Sarah Juliano is social media and web manager at William & Mary.
As the second oldest university in the country, The College of William & Mary has been creating love stories since 1693. With nearly 7 percent of our alumni married to fellow alumni, love is in the air for #WMAlumni around Feb. 14.
To celebrate Valentine’s Day in years past, we’ve sent alumni married to alumni a special card celebrating love. In 2015, we decided to build that campaign by adding a post on our Facebook page asking alumni to share their W&M love story in the comments of the post.
The post performed well. We received more than 150 love stories between our main W&M Facebook page and our alumni Facebook page. Our takeaway from 2015, however, was that only alumni who had met their partner at the university could join in on this post, and that excluded some alumni from participating. Therefore, we decided to tweak our message for 2016 to include as many alumni as we could during this year’s new campaign.
To broaden our reach, we decided to ask our alumni, “What did you fall in love with at W&M?” The phrasing was meant to evoke answers that could range from classes and majors to dorms and academic buildings, in addition to friendships and lifelong love stories.
To give each participant the ability to answer on the social media channel of his or her choice (not just Facebook comments), we added a hashtag to this year’s campaign: #wmlovestory.
We also worked with our video department to animate a 30-second video posing this question to our alumni. We worked with alumni staff members throughout our advancement team to find examples of what they fell in love with while at the college, in addition to our typical campus favorites. These examples were animated in the video to help give our alumni inspiration for their stories.
Because Valentine’s Day was on a Sunday, we decided to push out this campaign on Friday, Feb. 12, to leverage the video and the post throughout the weekend.
The morning of Feb. 12, we sent an email to all alumni asking what they fell in love with at W&M. The examples provided in the email were similar to the ones we used in the video. We also included a GIF of a section of our video. We directed alumni to watch the video and share their own stories either on Facebook or via the hashtag.
Once the video was posted, we ran both a Facebook ad and a Twitter ad targeted toward alums and those interested in W&M from Friday morning until late Sunday night. We began receiving posts throughout Friday and they came in steadily throughout the weekend.
The post was shared by our main W&M account to Facebook and Twitter. I also reached out to all of our communications committees throughout campus to make them aware of our campaign.
You can view the Facebook post here.
Results & Takeaways
Overall, we had more than 100 #WMAlumni share their stories, which helped our post to be seen by almost 38,000 people. Our email had a 26 percent open rate, which was a little higher than average for our alumni population.
Our main takeaway was that we found a message that resonated with our alumni and generated high engagement on a fun topic. In the future, I think we would want to continue to keep the question we ask around Valentine’s Day broad while also encouraging people to get specific and heartfelt about their answers. This could be done by being a bit more specific about the answers we are trying to encourage while still using fun elements like the video and email.