This school year, starting in September ’12, the Washington and Lee University Communications & PR office challenged itself to create a socially legitimate channel for sharing and distributing relevant information to W&L students currently living in the small town of Lexington, VA. Up to this point, the office has successfully engaged alums and parents via its Facebook page and Twitter handle, @wluNews. However, that simply wasn’t good enough…we were missing a huge and vital part of our audience: current students.
The current student population is most directly impacted by, and constitutes, the current snapshot of the active W&L community. They are what W&L is (sure, W&L prides itself on its vibrant alum network, but that’s more of what W&L was. Though I’m certainly not trying to downplay the importance of heritage). Not to mention, current students possess the greatest savvy of how to navigate the modern virtual information space. And of course, with this savvy comes the efficacy to be very selective when it comes to considering what is “relevant” and how to find it. A classic marketing problem presents itself yet again-the audience we want next the must is the most difficult to reach.
So, how can this valuable audience be engaged? We have less than enthusiastic stats on email readership, website page views are shockingly low and the news aggregator, a daily email titled “Campus Notices,” provides so much one-size-fits-all information in such a dry manner (text only) that its value is lost to students. Further, it takes no time to realize how little time mobile-ready students are willing to spend searching for and absorbing information. Long emails, 40K+ page websites and information hunts are simply unacceptable for students who are on the go and looking for time-sensitive info.
…Instant and ubiquitous gratification of the need for socially and personally relevant news…that is the name of the game.
So, what is socially and personally relevant to students? What is the best platform for making this information available everywhere? How can an official University office gain the necessary social legitimacy to find itself in the realm of the relevant?
Enter wluLex. Boom.
Mission Statement: “wluLex is the student-led social media hub of creativity, information & interaction for the W&L community in Lexington.”
We interviewed an impressive pool of applicants for eight paid positions. In interviews, which also served as focus groups to learn about the current social media landscape on campus, we challenged students to blend the concepts of social media, school pride, relevant awareness and the growing ubiquity of mobile tech. What is relevant? Who is relevant? Why is it relevant? How does it become relevant? Where and when do you find it?
The students we hired are not simply savvy and diverse. Most importantly, they are curious and ambitious. They have a vision for how connected this community can be and they are willing to attain it. Here they are (these are the bio posters/infographics we’re using as part of our official launch campaign, which is taking place this week):
So, what has the team accomplished?
- Amassed over 700 Twitter followers with great levels of engagement.
- Created a workflow that involves each student having a different “beat” of student life and being responsible for taking that beat social (art, student organizations, student programming, varsity sports, campus recreation, community involvement, admissions and academics). Additionally, weekly meetings to synergize our visions are key. Finally, office hours which include individual Personal Growth Plans (blog post to follow soon) help keep each member intellectually and passionately engaged and improving.
- Create content as well as curate. Examples:
- Create an avenue for the student body to pose questions directly to other students.
- Create an avenue for different University departments to quickly spread information to their audiences.
- Provide insights on which social media platforms are currently relevant. Namely, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. (We’ve just launched our Facebook page and will be unveiling our Pinterest page in the coming weeks.)
And we’re just getting started.
What do you think? Have questions? Maybe some recommendations? I’m so all ears.