Great Facebook Idea: Orientation Road Signs

Still crazy busy this week, so I'm going to re-post one of the most favorite orientation-related social media projects I've worked on over the past several years. Hope you all enjoy! 

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Originally posted April 8, 2013. Orientation. One of the most exciting times on any college campus. Also a tragic reminder that the days of short lines at the campus cafeteria for my morning cup of Earl Gray and tasty pastry are suddenly distant memories. But it still is nice to have all the kids back. I guess.

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With freshman students and parents feeling so much new school excitement, it’s a great time to capture that energy with social media. Beyond all the typical stuff – photos of move-in, copious retweeting, lots of signage instructing everyone to follow all your various SM efforts – there are endless fun things you can do to help new campus community members feel welcome through engaging your existing social media followers.

Since bringing as much attention to myself as possible is what is best in life (notwithstanding what Conan says about crushing ones enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women), I’m going to share one of my very own social media campaigns from orientation. And a kick-ass one at that, if I do say so myself. Which I do.

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Most of the students at the University of Portland are regional, which means many people drive to campus from all over the Pacific Northwest. It came to me in a flash – how sweet would it be to have signs welcoming our new students along all the major highways from California to Canada, from the coast to Idaho? Sweeter than a pug pushing a stroller with stuffed pug puppies, that’s how sweet. But I knew I would need a lot of help from the extended UP family.

Since bringing as much attention to myself as possible is what is best in life (notwithstanding what Conan says about crushing ones enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of their women), I’m going to share one of my very own social media campaigns from orientation. And a kick-ass one at that, if I do say so myself. Which I do.

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Most of the students at the University of Portland are regional, which means many people drive to campus from all over the Pacific Northwest. It came to me in a flash – how sweet would it be to have signs welcoming our new students along all the major highways from California to Canada, from the coast to Idaho? Sweeter than a pug pushing a stroller with stuffed pug puppies, that’s how sweet. But I knew I would need a lot of help from the extended UP family.

About a month before orientation in 2010, I put out a request on Facebook for anyone who was interested in helping out to leave a comment. My trusty audience answered the call in spades – hundreds said they would take part. I sent everyone a message with some instructions and asking for their address. For those that responded, I mailed out  2'x3' posterboard signs with a “University of Portland” logo along the top (which we printed, hand-cut, and glued on ourselves - yes, we did this on the cheap!), along with some UP swag. Because I’m good like that.

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The instructions were simple: put them up along the major highway near your home the day before dorms opened, TAKE A PHOTO AND SEND IT TO ME (can you tell this part is really important?), and since I’m a dirty Portland hippie I very strongly requested them to be sure to take them down the next day. The week prior to orientation, I encouraged people who didn’t comment earlier to make their own sign and put it up.

My friends, it was a smashing success beyond anything I imagined. Road signs popped up all over the West Coast, the photos I posted absolutely blew up the UP Facebook page (even got media attention!), and there was a significant buzz around campus of people excited about seeing the signs. It really was the best of both worlds – our alumni loved being a part of it and our new students/parents were definitely feeling that love.

In the following years, I have not limited it to just road signs in the Northwest – I have encouraged alumni far and wide to make a sign, which has resulted in some awesome pics in front of national landmarks, from an Air Force base in Afghanistan, from places as far away as Australia and Samoa. So much fun! Unfortunately I don't have all of them in one central location (I usually post them piecemeal on the newsfeed), but you can get a good flavor here: 201020112012.

Finally, we collect all the photos and compile them into a little slideshow (along with lots of photos from move-in day and whatever Tweets/Instagram pics/Facebook posts from orientation I can find) that is shown to all the new students and parents prior to one of the big required programs during the weekend. In a last little bit of genius, this slideshow will then be shown before commencement rehearsal when all those bright, shiny freshmen are seniors about to graduate.

It all makes for a bit of a hectic few days, but it’s well worth it. I’m more proud of starting this tradition than of nearly anything else I’ve done. And now I’m giving it to you for free. Ain’t I a peach?

 

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