our quest: a day for research tuned into social media.

When doing social media for any college or community, you have plenty of easier, shinier events to tackle … but how do you take something like student research and creativity and give it a big treatment via social media? With a little (or a lot) of help from your friends.

At SUNY Oswego, Quest is our annual celebration of research and creative activity, where classes are canceled for the day and hundreds of sessions (mostly student-run) showcase the academic core of our college. For some, it means a day off to party (and/or to do so the night before), but for our serious student scholars, it’s a day they work very hard toward. It’s not as easy to cover as, say, a hockey game, but it represents the lifeblood of learning. So giving it big social media coverage — even if some would say it’s not “sexy” — is worth doing.

For this, our first major Quest social media campaign, we had a lot of help from Gary Ritzenthaler’s journalism students. Some live-tweeted events they attended; others blogged summaries of sessions. They submitted blog entries via Posterous and many showed up on our well-trafficked Oswego Student Blogs with a special Quest section. The extra-credit work of these students complemented the always awesome live coverage from my student social media team. I also shot and assembled photo galleries for our human-computer interaction (mostly gaming-related) session, our artistic demonstrations and poster sessions for the Quest blog. The #quest12 tag far, far exceeded any of my expectations, and anyone following it saw a nice sampling of everything the day presents and represents.

Preparing for Quest, student social media team members shot and edited multiple videos previewing student presentations. A few of us took video from sessions which one of my students edited into a Scenes from Quest project.

Topsy tracked 168 hashtag mentions, 120 on Quest day itself, which doesn’t make it a trending topic … but it’s probably about 160 more tweets than we’ve had about Quest in past years. The four videos may not have gone viral (I do hate that phrase) but garnered more than 550 plays and counting. I saw them widely shared around Facebook and Twitter as well. So while not everyone would consider these knockout social media statistics, they do represent a nice starting point for an event that hasn’t had much of a social profile previously. Moreoever, it shows it is indeed possible to build a social audience for an academic event, a nice finding in itself.

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