On November 6, we hosted a panel of U-M alumni, students, and staff who shared inspiring stories about the power of giving, the impact of #GivingBlueday, and the guiding vision behind the Victors for Michigan Campaign. Our panelists were: Katherine Kowalski (@leadersandbest), Associate Marketing Director, Online Engagement at the Office of University Development; Michael Reed (@michreed0703), U-M alum and account manager at Olapic, a digital agency in New York; and students Madison Graver and Ashley Howard (jointly, using Madison’s handle, @revraGnosidaM), social media coordinator and staff assistant for the Michigan Marching Band , respectively. The varied expertise of our panelists allowed us to explore three diverse perspectives on giving: Katherine described the success of last year’s campaign and discussed this year’s goals; Madison and Ashley shared how their organization benefited from donor gifts; and Michael talked about his motivation for donating, staying involved with U-M, and encouraging other alumni to do the same. All three participants poignantly articulated how U-M has shaped their lives in meaningful ways, and why “the world needs Victors.” With questions ranging from the technical to the deeply personal, we were able to have an engaging dialogue about the power of giving.
If you missed it, you can follow the complete conversation on Storify.
In the days leading up to and following the chat, the #GivingBlueday hashtag generated 4.7 million impressions and achieved an estimated reach of more than 300,000. #GivingBlueday also accumulated 195 posts from 113 different users, generating over 1.5 million impressions on its own. Community members joined the conversation and shared personal stories about their U-M experience. This user engagement made #GivingBlueday the #1 regional trend during the chat.
This was something of a special event for us, since it marked the one-year anniversary of the #UMichChat campaign. On November 7, 2014, we hosted U-M point guard Spike Albrecht and Women’s Basketball head coach Kim Barnes Arico, who gave us an insider’s perspective into all things athletic in general, and Michigan basketball in particular. We saw substantial engagement from that very first conversation, as #UMichChat accumulated over 400 uses in a one-hour timespan. Our team has worked tirelessly ever since to maintain and bolster that level of success.
In our first blog post introducing the campaign, we described it as an effort to engage our Twitter following and reach out to academic leaders on campus. But #UMichChat is much more than that. We follow three foundational principles that guide its success: 1. diverse perspectives, 2. discussion of timely issues, and 3. community engagement. #UMichChat exposes our Twitter followers to robust, honest dialogues about issues that matter right now. Topics highlight current events, academic programs, and university-wide initiatives that are of interest to our community. Additionally, these chats allow our community to think about these issues in the context of U-M For example, in August 2015, we hosted a panel of U-M faculty to discuss Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me, a gripping memoir about the black experience in America. The chat explored various themes: the changing nature of journalism, social media’s role in race relations, and the author’s perspective on racial activism. The panelists also considered the implications of including works like Between the World and Me into undergraduate education.
Our #UMichChats provide diverse perspectives because they bring together voices who ordinarily might not be sharing their opinions. We take extra care to select participants who can provide unique perspectives from different areas of expertise relevant to the issue. Each chat thus provides a holistic, multifaceted look at the topic. Furthermore, the structure of these chats allows our panelists to showcase their expertise in a way that is accessible to the community at large. Most people don’t have the time or expertise to grasp a 50-page dissertation about a complicated topic, but are willing and able to follow a topical Twitter conversation.
For example, in February 2015, we brought together leaders in social media, behavioral analysis, and investigative journalism to discuss the societal implications of cybercrime and internet violence. We were able to expose our followers to a variety of perspectives from UMSI professor Cliff Lampe; Desmond Patton, associate professor at the School of Social Work studying internet gang banging; Detective Sergeant Jay Poupard from the Michigan State Police cybercrime unit; and Eric Strauss, producer for ABC news and a University of Michigan Knight-Wallace Fellow. The varied expertise of our panelists allowed our followers to learn about the issue in an academic, legal, and journalistic context.. As a result, the chat was a well-rounded dialogue about a weighty and complicated issue.
The chats also allow our followers to participate in the dialogue and ask their own questions. Participants also frequently respond to people who mention them while the chat is taking place. What we find most rewarding are the instances where community members have learned about a chat topic and opened a Twitter account explicitly so they could participate. These instances elevate #UMichChat beyond the domain of a regular Twitter Q&A; the campaign would be pointless if we were simply talking to ourselves. By engaging with followers, we can ensure that a real dialogue is taking place.
The impact of this engagement has been enormous. Our chats have reached millions of engaged followers. Our most popular chat (“Forever Go Blue: Life after Michigan“) accumulated more than 14 million impressions. on it’s own. Additionally, for the past six months, #UMichChat (or the relevant topical hashtag) has been a trending topic in the Detroit region.
Over the past year, we have been lucky enough to attract many highly acclaimed participants. These include former congressman John Dingell, ABC News producer Eric Strauss, former Olympian Peter Vanderkaay, author Susan Orlean, former NFL linebacker Dhani Jones, actor Darren Criss, and U-M president Mark Schlissel. By promoting their respective chats on their own social media accounts, these individuals have been able to spread the conversation to hundreds of thousands of people each month.
We are thrilled with the impact these conversations have had so far, but we’re just getting started.. We’re now booking chats up to six months in advance, and as more unit leaders realize the tremendous impact that these Twitter dialogues have, we are confident that the strength of the #UMichChat campaign will only increase. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store! To our followers: thank you for joining the conversation. #UMichChat would be nowhere near as successful as it is now without your constant support, enthusiasm, and engagement. Be sure to join in next month, and #StaySocial with us on all our channels. #GoBlue
This post was written by Sarah Barnitt, #UMSocial intern and Bachelor of Science in Information junior. #StaySocial with her on Instagram and Twitter @SarahBarnitt