Posts tagged promotions
The following article, written by Corie Martin for the Journal of Higher Education Web Professionals, is a great example of how colleges and institutions can put social media to use for on-campus promotions. Take a look at how Western Kentucky University was able to connect with students through foursquare as they walk you through the process from start to finish:
Part of my challenge as the manager of Creative Web Services at Western Kentucky University (WKU) is to keep our web presences interactive and fun. I like to use the tools our students use for direct communication, and I like to let them drive the conversation.
So when we got to thinking about cool, new, free (because we are a state university, after all) things we could do on campus for our students, Foursquare made a lot of sense.
WKU is a mid-sized four-year public with over 21,000 students, but on our campus we have determined that smaller is better. We don’t have a retail-heavy campus and we are not surrounded by much commerce, so generally campus check-in specials and incentives offer limited benefits to our students. We decided to try something different and shift our focus to using Foursquare as a tool to create a buzz around specific events rather than to focus on offering widespread, high-frequency specials or badges.
Becoming a 4sqCampus
We began in the spring of 2011 with a simple email to firstname.lastname@example.org that opened our dialogue with the staff at Foursquare. We worked with them to claim our campus venues in bulk (“Bulk Claim Venues”), set the geo-coordinates of each location and they helped us build out our page (http://www.foursquare.com/wku). The set-up process for us involved a lot of back and forth correspondence. Today, 4sqonCampus has expanded and campus administrators have the ability to do much of this on their own, as well as add their own venue managers, check-in specials and more.
Once we were all set up and ready to go it was summertime, so with no students on campus we had to decide the best way to encourage students to use the tool. We put the word out on our various social media channels, created some marketing materials, web and digital signage ads and placed flyers in summer orientation packets. Little did we know at the time that the incoming freshmen class held the key to the success of the Foursquare program on WKU’s campus!
The History of WKU2K15
Like many colleges and universities, WKU holds a special orientation week for incoming freshmen called M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan. New students have the opportunity to come to campus before the rest of the student body to move in, attend informational sessions and social events and to get acquainted with our large hilltop campus.
For the past several years, we have hosted WKU “Class of” groups on Facebook for these incoming students. Typically the students are very active in the late spring and throughout the summer, but when they arrive on campus in the fall for M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan, we never hear from them again. This was not the case with the Class of 2015. No, this year’s freshmen class joined and stuck around. They connected as a unit and identified themselves as a class, often referring to themselves as “WKU2K15,” and they actually engaged – daily! Their sense of community is what inspired us to release Foursquare at WKU to them first.
The camaraderie within the Class of 2015 was neat to witness from an administrator’s perspective. At its peak, our Class of 2015 Facebook group grew to over 1,400 students before Facebook freaked out and stopped counting them. This was over a third of our freshmen class! We decided to try something we had never tried before – we created the first ever official “Class of” t-shirts and scored some great sponsors from various student service offices to help pay for them. We printed a thousand of them with nice Foursquare at WKU QR codes on the back and set up a tent in our highest campus traffic area during three days of M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan week.
In order to get the free shirt, students had to sign up to follow WKU on Foursquare and check in to our tent. Pretty simple. We set up eight laptops and invited our t-shirt sponsors to join us at the tent to hand out swag and to help us explain to students what Foursquare is (hint: No, it is not the old schoolyard ball game). It was a brilliant move because the students started seeing the shirts walking around campus and wanted to know where to get them. In all, we handed out every last shirt that week and scored 800 new followers on our WKU Foursquare page.
The greatest thing about this project is that even today, months later, we still see our Class of 2015 shirts all over campus. Our president sported one at the freshmen convocation and one of our WKU Men’s Basketball players had his on the day our team returned from winning the conference championship game that landed WKU in the 2012 NCAA tournament!
Where we are today
With the help of our friends at Foursquare, we have used the tool to promote athletic and orientation events, and we recently hosted a check-in tent at the WKU Earth Day Festival. We are working on integrating Foursquare check-ins into our new Virtual Tour, and we are currently planning another release to the Class of 2016 when they come to campus for M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan 2012. We are also looking into creating fun events using the tool like scavenger hunts and Mayorship programs in our residence hall communities.
By offering a fully supported Campus Ambassador program and tools to help schools succeed, the 4sqonCampus division has grown and now enables institutions to do much more for themselves. Still to set up a specific event under a venue in Foursquare, an online request must be submitted and you are at the mercy of the Foursquare folks to set it up for you, a fact I hope will change in the future.
The best advice I can give institutions looking to get involved is that if you are in a smaller community like we are, don’t expect Foursquare to be an instant hit. Schools in major metropolitan areas with a lot of retail and dining venues surrounding their campuses might expect thousands of followers and tons of check-ins and custom badges but, in our smaller community, most of our students are just now embracing mobile technology. By keeping realistic expectations and by using Foursquare for event promotion and starting with incoming cohorts of students, we’ve insured that, a couple of years from now, our whole campus will be following WKU on Foursquare and telling their friends about it!
Why would I recommend Foursquare over other similar services? Well, for starters, it’s free. They also offer incredible, personal support from real people who offer so much more than lip service – they really understand the higher ed industry and work with schools of all sizes to help their programs succeed.
Many college stores offer exclusive weekly specials on their Facebook page as a way of rewarding their current fans and encouraging others to join. But, if students aren’t interested in your offer, then these promotions may do more harm than good! So, how can you decide what items will add value to your social media? Ask, of course!
Check out how Sears is using this strategy to not only find out what their fans want, but also interact with them in new ways in the following article, Sears Engages Customers with Facebook Face Off, written and published by RISnews.com!
Retailers are using social media to better understand what their customers want, and Sears is leveraging that technology to literally give consumers exactly what they want — by letting them vote for which items will be featured on its online local ad. Sears is giving customers the chance to be heard and choose which offers they want to see in the next online local ad through its Local Ad Faceoff application on its Facebook page.
Each week, a variety of items are put up against each other two at a time. Fans of the retailer’s Facebook page are given images of the two similar items — for example, two different luggage collections or two different pots and pans sets — along with detailed information including the products’ original prices, potential local ad prices and the percentage of savings they could get on the products. Fans then vote for the item they want to see in the ad, and can check back in a week to shop the winning items.
The interactive and engaging app then allows fans to share their votes and featured ad items on their own Facebook walls and their friends’. Customers can also see which of their friends have voted in that week’s face off, as well as what specifically they voted for.
Aside from engaging with its customers, the Local Ad Faceoff application allows Sears to focus on the variety of products it sells. With local ad items sold both online and in stores, the application is also a vehicle to drive customers to its stores.
With a fan base of over 20,000 on Facebook and nearly 2,500 followers on Twitter, The University Co-Op at University of Texas is definitely doing something right! But, how have they generated such a response from students and alumni alike? Put simply: they asked!
“Social media is all about creating conversations,” explained promotions manager William Kelleher, who monitors the store’s pages. “You have to maintain two-way communication; talk with people instead of just to them. So, before posting anything, I take a step back and consider how it will be received by our fans and then make sure that I include a question or call to action in each update.”
Always asking for input, the store’s strategy has truly transformed their pages into interactive outlets where fans come to share stories, pictures and feedback on a variety of topics. One prime example of this approach is their newest initiative: Burnt Orange Tailgating.
Exploring the excitement behind UT football, this YouTube series is created by Texas fans for Texas fans, in every way. Using social media as a springboard, the store asks their fans to generate questions for the opposing team before each week’s game via Facebook or Twitter.
Hosted by former student athlete, Dustin Wise, the show then poses these often amusing questions to the rival team’s fans on game day, capturing their answers through video. Wise also interacts with Longhorn supporters, sharing their pre-game rituals.
“Football is huge here and our fans are as passionate as they come,” said Kelleher. “Through this series, we’re letting them broadcast that spirit. It’s been really successful so far!”
One reason for that success is undoubtedly the fans direct influence on the series. From creation to implementation, they have had a part in it all.
“When we came up with the idea, we knew it would be a great way to crowdsource,” he said. “For instance, we first created three potential logos and had fans vote for their favorite on Facebook. After narrowing it down to one option, they made suggestions through comments about how we could improve it, and we listened. The feedback was outstanding.”
After making the proposed changes, the store created a t-shirt featuring the final logo and sold it in store.
“Everyone wanted one of those shirts,” he added. “They really felt a sense of ownership over the item because they had essentially helped to make it; it was a really cool concept.”
With over 1,000 hits on the series’ promotional trailer alone, the popularity of the videos has been just as strong, demonstrating the value of University Co-Op’s cross-channel promotional efforts.
Burnt Orange Tailgating isn’t the first time the store has experimented with interactive advertising campaigns, however. In fact, they created a Fan of the Week promotion in the months leading up the Longhorn’s season debut to build excitement.
“We reached out and asked our fan base to post their most spirited pictures on our Wall, as well as tell us why they were such a big fan,” he explained. “Every Monday, I’d pick one and add it to our profile picture on Facebook. I also compiled all the entries into an album and reposted it to our page once a week to keep people interested.”
As a way to thank them for their participation, each Fan of the Week then received a personalized Prize Pack from the store.
“Everyone receives about $150 of in-store merchandise, but I wanted each winner to really enjoy their gift. So, the packages aren’t just one-size fits all. I try to change up what I choose based on what I think they would like,” he elaborated. “When one of our younger fans won, for instance, I mailed him a package that included our youth-size jersey. He loved it so much that his mom posted a picture of him wearing it on our page!”
University Co-Op also integrated a similar idea into their textbook buyback.
“We took pictures of students after they had sold their books at our buyback, and handed them a card with our Facebook URL on it,” he explained. “If they came to our page and tagged themselves in the picture, then they were entered into a drawing for a prize.”
This accomplished two very important things for the store.
“In order to tag a photo, students have to first ‘like’ our page, which boosts our fan count,” he said. “But beyond that, their tagged photo shows up in each one of their friends’ newsfeeds, increasing the likelihood that they will both check out our page and be reminded of buyback. It’s really win-win.”
The store’s willingness to interact with fans has created a true community atmosphere on their social media pages.
“When users generate content, it not only makes my job easier, but also makes them feel important,” he said. “We’re giving them a voice that they wouldn’t traditionally have and they love it!”
Because fans are so involved in the store’s pages, they are also much more invested in its success.
“We set a goal of reaching 20,000 fans before our September 3rd kickoff,” Kelleher said. “It was no easy task because that basically meant we had to gain 2,000 new ‘likes’ in just over a week.”
He added, “We asked our fans to tag us in their status or tweets to help us spread the word and entered everyone who did into a drawing for Burnt Orange Tailgating t-shirts. The response was overwhelming and although it took us a little longer than expected, we reached our goal within 2 weeks! Our fans are amazing!”
Along with the help of their fan base, University Co-Op also uses Facebook’s Sponsored Story feature to increase their following.
“It’s basically a way for Facebook users to learn about the things their friends like. So, when they are browsing on the platform, they’ll see on the right side of their page that some of their friends have ‘liked’ our page,” he explained. “It’s an easy way to spark interest.”
Although the store has clearly experienced significant social media success, they have no plans to slow down anytime soon!
“Our goal is to always interact with customers on a regular basis and be a part of their daily lives. We’re ultimately trying to add value to their newsfeeds,” Kelleher stressed.
As for others in the industry, he has one simple suggestion.
“Asking for engagement is the best way to get it,” he advised. “Keep it interactive and they will respond!”
Facebook recently revised their promotions policy, and the changes could affect your college store’s social media presence. Ensure you’re following their legal guidelines and know what you can and can not do on your Page.
- What It Means: You now have to use a third-party application to run your promotion rather than your Wall or photo albums. This will simply move your contest into a specific tab on your Page. Luckily, there are many applications such as iFrames and Wildfire that make complying with this guideline both easy and inexpensive. To begin setting up a promotion, you can search for a third-party application here.
- What It Means: Your promotion must meet basic terms of service conditions. They ask that you make it clear that your brand is sponsoring and running your promotion and that Facebook is in no way involved or endorsing your promotion.
- What It Means: You can’t require “likes” or comments as a way for participants to enter into your promotion. Comply with this rule by using a third-party application and requiring an additional action to enter. For instance, consider asking entrants to provide their first and last name, or email, as a means of entering your promotion.
- What It Means: You can’t require participants to share, post or comment on Facebook as method of entering into your promotion.
- What It Means: Again, you can’t use Facebook “likes” or Facebook photo uploads to represent votes. Third-party applications, however, again solve this problem with a built-in voting mechanism. For instance, one such application, OfferPop, has now created a ‘one-click-vote’ option that does not involve of these restricted features. Another option is to take your contest off Facebook altogether and relocate it on another website, such as Flickr for photo contests, where students can vote directly on the site.
- What It Means: Capture email in your entry form and communicate to the winner(s) via email. Don’t use Facebook to notify a winner in any way.
- What It Means: Facebook is trying to make it very clear that they don’t want to be seen in any way as endorsing your promotion. Your brand is sponsoring and running the promotion — just say so and you’ll be fine.
Learn how some of our most innovative partner stores are using their resources creatively to generate traffic at their buyback during our four-part series, Strategies for Success.
With an influx of new competition, both on campus and online, Titan Shops at California State University, Fullerton, is always looking for innovative strategies to enhance attendance at their buyback. This year, they tried a new approach by integrating social media into their marketing plan.
Their new promotion, iPad-a-Day Giveaway, allowed the store to gain traffic by incorporating the students directly into their advertising efforts. Students were asked to check-in to the store’s Page using Facebook Places while selling their books at one of six buyback locations.
After showing their check-in to the buyer, students then received an entry form which qualified them for a daily raffle. Each day, the store drew from the collection of entries to award 10 students with $20 Titan Shop gift cards, and a grand prize winner with an iPad.
“Our ultimate goal was to get students involved in our advertising and have them essentially promote the buyback for us,” said Kim Ball, Senior Manager at Titan Shops. “Each time they checked-in, all of their friends could see that they had sold their books at our location, so it was very viral.”
By recognizing winners on Facebook with their name and picture, Titan Shops was able to both gain student loyalty as well as boost excitement for the promotion.
To get the word out to students, they sent email blasts, hung posters, as well as provided details on Facebook and their website. The most effective strategy they found, however, was handing out specific instructions on-site.
“The second day of buyback, we decided to try something new to increase participation,” she explained. “We had employees hand out a small flyer to students waiting in line with 3 steps detailing how to check-in, which really seemed to help!“
In fact, in the first three days of the promotion, the store had 196 check-ins, creating exceptional word of mouth marketing for their buyback! As a result, Titan Shops Facebook fan count increased, creating an additional bonus.
Because this is their first year running the new promotion, however, they did encounter a few problem areas they plan to revamp for the following semester.
“This strategy is still very new, so it’s been a learning experience,” Ball said. “We found that our check-in numbers were fluctuating more than they should have been, and realized that students were deleting the post after they entered the contest. In the future, we plan to implement new requirements for claiming prizes to encourage students to leave this information on their page.”
Many stores may worry that handing out so many prizes could add up to a huge piece of their store’s budget. But, using their resources, Titan Shops was able to integrate their contest at a relatively minimal cost.
“We did spend $1000 on the gift cards,” admits Ball, “but that was really the only major expense associated with the contest. We used the co-op section of the MBS Buyback by Design catalog, which let us secure the iPads at half the price, and our advertising costs were minimal because we did so much online.”
Although the store doesn’t have any final numbers yet, they believe their ‘Check-In to Win’ promotion was ultimately successful at generating additional traffic to their buyback.
“The contest made our buy a more interactive experience and got the students involved,” she said. “It puts us where the students are, and lets us communicate with them in a way that the competition can’t.”
Thanks for following our Strategies for Success Series over the past week! For more information on any of these innovative ideas, talk with your MBS Representative.
Learn how some of our most innovative partner stores are using their resources creatively to generate traffic at their buyback during our four-part series, Strategies for Success.
Trying to plan an event based on student interests can sometimes feel like a guessing game. Ashland University Bookstore decided to eliminate this guesswork, however, by adding a new ingredient to their strategy: feedback.
Supported by a 2015 Foundation Grant awarded by the National Association of College Stores last fall, the store reached out to their students with a survey, asking for direct input on their in-store promotions.
“We were hosting a lot of good events, but weren’t getting the turn out we had hoped for,” explained Terri Hudson, Ashland University bookstore director. “By partnering with our school’s Student Senate Business Committee to create an online survey, we were able to get an idea of what our students really wanted.”
Based on these suggestions, the store updated their approach to this semester’s buyback by involving campus administration. Their new event “Dr. Finks Pays You” offered an enhanced experience by integrating a meet and greet with the university president.
Working behind the counter, Dr. Finks handed out buyback funds and snacks to participating students, sparking a unique form of interaction. Responding with enthusiasm, hundreds of students attended the buyback, with a line down the hall during the president’s appearance.
“He has a very gregarious personality, and knows many students by name, which only added to the high-energy environment,” Hudson said. “But, what really sweetened the deal was that he provided the opportunity for students to win two $300 textbook scholarships!”
Adding to the excitement, Ashland University Bookstore also offered giveaways with prizes including iPads and gift cards to reward their loyal customers. Using the co-op section of the Buyback by Design catalog, they were able to offer these more expensive prizes without going over budget.
Besides the benefits to students, the buyback also strengthened relationships between the store and school administration, according to Hudson.
“Dr. Finks was able to observe the process and better understand some of the issues we face, especially during the first few days of the buy when many retail prices aren’t set,” she said. “It provided a snapshot of what we go through as a store to put money back in students’ hands.”
Overall, Hudson considers the new strategy to be a huge success, and plans to implement it again next semester.
“Having administration participate puts a different spin on buyback, and validates the event,” she said. “All together, it created a positive-energy environment and fostered a feeling of good will towards our students.”
For more information on how to implement any of these winning ideas in your store, talk with your MBS Representative. Stay tuned for the next installment of our Strategies for Success Series tomorrow!