Best Social Idea of the Month: George Mason’s “Mason Nation Project”

The ballots have been cast, the votes have been tallied, the envelopes have been unsealed, and the winner of the July 2013 Best Social Media Idea of the Month is (drum roll please… though all suspense has been ruined by the headline) George Mason’s “Mason Nation Project!” 

OK, OK… there was only one ballot (mine) and I didn’t bother with sealing an envelope or any such nonsense, but I’m sure you all appreciated the dramatic effect, right? Right!

You can read my original post about this project to learn all the particulars, but in a nutshell: every week the Mason Nation Project makes a new person of the George Mason family – students, professors, staff, alumni, etc. – the admin of the official @GeorgeMasonU school Twitter feed. For some great insight on what the projects goals are and how it’s implemented, I highly recommend you read this article on the Educational Marketing Group’s blog written by Beth Pullias, one of the people overseeing this project for George Mason. Here’s a choice quote:

What I love most about The Mason Nation Project is the interactions between the curator and our followers every week. Each week, someone learns something new about the university—including us. Through our curators, we have learned how to cook ramen noodles in a coffee pot, how a professor who lives in a different state handles his commute each week, and what life is like for a university photographer. Whether it’s telling someone good luck on a final or giving them information on campus, this project is a great way for people at the university to interact with someone they wouldn’t normally talk to.

I recently went to a talk by Jackie Huba of the terrific Church of the Customer Blog, and she was talking about her book Monster Loyalty and how Lady Gaga has turned her followers into fanatics. She spent a good deal of time talking about taking care of your “One Percenters” – i.e. the people who love a brand so much that they are true evangelists. Every school has these people, but a lot of the time we don’t really know what to do with them. Sure, we love their support, but how often are we focused more on getting new followers and doing something new and different rather than taking care of and involving the people who love us the most? Most of the time, right?

This notion has been rattling around in my brain pretty much non-stop ever since that talk, and from my point of view the Mason Nation Project does a better job of empowering and nurturing One Percenters than anything else I’ve seen in higher ed social media. It’s giving people a real voice and a real platform… an opportunity for people who love your institution to do something potentially really cool and meaningful.

George Mason.jpg

Yes, there are risks to doing something like this. What happens when bad news breaks about your institution and the person in charge goes rogue? What happens when the person in charge tweets something inappropriate? What happens when an Anthony Wiener-esque incident occurs? Serious considerations, all.

Concerns like this will probably kill this project at many schools, but I think George Mason has addressed them really well. They make it very clear from the photo and the description that the person in charge of the account does not officially speak for George Mason. If a situation were to come up, they have a solid website that describes the project and archives it. Also, they have worked with Twitter to come up with a way to reclaim the feed in case someone totally off the reservation and tries to change the password and “steal” the account.

Still, it’s a courageous leap of faith, an exercise in trusting your One Percenters and understanding that an institution’s story is almost always best told through its people. And I absolutely love it.

Major props to George Mason and its communications team for being bold, taking a chance, and making some social media magic happen!

Honorable Mentions go to: 

• Marquette University's awesome listicle

• Princeton University's great Instagram reposting

• Susquehanna University's fun college mixtape


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