#whyichoseoswego: a quick and lovely user-generated success story

If you have any contact whatsoever with a college admissions office, you know that May 1 is Kind of a Big Deal. It’s the deadline for students to make deposits, heralded as #CollegeSigningDay or #DecisionDay or other hashtags. But what, we pondered as The Day approached, could we do to stand out — to show students why Oswego can be an awesome choice without resorting to tired platitudes.

At our student social media team meeting four days before #CollegeDecisionSigningDay, I wondered out loud and the answer that tumbled out was a #whyichoseoswego tag. Ask current students, alumni, faculty, staff, anybody really to tweet what made them choose our college. (I weighed #whyichoseoz but wanted to get “oswego” in there to be extra-clear to anybody who saw it.) The interns didn’t think it was an awful idea, so I emailed our partners in admissions and they liked it.

> Strategy: Cultivate and share reasons students decided to attend Oswego via the #whyichoseoswego tag

> Execution: Request participation via Twitter (and Facebook to a lesser degree) and via micronetworks and share to encourage more participation

> Goal: Positively influence students who are still deciding that Oswego can be the right fit for them

So we started simply: I asked our interns to post at some point Monday afternoon and for the admissions interns/tour guides/etc. to do the same. Admissions intern Bridget Jackson took it one step further by contacting everybody in the organizations she’s in to pitch in. I figured, eh, we’ll get a few, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but with something this quick, who knows …

Result: Wow.

whyiscreen

Topsy found 518 tweets, and note that prominent alum/ESPN anchor Steve Levy is toward the top. We didn’t even solicit him; he just saw a post that resonated with him and shared. That’s not “going viral” but it is impressive given the bootstrap effort.

The @sunyoswego account retweeted many of them, although I chose to space them out 10 to 15 minutes to not overwhelm the tweet stream and after a firehose of awesome tweets on Monday afternoon it took me until nearly noon on Tuesday to catch up. I also put together a Storify with a large number of the posts:

whyistorify

The 700+ views are pretty impressive, and reflect the social media theory that people like to observe more than participate. I did a bit.ly on the link and found about 90 percent of the visits via social share came from Facebook, where posting it also brought a lot of great comments from alumni and parents of current students.

Note that this promotion lived almost entirely in social — Twitter mainly with one post on the college’s Facebook page plus sharing into our closed incoming student group — and via word of mouth starting with a very small group. This was no massive campaign, we didn’t do a major reach out to alumni ambassadors (next year, with more time, I would include that component) and it really sprung up as a quick, grassroots, bootstrap effort of organic support.

What about admissions results, you may ask? The director of admissions reported a large late surge of deposits and that our incoming enrollment is up around 100 freshman over last year. Admissions also reported a really “positive buzz” that, while not the only factor that may influence any individual student, cultivates an atmosphere that supports choosing Oswego. And admissions definitely thinks it’s worth collaborating on to make a bigger deal in the future.

Add in the show of pride and positive feelings from current students, alumni and even some faculty and staff members, and we definitely feel good about choosing to launch this modest campaign.

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