Social Media Optimization with Carol Duan

By Luis Castro, Account Supervisor at PRLab

4/10/15 -- Boston, Massachusetts Marketing and Communications headshots: Carol Duan, International Social Media Assistant, Public Relations, April 10, 2015. Photo by Dan Aguirre for Boston University Photography
4/10/15 — Boston, Massachusetts
Marketing and Communications headshots: Carol Duan, International Social Media Assistant, Public Relations, April 10, 2015.
Photo by Dan Aguirre for Boston University Photography


Social media has become a key component in many major brands’ public relations plans. When used correctly, it can be decisive in delivering key messages to realign your brand after an incident in the public eye has derailed your brand’s reputation. It can also help communications teams stay well informed on topics their audiences care about, or even just to become a part of pop culture conversations. Increasingly, public relations professional are being expected to bring not only traditional communications skills to the table, but a bevy of social media management skills as well. One such skilled individual is Carol Duan at Boston University. Carol is a seasoned marketing and public relations professional with a Masters Degree from Emerson College in Integrated Marketing Communications. At Boston University, she serves in an official capacity as an International Social Media Associate. PRLab sat down with Carol to discuss how she uses social media, especially when engaging with international audiences. Even better, Carol shared some of her knowledge of search engine optimization as well.  


Luis Castro: So Carol, how long have you been with BU?

Carol Duan: It started as a part time position back in 2013. I was developed into a full time role by August 2014.

Castro: What are some of the ways you’ve used social media as a public relations strategy?

Duan: So first, I created our Chinese social media channels, like Weibo. Now we also have WeChat to engage our audience. We see social media as a way to not only share information, but to engage and get ideas. We especially use it as a means to promote research content conducted by BU. We leverage Snapchat and Instagram to engage with our audience. Most recently, we’ve really been in key with videos for our viewers. That has turned us from a content distributor to a content creator. We create more and more original content compared to when I started when we really just distributed.

Castro: You mentioned that social media helps you drive traffic to BU’s research sites. Can you speak to how social media and search engine optimization are tied together with the BU Public Relations team?

Duan: We started an SEO initiative at the end of 2016 to figure out how we could collaborate with BU’s web producers to combine SEO and social media efforts. We decided to optimize social media post headlines. We reframed how we thought about these platforms – seeing them more as search engines, in particular Twitter and Facebook. That’s how people use these platforms. To find news and information. So we started using those terms we realized were popular and integrating that language into our posts, so that we have a better chance of being seen. On the website side, we started making sure that their content was social ready by having nice decks we could share, to make it more visually interesting, clickable. We identify subjects we think will resonate, and make sure producers prepare those pieces for social. Formatting questions, listicles into posts – these pieces have boosted our Google search result rankings.

Castro: What type of tools do you use to quantify those results?

Duan: We use Sprinklr and Google Analytics. We’re still refining our data analysis, especially because of issues with dark traffic. It’s hard to track traffic from social for that reason so we’re working to understand that, and hopefully more advanced data analysis will get us there. We also use MOZ to understand whether our traditional SEO strategies are effective. We don’t use this tool, but the web producers use Google Web Manager as well.

Castro: In working in international social media channels have you noticed any major differences between how social works in other countries compared to US or Western audiences?

Duan: Using social media when talking to Chinese audiences, you can see cultural differences. American students are much more vocal publicly online. Chinese audiences prefer one on one interactions on social media. It’s one of the reasons WeChat is dominating social. The engagement is conducted in private, and I do feel is way higher than Weibo, which is open like Twitter is. We put a lot of our student facing engagements on WeChat to make sure we reach our Chinese students and feel safe to share their opinions with us.

Castro: And is all of that common in the education industry, or are you leading in social media behavior in the higher education industry?

Duan: I feel that using video content to reach and engage is the trend right now. Our peers are trying to play with that and develop video content. I do think in terms of Snapchat, Weibo, Instagram or Snapchat stories, BU is a pioneer in the industry. I’ve been at many conferences and many schools are still debating whether they should even create an account on video based social media apps. Here we have accounts, have a team of student interns around social media, hold brainstorming sessions and launch campaigns for social platforms. It helps us drive traffic to our research sites, effectively, successfully. We think outside of the box about content and social media and that helps us meet our key objectives.