Today’s episode features Jenny De Witt who is the Social Media Manager at UCF, and owner and creator of Townie Tourist, a publication dedicated to sharing authentic city experiences. What do both of these things have in common? They both heavily involve working with social media, and trust me, Jenny is a master at the craft. She gets to work with social media all day at her full-time job, and she spends her free time developing content and ideas for Townie Tourist.
Social media is such a powerful tool, and I was so happy to have Jenny on to talk all about it. In the episode, I know you will learn some tips and get some ideas on how you can incorporate social media into your real-life networking and relationship-building efforts. You’ll also hear all about how Jenny left Orlando, just to end up here years later and loving it. You’ll also find out what the majority of UCF Twitter followers love (hint, Tuesday is a favorite day for it). We also gush all about our favorite places to eat in town, including Jenny’s favorite spot, Buttermilk Bakery!
1. Jenny left Orlando and didn’t think she would end up back here
Although an Orlando native, Jenny left the area when she was 20. She eventually ended up in New York with her own branding agency. She loved the energy of New York because she was able to learn so much while she was there. However, when personal circumstances brought her back to Orlando, she continued to run her branding agency remotely, not anticipating her stay in Orlando would be permanent.
Eventually, through mutual friends, she connected with Tom Hope who was a VP at Rollins College. Suddenly, Jenny found herself hired as the social media manager at Rollins and living in Orlando again when she never thought she would end up back here. “It was a big adjustment going from corporate social media to higher education,” Jenny told me. It’s fast-paced with brands and products. You can make decisions very quickly, and you can easily pivot if something isn’t working.
While at Rollins, Jenny excelled, and after a few years, she was approached by UCF to apply for their new (at the time) social media manager. Jenny loved the new challenge of running a giant university’s social media, and took the position when it was offered to her.
2. Social media is all about building genuine connections
“Social media is what I’m passionate about,” Jenny told me. However, “the only way to do social media really well is to build those real-life connections,” she continued.
While at Rollins College, Jenny only concentrated on the technical and everyday aspects of running social media, but still stayed disconnected from the Orlando community. Once at UCF, there were a lot of new connections that were presented to her, and Jenny knew she needed to build better real-life connections with people and businesses.
Jenny is really grateful for her connection to UCF and the opportunities her relationship offers. “It affords me access to connecting with individuals like never before,” Jenny said. “It’s been an incredible gift, and I honestly treasure it every day. I love my UCF family!”
With this new push into the community, Jenny became more involved with different organizations around town, many with a focus on improving The City Beautiful. She loves connecting with large, visible brands in town and small business owners. It has made her more locally-focused and invested in the community.
Building her community in combinations of both real-life connections and social media, Jenny has found new, creative ways to leverage her connections and her community. One great example of that just happened recently where Jenny assembled a social media influencer team to share the UCF groundbreaking for the new, downtown campus.
3. Townie Tourist started because of an injury and a way to improve an idea
In addition to being the UCF Social Media Manager, Jenny has a passion project, or side hustle if you will, called Townie Tourist. The blog and the Facebook Video aspect of the blog came about while Jenny was knocked down on her back, lying on the ground. Seriously. Last December, Jenny threw her back out at an event and ended up spending three weeks over the holidays lying on the floor trying to heal her back, watching YouTube videos.
While everything was running smoothly at her full-time job at UCF, Jenny was in a period of transition, just exiting a bad relationship. Feeling nostalgic for New York in Christmastime, she found herself in a click hole on YouTube. That’s where she came across a channel by a user called The Urbanist. The video Jenny watched showed him walking down the streets of her old neighborhood, explaining the history and architecture of the area. However, she was disappointed that he wasn’t venturing inside of the businesses to see what was inside because he wasn’t able to in New York. Yet, she felt like he was missing so many unique aspects about the neighborhood because he wasn’t going inside.
This gave Jenny an idea to bring the same concept to Orlando, but to go inside businesses and really give visitors and residents alike a different view of the city outside of the tourist areas. She also wanted to improve her Facebook Live skills on a personal project that she could later apply to things she was doing at UCF.
4. To get Townie Tourist off the ground, Jenny just started with what she knew
“This is the first time I’ve ever embraced something, taken an idea, and run with it,” Jenny told me about creating Townie Tourist.
She writes the script for it, appears in front of the camera, and has used her network to build her platform. “I have some pretty amazing people in my network, and I think people need to hear their stories and see how incredible this city is. I have fallen in love with Orlando, and I never thought I would,” Jenny said.
After the initial light bulb moment, Jenny reached out to a friend and mentor for advice. Her mentor loved it and told Jenny that she should reach out to Brendan at the Bungalower because he was looking to get involved in live video, and Jenny’s idea would be a great fit.
Jenny had an idea. She decided she could take the idea of The Urbanist, but incorporate the pieces she felt were missing, like talking to the business owners and visiting the inside of different businesses on Facebook Live. She reached out to a friend and mentor, and pitched the idea to her.
Orlando Lady Boss Note: Check out the most recent episode of Townie Tourist where Jenny explores Sanford!
Not only did her friend love the idea, but she also encouraged Jenny to pitch the idea to Brendan at The Bungalower. Her friend knew Jenny wanted to start getting involved with more video and thought Jenny’s idea would be a good fit. So Jenny reached out to Brendan. He loved the idea and agreed to feature the content on The Bungalower.
Soon after, Jenny and Brendan were walking the streets of the Audubon Park district, filming their first Facebook Live video for The Bungalower and Townie Tourist. For the first episode, Jenny had no idea what to expect, but jumped in anyway. She soon found out that owners and residents in the neighborhood loved the video too. “It was so amazing how welcoming everyone was,” Jenny said.
After the first episode, she was hooked (so was Brendan)!
As Townie Tourist continues to grow, Jenny is venturing to other surrounding cities like Sanford and Deland. She even hopes to eventually add destination cities. She is also excited about how this project can help show outsiders what the residential communities in Orlando truly look like, which can be a powerful tool in long-term economic development and can attract future businesses to the area.
All of these ideas happened because Jenny acted on an idea that sprung from something she was passionate about. Jenny encourages others to do the same. “That thing you are passionate about and feel it in your gut. That is what you should be doing,” she told me.
5. Communicate your boundaries when building relationships
Jenny told me that boundaries and communication are important in any relationship. “Remember: everyone has their own story and is on their own path. They can’t read your mind. You have to communicate where you are. You need to have the clarity to ask them to communicate with you,” Jenny told me. “It’s all about how you navigate through the world, and how you feel about yourself.”
Everyone has their own set of boundaries, and this is not the same as comfort zones. Boundaries are the lines you set on how you need to be treated by others. Boundaries are ways for you to create trust with other people in order to go after things in your comfort zone. Of course, this is different depending on the relationship. However, Jenny told me “whatever the relationship, you have to set up what’s okay and what’s not okay.”
About Jenny De Witt
Jenny De Witt is a communication designer with over fifteen years of experience in content creation, brand promotion, and new media training for brands large and small, corporate and non-profit. She is social media manager of UCF, one of the largest universities in the nation with over 64,000 students. She is also the creator of Townie Tourist, a live Facebook show dedicated to sharing authentic city experiences. It is her hope that one day she will retire on a goat farm to make award-winning cheeses.
Links from the Show
Visit Townie Tourist’s Website
Watch neighborhood tours on YouTube
Follow @Townie_Tourist on Instagram
Follow @Townie_Tourist on Twitter
“Like” Townie Tourist on Facebook
University of Central Florida
Follow UCF on Twitter
“Like” UCF on Facebook