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Stephen Beehler: Tweeting the story of Emory

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Dec. 11, 2012

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Stephen Beehler, Emory's director of social and new media, refuels his creativity during a trip to Europe. 

When the curious connect with Emory via social media — be it an Instagram image, a lively tweet or Facebook post — chances are that Stephen Beehler had a creative hand in helping draw them in.  

As director of social and new media, Beehler helps manage Emory's social media outlets with strategies that advance the University's marketing and community-building initiatives.  

These days, that means bringing the Emory story to literally millions of viewers in a variety of platforms, from videos that showcase campus experts to overseeing student-led interviews and timely tweets that help strengthen community engagement.  

And it's working. In the past two years, Emory's social media outlets have experienced a 300 percent increase in Facebook fans and Twitter followers, and a 475 percent rise in Emory YouTube viewers — nearly 1 million unique views this last year alone.  

At heart, Beehler is a storyteller with a video camera — a passion shaped as an Emory undergraduate through work on award-winning student films and a popular campus-based pseudo-reality show called "Druid Hills" that aired in 2009 on Emory Vision TV, a campus-wide cable network.  

Before graduating in 2010 with a degree in business and film studies, Beehler had already launched his own media company, which focuses on film and television production — he's developed and produced several TV pilots — as well as social and new media consultation.  

He talks with Emory Report about how creativity and communication meet in his work:  

How did you find your way to filmmaking?  

Growing up, I was the first of my friends to have a digital camera. I took it everywhere. Then everyone had one, and I thought, "While they're taking pictures I'll do videos." So I would create random videos — highlight reels of basketball games and track meets, recaps from every school dance — which turned into video blogging, which is now what I do all the time.  

To me, it was just telling story. That's what I would consider myself more than a filmmaker. I'm a storyteller who tells a story in whatever format is best, whether it's film, TV, a mini-webisode, or something you write down.  

Why did you choose to attend Emory as a student?  

I knew I wanted to pursue business, and surprisingly, a lot of places don't have undergraduate business schools, so that was a big draw. I had visited other campuses, but at Emory, I thought, "This feels so right."  

The opportunities I've been given  — and am still being given — here are amazing. My life would have been significantly different if I wasn't a part of the Emory community, in both personal and professional ways. In fact, I'm scared to think what my life would have been like if I hadn't come to Emory. (laughs) I love this place so much.  

How did you come to your current position as director of social and new media? 

I started interning here while I was in school. I'd launched The Beehler Media Company and had been working with some reality TV producers in the city my senior year. My goal was to do reality TV development and production after graduation, but the nature of the work is very on and off. I stayed over the summer making video content, then left in August to shoot two pilots. When the then-social media director left, I applied for the job.  

Now, in addition to overseeing our social presence, I'm also a content creator for our social channels, and it's great. I'm fortunate the job is very digital and I have a great boss (Jan Gleason, executive director of marketing) who allows me to pursue all my creative passions. It's great to have that flexibility and trust — it keeps the creative juices flowing, lets me be in the field, growing and learning and coming back to Emory with a ton of new ideas.  

What's the focus of your work now?  

My main job is getting the University brand seen and known. So I'm managing the social platforms for Emory University, or central marketing, as well as working on the school and department level and making sure we're using the best social media practices and representing the brand well. Social media has been going like crazy for the last four years. My goal is to harness it better, to keep us growing, consolidating and strengthening our social presence.  

How important are social media platforms in advancing Emory's mission?

Social media is an outlet for people to broadcast their stories, and the Emory community has such amazing stories. We're harnessing them through social media and redistributing them to a mass audience. I think of Emory as a meeting place for the best and brightest. What really makes Emory "Emory" is its people. The story of Emory is the story of the people who are part of the community. Social media is the perfect platform to aggregate all of those stories and put them out there. Really, what we're doing, tweet by tweet, post by post, is writing the story of Emory.  

What kind of content have you helped create?  

I've launched new shows, such as "Emory 360," "Spotlight Emory" and "Emory Looks At Hollywood," which might explore the reality of Justin Bieber fever and celebrity worship or the mathematics behind "Spider Man" or the feminism depicted in Pixar's "Brave." I honestly never thought I would do social media, but found that's where I can merge my loves. And I like that I'm diversifying my own experience and skills sets.  

I also work with student interns, who are single-handedly sourcing our entire Instagram account and Google-plus page. I have five students who can provide updates from their mobile devices anytime, anywhere. I really put it in their hands for an authentic look — real people, real life, real time. "Spotlight Emory" is also student-hosted, with students working on the back-end with editing. They do a great job.  

What engages you outside of work?  

I'm writing a book I plan to self-publish in January called "It's Time to Make Things Awkward." I don't want to call it a "self-help" book, but it revolves around the idea of living the life you want, not the life you think you are supposed to want. It examines the need to stop being polite, because polite maintains the status quo, which might not always be what's best. Really, there's nothing wrong with being awkward. I say, let's be unique. As long as you are respectfully honest, be as awkward as you can.