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"A brand is a story that is always being told."

If you’re the average social media user, I’ve got about five seconds to grab your attention online. I have 15 seconds to keep you interested in this blog and I’ve already used a precious few on the attached images. *Insert cat GIF!* :-)


Hi! My name is Mariah Elliott and I’m the coordinator for the Benedum-funded Community Branding Initiative at the WVU Reed College of Media. I’ll keep my background brief: I graduated from WVU after completing Dr. Rita Colistra’s capstone in 2014 and I was thrilled to receive a phone call from her a year later, asking me to work with her on this campaign. I admit at first, I didn’t fully understand what she wanted me to do, but I knew it was going to be amazing because she is the project director. 

If you’re one of the lucky ones who can call themselves a #ColistraKid, you know what I mean. She’s extraordinary. Her mind is a machine, focusing on twenty projects with impeccable detail.  She’s professional, yet PASSIONATE! You can read her introduction to the project here. She truly cares about telling the beautiful, unique stories of Matewan, Grafton and Whitesville.

That’s where I come in. Some of my duties as coordinator include: designing an informational project booklet, creating promotional materials such as videos or photo edits, gathering content for our community branding website and running the social media accounts for our Initiative. For this post, I'll discuss strategy behind the Brand Journey accounts!

After studying Hootsuite University’s social media courses, and consulting with the WVU Reed College of Media’s social media duo, I was ready to begin.  #LetsGo

Social Media

#BrandMatewan’s Tyler Clendenin said it best: - “Don’t scour away the colors of your personality to become a professional grey.” I was excited to create Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for Brand Journey, but I was also praying Dr. Colistra and WVU liked my style.

360 Tour

As a general rule, I won’t post any content I don’t personally find interesting. Think about it – what makes you stop when scrolling through Tweets or photos on Instagram? The best posts evoke emotion, whether it’s joy, pride, (or something darker!) and I like to use quotes, creative images, video clips, memes and GIFs to interest people in the our work. Presentation is everything – whatever photo I attach to a post might be the only chance I have to grab someone's attention and lead them to click. 

Here's an example of how I promote our work! A few days ago, I tweeted about digital media director Kelsey Staggers' final blog entry by editing a short video clip of the AMAZING 360 virtual tour she created for Matewan on their new website If you were scrolling through your timeline, it would’ve automatically played and you probably (I hope!) stopped out of curiosity. Wa-la.

Visuals make or break a post! The right images help our content break through the clutter.

SHOUTOUT: Unless otherwise noted, David Smith of the WVU Reed College of Media is behind Brand Journey’s brilliant, high-resolution photos! Thank you so much, David! :-)


If you run a Facebook page, you understand how the newsfeed algorithm affects your audience reached. My first posts on Brand Journey reached low numbers until someone ‘liked’ it. I remember once I promoted a blog post and it went from nine people reached to more than 600 after #BrandMatewan Research Director Courtney Bartsch liked it. 600!  Thanks Courtney! Basically, it doesn’t matter if more than 100 people like the page – Facebook prides itself on high engagement rates by only showing posts it thinks will garner likes and comments. My most popular Facebook posts were the ones where I tagged team members from my personal account. 


  • Post frequent, high-quality content that people will share
  • Use quotes as captions! Let a story tell itself
  • Tag team members so posts display on family and friends feeds
  • Be engaging. Write to start a dialogue, not a monologue
  • If it’s necessary to pay to boost a post, choose an appropriate audience. Who’s interested in WVU strategic communications students branding Matewan?
  • Keep hashtags to a minimum. This is Facebook


Tweets are instant. All of @BrandJRNY’s followers will see everything I post if they're online. However, that also means it’s easy for my tweets to get lost in the Twitterverse. My popular tweets included GIFs, emojis and relevant hashtags.


  • Post quality content 3-5 times daily
  • Keep promotional material under 50%
  • Connect with my strategic communications/branding community by liking and RT-ing quality content
  • Post short video clips (made with iMovie! Love this app.)
  • Interact with community/team members
  • Participate in social media trends (#ThrowbackThursday, #FollowFriday, #MotivationMonday)




While I have the least amount of followers on Instagram, I get the most likes and comments on this visual platform. Again, David Smith - you're the real MVP!

I take advantage of hashtags because Instagram is like Twitter – it allows for instant posts, but they get lost unless people search your profile or specific hashtags. Instagram's pretty friendly. If I like someone's photo, most of the time they'll like mine.


  • Post frequent, high resolution photos
  • Take advantage of photo collages if a single photo won't capture the moment - or an event! I like the Clipstitch app
  • Post screenshots of blog highlights
  • Link websites in Instagram bio
  • Use hashtags in a separate comment below captions to maintain a neat look
  • Like/Comment on community member's content
  • Participate in social media trends. There's an app called Instaquote that lets you type text over images. I use it when I edit photos for #MotivationMonday or I feel like spicing up a blog promotion

Follow Brand Journey!

I love my job. I love bringing the Community Branding Initiative’s story to life on social media and promoting the wonderful work from our team.

Follow Brand Journey

I've lived all over the country and I stand by my opinion - West Virginia is the most beautiful state. Gorgeous. Almost-Heaven. Home. And I'm honored to be a part of a project that celebrates a town's distinct, historical, cultural attributes. 

#BrandMatewan, you guys were excellent. I loved watching you grow as professionals (in four months!) Whatever you decide to do in life, I know you’ll continue to shine. Check out this website they created. Here’s a video recap of their semester.

#BrandWhitesville and #BrandGrafton, I can’t wait to meet with you next week and get started sharing your work. You’re in amazing hands with project site leaders, Dr. Geah Pressgrove and Dr. Julia Daisy Fraustino.

 It’s exciting watching this journey unfold!