Engaging Commuter Students with Social Media

umbc social media collaboration summit

UMBCAre you a social media manager for a community college or commuter campus?

It can seem impossible to engage students who aren’t part of a “captive” audience, as you would find on a residential campus. I have found myself at a loss when students on the commuter campus where I work remain unaware of such perks as free FAFSA help, resumé clinics, random snacks and campus swag giveaways.

At the #UMBCSocial Media Summit this month, there were numerous workshops to choose from and an abundance of knowledge to be gained. Here is what I learned at a presentation led by Jessica El-Zeftawy, UMBC’s Alumni Programming Coordinator:

How to Use Social Media to Connect with Commuter Students and Alumni

waffle fries UMBCSAA1. Use fun drawings in addition to your usual photos and videos. If the images are student generated, that is even better. After seeing Jessica’s waffle fries image, I realized that this could be a fun way to mix things up and show some personality.

2. Have a “Why You Love Our Campus” photo contest. The winner gets to pick out a free hoodie at the bookstore. This was a revelation to me, since at The Universities at Shady Grove (USG) we aren’t permitted to give out cash prizes or gift cards. As a college student (and even now) I would never turn down a chance at a free hoodie! Bonus: if you are specific about terms and conditions, this can be a great way to collect royalty free images.

3. Share the wealth. Inform program directors and members of other departments that if they tweet with your username, you will retweet them (when appropriate).

4. Talk to your student staffers. Have you ever asked an open-ended question on Facebook, only to receive no response? It is common knowledge that the more people interact with your posts, the more users the post will be presented to (impressions). Enlist the help of student employees to serve as social media ambassadors to like, share, and comment to keep the conversation going.

5. TAKE VIDEOS. Even if they are not the best quality, people will click them. I’m not saying that you should spam your accounts with clips of a trash bag blowing around the parking lot; I’m encouraging you to explore video as a tool even if you just go out with your iphone and a cheap tripod. Don’t be intimidated by a lack of experience, just do it!

6. Obvious: create a unique hashtag. Less obvious: use hashtags.org to see what’s trending and gauge effectiveness. You can even pick up free lessons on Twitter etiquette.

shut up and take my money7. Set goals to measure your success. Twitter and Facebook’s analytics tools continue to become more user-friendly. Create a social media strategy (custom hashtags, contests, etc.) and follow through with analytics to see what really works.

8. Connect with alumni on Linkedin. Valuable information to boost engagement with alumni on Linkedin can include financial aid information for graduate students, professional development related news, enrollment dates for graduate programs, course sharing opportunities and faculty profiles.

Images provided courtesy of Jessica El-Zeftawy


For coverage of other topics that I learned about at #UMBCSocial, follow these links:

>> Will That Photo Get You Fined?
>> Coming Soon: College Facebook and Twitter #FTW

Will That Photo Get You Fined?

umbc social media collaboration summit

UMBCWhile I found all of the seminars at the #UMBCSocial social media summit to be highly valuable, the Will That Photo Get You Fined? class led by UMBC Communications Director Dinah Winnick really taught me a lot. This important topic is relevant to everyone that posts and shares media online.

For example, as a member of the marketing department at The Universities at Shady Grove (USG), the majority of promotional images that we use can be traced back to our team. Thus, it is important to make sure all of the images we use are correctly attributed. Here is what I learned from Dinah:

>> The Best Places to Get Your Photos:
1. Take your own or buy stock.
2. Use pictures provided by university photographers.
3. Search for photos from government websites.
4. Use photos with creative commons licensing.
5. Explore collections with unrestricted use.

>> How to Organize Photo Archives
This was an issue that I openly asked the class about. USG’s photo library is a lot for one person to manage, and we currently don’t have a tagging system in place. Here were the suggestions I received from representatives of various campuses throughout Maryland:

1. Maintain a private Flickr.com profile as well as a public one.
2. Photoshelter.com
3. Webdam.com

>> How to Protect Yourself and the Work of Others
1. Always include attribution, even if the photo is free. Here’s an example:

randie hovatter bread

Creative commons image courtesy of Randie Hovatter.

2. For campus photo contests, permission is required to share user-generated imagery. An easy way to obtain permission is to provide a link to terms and conditions in the contest guidelines. Include a phrase such as: By submitting creative work, you agree with our [Terms and Conditions].

3. At large campus events which may be photographed or recorded on video, post a notice on the event program or provide a special sticker that people can place on their name tag to avoid being filmed.


For coverage of other topics that I learned about at #UMBCSocial, follow these links:

>> Engaging Commuter Students with Social Media
>> College Facebook and Twitter #FTW