Great Social Media Idea: Alumni care packages for their old dorm room!

I’m back!

Apologies for the recent absence... life and work got in the way for a while. As did laziness. Lots of laziness.

But here I am, finally working in a fully staffed department again (there’s a reason they didn’t name a sitcom Two and a Half Jobs... that was no fun at all!) with a new presidential inauguration finally behind me as well. The waters have cleared.

And, if I may be allowed a confessional moment, I also just recently experienced some professional disappointment that has (barf) necessitated the #PersonalBrand train to get rolling again. (I hate myself for even writing that sentence. I truly do.)

I suppose talking about some projects that I’ve worked on during the break would be a good place to start, since I have completely fallen off the wagon of tracking what all my higher ed social media peers have been up to. (Also, because #PersonalBrand!) Ha ha ha… just kidding. Sort of.

Bluff Boxes.

This idea has its roots in a blog post by the always-awesome Ma’ayan Plaut of Oberlin College, which you should definitely read right now. Go ahead. I don’t mind!

Together with some fabulous co-workers, we recently launched a campaign where we are inviting alumni to send a small care package to their old dorm room. (We’re calling them Bluff Boxes because the University of Portland campus is located on a bluff overlooking the Willamette River and is nicknamed “The Bluff.”)

For $10, alumni can order a pre-made box with a few different options (cookies, book store gift card, hot cocoa/tea/cider, etc.) and include a personal note. If they can’t remember their exact room number, we’ll at least make sure it gets delivered to students in their old dorm. We also include an option for people to make their own care package and mail it to us.

To promote it, we made this silly little video (my first foray into stop motion!)

We built a website where people can learn more about the project and order a box. There’s a Tagboard on there too, and while there isn’t a whole lot of social media action going on right now, we’re going to leave instructions in the boxes for the students to post thank you notes via Instagram and Twitter, so I’m very hopeful we’ll get some good stuff on there once the boxes are delivered.

One of the most fun parts of this project has been the notes that people are writing to the students, so I also recently made some “quote graphics” and posted a gallery of them on the UP Facebook page.

This whole project has been promoted almost exclusively on social media (we’ve also sent some emails to alumni faculty/staff, former RAs, and young alumni donors), and I’ve been really happy with the results so far… since launching six days ago, we’ve gotten nearly 2,000 page views from almost 1,000 unique viewers, about 850 video views, and 400 click-throughs to the order form. Of course, not all of those people have completed an order (to be honest, not even half of them have), but still… not bad for less than a week for a small school that doesn’t have all that many alumni.

This type of project is, I think, higher ed social media at its most powerful. It connects alumni with current students in a tangible way, it makes people feel warm and fuzzy and nostalgic, it makes people who don’t take part still feel proud that their school is doing something like that, and it makes current students really feel like they are part of a larger community that cares about them and values them.

It has a very low threshold for entry (even kids who graduated last year can probably afford $10), and its value and impact goes way beyond the dollar amount.

I am very hopeful that it can turn into an annual tradition. Going forward, I think the timing might be better to promote it during the summer and have the boxes ready to go during move-in. (We actually did a trial run with about 25 faculty/staff alumni during orientation, which helped us work out some kinks.) Finals Week could also be a good time, but at UP we already have a program where parents can send care packages during finals, so we didn’t want to interfere with that.

OK… that’s all for now. It’s good to be back!  :)

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I Haven't Forsaken Thee!