From sunsets on the Quad to scenic nature adventures and students abroad, Bowdoin’s official Instagram account has become an important element of the college’s communication strategy. Aware of the more than 10,000 students, parents, prospective students and alumni following the account, the Student Digital Media Team (SDMT)—a group of eight students comprised of sophomores, juniors and seniors employed by the Digital and Social Media team—works to make this portrait as genuine and encompassing as possible.
This student-led approach sets Bowdoin apart from other colleges and universities, the majority of which employ professional photographers, and not students, to generate the Instagram content. Instead, Bowdoin’s Instagram has a unique, less curated image because of its student-developed content.
“It’s very much up to us members of the student team to decide what content is generated,” said Mariah Rawding ’18, a member of SDMT. “We’re representing a great institution that we really love and we want to give off an authentic image.”
Joining the team her sophomore year, Rawding began producing posts for the college’s Instagram. However, her role has evolved to helping with faculty pages updates, social media analytics and, this summer, creating “Bowdoin Takeovers.”
“Bowdoin Takeovers” offer students and administrators the opportunity to use the College’s Instagram to showcase an aspect of their college experience, even if they themselves do not have a role with the Digital and Social Media team. For the sake of students, parents, alumni and prospective students, “Bowdoin Takeovers” aim to facilitate greater awareness of a wide variety of activities and projects happening on campus.
The initiative has also helped expand the select narrative of Bowdoin life that may result from the Instagram being run by a small, group of students.
“I really love connecting people across generations together,” said Rawding.
After noticing a “Bowdoin Takeover,” alumni have sometimes reached out to express excitement at the ability to see new students filling the roles that they once occupied on campus.
“Those sorts of things were really eye-opening and it was cool to see how digital and social media can make those connections,” Rawding said. “We want to connect people, but we don’t want to consume your life.”
Under the current system, students must be recruited to join SDMT. Chelsea Doyle, the digital communications manager who oversees SDMT, starts the recruitment process by following a student on Instagram for a few months, either because she becomes aware of the person’s Instagram presence when they tag the College in their posts or because a current member of SDMT recommends them.
“I just look at what they’re doing and what they’re a part of on campus, and if they seem like they’re just really excited and they’re doing all these cool things, then I will reach out,” Doyle said.
Once they become members of SDMT, though, students have a great deal of freedom in determining the content they generate for Bowdoin’s Instagram.
Angel Ramirez ’20, a member of SDMT, takes photos of events he attends or interesting things he sees on campus.
“If I see something interesting or if I’m at an event [I] just take a picture of it,” Ramirez said. “I feel like with the Bowdoin social media account, it gives students the opportunity to show what Bowdoin looks like through their lens.”
While new employees do have to sign a contract outlining some do’s and don’ts of their new position, the terms of the document are simply meant to foster an appreciation for the role Instagram plays in representing the College, said Doyle.
“What I always think of is: would Clayton Rose want to see this?” said Rawding.