Maryam Reyhani, Vadim Galimov, and Elizaveta Shevchenko are part of the team responsible for planning, creating, editing, and analyzing ITMO’s social media content in English. They do this as part of their roles at the Internationalization Office. Besides working on social media, Elizaveta is also responsible for creating and updating content on ITMO's English-language websites and writing original articles. Vadim works primarily on translations, proofreads, and original articles and Maryam also proofreads and is responsible for coordinating the English as a Medium of Instruction teacher training program, ITMO blogs, and other educational initiatives at ITMO University. 

What’s your social media strategy?

Vadim: We focus on reaching out to students and researchers around the globe and showcasing ITMO as the hub of innovation and international collaboration that it is. It's all about what studying and working at ITMO is like and what it's like to live in St. Petersburg. 

Maryam: We also try to focus on sharing information and resources for students and staff who come to Russia from abroad, at any level or position, to help them succeed. We try to keep it informative and fun, sometimes a little quirky, just like ITMO.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Elizaveta: The most rewarding aspect of handling ITMO’s social media is when people react to the posts that we put so much effort into. We encounter interesting stories and exciting ideas; participate in engaging events and receive supportive feedback. 

Maryam: We enjoy bringing the university to life, meeting all the new faces, talking to students, spreading the word about their achievements, and sharing their takes on university life. It is a cool way to get to know each other around ITMO.  

What are some of the most memorable or insightful comments that you have received?

Vadim: Once, we received a DM from a student who was accepted to both ITMO and a Japanese university. She wanted us to convince her to choose ITMO over the other. Her arguments in favor of ITMO’s counterpart were backed up with interesting facts and she kept asking: “What’s so great about ITMO?” We tried our best, but it never became clear whether we managed to persuade her. There were suspicions around the office that it was one of our bosses testing our marketing skills (chuckles).

Maryam: We initially felt that the only people reading, sharing, and reacting to our posts were our family members (who would share them, praising our efforts – much to our embarrassment)! We weren’t much focused on organic reach. However, that has changed over the years, and now we tailor our content to what our audience wants to see, making it more interactive and enriching for both parties.

Elizaveta Shevchenko (second left), Vadim Galimov (right), and fellow staff of ITMO's Internationalization Office attend a board game night for students and staff. Credit: Megabyte Media

Elizaveta Shevchenko (second left), Vadim Galimov (right), and fellow staff of ITMO's Internationalization Office attend a board game night for students and staff. Credit: Megabyte Media

Do you feel that social media is changing?

Vadim: Of course, it is changing every day. First of all, it is becoming more dynamic and bite-sized. People are consuming content for longer spans of time but on average, their attention span is decreasing. If you want your content to gain attention, then it must have great hooks in the opening few seconds (in the case of a video) or in the visible area of the post. This is something that we take into consideration while drafting our posts for social media. How much do we adapt to such changes? To some extent, we do evolve. But we also tend to preserve our originality. 

Elizaveta: Telegram is an emerging social media platform that has a lot of potential. Nobody talked about it until recently. Having an app that gels together a messenger and social media is awesome.

Give us a little sneak peek into your following list.

Maryam: I don’t really follow many personalities or influencers. It is mostly friends and family members.

Vadim: Aside from family and friends, the only others I follow are chefs and cooks. Unlike other types of influencers, they tend to be more inventive with their content, so there’s much to learn. Some of my current favorites are @leviathanfood, @joshuaweissman, and, of course, @yousuckatcooking.

Elizaveta: I follow a few pages that share information about St. Petersburg and Russia. I like to keep myself updated about the country’s history and culture.

What are your favorite digital detox tips?

Elizaveta: Stop paying your internet bills! When there’s no Wi-Fi, you will automatically move away from social media. You might then want to pick up a book, grab a cup of coffee, and get lost in an imaginary world. 

Vadim: I agree, it’s funny how nowadays our phones are useless without the internet. A few years back, we still had apps that didn’t need the internet to be entertaining. But none anymore.

Maryam: I find it’s helpful to keep myself busy with other tasks and people, follow a well-planned schedule, and indulge in hobbies. These are some of the ways in which I try to regulate my screen time.

Maryam Reyhani (right) with first-year students at ITMO. Credit: Megabyte Media

Maryam Reyhani (right) with first-year students at ITMO. Credit: Megabyte Media

What’s in store for the future?

Maryam: I am excited about our new usernames. Our handle across all the key social media platforms has been updated to @itmo_uni, making it easier for our audience to discover and interact with us. 

Vadim: Indeed, I’m looking forward to us no longer needing to put three different usernames on ITMO merch. From now on, it’s itmo_uni for all!

Elizaveta: We are also looking forward to seeing how Telegram performs. It is still a dark horse in the field of social media. If it keeps expanding, there will definitely be exciting things to do there.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.