Welcome to #HESM Community Blog, a higher education social media blog where we talk directly to those doing the social media work in higher education! For our inaugural post, we chatted with Jamie Lewis. Jamie is a social media coordinator at the University of Georgia. We discussed COVID testing and how social media, along with student ambassadors, have helped increase testing and awareness on campus.

How has COVID affected the in-person classes and activities at the University of Georgia this academic year?

Jamie Lewis: Classes are currently offered in a mix of in-person (with social distancing and masks), hybrid and online formats. All on-campus classes and activities require social distancing measures that are currently in place following CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health guidance. Per the University System of Georgia, all individuals must wear a face covering in campus buildings.

Tell us about your digital campaign to help make students aware of COVID and how they can get tested on campus.

Jamie Lewis: During the fall semester, our COVID surveillance testing program exclusively used the nasal swab test, alongside a few pop-up testing sites that used a saliva-based test that required 30 minutes of fasting prior to testing. This spring, we have moved to a new saliva-based testing model developed by our College of Veterinary Medicine, which does not have the same fasting limitations as the previous version and requires less saliva. We knew these changes would need to be communicated to the campus community, particularly to students, as the semester kicked off and wanted to make sure everyone knew what to expect when walking into surveillance testing, especially since we’d be utilizing a new testing process. We do not currently mandate COVID testing and knew that many found the nasal swab invasive, which may have discouraged them from participating in testing in the fall, so it was our hope that moving to the new saliva-based test would encourage more people to participate. 

What tools and platforms did you use to reach and educate students?

Jamie Lewis: With the student audience in mind as our primary target, we decided to create a short, informational video following a student through the new testing process, which was rolled at the start of the semester. The video was shared on FacebookTwitterInstagram (specifically IGTV) and TikTok.

Do you have student interns that assist with the campaign and its content?

Jamie Lewis: Our video team did not use interns to create or produce the video, but we did utilize a student named Eshan, one of our Digital Dawgs (our social media ambassador program), as the “talent” in the video. We often turn to our Digital Dawgs and offer them chances to volunteer to be in our videos as a perk of the program. Eshan is well-liked among his peers and we knew he’d bring good energy to the video and his peers would enjoy seeing a familiar face.

Was the campaign successful?

Jamie Lewis: Yes! Across the four platforms where we’ve shared the video, views are around 48,000 with the most views (19.3k) on [Instagram] IGTV. Feedback on the video was overwhelmingly positive, which stood out in contrast to some of the other COVID related content we have shared this year. All in all, we were really pleased with the final video and its reception across our social media platforms. 

How will you keep this relevant as the spring semester continues?

Jamie Lewis: Unless the testing process changes at any point during the semester, which I don’t anticipate, we’ll continue to re-up this video periodically (primarily on Instagram Stories and Twitter) to continue encouraging the campus community to sign up for and participate in COVID surveillance testing. 

About Jamie Lewis:

Jamie Lewis is a social media coordinator at the University of Georgia working in the Division of Marketing and Communications. She joined the team in April 2018 after 4 years with the Division of Development and Alumni Relations. As social media coordinator, Jamie helps manage the university’s flagship social accounts, oversees a team of 30 student social media ambassadors, and assists with issues of crisis management. You can find her tweeting about young adult books, cats, Adam Driver, and sometimes even higher education, at @jlew8.

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