The Voice of the Brand

Meet the team that celebrates TCU on social media.

TCU's social-media presence took off when Amy Peterson, left, was hired in 2008, and Mya Thatsanaphon helps keep the team on top of current events and trends. Courtesy of TCU Marketing & Communication

The Voice of the Brand

Meet the team that celebrates TCU on social media.

In February 2023, SuperFrog and Amy Peterson, assistant director of social and multimedia strategy, were in Los Angeles for the unveiling of the TCU mural featuring Katherine Beattie ’08. Peterson escorted the mascot to the famous sights — the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Park Observatory — to capture photos and video for the university’s social media channels.

“We went inside a little souvenir shop,” Peterson said, “and he held a ‘world’s best student’ Academy Award.” Peterson edited the photos, and Mya Thatsanaphon, TCU’s social media specialist, edited short videos for TikTok. Within hours, the duo was pushing out content to TCU’s 487,000 followers on six social media platforms.

While Peterson and Thatsanaphon have fun with the less serious side of university life, they’re strategic in balancing whimsy with posts that highlight scholarship and creative activity, working with TCU’s schools and colleges and TCU Magazine to elevate news from all corners of campus.

Mya Thatsanaphon, left, and Amy Peterson have struck the right balance in keeping TCU’s social-media channels fun while also promoting the university’s academic achievements. Courtesy of Amy Peterson

A single week in January saw Facebook content about a partnership between the Anne Burnett Marion School of Medicine and Mercy Clinic of Fort Worth to provide health care for underserved community members; a day in the life of senior film, television and digital media major Victoria Woodworth; and insights into democracy and its role in American politics from Keith Gaddie, the Hoffman Chair of the American Ideal and professor of political science

In August 2023, Rival IQ ranked TCU’s main social media channels third in the nation. The social media data company noted that TCU posted twice as much on Facebook as the average Division 1 school and earned an engagement rate on the platform — meaning posts that were liked, commented on or shared — about three times higher than average.

Peterson said the multiple celebrations during the 2022-23 school year helped. TCU’s sesquicentennial, winning the Fiesta Bowl and going to the National Championship Game, graduating the first class of medical students and welcoming President Daniel W. Pullin were legitimate reasons for audiences to show appreciation to the university.

While TCU’s main social media channels are run by a two-person team, Peterson has built broader support. Eight student interns, who act as eyes and ears on campus, cover events, produce content and share the student perspective.

Frog Squad, a social media ambassador program, is a group of more than 100 alumni, students, faculty and staff who help share TCU’s stories on their personal social media accounts. Peterson also stays in touch with TCU-connected social media influencers — people with about 100,000 or more followers. Broadway legend Betty Buckley ’68, Hamilton cast member John Devereaux ’12, podcaster and journalist Kirbie Johnson ’09, cookbook author Alex Snodgrass ’10 and physician-musician J. Mack Slaughter ’09 have all posted about TCU.

Twenty years before the Rival IQ recognition, TCU didn’t have official social media accounts.

Tracy Syler-Jones, now vice chancellor for Marketing & Communication, noticed the growing role of citizen journalists reporting news on social media platforms, the rise of around-the-clock news coverage and the fact that TCU students had started to use social media to share news faster than her department’s weekly newsletter could.

When a fire destroyed the TCU bookstore in 2006, Syler-Jones said, some students took to social media to suggest that TCU had set the blaze for insurance money. “It was evident that we needed to have a foothold in that space,” Syler-Jones said. “Information was traveling, and we really didn’t have a way to insert the university’s perspective.”

In 2008, Syler-Jones hired Peterson, a former photojournalist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, as the university’s first digital media coordinator. “I felt very strongly about hiring somebody who had the ability to tell stories with video and photos,” she said.

Peterson got to work managing the university Twitter and YouTube accounts that Jess Price, who then worked in TCU’s Center for Instructional Services, had started on his own. (Price is now the coordinator of records and registration for TCU’s Burnett School of Medicine.) A few months in, Peterson added Facebook.

While Amy Peterson, right, and Mya Thatasanaphon, second from right, lead TCU’s social-media team, interns such as Ryan Thorpe and Marina Magnant cover events and help fuel engagement with students. Courtesy of Amy Peterson

TCU’s Facebook account “grew very rapidly. … Within a week or two, we had thousands of followers,” Peterson said. “And then by the end of the year, we had many, many thousands. And so that was very clear: People were really looking to that space to connect with TCU.”

At first, Peterson said, she felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of being the voice of the university. As she grew more confident in her role, she shifted from writing just-the-facts photo captions like she’d done as a photojournalist to perfecting TCU’s voice. The resulting tone has helped define the university.

“Her work over many years reflects back to our audiences the traits that are found in the people of TCU — warmth, authenticity, intelligence, positivity and spirited enthusiasm,” said Merianne Roth, associate vice chancellor of communication. “People who don’t know TCU as well, especially future Horned Frogs, can get to know TCU via our social channels’ focus on our values, academic excellence and campus experience.”

Behind the cheerful tone are tough experiences managing the thornier side of social media. During the early Covid era, when decisions about whether to hold classes in person brought differing opinions, constituents took to their favorite platforms to complain.

“I know, in my brain, that it is not me that they’re directing their displeasure with, but I’m reading it and they’re tagging TCU,” Peterson said. “It was hard, because I would internalize a lot of that.”

In 2022, the social media team grew to include Thatsanaphon, a Gen Z professional who is passionate about the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion work — and being more intentional about spotlighting women’s sports.

Peterson said Thatsanaphon excels at staying on top of trends and creating short videos, boosting TCU’s efforts on Instagram Reels and TikTok, where current and prospective students interact with the university.

When Taylor Swift announced the rerelease of her Speak Now album, which fans associate with a deep purple color, Thatsanaphon was ready. “This trend is going to die if we don’t get on it right away,” she said. “I made that video with her old recorded song and then at midnight when [Taylor’s Version was] released, I attached the new sound.”

The 20-second video set to Swift’s “Sparks Fly” is filled with scenes from TCU football games, drone shots of campus and, of course, fireworks. Peterson said the post was the best performer of that quarter.

“Even though some of it might seem kind of like frivolous,” Peterson said, “in reality, it really does have more weight to it.” The ability to jump on or even anticipate such trends resonates with younger audiences, like current and prospective students, who see TCU’s voice as modern and relevant.

Comments included “This is, and I cannot emphasize this enough, everything to me” and “Oh I’m REALLY going to love it here” followed by a string of purple heart emojis.

In the 15 years since Peterson originated her role managing social media, she has adapted to a steady stream of new platforms, most notably Instagram and TikTok. But Peterson said much has stayed the same.

“What’s at the core of social media is really just storytelling.”