The Creator behind the Content: How Rachel Esterline Perkins Engages CMU

Story by Eli Becht
Photo Courtesy of Central Michigan University

Central Michigan University alumna Rachel Esterline Perkins took over the social media presence at her alma mater when she returned in 2013 as the first person to ever run social media full-time at the university.

Perkins, a 2010 graduate, started running all eight of CMU’s social media accounts, ranging from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to Tumblr and Google Plus. None of the social media pages existed when Perkins was a college student.

The Growth of CMU’s Social Media Platforms
In 2013, CMU’s Facebook page had 32,803 likes, while its Twitter account had 4,643 followers. Today, the Facebook page has over 72,000 likes and the Twitter account has over 26,000 followers.

In her three years running CMU’s social media accounts, Perkins has more than doubled the Facebook page likes and has almost given the Twitter account six times the amount of followers it started with she took over.

Combatting Challenges with Creativity

Perkins ran into several challenges when she first began the job, including running into a problem with people using CMU as a hashtag.

A Google search of CMU will bring up many results including Carnegie Mellon University and Canadian Mennonite University. To combat this, Perkins came up with a new hashtag to use.

The hashtag #LifeAtCentral was born and she wanted to focus on what it’s like to be a student. It was beneficial for her to focus on the students so it could also appeal to incoming students and give them a glimpse at what being a Chippewa meant. CMU’s Instagram account now features a 10-day campaign focused on #LifeAtCentral every October.

Another campaign Perkins started is the “28 Things to Love at Central” which runs for each day in February and it focuses more on the life of students than anything else. The idea for the campaign came to her in a random moment.

“I was sitting in a yoga class when the thought came to me,” Perkins said. “I had to write myself a message so I didn’t forget it later.”

She said Facebook is the best way to reach her audience so when she hears people say Facebook is dying, she looks at how many people see her posts an hour on Facebook, which is often over 30,000 an hour, and disagrees.

Engaging Her Large Audience

The channels focus on quality over quantity. She wants to take time with her posts instead of churning out a high number of them. Perkins creates a clear call to action to engage the readers and doesn’t believe in posting content just to post content. She believes the best way to engage the audience is to post good content.

The challenge Perkins runs into with social media is the fact it is constantly evolving and new channels are being created. It becomes time consuming when there is a need to quickly have a strong presence on all the channels available.

Sports perform the best in terms of engagement and interaction over the various social media channels, she said. Videos also do well in reaching the audience.

“One thing that has helped us is auto-play on the videos,” she said. “People will be scrolling and when they see a video start playing, they will watch it even if it isn’t something they wouldn’t have opened in the first place.”

From the outside looking in, it may seem like an easy job, but Perkins warns that isn’t the case.

“I think what I do is fun but it definitely isn’t easy,” she said.