Planning the Third Annual Social Media Triathlon at the University of Kansas

Justin Henning (@jjhenning) is the associate director of interactive media at the University of Kansas.


This fall, the University of Kansas will sponsor and hold its third annual Social Media Triathlon. Since its first year, the event has evolved substantially in scope due to changing student use habits and patterns regarding social media, smartphone use and general trends.

In 2011, the first year we attempted a social media event, the only challenge was to check-in across campus via Foursquare. This unlocked prizes on Foursquare that ranged from a custom Jayhawk badge for Foursquare users to entries for a drawing for an iPad.

Last year, the Social Media Triathlon retained the Foursquare component while also adding Instagram and Twitter. All three services made heavy use of hashtags, which, as we all know, frame content into common discussion threads. Merging these three services together because of that seemed like a good, common way to tie the challenges together. Each of the contest’s three parts encouraged students to connect with KU in three different ways, tied together by the common hashtag #ExploreKU. Prizes included lunch with the chancellor, VIP and reserved seats for Late Night in the Phog (KU’s basketball season kickoff event), gift cards to the KU bookstore and student union. Prizes were given away at varying levels for each of the three parts. We had modest participation, but there was room for improvement.

This year, the Social Media Triathlon will retain many of the same elements as last year’s event, with a few changes and updates. Notably, Foursquare will be replaced by Vine and Instagram’s social video-sharing apps. We’re still giving away prizes—nearly identical to last year’s lineup—and have also created giveaways for items like shirts and buttons displaying the hashtag #exploreKU. The goal is to encourage new students to connect with campus and one another by sharing content and to use the hashtag for longer than the two-week campaign run. We’re also making a greater effort to engage with students and the content they provide.

The campaign page will have a live display of submitted content, as well as selected featured content on the homepage. We hope it takes on a life of its own, full of rich student-generated content that lasts.

You can check out the contest site at and follow the campaign activity with the hashtag #exploreKU on Vine, Twitter (@KUNews) and Instagram (universityofkansas).

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