June 30, 2015
In May, some members of MIT's Commencement committee wanted to gather memories from graduating seniors and asked me if we could use social media to do so. The original hashtag that was proposed was #MITmemories. It seemed like a straightforward choice, but “memory” was a word overused in alumni and graduation marketing across many universities. Focusing too much on the word also gave the connotation of leaving and distance, and MIT alums often stay connected to MIT through advising, graduate studies, giving, service, social media, and friendship. I thought there could be a stronger alternative that would emphasize a more positive mindset for new graduates: their ongoing connection with MIT.
I called my colleague Kellen Manning (in the Division of Student Life), and we spent some time brainstorming about a social media campaign that could gather memories but emphasize the ongoing connection with MIT. Then it came to us: #alwaysMIT. Once a part of MIT, always a part of MIT.
I provided the graphic to the Division of Student Life and to the Alumni Association so that students and alumni had the chance to answer the question. We posted the question to MIT’s main channels as well.
Engagement on MIT’s social media
We experienced the most engagement on LinkedIn. I posted the graphic and question to MIT’s LinkedIn University Page asking the question, "What are your favorite MIT memories?” I also let people know that their responses may be featured publicly. We received over 90 responses and we are receiving more still—today’s count is 123 comments from alumni all around the globe. The post also received 311 likes. On Facebook, we received a similar amount of likes (342), but only 18 shares and 8 comments, and none of the comments answered the question. We received even less engagement on Twitter.
Why did LinkedIn work best?
Since we received so many great responses on LinkedIn, the question itself wasn’t flawed. There were other important factors that came into play.
1. Comment length.
It takes more than 140 characters (130 with the hashtag) to talk about meaningful memories, and LinkedIn allowed the space to do so. Twitter may not have been the best network for our question.
LinkedIn also has a different atmosphere than other networks; Facebook feels very public and has bred a lot of distrust around brands due to users’ experience with advertisements and promoted posts. LinkedIn has remained a space with a higher level of trust; people aren’t just names and short bios, but have full resumes tied to their names. LinkedIn has successfully built the perception as a place where fewer fake accounts exist and pseudonyms aren’t accepted. This trust is important when people are being asked to share personal memories, as we did with this campaign.
MIT’s audience on Facebook is global and comprises not only alums and students, but prospective students, community members, and people interested in MIT’s research. In contrast, on LinkedIn, alums and students make up a large part of the following, meaning our campaign’s intended audience is more concentrated on LinkedIn than on any of our other Institute-level social media accounts.