Sharing Best Practices with Social Media Awards

Ryan Denham (@RyanBloNo) is online communications coordinator at Illinois State University’s marketing and communications department.

Illinois State University is a large, decentralized campus. Like many institutions, ISU’s social media efforts vary greatly from unit to unit. In our central marketing and communications office, we have a several staff members who at least work part-time on social content. But in smaller departments, a graduate assistant may be running the show solo. The quality is up and down, across the board.

What’s the best way to help smaller units on campus produce the best possible social media content?

To help meet this challenge, Illinois State this year launched the #RedbirdProud Social Media Awards. The program recognizes faculty and staff who manage Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other social media accounts across campus. There are hundreds of these accounts, each with its own manager(s).

Our goals were two-fold:

  1. Reward those who do great work.
  2. Share best practices with those who need help.

We decided on five different categories for the awards program in our inaugural year (2014-2015):

  • Best overall use of social media (academic unit)
  • Best overall use of social media (non-academic unit)
  • Most innovative use of social media
  • Most improved social media (any unit)
  • Best new social media account (created within past year)

We received about 30 nominations—self-nominations were encouraged—and were happy with the diversity of submissions. The program’s total cost was around $200—the cost of five plaques.

The winners were announced at our annual social media workshop (training event), attended by around 60 social managers from across campus. The awards obviously meant a lot to the recipients:

We feel the awards program was a success, and we plan to repeat it next year.

The program had an interesting side effect: It made us more aware of some of our campus’ hidden social all-stars. Now, we’re aware of more high-quality content being created all over campus, making it easier for us to share, retweet and otherwise amplify their content on our university-wide channels.

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