New Social Media Manager Aims to Change College Web Presence

Emma Brentjens ‘21

Staff Writer

Emma Brentjens ‘21 and social media manager Jared Misner discuss recent changes to Davidson’s social media presence and its impact on the community. Photos by Olivia Forrester ‘22

Recently, many students have noticed a change in Davidson’s social media presence.

That change is Jared Misner, who became Davidson’s new social media manager in February after running social media for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and the Children’s Theater of Charlotte. 

Misner described his job as equal parts active listening, arranging social media content, and analyzing data. 

“I’m the one who actually is posting and responding and commenting, and sort of the being behind Davidson College’s accounts,” he said. 

Misner also oversees the school’s sub-accounts run by other people, like Davidson Theater and Davidson Outdoors. 

He has changed Davidson’s “official brand voice to be more a platform-specific, colloquial voice that actively engages and responds and listens to its audiences.” He also uses data to determine what the college should and should not post. For instance, Misner has found that audiences are responding well to “campus beauty shots,” and therefore is posting more pictures like that. 

“I sort of go based on what I know that audiences have responded to well, what audiences have not responded to well,” he said.  

After Misner took over, students were quick to recognize a difference in the college’s social media accounts. 

“I feel as though they’re trying to be more relatable,” said Alexa Landsberger ‘19, a communications major whose thesis is about social media and influencers. 

Something about the recent content that stuck out to Landsberger is that “it’s still perfected in terms of having really nice images that are professionally taken and then trying to create relatable captions for that.” She added that, as a student, “I don’t need the manicured image.” Thus, Landsberger questioned the page’s target audience.

Misner said that, although students are an important audience, “there are a lot of different audiences that we’re always working with at all times,” including parents, fans, and alumni.

“A major audience that Davidson College should want to address is more than just its students,” Communications major Lucie Desvallees ‘21 said, thinking of prospective students. 

“If the college is making memes or just adapting to what our age is into on social media, it’ll make the social media more interesting, which could really impact their interest in applying to the school,” she said. 

“There’s been some questions as to who’s running it,” Landsberger said. She expressed that since students do not see the face behind the account, “we don’t hear a voice, we just feel like it’s the school trying to sound like a student.”

Misner wants students to know that “there is a real live human being” behind the account. 

Communications studies chair Dr. Amanda Martinez thinks that it is “kind of tricky for an institution to have some sense of a collective voice for the entire college.” 

“That’s a pretty big task to be truly representative across the various kinds of subgroupings” on campus, she said. Martinez also recognizes an “elevated ethical responsibility when you are speaking on behalf or at least representing an entire campus community.” 

Students have had varied reactions to the change in Davidson’s accounts.

 “Anecdotally, students have told me the nuanced voice that Davidson College social media platforms have taken they really respond well to,” Misner said.

“I think they’re appealing to our age,” said Desvallees. “It makes them different and more interesting from other institutional college pages.”. 

Another student said, “I think it’s super cool that Davidson is putting effort into improving its social media presence in the first place and that it seems like they’re genuinely open to critique.” 

However, not all of the student feedback on the content is positive. Landsberger thinks “the general sentiment is that it’s outdated.” 

“This whole rebranding, it seems a little off-brand. What they’re doing is contradictory to a professional page,” she said. 

The anonymous student similarly stated, “The line between relatable and cringey for stuff like this is so thin, and relatable isn’t really something I care about from my college’s Twitter account.” He continued, “if it were up to me, I’d take professional over relatable.” 

According to Misner, social media can serve both purposes.

Misner began his work with College Communications in February.

“Official college announcements are a really important part of social media, but also social media is a place where president Carol Quillen can retweet our all-caps tweet about big fluffy dogs coming to campus and that’s okay, too,” he said. 

Desvallees agreed, “I think it’s fun and fresh enough to appeal to younger students and prospective students, but also professional enough to maintain Davidson’s reputation as an upstanding educational institution.” 

Martinez worries about the framing of the college’s posts, especially in terms of diversity. For example, even if the account’s Instagram captions are kept short, “there is still a story getting told by way of what gets included in an image,” she said. 

The framing of posts “says a lot about… what we value and how we want to be seen by other people,” Martinez said.

Martinez has talked with students of color who had a certain impression of Davidson because of the information that was shared with them during recruitment. “I think that’s where people call into question ethical responsibilities around storytelling, representation, [and] framing,” Martinez said. 

Additionally, she explained, “you can paint the story in a way that is really attractive and then it actually doesn’t represent the full range of reality.” 

Misner will soon start holding office hours in the Union each week to hear students’ questions, concerns, and criticisms. 

Desvallees said, “A lot of success in media is thanks to focus groups and public opinion… asking students of different groups and identities on campus what they think about the media and how their school is being portrayed would be helpful as far as representation and appealing even more to students that go here.”

Martinez explained that social media “is a very public platform, and so it makes critical responses or perspectives difficult to spin or micromanage in the way that traditional PR would.” 

Misner likewise stated that the college’s social media accounts are “not a place where concerns go through a black hole.”

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