Something magical happened in the world of social media and higher education tonight, and you probably didn’t even notice it. The University of Florida used social media in exactly the right way. This massively large destination institution engaged with students and their families to create a community event unlike any other…just by using a hashtag.
Today was a pivotal day for thousands of Gator hopefuls. Today was the day that they would find out their future. You see, the University of Florida is one of a handful of institutions around the country that has a single admission date. All students find out at the same time whether they have been admitted for the future academic year….and today was that day. As you can imagine, an admissions process like this creates a lot of hype, excitement, and anticipation. And in the ultra-connected world we live in, this process also creates an amazing opportunity. The University of Florida selected the hashtag #UF17 (a reference to the class of 2017) as a way to engage the community in this event. But it wasn’t the hashtag that made it work…it was the level of commitment that made it so magical.
Here is what we can all learn from tonight’s success:
1. Break Tradition
Tradition is wonderful thing…until it gets in the way of progress. One of the most impressive things that happened tonight was that UF used the hashtag in the actual (online) acceptance letter. While that may not seem like a big deal to many, having an institution of this size and profile embrace social media in that way was a big step. Remember the mantra: Meet them where they are!
2. Connect the whole community
Some of our greatest ambassadors are alumni, staff, and current students. Engaging them in an effort like this is critical. It was amazing to see tweets from alumni, parents, and current students sharing their pride and welcoming the newly-admitted class into a community.
3. Make it a celebration
Tonight was not about getting through a process. Rather, it was about celebrating and welcoming our newest community members. Having the community rally around these “baby Gators” will create a lasting impression on them.
4. Take on a genuine and likeable identity
One of the keys to success in social media is to be genuine. Engaging with students in ways that are playful, fun, and REAL is very important. How good must it feel to get a retweet from the institution you just got admitted to? (Kudos to @BruceFloyd for his amazing presence)
5. Coordinate the effort
In addition to alumni, staff, and current students, coordinating efforts with individual departments is critical. Tonight we got to see tweets from Dining, Housing, the Union, New Student and Family Programs, and many more. Not only were departments there to answer important questions at important times, we were all celebrating along with our new students.
So why is this magical? Simply because everyone seemed to get it – social media is not about marketing, it is about building relationships. Tonight was the start to many strong relationships with our incoming students. I hope that you will check in on the #UF17 traffic. This is just a small sampling of the many, many amazing interactions that took place this evening.
What are your greatest social media successes?
DISCLAIMER: I had nothing to do with this! All credit goes to the amazing social media managers and UF community members. I was lucky enough to watch this unfold, and thought it was worth writing about.