How a hashtag, a positive attitude and some genuine outpourings of love can leave you feeling warm and gooey inside.
On Thursday 27 February, the University of Warwick joined 100 educational institutions from across the globe – including the UK, USA, Canada and Australia – to take part in the annual Student Engagement and Philanthropy.
The initiative was designed to help students increase their understanding of philanthropy; as you may or may not know, universities like Warwick are actually charities, so donations from alumni and friends – benefactors for any jargon fans out there – can make a real difference.
When it comes to the University of Warwick, donations help make a difference in terms of scholarships, learning facilities, funding for research and even sports equipment. There’s a really interesting list right here.
All well and good, you’re probably thinking, but what does this have to do with social media? Shall I just scroll down and watch the music video for the song referenced in this blog post’s title? Well, yes, if you want to you can scroll away, but hopefully you’ll want to hear about how Warwick devised a simple social media campaign that gathered in a lot of love.
It started, as many things do, with a hashtag – #LoveWarwickUni. The idea was hardly groundbreaking, but effective all the same; ask people to use social media to share the reasons why they #LoveWarwickUni.
This was backed up with some offline activity on campus, where, at various locations, students could write either why they love the University or offer a note of thanks to people who have donated. A selection of these offline gems were also shared online.
The day was given a bit of plugging for around a week before it took place, and staff were also kept up to speed on what was planned with a news item and information on the Intranet.
It also seemed like the perfect opportunity to announce to the world the arrival of the @supportwarwick Twitter account, which is aimed at showing exactly what difference philanthropic donations make to campus life. It’s being run by the excellent Katharine Beer (@katharinebeery), a fellow University of Warwick noob who was previously found doing great things on social media for Cardiff University.
Now I’ll admit, some people were a little nervous about this – myself included. It’s a natural reaction to have in the current climate, where tuition fees are very high and an institution opening itself up for comment in this way was certainly not without risk.
It also didn’t help when this tweet appeared a couple of days before the main event.
However, one tweet wasn’t going to cause the whole thing to collapse. Also, the pull-ups and mugs had already been printed and delivered, so there wasn’t much we could do about it really. So, we went for it…
And it was brilliant.
More than 350 tweets appeared with the hashtag, with pretty much every single one being positive.
These messages reached nearly 123,000 accounts, according to the website Hashtracking.
There was a real mixture of offline and online love that, crucially, had plenty of different users contributing to it, rather than everything coming from the corporate account.
We were left with some great endorsements of the University and plenty of excellent lines to dish out to existing or potential benefactors, showing them exactly why their financial support is so hugely valued.
Anyway, I’d like to share some of my favourite tweets from the day with you, starting with a selection that underline how many different University accounts contributed something.
Staff got involved too, whether it was our Director or Development and External Affairs @Ian_Rowley…
…our Director of Annual Giving @mrsfayesmith (who played an absolute blinder)…
…or even the University’s Registrar @Warwick__Sloan, who offered this tweet that is really ace.
Then there were plenty of shots of some of the messages being left on campus (check the @supportwarwick timeline for LOADS more).
But what was really great about the #LoveWarwickUni day was the genuine shows of love from people not updating a University-affiliated account – students, staff, alumni, they all got involved and sent through some wonderful words. Here a few I particularly liked (apologies, this is turning into a glut of embedded tweets, but they are all quite nice!)
My personal favourite from the whole lot
The campaign has even had a legacy, look at this tweet posted earlier this week:
So, what can we learn from this?
- Trust the power of your followers to say something nice about you – people don’t just use social media to vent, they are also more than happy to say lovely stuff too!
- Make your campaign offline as well as online – not only do you gather more content, it also generates a real buzz and encourages more people to get involved. It also makes it feel even more real.
- People who make philanthropic donations to the University of Warwick are legends – the post-it note in the photo at the top of this post says it, so it must be true.
- Staff at all levels should definitely get involved in campaigns like this – go back and look at that tweet from the Registrar…he’s second only to our Vice Chancellor, i.e. he’s really important and potentially a bit of a scary prospect based on job title alone. Now look at that tweet and see how human and honest it is. It’s great.
- A simple hashtag can lead to some fantastic results – look how many real messages from real students we now have to share with our benefactors. This kind of content is gold and, hopefully, will encourage more donations so that even more great messages can be written in the future.
Great work from everyone who pulled this together – why not give it a go yourself?
If this has inspired you to donate to the University of Warwick, you can either text WARW14 £2 to 70070 to donation £2 or you can make a single or regular donation online right here.
You can find another roundup of stats, pics, videos and tweets from the day over on this page of the University’s website.
**Pic via @supportwarwick on Twitter, accessed here.
**Blog post title song reference – ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’ by the Darkness