Sandra Ordonez (@NYCOrdonez) is social media and public relations manager at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Stevens Institute of Technology was recently named the winner of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, a competition that challenges collegiate teams to design, build and operate solar-powered houses. Below, I share the social media techniques we used to cover this competition—and details on how these tips can help you with your next big event on or off campus.
Put Your Smartphone Down
Before you begin coverage on social media, place your smartphone down on your desk. You will need to know the what, when, where, why and how of the event and one of the most effective ways to get these answers is to interact with team members directly.
For the Solar Decathlon, Stevens students and professors built a sustainable and resilient house, named the SURE House, that was later transported to California for the competition. Before SURE House’s journey began, I visited its construction site regularly, engaging with faculty and students. I became familiar with their roles and responsibilities, which helped me understand their outlook on the project. When covering the event a few months later, I was able to accurately share their story on social media.
Do Not “Like” Just Yet
The next step is to conduct research online and visit the websites that promote the event. Notice the vocabulary used and highlight any abbreviations. After you have become familiar with the content, the fun begins! Click on the social media icons and start following the channels for your event. Become familiar with the material being posted and with the social media handles.
If you are the sponsor of the event, emphasize the importance of adding the university’s social media channels to the website and add a hashtag. You will want to track the conversation online and engage with your audience; an assigned hashtag will facilitate this goal. You might also want to add a social media feed to your website.
Prepare Your Materials
The next step is to prepare your content and contact team members to collect images and videos relevant to your event. You’ll also want to create an album on your smartphone and jot down possible scenarios—for example a win or loss—on your notepad.
When covering the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, timing was key. The day of the final verdict, we began our participation on Periscope and tuned into the Department of Energy’s live stream of the competition results. We encouraged our Twitter followers to tune in and we were able to raise our virtual visibility during the big announcement. Once SURE House was named the winner, the follow-up was our active participation on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to immediately inform our fans and followers on social media of our win.
Tell the Story Before It’s Told
I wanted to share our 2015 Solar Decathlon win on our social media channels before our fans did and, because I prepared beforehand, I was able to quickly find an image, add the appropriate handles and use the right verbiage. One of our top media tweets for the month of October is the one about the win, which brings me to my next point.
It’s important to share the success of your social media coverage. Use Storify to tell your story and collect all the images and posts shared about the event. Document the number of retweets and favorites, as well as the number of times the story was shared and how many likes it received. Also, highlight comments that capture how your fans and followers perceived the event.
Continue To Tell Your Story
Lastly, continue to track the event online. For this international event, a handful of tweets did not include @FollowStevens. To make sure followers on Twitter became familiar was our handle, I tracked conversations online and retweeted or favorited them, including our Twitter handle when it was left off. I also strategically tagged individuals such as Senator Cory Booker in our photos in order to connect with them on social media. Eventually, our handle was used in Senator Cory Booker’s tweets.