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An Interview with Chris Barrows, Social Media Strategist at NYU

It’s not easy to find someone with as many Slack channels as Chris. While Chris has become core to a dozen of social communities, Chris has also emerged as a social media executive in his own right.

He currently serves as chairperson for eduWeb digital Summit, and the social media and mobile product coordinator for New York University. Meanwhile, he hosts a weekly podcast series and leaves behind his own legacy of founding communities for all types of personalities.

Chris recently joined Zoomph for a workshop dedicated to higher education professionals. Learn more about Chris, and watch a recording of our workshop on using social media to build up campus community below.

A photo posted by Chris Barrows (@cgbarrows) on


1. What initially intrigued you about social media as it relates to higher education?

“I’ve always had an interest in social media. For me, the primary reason has always been that social media means relationship-building. It offers a chance to meet people whom you’d never meet otherwise. Ten years ago, I never would’ve crossed paths with many of the people I know now.

It just so happened that I had an interest in the value of education, too, and so those two worlds merged.”


2. How did you end up at NYU?

“While working at Likeable Media (part-time) and searching for full-time work in NYC, my wife came across a job at NYU. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to put in an application, especially since NYU hadn’t truly taken advantage of social media yet. Turned out that I was the right fit, and I’ve been here for nearly four years now.”


3. Can you share about some projects you’ve led while at NYU?

“My favorite projects have involved #CongratagradNYU and the growing of a community called, The Social Media Ambassadors. Both programs have grown year after year in their own unique ways.

#CongratagradNYU has turned into one of the first interactive experiences at university commencements (beginning with our starting of the program in 2013). It has grown in size and scale every year–and each year, we get to take advantage of the amazing Yankee Stadium for it!


The Social Media Ambassadors Program, a community of persons who manage social media at New York University, was small in scale when I started at NYU and was largely in-operational. It’s now home to 240+ persons and a Slack Community.”


4. You’ve identified an opportunity for using social media to build up college communities. How do you see social media impacting college communities currently and in the future?

“In many ways, it’s an opportunity that far too many schools are missing. No matter your school, there is a chance to build relationships with all who daily participate in the campus community. This starts with prospective students and ladders up all the way to alumni. We must engage with each student on social media from day one via one-on-one, personal ways to truly create a campus spirit. Even the most decentralized campus can have a strong community on social media.”

5. What characteristics make up a solid community?
“It starts with people. Too often you have to begin with outreach and connecting with people one on one. From that point, you’ll witness more and more persons connect and a community form. With students, it can be challenging–but we can actively look at where our students are right now and focus on serving them. This will help the community-building process because students will see that we care. And yes, interactions must be authentic. No student wants to be treated as just another number.”


6. Do you encounter any common misconceptions when talking about your career as a digital higher edu professional?

“There is a misconception that we don’t work hard, I find. People seem to think that we get summers off or we ‘take it easy.’ That’s not the case. We are constantly building bridges and overcoming obstacles. We’d all love to move faster, but the nature of the game doesn’t allow us to do so. However, this is a change that needs to occur if Higher Ed is to evolve the way that it needs to. It’s just my opinion but I believe that such a chance is crucial to the survival of the industry.”


7. So, there’s a strategy you and Joel have shared at several conferences and will be presenting at our upcoming workshop…care to introduce it? 

“My eduWeb Digital Summit co-chair and I ran a workshop that we called ‘BUILDER’ at this past summer’s conference. The strategy’s focused on building community that includes prospective students and everyone all the way through to alumni. We’re excited to share more about it, and to talk about the importance of community building!”

Read Also: 4 Trends & Takeaways from eduWeb Digital Summit 2016


8. Ending the interview with a wildcard—playing off the theme of your “Why I Social” podcast, why do you social?

“To meet new people and make the world a bit smaller. I can’t stress the amount of amazing people I would never have known without social and I can’t imagine the world without it. So many critics focus on the bad things happening on social media, while I focus on all the good.”

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