yeah. How do you approach, how do you approach that aspect of what you’re doing and how do you make it work?

Austin Braun: So with a lot of, uh, long battles and headaches, uh, at the, at the very beginning. Cause nothing changes overnight, and that’s the reality of it. I remember at one point and I’m going to use a specific example, cuz this was great for everyone to learn. There was, something about me posting the word badass about, uh, some career award and at national science foundation winners, these, these students who were crushing it, and I just on a whim was like, they’re so badass.

So congratulations to the X, Y, Z badass students from, and then the tags and listed the content, and it was hyping up, it was cool. Cause badass is a term we all can use, but for whatever reason, we’re scared to say stuff like that and be informal. It’s not even about being informal. It’s giving credit in a way that’s not the norm. 

Joel Goodman: I think this is a power dynamics, uh, conversation, if we’re honest, I think there’s that level of, we have to be superior and, and have the, whatever we think the higher ground is, and not use certain language, not use certain types of, imagery or, you know, whatever.

I mean, there are definitely things that should not be used, but, you know, that’s just kind of more common courtesy and respect of other people, but there are other, there are other areas that shouldn’t even be gray, but I think to play into this desire for the establishment to want to maintain its, its separateness.

But if that doesn’t do any good to help your audience, it doesn’t do any good to help get your students or your prospective students or your alumni to really buy into what you’re doing. Right?

Austin Braun: Exactly. And, and when that situation had happened it was sort of about power dynamics. Um, but when you have the, the sort of structure and understanding of what that structure is for the direct report versus people in the college versus the university, who is this gonna be? Who’s, BCC’d on the email, who’s seeing this and what do they know about social?

But the great thing that I have that I don’t think many others do is a boss, that’s willing to defend me. Someone that I am always willing to be able to justify with or say, you know what? I shouldn’t have done that, but here’s why, but in this case, when I used a badass in a post, the, the people that aren’t complaining, aren’t the audience, nobody’s in the comments saying unprofessional, unbelievable X, Y, Z.

It’s always the people that are internal, uh, that sort of get on that high horse. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t change their accomplishments. It’s just a word. You just have to be real about it. I mean, , we can all pretend we’re all professionals in college in academia. The whole point is to be human.

As, as Jon had said earlier, like just be human. It’s not a big deal.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Definitely. And, and so, so on point about having a boss that will defend you that, you know, and, and is willing to say, Hey, I don’t totally understand social media, but I trust you. I know you do. I, I will believe and, and, and trust what you have to say, what, what, what the best practices are. And I will defend those up the chain for you.

Very few people get that. And, and when you do, it’s such a special thing. Um, I really wish more social media managers, had that sort of management, over overseeing them. It’s just incredibly valuable. 

Austin Braun: I completely agree and I’m grateful for that, but one of the other things that I’ve done to sort of build that rapport and trust, uh, that I’m able to do is, justify things like always think of the end at the beginning when you say something like that, uh, think of the counter argument. What are people gonna say about this?

Uh, and when you go to your, direct report or your superior, and you can just talk to them about why you did it and it’s not a big deal. No, one’s freaked out and just lay out everything really crystal clear, after doing that a couple, you know, handfuls of times or dozens of times, you can build that rapport of trust.

And then you suddenly are three months into it. And now you have this sort of informal account. That’s humorous, it’s pulling numbers. It’s pulling good impressions. It’s the data’s there, it’s a risk that a lot of people, uh, can understandably not wanna take, but I’m grateful that I did.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: This sounds counterintuitive to what you said earlier, but I think that the two things can work together where I I’m kind of the same way, you know, ask for forgiveness, not permission, but there’s also a certain level of respect of going to the boss and going, hey, I’m thinking about doing this thing, or I’m gonna post this.

This might be a little controversial. Just want you to know before it happens. And not even frame it, like, can I do this? Like. I’m planning this heads up, you know, and that, that helps you down the road of earned trust of, you know, they know you’re not gonna go too far off the rails with it. To an earlier point too, it kind of raises a question, I, I think for humor to work, especially for Higher Ed institutions, cuz our students perceive us as you know, talking about power dynamics, like we’re in control, we’re the university, you know, capital U right? Having that, you know, a lot of humor is about kind of punching up you, right? You, if you’re punching down, it’s not funny.

It’s mean right? But punching up. But when you are perceived by your students as like the, the maximum up. The only way to continue punching up is to punch at yourself and kind of make fun of yourself a little bit.

I think that willingness to be the butt of the joke earns trust for your students, it humanizes you, it allows you to do humor in a way that’s actually funny but it’s hard for. You know, top-tier brands to do, it’s almost impossible for Higher Ed to be willing to do that. So, we’ve kind of one of the themes of this conversation. It’s like, how do we, we get that permission, but how do you find something like that you can make fun of?

Like, for, for me, it was like getting a wedge in the door. Like when I was at Texas State University, the university was on a hill there’s stairs everywhere. Like, like we can make fun of the stairs. Right? We can say, hey, come to Texas State, you can skip leg day just by walking across campus, you know, that sort of thing.

But what have you done to kind of find inroads where you can make fun of yourself a little bit?

Austin Braun: Well, firstly, being out of Boulder, Colorado, uh, one of the things we hyper-focus on is the pretty scenery, the mountains, all this, that, and campus is gorgeous. There’s no doubt about that, but. in my world, at least the engineering center where everyone works out of is this brutalist building. It’s ugly, it’s concrete.

It just looks like everything that you wouldn’t expect to see on the rest of campus. And so that’s a good starting point. You have to like point out the flaws that, you know, you can’t change as the identity of the college. So. I know the building’s not gonna change anytime soon, so I’m gonna make fun of it and say, yeah, it’s ugly.

It’s brutalist. I hate it. But you know what? It has a special place in our heart or it’s okay. If you still hate it, you know, it’s not gonna change admissions numbers. It’s gonna make the people who are there still feel sort of like, ohh, they’re making fun of it too. Like it’s not just something us students say, like everyone’s aware of it.

And that’s sort of a reassurance that can build a community side to it. But, I frequently break forth walls on Twitter. I’ll just say I’m the social media person. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Like I’m not an engineer and I’m not gonna sugarcoat or pretend that I am one, but I can understand the topics that are being discussed, but I’ll openly make fun of the fact that like this tweet I wrote made no sense and I’ll like put a tweet out there that’s just really technical and I could easily go underneath it in the threading and just say, I have no idea what I just read either, but we’re really proud of these students for doing X, Y, Z. And it’s all about sort of, like you said, punching up, you can do a little bit of down punch, but do it on yourself, but punch up everyone else.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Right. Well, I also think it’s kind of that, that, you know, making fun of your own university a little bit is that sort of mentality of like nobody hits my brother, except for me, like. I can make fun of the university. You cannot, right. I can’t say that your, your brutalist building is ugly, but you can say that all day long, right?

If somebody gets on, on your Twitter feed and starts talking about how ugly that building is, like, you’re gonna defend it. Right? 

Austin Braun: I would, if, yeah, to that point, I mean, in that example, if somebody did that to me, I would just be like, well, it’s prettier than your Twitter profile or something. That’s just like, just dunk because what are you doing? You’re defending why wouldn’t you, it’s funny. And people will see that. And that’s like, that has that little zap that could potentially take it viral and just be a funny thing.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah. You know, and I’ve, I’ve even seen that kind of play with universities, interacting with each other on Twitter. I’ve run into the occasion where a student will say, hey, I got acceptance letters from University A and University B today. I don’t know which one I’m gonna go to and reply like, well, obviously University A right?

And then have that back and forth with the other university down the street. I mean, how, how incredible is that for a student to feel like two universities are fighting over them? There’s just so many things you can do, but you have to be allowed to have that human element, and be able to take that risk, and be trusted to be able to do it like with, like you said, without 15 layers of approval to, to do it.

You know, I, I I’ve been in situations in previous social media positions where I had a really funny joke and after it goes through five layers of approval, it’s not funny anymore. It doesn’t make any sense. 

Joel Goodman: Austin. Can we, can we talk about some times when maybe like the humor you tried didn’t really work out and are there specifically any examples where maybe it’s lost you some fans inside the institution or, uh, or rub people the wrong way, you know, in the communities that you’re trying to kind of build?

Austin Braun: Yeah, absolutely. So, uh, so with some pretext, so again, being the college of engineering, there was one point last year when, um, all of the verified accounts on Twitter were getting hacked. Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, uh, I think even Biden before he was president like it was all this huge thing. It was this mega security breach.

So Twitter, uh, halted, all tweets from verified accounts. Our account is verified. So I was like, oh great. Now I’m getting all these error messages that our scheduled tweet wasn’t sending this sucks. Uh, all right. This is just crazy. How do I explain this to somebody who’s unaware? So I just was like, I’m I have nothing else to say except engineering.

So I just tweeted out the word engineering lowercase, and it’s key that it’s lowercase, cuz that’s that like meta, just like

Joel Goodman: it’s one of my, favorite tweets, this is one of my favorite tweets that you’ve ever done, though.

Austin Braun: It was everybody’s favorite and it, and it hit so well. It was just so like, okay, thanks. Like it was pointless and it got posted to Reddit. People were loving it, but it was one of those things that lasted quite a long time. Uh, but it fell flat, uh, at some points when everybody was just responding to other comments with engineering under our tweets.

And then when we would, specifically like on Reddit when we would go in and respond engineering to someone, uh, we would get downvoted really hard, but they would respond the same and it get upvoted really hard. And it was one of those things where it was like, oh, like the students are saying like, okay, we’re, we’re taking your joke now and we’re not gonna give you the account karma.

Uh, and we just, we just kept it up. And then the, the sentiment changed, but I mean, there’s, there’s a million different things that I could, I’m trying to think specifics though, things that I’ve tweeted and immediately thought, oh, that’s dumb. Just delete it two seconds after publication. 

Joel Goodman: What are, what do you do when, like, so something like engineering, you’ve had a, a few other things really legitimately do go viral or near viral or they get a lot of traction. How do you handle that? I mean, like, what are, I guess, like, what are some of the concerns that come with that and how do you address that stuff internally?

Austin Braun: Well, yeah, that’s a great question. And so when you do something a little more edgy or humorous, that just takes off, you know, first thing I do is I watch it for like the first 10 minutes cuz the, you know, virality happens usually within the first 10 or 15 minutes, you can usually tell if something’s gonna take off.

And from there, if it does well, I’ll just immediately slack or email my boss along with some others who are CC’D and just be like, oh, this is a funny one. Here’s the context. Here’s what it means. And, and I explain it like, like they’re five, like the, the phrase explain, like I’m five. I lay out everything out there because if it’s at 15 likes in five minutes, in an hour, it could be at 500, so I need to get ahead of it.

And I need to make sure that they understand, uh, and can understand the pitfalls. And if they come at me with something, I’ll address it and ideally there wouldn’t be any.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Do you pay attention to the comment slash reaction uh, more when you post something humorous versus when you post typical content?

Austin Braun: Absolutely. The most recent example I could think about this was, uh, for those of us who are online, uh, the word 69, they say, oh, it’s 69 degrees today.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Nice.

Austin Braun: it comes from a random weather account.

Everybody, everybody knows

Joel Goodman: Everybody, everybody.

Austin Braun: So just right away put, say, nice, and it’s this whole thing, and you can’t control the comments. And it’s kind of funny when it happens. So there was a day at CU Boulder where, uh, I was outside, I took a bunch of pretty photos, flowers spring, and I was like, you know what? These are cool.

It’s but everyone’s seen the flowers. And I, I was like, let me look at the weather, cuz it feels like it could be in like the upper sixties, lower seventies. So, I looked at the phone and was like, oh, it’s 69 degrees out today. And so of course I just wrote sunny and warm and 69 degrees can’t get much nicer at CU Boulder today. And I had the screenshot to say, cuz I was ready for some pushback, you know, to say, why would you do this? Cause it’s 69 degrees. Why are you insinuating something bad? And then 50 comments later in the, in 10 minutes were like, nice, nice, nice, nice. And that was just something, you know, and I’m going through and I’m liking them on the corporate account.

Because people know that like that’s the tongue in cheek, like, oh, this, this is fun. And that’s, that’s been a fun one to do.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah, definitely. I I’m the same way. I, I, anything humorous I post immediately watch it like a hawk for at least the first 10 to 15 minutes. See that interaction. And if it keeps going, I might just like, all right, clear my schedule for the day. I’m gonna watch this tweet for something that does really well, cuz one, you wanna kind of keep that momentum going as people are commenting, you wanna reply and you know, uh, you definitely don’t want, wanna post and just bounce, uh, and then check your phone an hour later to find out you’ve got, you know, a thousand comments on it.

So yeah, I think it’s, especially with humorous content. You, you wanna stay on top of it.

Austin Braun: Yeah. And, and I think it’s really important too, to factor in Gen Z humor, uh, because they’re a lot of our incoming classes. So when somebody responds in their pretty photo and they just say, yeah, CU Boulder is not that pretty in person. You know, something negative, I’ll reply to them. And I’ll just say, okay, like lowercase, and that will get 50 likes and their comment will be trolled because I’m acknowledging them.

And I’m just like, okay, thanks. You contributed nothing. But people love it.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Okay, well, let me ask you this, right? As what I believe a recent article dubbed a, a geriatric millennial, how do you, how do you stay on top of those things? Cause, and not come across as that how do you do fellow kids? Cause I think that’s something that sometimes I do struggle with, like, I try to, to stay up on that gen Z humor, but also I don’t always feel comfortable using it, um, because I’m not gen Z.

So one, how do you, how do you stay up on it and, how do you plan to meet the humor needs of, whatever comes next after Gen Z? What are, what are we calling that, that generation now?

Austin Braun: I mean, that’s a great question. And I have the great luxury of being, uh, 25 years old. And I’ve been in this role now for almost three years. It was a straight out of graduation, uh, role that was created and I was able to get it, uh, and as a result, I mean, I’m online more often than I care to admit.

And I think a lot of us are in this role, but that’s, that’s part of it. And it’s, it’s hard at times, but it’s also important because it keeps you sharp. Stay up on TikTok, stay up on what Gen Z’s talking about. Like read the latest McKinsey and Co report about their interests. Uh, take proactive measures to, to really research what they’re doing.

New and emerging trends, Sprout Social, uh, annual reports, things like that can be really insightful. And I certainly understand that um, it can be weird saying like, yay, besty, like heart emoji when you’re sitting there. Just like what this doesn’t feel like. Right. Like, uh, but again can talk to other people too, uh, that might be young or if you have student workers or, uh, folks you can just tap into or a trusted source, that’s that age, they’d be a good thing to use.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah. And I think that really comes down to like the argument of Jenny Fowler was talking about this earlier at the conference of like the social team of one is not okay. Like you need a diverse social media team, you know, in order to create that sort of content, you know, like, other ideas, other people to bounce these ideas off of and, and share, uh, that doesn’t mean like having extra people to do approvals, but like people with different backgrounds that can say, okay, that I see where you’re going with that, but take it down a notch, Mr. Millennial. Right. Um, so yeah, that that’s vital.

And, and so few of us have that.

Austin Braun: Yeah, that’s again, part of the great, one of the great luxuries I have in addition to a boss that trusts me, um, through these sort of things. Uh, but again, do your research, like try and understand and like the things, if you’re reading things and you’re like, this doesn’t make sense, then you’re on the right track.

Keep reading those things and then it’ll start to make sense after so much. But the more you say this doesn’t make sense. I wanna look into it deeper that’s when you can start having that magic happen and under understandability occurs.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I that I think that that’s a, that’s a brilliant point. Cause, uh, the second you see that and you’re like, I don’t understand that. I don’t want to that’s when you’re going down a, a dangerous path, like learn it, like take the time, be interested in what your audience is interested in and, and, and take the time to learn that.

Austin Braun: I’ve noticed a lot of people that, that will say, I don’t understand this and their, their wall goes up and they stop themselves there because they have that like internal, inner monologue being like, oh my gosh, I don’t understand it. That’s a bad thing. But you could, if you just keep doing it.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: There’s only so much you can do and know about right? As, as a social media manager, we’ve already got how many platforms that we have to work with, you know, from the big ones, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, but. You know, we need to know TikTok. We need to know I’m I’m, I’m, I’m trying to figure out, you know, discord right now.

Like, oh, you know, which I should have looked at months ago, but that’s part of the job. And I, I think a lot of people don’t understand that, which segues in one of our final questions, you are one half of the Sippin’ Social Media Tea account, and you share a lot of the struggles of social media managers, not just in Higher Ed, but just in, in the industry in general, you’ve seen the worst of the worst, right? Running that account of, of what social media managers have had to deal with. What are some things that can be done, not just by social media managers, but, but those managing them, those overseeing them to improve the lives of social media managers?

Austin Braun: Yeah. So first off I want to just a hundred percent shout out Alexa Heinrich, who is the other, uh, co-owner and we did just put out a book, which details 365 confessions from the last year and things that, uh, we’ve learned through other people’s struggles and have become better as a result.

And Alexa is cruising that ship and she’s navigating the whole mission and she’s done an amazing job. So shout out to her. Um, second to that though, we’ve learned a lot because some of the confessions we’ve brought in, uh, have just been like, whoa, we, we cannot sometimes even believe that they’re real, but we know they are because they’re just so absurd. And we know that they’re genuine. Um, but a lot of what we’ve, I, I can’t speak for her, but what a lot, a lot of what I’ve learned is that it comes down to, uh, the top. And then you, so your manager, your direct report, your whomever, has to understand what they do know and what they don’t know, because it’s really easy to know when people have knee-jerk reactions because they don’t know something or because it’s wanted.

And a lot of times, upper management doesn’t even have a Twitter account, or they have an account that they created, you know, one year ago it hasn’t tweeted anything, but then they tell you what to do. And so it’s just sort of mind-boggling to know that people like that out there exist, that they’re coming down on people who are the trained professionals, social media managers, get it in a way that I feel like others don’t and. I’m just ranting at this point, because it’s just been so interesting to watch and yeah. I mean, it’s just like people think we, we can just make magic happen instantly, make this post go viral. Oh, get this, the this amount of impressions that I just made up in my head that is viable now, uh, make this thing happen overnight.

When it takes time to get to point a to point B everyone thinks. If you wanna get to point A, you just go to B, but nobody thinks about all the obstacles you have to cross before you can get to B and the unreasonable amount of expectations that are put on social media managers sometimes shows. Um, and it’s a crazy. Thing, but I feel like through that account and through many other experiences and this podcast alone, I mean, people are learning and I think the tide is sort of. toward less towards, oh, you’re a social media intern. Oh, which intern is running this account into damn. A lot of thought went into that. That’s awesome. And people are respecting it more. I think that’s really cool.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah, I think it’s gonna take two things time and education. Right now we’re seeing kind of the first crop of full-time social media professionals and in their careers, they’re kind of who are the, the forefront of that. And as time moves on and they move into higher level positions, hopefully social media director positions.

That’s when things are gonna get better. When those social media managers become Directors, VPs of Social Media, uh, maybe not at universities, we got too many VPs anyway, but, um, anyhow, uh, I didn’t say that.

We need those VPs in conferences like this, listening to the struggles and understanding what the social media managers do in order for that to get better. Because I, I, social media, I think we’ve just run into it all the time is that assumption that anybody can do it.

I’ve got a, I’ve got a Facebook. I can be a social media manager, right? There’s a, a bunch of people on TikTok telling me I can make 10 grand in a month, , being a social media manager, right. With no experience or education, anybody can do it. Right? So I think that both the time and education aspect are, are really important.

I, I think that the sipping social media tea account does a great job of not only providing a, vent for social media managers, but also educating people on, on those struggles.

Austin Braun: I couldn’t have said a better myself. I mean, we, that was, that was the goal from the start, because we were just like, man, everybody’s openly tweeting these things and you have the group chats of people saying things, and it’s like, you should tweet that. And then they’re scared. And, you know, Alexa had this brilliant idea to build an anonymous platform for this because it was becoming so prevalent at the beginning of the pandemic, uh, especially, and again, all the credit to her for, being at the helm of the ship, cuz she has turned this into something really cool.

And I think it is making a significant impact.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Excellent. Why don’t you tell everybody where they can find you online? Where can the Sipping Social Media Tea book be purchased? All, all that good stuff.

Austin Braun: Absolutely. So my handle, uh, across Instagram and Twitter and all those platforms where I’d love to engage with everyone on is at Austin on social, all one word. Uh, and then for the book and for Social Media Tea, if you’re not already following it, It’s Sippin Social Tea, uh, and that’s sipping without a G and you can buy our book, on blurb of which $5 of the $35 it cost to purchase will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund, uh, to support their mission.

And we will not be taking profit from it. It’s simply an awareness book, and we’re just looking to keep building the accounts as we have. Um, I think that covers it.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Excellent. That’s amazing. Thank you so much Austin for being with us. 

Austin Braun: Well, thank you both for having me on seriously. This has been a blast, and to the All Day, All Night folks. Great production. This is really good.

Joel Goodman: And we know that for all you that have bought tickets to All Day, All Night, you have access to this content in an ongoing fashion. So feel free to tweet us any time after the conference, if you are happening to listen way, way after the actual event. Austin. It’s been an amazing conversation and, uh, thanks for being a part of this first live podcast recording of Thought Feeder Pod at All Day, All Night, 2021.