Great Facebook and YouTube Idea: Using Alumni/Students Abroad

A tried-and-true tactic for we few, we happy few, we band of higher ed social media managers is to share pictures of our alumni and students in far flung places. I've seen everything from a school flag on top of Mt. Everest to babies in college colors on the Great Wall of China. Judging by the engagement numbers that always seem to accompany posts like this, it's a no-brainer that they are popular. Like, really really popular. You know it, I know it, and the American people know it.

So let's all just sit back and admire these two awesome examples from Universities Tennessee and Oregon, respectively. First up, two Volunteer volunteers (see what I did there!?!) with an adorable class of Tanzanian children singing school fight song Rocky Top, complete with cut-out T's (a small touch that takes this to a whole new level). 

I mean... come on. Totes adorbs. And, it must be said, a sly little bit of content marketing that showcases a student and an alum doing great work overseas and making a difference.  Unsurprisingly, this blew up the UT Facebook page today.

I hope Tennessee takes it one more level and sends that class a whole bunch of UT t-shirts, and then has the Volunteer volunteers send in a photo of everyone wearing them. Wouldn't that be awesome? A perfect follow-up piece to an organic and charming video like this.

As for the Ducks, they have been doing a brilliant "WTD Wednesday" (WTD = Win the Day, a motto for Oregon's football team) campaign on their athletics page. They are requesting that members of the armed services who also happen to be Oregon football fans submit photos of themselves sporting Duck gear while stationed overseas.

Big time college football + Military = ENGAGEMENT GALORE.

Big time college football + Military = ENGAGEMENT GALORE.

Football already has a long tradition of honoring service members, so this is a natural fit culturally as well as a tremendous way to market your team and get some terrific content. This is pretty much awesome in every way.

One thing to keep in mind: A big state school like Oregon is at a marked advantage with a campaign like this, because lots of fans of the football team aren't actually alumni, making the potential pool of soldier/Duck fans much larger.

Speaking more broadly about posts like this, getting great content like that can be tricky unless you happen to have a sizable international travel budget. (In which case, send me a job application to your department. Immediately.) There are two main ways to get it - cross your fingers and hope that some of your people out there love your school enough - or, more accurately, love your social media pages enough - to take the initiative to make a photo/video op happen (like the example from Tennessee); and conduct an orchestrated campaign to solicit them (like the example from Oregon).

Like any functional battery, both have their positives and negatives.  (HAAAAAAAAAAA!!! I'm hilarious. So, so hilarious.) The "fingers crossed" method can lead to some wonderfully delightful and unexpected results but can result in years of thumb twiddling, while the campaign is doubtless more effective at getting results but runs the risk of tainting it with the stink of marketing that can make something that should be fun and organic lose its charm and become less "special."

Of course, there's also forcing the issue a bit in a less public way by doing outreach to study abroad groups, Peace Corps volunteers, and whatever names of alumni/students who are abroad doing cool stuff that you can scrounge from asking around your school. The low-hanging fruit, as it were. Just get in touch with those people and go from there. 

Anyway, good stuff Tennessee and Oregon! My all of you reading this blog receive a photo from an alumni who happens to be flying your school flag at the South Pole while on a mission conducting research into ending global warming. Hey... we can all dream, right? Right! 


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