We love to get interesting stories from our readers about their experiences with social media at their school or organization. We will be featuring a series of reader-submitted case studies on edsocialmedia.com. If you have case study of your organization that you would like to share, please email us.
This one comes from John Carson who worked with Upper Canada College from June 2007 until May 2008. Their efforts were awarded The Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education‘s 2008 PRIX D’EXCELLENCE Bronze Award for Best E-Innovation in University Advancement and also the Council for Advancement and Support of Education 2008 Circle of Excellence Bronze Award. Read more to learn how they did it.
Upper Canada College found a learning curve to engagement with social media
By John Carson
Upper Canada College (UCC) is a private boys school founded in 1829 and located in Toronto, Canada. It is widely regarded as one of the premier schools of its kind in North America, with a student population of around 1,040 day boys and 90 boarders.
I worked there on a contract from June 2007 until May 2008 as the College’s Acting Communications Manager. It was my job to write and produce the monthly e-newsletter, Connection, and to write and edit the monthly alumni publication, Old Times. I also wrote news for the College’s website, press releases, helped the Advancement department with brochures and its fundraising efforts and also liaised with the press as required. It was an excellent experience.
There was one communications strategy missing that I thought UCC definitely had to pursue: social media. After 178 years(!) it was time for the College to embrace Web 2.0.
The UCC community is made up of many facets, not least the graduates. They are known as “Old Boys” by the College. The Communications and Advancement team has a very comprehensive database to keep in touch with Old Boys, and holds regular reunion events in Canada and around the world.
I am a very big LinkedIn fan — been using it since it launched — and knew that creating an Upper Canada College Alumni Group was the first step. It took minutes to set up, a few days for approval from the LinkedIn administrators and the best part? Zero dollars.
We promoted the new group in Connection, Old Times and various other school brochures. That got the membership off to a brisk start, but online word of mouth soon spread too between the alumni, and to date, there are 328 members of this group. It’s also been a boon in helping graduates connect with current students using the UCC Common Ties Mentorship Program; the career-focused nature of LinkedIn was a natural fit for this initiative.
The next phase was to set up the Upper Canada College Group on Facebook. Again, it took minutes to set up with no cost involved. We promoted it in all the usual channels as mentioned above, but because of the â€œfunâ€ nature of Facebook and the amount of students that use it, this approach was extremely successful â€“ there are now 909 members.
The Communications and Advancement team has used this group to great effect, sending out reunion and social event invites, helping Old Boys to reconnect with each other and announcing current news about the College.
As with all Web 2.0 concepts, there were some detractors, and some “unsavory” Facebook groups had also been set up that mentioned UCC. With social media tracking tools, it was easy to find these and engage with the creators to request that they be toned down, if not closed. Some admins agreed — some did not … but at least we knew who was saying what about the College.
We also created the Upper Canada College video channel on YouTube, and to date, the 11 videos — ranging from recruitment drives, to student music to fun sketches — have achieved nearly 15,000 views. Not bad for zero investment; just a passion and commitment to using Web 2.0 as an added strategy to reach the community.
These initiatives were recognized by our peers, and in 2008 UCC was awarded The Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education’s 2008 PRIX D’EXCELLENCE Bronze Award for Best E-Innovation in University Advancement and also the Council for Advancement and Support of Education 2008 Circle of Excellence Bronze Award.
John Carson has been working in media since 1995, both in England and Canada. He has been a business and technology reporter and editor, communications specialist and is also a published author of a niche travel book. He now works as a freelance social media and PR consultant and helps brands to listen, monitor and engage with their customers.