Coming into the Higher-Ed Social media job, I severely under-estimated graduation/commencement. At my institution it happens three times a year (Fall, Spring, Summer) and I’d say Spring is probably the busiest one (probably because the 4-year mark technically ends on a Spring semester)
Anyway, with my team there’s an air of tired-ness with commencement: we’re simply just running out of ideas to lead with on commencement since it happens so often– we’re essentially open to anything, creatively.
We introduced polaroid picture frames a couple of years ago– a cardboard polaroid frame cut-out that students hold while we (and families) take photos.
It was instantly a huge hit with students and families, and it’s been a mainstay with our team at every commencement. So we used it again this year. And we sorta street-teamed the whole thing, scheduling 2 people per commencement.
With every photo taken, we’d tell students to post photos on instagram with hashtag #FIUgrad.
As far as spreading the word about the hashtag, the campaign felt very grass-roots. Simple word-of-mouth on Twitter to spread the word, as well as Instagram– these were our primary social outlets. Reason for that is because we used an #FIUGrad Storify embed for the live stream page. This page would act as a fully-interactive page for students and families to join in on the FIUgrad conversation. We also had the president of the school urge students to share posts with the hashtag.
Besides just telling students to hashtag their posts, we’d also retweet and repost their photos on Instagram. You’d be surprised how easy it is for students to e-mail photos using their Iphins (10 points if know where that’s from).
We also tried to connect both #FIUgrad students and incoming #FIU17 (class of 2017) students with this question: “What advice would you give our #FIU17 class?” To our surprise, we got really positive feedback on that question and a lot of very useful advice from graduates!
The challenge we had however was telling them to use the hashtags assigned, since their advice came as replies to the tweet. We just weren’t specific on how to gather the information and how to frame everything.
Something that sorta grew out of its presence was photos taken with the Panther statue. This statue was built almost a year ago and lies in front of the arena where commencement takes place. This became a huge spot for students and families to take photos. The statue is really epic-looking so just about any photo you take with it looks badass. From what I gather, it might replace the polaroid frames as the primary photo item at graduation. Unless you’re like this guy below, who combined those forces.
Commencement is no joke. Three days of non-stop social interactions (I need to ease up on my retweeting and focus more on the replies-back) whether it’s monitoring the storify or sharing instagram posts– it was intense. We got about 2,000 people using #FIUGrad on instagram and just a little less than that engaging on Twitter. As far as FIU goes, the hashtag has become a very powerful tool for both students and us. From what I gather, this was one of the strongest commencement campaigns we’ve had, because our students have simply adapted to the hashtag culture like never before.
Our most successful post came from Facebook where we took a photo of Sky Choi, the youngest FIU graduate (16-years-old) next to the President on-stage at commencement. 20k+ reach and 1000+ likes.
Some things I’d change:
-Planning/Organizing a week ahead of time
-Work from the actual arena (I was working remotely from my office, but would walk back and forth from commencement. In this Miami heat? Hell no. I’m gonna just set up a station at the arena next time)
-Twitter feed on the arena screen (This should be up to give more incentive to post)