Project Spotlight

How Digital Asset Management Makes Social Media More Effective at Baylor

Baylor University in Waco, TX, is the sixth most influential college on Instagram, according to College Atlas, and the university attributes this success to its digital asset management (DAM) solution. The technology enables Baylor staff to post professional photos to social media outlets within seconds, so people can easily follow academic and athletic news and events.

Baylor University Instagram

Baylor University's Instagram page

Challenge of Social Media

Prior to the social media boom, Baylor used traditional media outlets such as print, billboards, radio and TV to get its message out to potential students, parents, friends of the university and other interested parties. When social media caught on, Baylor saw the technology's potential as a more timely communication medium and started investigating ways to take advantage of it. The university now uses Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as its primarily social media outlets. It also uses Pinterest and Tumblr to showcase photos, and YouTube and Vimeo for videos.

Baylor started using Instagram as a type of viewbook — a dynamic daily look at the university rather than a static annual publication. But the immediacy of Instagram and other social media created a challenge: how to populate sites with the latest content and promote the university. In the beginning, staff would shoot photos with their phones and post them to Instagram, but the quality of the photos was low. Alternatively, staff photographers would shoot with digital SLRs and e-mail the photos to the social media team, but the images would sometimes get lost in a junk e-mail folder or otherwise missed. The university wanted a way to shoot high quality photos and post them immediately.

Baylor solved part of the problem with a wireless file transfer device for its Canon digital cameras, which lets the university's photographers connect their camera to a WiFi network and quickly upload photos to the university's server. That technology solved the problem of uploading high quality photos quickly, but the photographers are not administrators of the university's social media outlets, so the next step was to find a solution that would put the photos at the digital fingertips of marketing and communications staff, so they could post them on Facebook and Twitter as quickly as possible.

Insta-DAM Solution

The Marketing and Communications department at Baylor had been using Portfolio from Extensis as its digital asset management system for a number of years. Approximately 1.5 million photos and videos are stored on the Portfolio server with accompanying metadata, so staff can quickly search for and retrieve the assets they need. However, staff needed a license to access those digital assets, which created a barrier to sharing images quickly and easily from anywhere.

When Extensis added Netpublish — a tool for creating internal file-sharing Web sites — to its Portfolio suite, Baylor adopted it. According to Robert Rogers, director of photography for the university, Netpublish streamlined the process of distributing the images, whether to the university's social media team, local media outlets or other university staff.

Now, when Rogers or another university photographer is at an event, such as a game or commencement ceremony, they can shoot pictures, connect the camera's wireless transfer card to a WiFi network, upload the photos to Baylor's Portfolio server, and they're automatically posted on Baylor's Netpublish site. From there, the social media team can grab the photos they like and post them on their social media pages.

The system has created the immediacy that Baylor wanted and that's so crucial to social media success. With Netpublish, Baylor's social media team can access photos seconds after they were taken, just by going to a Web page. From there, they can select the photos they want to use, add captions and post them. "It's probably a half a second transfer time, and then the team from social media can see these images as if they're there with us," said Rogers. "No matter where they are, they can see what we're seeing and share that stuff immediately."

Baylor creates what is called a "live link" for each event as it happens. The university can easily share that live link with traditional media outlets or other stakeholders to provide them with quick access to high-quality photos of the event. If Baylor wants to revoke access to those photos, staffers simply remove the live link.

Getting Engaged

Baylor University has been on Instagram for two years now and has more than 49,000 followers. According to Rogers, its engagement rate — the percentage of followers who like, share or comment on posts — is 10 to 12 percent, whereas the average engagement rate on Instagram is 4.21 percent, according to a recent blog post by Nate Elliott, an analyst for Forrester Research.

Rogers attributes the university's high rate of social media engagement to the quality and immediacy of its photo posts. When Baylor's softball team made it to the World Series, the social media team posted live photos on Twitter as they came in from the camera. According to Rogers, they tripled their number of followers on Twitter from that single event and now have 41,500 followers on that platform. "Having a professional photo and releasing it immediately is really advantageous to getting better engagement and better overall feel for the university," he said. "Statistically, I think it's nearly 10 times the engagement of a simple post with text."

"And [social media engagement] does filter down into higher application rates," said Rogers. "I'm not saying that it's Instagram or Facebook specifically, but it's one piece of this puzzle. So the reason we're having record enrollment and record class sizes, the reason we're having record giving, things like that, is just overall a better overall feeling of the university. And if we can help with that in one channel by intimate and immediate imagery, that's a great thing."

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