Digital Storytelling and Personal Branding for Teachers and Students: Insights from Chris Strub

On June 12, 2017, I had the honor to engage in a dynamic hour-long conversation with Chris Strub, the first man to live-stream in 50 US states. We talked about digital storytelling and personal branding for teachers and students. Chris shared incredible insights, tips, and best practices to help teachers and students navigate through the digital space and to enhance teaching and student engagement.

In this article, I share with you three major highlights from my conversation with Chris. Hopefully, you can apply some of these best practices and advice to your own classroom and pedagogical innovation.

Before we dive into the specific highlights, let’s get to know Chris Strub a little more.

Who’s Chris Strub?

I first discovered Chris Strub through Snapchat and then got to know him more through an active Twitter chat that focuses on Snapchat, #ChatSnap (every Wednesday at 2 PM, ET), that Chris and I participate in regularly (a big shout out to Kristy Gillentine for launching the chat). It has been two years since Chris and I connected online. I have become increasingly fascinated by Chris’s ability to create and share stories to make a positive change, especially via social media and live-streaming tools and apps such as Snapchat and Facebook Live.

Chris has a passion for nonprofit organizations. In the summer of 2015, Chris completed a groundbreaking initiative of Snapchatting and live streaming in 50 U.S. states to tell stories of youth-related nonprofit organizations. His newly published book, “50 States, 100 Days: The Book,” captured his journey. Chris’s story has inspired many people, including myself.

I truly come to see the power of storytelling via social media and how this simple tool can create a momentum for change and love.
To learn more about Chris Strub, please visit his website:

To learn more about Chris Strub, please visit his website:

With such an expert on digital storytelling, to say that I was excited to have an in-depth conversation with Chris is a definitely an understatement. Please make sure that you check out Chris’s book and follow him on social media @ChrisStrub.

Based on what Chris shared, I added some of my personal interpretations and recommendations in the subsection of “Tips for Teachers/Students.”

Ready? Let’s get started.

I. Live-streaming and social media have brought people closer

Chris and I have never met in person. However, as Chris shared, it feels like “we have known each other for almost our entire life because are both very communicative on Twitter, Snapchat, Coffee in the Lobby (a virtual Snapchat friends hangout), and through other live streaming videos we watch.” And the fact that Chris and I did the interview when he was in the US and I was in South Korea is a perfect testament to how social media has brought people closer. Our world is indeed getting smaller and smaller every day. As Chris said, “live-streaming and social media, in general, is a great vehicle to be able to meet people in real life.”

Image from Brian Fanzo’s LinkedIn article here

Image from Brian Fanzo’s LinkedIn article here

Chris and I are both loyal fans of Brian Fanzo @iSocialFanz. One of Brian’s famous quotes is how social media has the power to transform a formal handshake into a hug. Can social media have the same impact in higher education settings?

Absolutely yes!

Tips for Teachers/Students

I love the analogy that Chris used when describing the differences between teaching a Shakespeare class versus a social media class. He said,

When you teach a Shakespeare class, you cannot bring William Shakespeare into your class. But when you are teaching a social media class, professionals, thought leaders, and those people who are really driving the bus forward in 2017 and beyond, not only are they available, but they are interested and love to come to speak and have conversations with your students. There is a whole world of influencers out there that not only do they want to share their prophetic message with you, but they are very accessible. They are very friendly. They want to be in touch with you.

The key is to simply reach out, regardless you are a professor or student. Chris shared two practices that worked well in building his community on Twitter.

🔶 Twitter Video Reply Tuesday. Instead of typing a tweet to communicate with people, Chris recommended sending video messages in a personalized, friendly, and professional way to connect with people. The video format helps one’s “voice and message stand out.”

In the context of education, imagine the excitement of students if professors can send them a Twitter video after the first day of class to express their excitement for the class and invite students to join them on a learning journey. Or, simply ask students to reply to the video tweet with a personal video to share a fun fact about themselves. In addition, twitter video can add lots of depth to explain more complicated concepts that are hard to convey in 140 characters.

🔶 Use Twitter lists to group people. Chris recommended using Twitter list to create two groups of people. One group contains people who are creating valuable content consistently. And the other group includes those whom you enjoy communicating with. And monitor these two groups of people’s content on a regular basis, either via TweetDeck or any other social media software you use. Besides monitoring, engage with these people by commenting on their tweets, sharing their content, sending them a personal video, or even purchasing a copy of their book to start a substantive conversation regarding the content they are creating.

Professors can assign students to create such lists. One list can include organizations of their dream companies that they want to work for. And the other list can include thought leaders in a professional field that they want to specialize in. Ask students to monitor the content of these lists and to create a Storify to highlight their takeaways on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. And with Twitter video, students can easily send a video to connect more with the thought leaders or people in the specific field. The opportunities can be endless.

II. Your personal brand is your key to the world

Whether you are a professor or a student, your “personal brand is your key to the world,” as Chris shared. We are defined by what we share on the Internet. Our message and digital presence communicate who we are to the outside world. Our brand is our resume that is updated constantly within and beyond our control. As Chris shared,

When people who are interested in your story, in your profession, or in hiring you are looking at the possibility of bringing you on board in some capacity, the cover letter they are seeing from you is the Instagram account that you put out there; it’s that pinned tweet that you had at the top of your Twitter profile; it’s your Facebook profile picture and cover photo.

Indeed, our social presence is the filter through which people develop a first impression of us. This is crucial for students and professors to understand as the former is constantly seeking employment opportunities and the latter is educating the next generation.

Tips for Teachers/Students

In my personal experience as a college professor, before I had an active digital presence, I struggled with finding guest speakers to talk to my students. After I built an online presence, I had a waiting list of professionals who were willing to speak to my class. What a change!

🔶 Be willing to be influenced by others. In today’s digital age, there is no shortage of gurus, experts, or influencers trying to teach and sell us information, products, or services. Just when everyone is trying to become an influencer, Chris made a compelling point that shifted my mind 180 degrees. He said,

For example, when you are consuming someone’s content, communicate to the creator how much his/her product, service, or knowledge has made an impact in your life or career. Make an effort to validate the value that the content creator is producing. As Chris shared,

Don’t be shy about being influenced. It is not a bad thing to let others have an impact on your life. That transparency and authenticity is really what social media is all about.

Don’t you just love that quote from Chris? I cannot imagine my life today without the impact that all the wonderful social media friends and influencers had on me. Many of them have become friends and even mentors. Being influenced is indeed “not a bad thing.” Quite to the contrary, it is very beneficial.

Oftentimes in academia, scholars, including myself, tend to use social media to share our accomplishments such as journal publications, awards, and grants. Chris’s point made me think twice about how much or how little my content should be “bragging” about my accomplishments versus bringing values to the broader community and to my audience.

🔶 Push the damn button. People are camera shy. People are introverted. People feel they don’t have the best set-up to embrace live-streaming. All of these are excuses. Chris shared a powerful quote from John Kapos, aka, Chocolate Johnny. When it comes to our fear of going live on social media,

Just push the damn button.

Simple yet powerful. The only way to overcome our fear of something is by acting on that fear. Instead of being defeated by it, use our fear as our guiding compass to discover our potential. From an educator’s perspective, professors of social media are teaching the next generation of social media and absolutely need to be ahead of the game. It is essential that professors are leading by example. As Chris mentioned,

If you tell students to do something, but you are not doing it yourself. You are lost. In this day and age, you need to at least have your feet wet and know how to respond to a message on Snapchat, or be able to respond to your Direct Messages on Instagram.
Social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook are messaging apps. If you stop using them, it is like not checking your mailbox out in front of your house or not answering your phone when someone picks up.

When professors are well immersed into the digital space, their key and their students’ key to enter the world is stronger.

III. Social media gives networking a new context

Professors and students attend lots of networking event. Traditionally, people exchange business cards at networking events to introduce themselves and to stay in touch afterward. However, social media has amplified what a brief moment of business card exchange can accomplish. Social creates a context for lifelong networking and relationship building. As Chris shared.

When you leave a networking event, you have the opportunity to drive that networking home and be able to read and understand more about these individuals than we could ever before through social media.

A networking event doesn’t have to be over once the event is over. Gone are the days when you had to use cellphone numbers or email addresses to stay in touch. Social media has made it possible to network and stay connected 24/7, regardless where you are.

Tips for Teachers/Students

🔶 A new makeover for your business card. Do you still just have your email, phone and fax number, and address on your email? It’s time that we all design our business cards the way Chris designed his. See the images below.


However, such a business card design has to be based on the premise that you actually have a strong personal brand online. Imagine the opportunities that your digital presence can bring to you once an event is over. The networking event is only the beginning to endless opportunities. Social creates a context for continuous relationship- and community-building.

Call to Action

🔶 Follow these people that Chris gave a shout-out to during the interview: Geoff GolbergBrian Fanzo @iSocialFanzJoe WilsonSabba QuidwaiKaren Freberg, Ph.D.Jeremy Darlow (his book, Brands Win Championships), and Dan Gingiss.

🔶 The longer you wait on the social media journey, the harder it is to gain a momentum to get started. I learned from my experience that the biggest obstacle between where I am now and where I want to be is ME. So, get “you” out of your own way and “push that damn button.” Take action now to embrace the power of digital storytelling.

Glenn Nuñez