Big events like March Madness not only increase exposure of a school's athletic department, they are an opportunity to produce a growth spurt in every operation from admissions to alumni. So how can we take advantage of big events such as athletic events, move-in day, graduation, homecoming, and others to maximize campus engagement? Social media gives us the perfect opportunity to piggy-back institutional goals on viral events. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. Be ready when an unexpected opportunity pops up. How many people had ever heard of Florida Gulf Coast University before the 2013 NCAA mens basketball tournament? The earned media opportunities in a viral event of this kind have boosted college enrollments at many schools according to the well documented Flutie Effect. Some big events don't appear on the calendar a year ahead. Make sure you have a social media strategy in place to take advantage of an unexpected event.
2. Athletics aren't the only big events on campus. Even though athletic events seem to take center stage in the discussion, it isn't the sport that makes for big events, it's the stage. The same efficacy that produces engagement on the athletic field can produce engagement as the result of a well done move-in-day campaign. Any big event can produce the same excitement as a big game. It's all in the planning and execution. Make a list of all the big events that take place on your campus annually. Make sure that you have all the moving pieces covered: lead-up, real-time, and follow-up. Which brings up my next point.
3. Plan a full scale campaign that includes: lead up strategies (pump priming), real-time strategies, and follow-up. Even though we focus on the logistical aspects of pulling a big event off, these three pieces all need social media strategy. Which piece of the puzzle is most important? It's pretty easy to preview an event (lead up) and report on an event (follow up), but most people forget about the real-time piece. Make sure you plan how to use all your social channels in real-time to broaden the fan experience and draw them in to the actual event itself.
On April 30, I'll get a chance to provide a little more detail on big events and social media at the Higher Ed Content Conference. It's a jam-packed online event that features 13 focused ten minute sessions on various aspects social media marketing. I'm excited to learn from the talented group of presenters. I hope you'll join us.
image from coersdiesel.com