Great Social Media Ideas for Graduation: Part One

It's the first day of Graduation Week here on the blog! (Yaaaaaaay!!!!!)

First off, thank you to everyone who sent in suggestions... I got so many that I'll have to feature multiple ideas per post this week. Far out! And if you've got a great graduation idea, it's not too late to share it - just use the suggestion box to the right!

But for today's post, I'm going to share four ideas I'm currently working on - two specifically for graduation, and two more generally for end-of-year. I've never done any of them before so I won't be able to show you a finished product, but hopefully I'll be able to adequately explain the gist of what I've got in mind.

It's a bit nerve-wracking to put these out there without having first successfully accomplished them, but I look at it as an opportunity for feedback... if any of you have some thoughts on how to make any of these ideas better, please let me know in the comments, Twitter, or the Facebook page!


Idea #1: A "Look Back" video

Remember just over a year ago, when Facebook automatically created "look back" videos for all of its users to celebrate Facebook's 10th anniversary? Considering something like 75% of the world's population posted them to their timelines, I'm going to assume the answer is yes, but just in case you missed them somehow, here's an example:

To be honest, I thought the idea was great but that the execution wasn't, mainly because the photos were somewhat randomly selected. Thus, they weren't as special and personal as they could have been, and they also pulled photos that you might otherwise would never have chosen - one good friend of mine posted their video ironically, since every photo included was of her and her ex-boyfriend... they had a really nasty break-up a few months prior to the videos being created.

But that criticism aside, the idea was still terrific, and even with the imperfect execution these videos absolutely took Facebook by storm - huge amounts of people shared them and watched them. Including my mom and your mom. Because, you know, moms.

So the wheels started turning in my head: What if we created a "Look Back" video for the graduating senior class? Hand-pick the best moments from their four years at college - photos/video from their freshman orientation, the big games, the major events, etc. - and package them into a short and sweet video on the day of their last day of finals. (You're never going to get a student more nostalgic about their time at college than those few special days between the end of finals and graduation.)

This week, I am going to be meeting with a few seniors to go through some yearbooks and old school papers and stuff like that and have them make a list of their most memorable moments at UP and the things that they think should be included in the video. I've made my own list already, of course, but I absolutely want feedback from actual seniors too, because I'm old and out of touch.

To promote it, I am planning on having this shown to the entire senior class at the graduation rehearsal, and I'll also see if I can get approval to have it emailed to all their parents as well. I have big hopes for this video... even though it's got a very niche audience, I am quite confident that a big percentage of the graduating seniors will share it on their own social media sites. Hopefully along with comments like "Going to UP was the best decision of my life!" and "Couldn't have had a better college experience!"

And, if you take the long view, this video will be a pretty amazing thing to have in the bank at future class reunions and other such alumni events. I'd love for it to turn into an annual tradition.


Idea #2: Congratulations Cards from Alumni

This is maybe my most ambitious idea, and the one that is still a bit uncertain. I'd love to do it, but it will definitely require a lot of help and hard work to make happen.

The other day, I heard a news story on the radio about a young girl who sent 200 hand-written thank you/encouragement cards to members of the New York Police Department after two officers were recently killed on duty. It was a really sweet story, and a light bulb turned on for me: What if we could get alumni to hand-write a congratulations card for every graduating senior of the Class of 2015 and welcoming them to the UP alumni family?

Something like this is definitely a lot more doable at a school like UP with a graduating class of apx. 820 as opposed to a large state school with several thousand graduates, but it's still a massive undertaking.

My current idea is to custom-make postcards, print up a big list of the graduates, and then have alumni write some cards and cross names off the list at every alumni event from now until graduation. I'm also planning to rely relying on faculty/staff alumni... I'm thinking a few "working lunches" during March could put a big dent into the list. We'll probably also have to figure out a way for alumni to participate electronically - not sure of the best way to accomplish that at the moment.

To distribute them, I thought about using graduation as the place to do it... maybe put all the cards on a big display wall in the back hallways of the arena where the graduates have to line up and wait to process in? Sort of like this, except way, way cooler? (Side note: I honestly couldn't love more the fact that the first Google image result for "wall of cards" is this.)

We'd put the name of each graduate on one side - big and bold, easily readable from a distance - and alphabetize them to help expedite the process of finding them. (Grammar nerd alert: I somehow just learned that the word "expediate" came about because of a typo in the 1605 Oxford English Dictionary on the word "expedite"  and somehow stuck. Amazing.) What a neat little surprise treat for all the new alumni! Plus, you know damn well sure that they'll read the card, since graduation is super long and boring and they will need something to do while sitting there in their caps and gowns.

Totally insane to think we could pull this off between now and the first weekend of May? Probably. But we're having a planning meeting today to talk about it... I love a good challenge, so I'm down to give it a go!


Idea #3: Instagram Calendar Wall Display

If you don't know about Andy Pawlowski's website Digital Hoops Blast, you need to go check it out right now. It's the OG of websites that showcase best practices and great ideas from hihger ed social media and digital marketing (specifically college athletics) and in many ways is the inspiration for both my blog and its style. I absolutely love how he showcases actual ideas and examples - not just endless posts about the "Best time of day to post!" and "How to engage your followers!" and other such drivel - which has very much informed what I write about. He respects that his readers are smart enough to know the basics about digital marketing and more than anything are looking for inspiration, which is what he gives them. And he is always - much more so than me! - thoughtful and insightful to think about why the ideas he showcases work and examines the big-picture thinking behind them.

I've been lucky enough to meet Andy a few times, and the last time I did - which was far too long ago - he challenged me to think big and work on a project that would take place over the course of a school year or several months, rather than just living week-to-week with my social media efforts. He told me that the aim for the final product should be the type of thing that blogs worldwide would want to share and post - content so clever and compelling that it wouldn't matter whether or not people have a connection to UP or not.

Alas, I never really did pull an idea like that together... I was juggling two jobs from May through August, one of them (photographer/videographer) I was very much not qualified for. I muddled through - though I did shutter this blog for a while to help keep my sanity - but then we had a new president's inauguration to deal with in September, followed by a pretty major professional disappointment in October that took the wind out of my sails for a while. By the time I got around to thinking about what Andy challenged me with many months prior, it was too late.

But the notion of doing something big that covered a whole school year stuck with me, and I have come around to the idea of making a big display (I'm on a major display kick lately, as will be made obvious by Idea #4 below) of a lot of the pictures that have been uploaded to Instagram using the #uportland and #universityofportland hashtags. In a nutshell, I want to tell the story of the 2014-15 year at UP visually through students' own photos.

We're not 100% sure of what the layout will be, but right now I'm leaning toward something like this, with each month from August - April and the photos something like 3"x3" or maybe even 4"x4". (FYI - Instagram pics downloaded at full-resolution from look surprisingly great, even at 4"x4".)

We need to find the right spot on campus to put it - it will be a huge installation - but I'm really excited about the idea and I think it could be a really, really cool thing to put up during dead week or finals week (which is why I'm thinking about trying to do it in the library... huge foot traffic during that time of year!) and get students thinking about their year at UP and looking fondly back on all the things that took place.

I'm also thinking their could be a video companion piece to it... maybe some sort of slideshow of the best pics or even incorporating some of the "viral"-type videos from the year... in a lot of ways, it would be sort of a companion piece to the "Look Back" video described above, except for all students and not just seniors.


Idea #4: My Favorite Memory from This Year Is...

Far from an original idea, but it's been so successful in so many different variations that it's a proven winner. Yes, I want to do a play on a "Before I Die..." wall.


(If you're not familiar with Candy Chang's brilliant public art project that has taken place literally the world over, read about it on her website and be inspired.)

Last year, I was pretty involved in bringing back a great tradition at UP - a community gathering on the last day of finals week... all students, staff, and faculty getting together for a BBQ, beer garden, live music, etc. 1,700+ people attended (close to 40% of the entire community!) It's happening again this year, and I want to take advantage of the huge numbers and the diversity of people by going a participatory public art-style project.

I've never done a "Before I Die" wall at UP, so the idea is still fresh for this community. But since I'm all about re-enforcing positive feelings as people leave campus for the summer (some of them for good, sniff), I decided that something like "My favorite memory from this year is..." was more a more appropriate tone than before I die. We still haven't worked out the exact wording yet, but it will likely be along those lines.

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OK... those are the four big ideas I'm working on over the next two months... lots more ideas to come later this week!



Great Social Media Ideas for Graduation: Part Two

Coming Next Week: Graduation Week!