The hashtag. Either you love it, you hate it, or—like the majority of us in the social media universe—love to hate it. No matter where you turn, there’s a hashtag of some kind, yelling in your face “Tweet this!” “Instagram that!” “Like us!”
So when we first heard of Hashtag NYU, we had our doubts. First of all, a hashtag? Really? We get it. You’re social media for NYU, but why use something as overdone as a hashtag?
In order to find out what this group was all about, we sat down with Nick Jensen, Manager of Marketing Communications and Web-based Technologies in the Office of Interactive Media, Class of 2011 (CAS, Sociology) and Guido Ditto, Creative Strategist in the Office of Interactive Media, Class of 2011 (CAS, Journalism and Dramatic Literature). Read the interview after the jump.
Local: Did you know each other when you were in school?
Guido Ditto: Yeah, we were both RAs at Founders.
Local: How did Hashtag NYU get its start?
Nick Jensen: My boss Erin Callihan and I were talking about whether we wanted to be [known as] the NYU Office of Interactive Media on Facebook or if we wanted to actually build something more…something a little more exciting. So we came up with the idea of Hashtag NYU not only to have a brand and that be the face of our office but also because our goals were a little bit bigger than just dealing with social and interactive media. Hashtag NYU was born under the auspices of creating global community. I love NYU, I kind of “drank the purple kool-aid,” let’s say. I wanted to work here after I graduated and I wanted to work at a place that was big and complex and not necessarily the easiest place, with people who are really smart, doing something that mattered. It keeps me on my toes when people are like I don’t like NYU because I want to know why. And in an administrative role, I want to know how I can help. So that’s kind of why hashtag NYU exists because I had a great community when I was here, and great friends, and all these things that I know a lot of people struggle with. And so I thought how can we rethink this community, because it’s never going to be a traditional campus experience, but we also have this great tool of social media. So as we’re becoming more global, how do we utilize that? I don’t want to say that we aspire to be the “digital quad,” but maybe we do. We want to be a place where people can talk and share things.
DG: And find things to rally behind, things we all share in common.
Local: You’ve based your identity on something, a hashtag, that is often considered overplayed or overdone. Was that a risky strategy?
NJ: We liked the fact that it was tongue-in-cheek. I thought it was overplayed when we came up with it too but the fact that it is spelled out as “hashtag” I think is something [since] I don’t think hashtags are going to go away. It gives us immediately the differentiation that we aren’t the official public tone that perhaps the Public Affairs office might have.
GD: Our tone is very tongue-in-cheek, and is going to be very different. I think that the overplayed thing is kind of irrelevant since that’s like saying the “like” button on Facebook is overrated, but you’re still going to use it, or like saying “google” is overrated as a verb. We’re still going to use it all the time. It’s something that directly ties us to what we do and I think it’s great for that reason. We have criterial for what we repost and a lot of that falls on our interns. All of our content is really created, curated, and shared by them and what they think is going to resonate with their peers.
Local: Social media is becoming increasingly “noisy” (especially twitter), what are you all doing to stand out from the rest of NYU’s online presence?
NJ: I think especially since our focus is trying to connect students to each other and to the university, we’re not just trying to be like a stream of events and have that be all our feed is. We’re trying to, and this is something that perhaps we’re not doing amazingly right now, to be something that’s always relevant to all students, a universal presence.
GD: It’s for everyone, not just for a very specific group of students or person. We use the word “global,” but not in the global-international way, but in the editorial, all encompassing [route] including grads, seniors, freshman, in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, anywhere.
Local: What are your top three “dos” and “don’ts” for social media?
NJ: Be authentic, be yourself, don’t try to be something that you’re not. These are kind of guidelines to follow for your personal accounts.
GD: Nick and I have very different opinions on social media, which is what I think makes us such a great team. Nick is very public with his life and so you can go on his twitter and facebook accounts and see a lot about him. I’m very private with my life and so I have two twitter handles, one that’s public and one that’s personal. I would personally say don’t be afraid to hold back. You don’t have to feel pressure to put everything out there.
Local: Have you all looked at the NYU Football team on facebook (which includes NYU Secrets, NYU Hookups, etc.)? What is your opinion those groups in relation to trying to form a community online for NYU students?
NJ: I think it’s interesting. It’s clearly getting a lot of traction because NYU Memes and NYU Secrets have a ton of likes. [In NYU Secrets there are] people complaining about NYU or saying that this was a bad decision [but at the same time] a lot of it is people saying this is awesome. Some of it is straight up funny or really sad and depressing but it’s eliciting an emotion and so I think that it is building community because it is a collective thing that we can all experience, no matter where we are in the global network or site we’re on. Whether we go here or not, it’s public. They’re putting out a real image. It’s honest. I wouldn’t knock that for the world.
DG: If you run one of those pages, you should feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can sit down and chat, ’cause it’d be fun.
No they’re not behind the hashtag NYU basketball t-shirts from Tear It Up, though they are glad to see other members of the NYU community embracing the hashtag. And no, they didn’t come up with Class of 2016’s favorite phrase, “You Only Welcome Week Once.” However, they are very supportive of IRHC, who did coin it. Also, they have an amazing view, guys. It’s not fair. #whereismyofficethatoverlooksthepark?
And their favorite hashtags? #inandofthecity and of course, #jsexhugs.
If you want to join the team, send them a 140-character cover letter, perhaps?
[Image 1 via, Image 2 courtesy of the author.]