Great Social Media Idea: Puppy Takeover

It's that time again on this blog when I write about myself. Mainly to stroke my ego, but also because I'm too lazy tonight to search through all the things colleges posted on social media over the past few days AND I'm even too lazy to search through my (very full) suggestion box. That's some next level laziness.

Inspired by a similar project at Ithaca College (which I wrote about on the blog!), I decided to have an adorable puppy take over the University of Portland Instagram and Twitter accounts last Friday. And with the help of the super-talented photographer Jeff Kennel, superstar student worker Slaine Kelly, and a ridiculously cute 11-week-old puppy named Coda, I took the UP social media world by storm.

Here are a few sample photos (click on the photo to scroll through more)... you can see all of them here.

Everywhere we went we were swarmed by students excited to see and play with the puppy - achieving my always-present goal of bridging social media and the "real" world - and both the Instagram and Twitter accounts received a few week's worth of new followers, likes, and retweets in a single day.

I figured I was onto something with this when my mom of all people was talking about it over the weekend, and when I overheard students in the cafeteria still talking about it on Monday, I knew I had achieved something that hit that oft-sought but rarely-hit level of palpable buzz.

What's the value in doing something like this? It's fuzzy, I'll admit, but if I may be a social media evangelist for a few moments: Things like this matter. Making students smile, giving them something to talk about with their friends, creating memories... we have the power to do this with social media if we are willing to forego the typical promoting/advertising and reach for that deeper level of engagement.

I often wonder why we spend so much energy in marketing to get students through the door via admissions and to get money from them once they turn to alumni via development, but we spend so little energy on creating special memories and moments when those students are actually on campus. What's the easiest, most sure-fire way to create engaged and active alumni? Make sure those alumni have an amazing experience while they are on campus as students. It sounds so simple, yet it's not something that often is talked about in college marketing offices. 

From my viewpoint, social media managers can play a crucial role in forging good memories and positive experiences, because we have the ability to reach a large percentage of students with a few clicks of a button. This is why I spend a lot of energy (when I have time, of course) doing projects like this and this and this and this and this and this and this.

It's very important to me that at least once every few months I do a project through social media that - I hope and I pray - students will sit around in their dorm rooms with their friends and talk about how cool it was. (Remember when I wrote a four-part series about the importance of "cool" in social media? Well, I did.)

Am I being wildly optimistic thinking that taking a puppy around campus and taking photos of it will result in more active, engaged, and (ideally) generous alumni? Probably. But there's also a part of me that knows in my heart of hearts that, twenty years from now, there's a chance that former students will fondly reminisce at a reunion some day about that one time a puppy came into their communications class or that time someone put disposable cameras around campus or that time someone did those fun fan photos with all the props. And you know what they won't reminisce about? That one caption contest or that one "funny" meme about the Oscars or that time their college live-tweeted the Super Bowl or that one post promoting a lecture or anything even remotely similar to that.

Making memories, folks. That's the real job.

And, oddly enough, a puppy can help with that.


Great Social Media Idea: #ChooseChico

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