Commencement has changed in the past few years. When I graduated from Texas State University (August 2005), hashtag and selfies weren’t even in our vocabulary. Twitter and Instagram were non-existent. Colleges didn’t have their own Facebook page. Fast forward to now, and a hashtag for commencement is a must. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have become key ingredients in how colleges promote, share and celebrate commencement. I want to share our efforts at San Jacinto College and show you what we did with social media before, during and after commencement.
Create a hashtag
A hashtag for big events is a must if you want social interaction and participation. Once you have your hashtag, promote it! Get with your enrollment services folks and ask to include it when they send emails to graduates. Create signage around campus. We created a simple sign that displayed on our campus TV monitors and in the enrollment services office. I like this idea from Georgetown that I found in a USA Today article.
We also placed signs around the venue promoting the hashtag on the day of commencement. We used Tagboard to track all of the social media posts. SJC 2014 May Commencement Tagboard
Inform students about commencement
San Jacinto College had some major changes for May commencement. This was the first time in the College’s history to combine three campus ceremonies into one big ceremony. We had to address questions and concerns about the changes, so we conducted a Facebook and Twitter live chat with enrollment services.
Get college leaders involved
I scheduled a few minutes with our chancellor, deputy chancellor and president and three provosts to record their congratulations messages to graduates. Special Message to Graduates And there’s nothing cooler than taking a selfie with the chancellor, right? Pull your president or chancellor aside for a few minutes to interact with the graduates before or after the ceremony. It can make for a really cool moment!
Collect student stories
Before and after commencement is a great opportunity to collect student success stories. Pay close attention to social media closer to commencement date. Students post about it being their last semester and their excitement about graduating.
I asked this student to write something about her experience. We used her testimonial and shared it on Tumblr. You will find so many great students stories even after commencement, especially when you are still monitoring the hashtag. Do not hesitate to reach out to students about sharing their stories. Ask them to write a blog post. Interview them on video. Get their contact information.
Make it a team effort
The marketing office had two photographers, the district events planner and myself running around the ceremony. We worked as a team to get photos, video and to post on social media. This resulted in some really great graduate photos and a lot of social media interaction. I also recommend that you have at least two people posting or even live tweeting. I was on the ground level of the ceremony taking photos and video while the district event planner captured the ceremony from different views of the stadium. If staffing is limited in your office, ask students to volunteer for the event.
Content you collected from commencement can be used for quite some time, which can be a very good thing if you struggle with content during the summer, like everyone else. Collect all commencement photos and upload them all in one place like a Facebook album, Flickr or a website photo gallery. Create a short video of commencement. Make it more like a behind-the-scenes look or highlights from commencement. San Jacinto College May Commencement Video Once you have all the commencement content, create a page on the college website. We used a free third-party solution to embed the commencement photo album onto the page. We included a Twitter widget, the video and our Storify of #SJCGrad14. San Jacinto College 2014 May Commencement Page You can also use graduate photos to create a cool new cover photo or header for your social media accounts.
How did you capture and share your institution’s commencement on social media?