by Christine Payton
South Louisiana Community College
Lafayette, LA

We all want to engage our students a little bit more. After all, we want them to stick with their studies to make it to graduation on time. We want them to enjoy college life. We ultimately want them to become alumni who give back to the college.

The Public Relations office at South Louisiana Community College rolled out a contest at the start of the current semester to increase the level of engagement – even just a little – with students.

We did something very simple that can be implemented any time during the academic year and beyond.

For this mini-campaign, we decided to meet students where they live – in the world of social media. We simply asked them to take a selfie during the first week of class and tag their pics with the hashtag #SLCCFall14. Easy enough.

All week, students posed in the rain, in the library, and even with mannequins in cosmetology and used our hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Because they were tagging the pics, it didn’t matter which social media channel they used.

We then let the app, Tagboard, do all the work. If you haven’t used Tagboard before, it’s worth checking into. It’s a tracking app that searches hashtags. It finds hashtags within seconds of being posted to networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Using an easy layout (think Pinterest), Tagboard displays all the posts that incorporate your hashtag.

We were pleased with the results. The students were pleased with prize packs we handed out at random for those selfies. Our chancellor even got in on the fun and posted selfies with students (are those called ussies?).

Using the hashtag this way engaged students without being intrusive. We didn’t ask them to “like” us or “follow us.” But you know what? They did anyway. So in addition to the immediate engagement with our students, we grew our audiences on those social media channels and can ultimately grow our engagement and our brand.

This mini-campaign was quick, easy and engaging. We’re now working on incorporating these sorts of contests across our audiences – students, faculty and staff, and alumni. #Simple #Fun

Christine Payton is the public relations director at South Louisiana Community College in Lafayette.

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