Graduation is one of the most memorable days of someone's life. The excitement and feelings of accomplishment and anticipation are irreplaceable. (I'm actually getting really nostalgic as I write this...)
But, it is also one of the best opportunities for you as a marketer. There is no other opportunity that allows you to effortlessly and fully capture the raw emotion of students, parents and faculty, the success of your school's education, and the meaning of your culture and community — all at one perfectly orchestrated event.
That being said, while the day is about celebrating students...it is one of the best opportunities for marketing. So, if you've been spending the past few months with your head buried in logistics, the following seven-tips will provide you with the knowledge you need for a last-minute killer social media marketing plan for the monumental day.
1. Create and encourage a branded hashtag
Ask parents, students, faculty and other graduation attendees to share their photos and stories on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook using a hashtag you choose. This helps you promote all the micro-moments happening at the Commencement ceremony (and the days leading up to it) that you wouldn't necessarily see. This provides you with a lot of authentic content to re-tweet, re-gram, post on your website, or dynamically feed it on to a certain page of your website using a tool like Finalsite Feeds.
To ensure guests use the hashtag, promote it on your social media accounts, as well as in the emails going to event attendees about logistics. The latter will most likely be the more successful of the two.
2. Create an Instagram cut-out for a fun prop
Create an Instagram IRL (in real life) experience with a cut-out of what your school's posts look like on the app. It's a great way to encourage guests to interact with you on social media and promotes your hashtag.
When we made our first one for FinalsiteU two years ago, they weren't yet a trend, so we had to make ours from scratch using Illustrator. But now, they're also affordable and easy to order. Plus, even if you're late to the bandwagon, if you order now, you will certainly have one in time for graduation day.
Here's a whole bunch of different ones you can order. I particularly like this one that's available on Etsy.
3. Use Instagram Reels
Instagram is the best social platform for digital storytelling, as it was simply created just to share photos and videos. Recent updates, including Instagram Reels, make it even easier to share photos, without the need to edit them to adhere to Instagram "best practices" of sharing high-quality photos. With Reels, you can share moments and events as they are happening. You can post photos and videos as they're happening and upload them to your school's "story."
4. Create a Snapchat Geofilter
While a Snapchat filter might not do your marketing department much use (unless you ask snappers to send you their photos and videos via email) it is something fun that students love to use — especially at an event like graduation where they will be taking lots of photos.
You can learn more about creating and submitting geofilters on Snapchat's website here.
5. Try Facebook Live + Facebook Stories
In case you were wondering: Facebook Live was implemented before Instagram Live, and Instagram Stories came before Facebook Stories.
Facebook Live and Facebook Stories offer virtually the exact same marketing concept as Instagram Live and Instagram Stories. So, you'll most likely have to choose between promoting your live commencement ceremony and content on Instagram or Facebook.
Here are a couple considerations if you're torn on the matter:
- Audience size: Most schools have a much larger audience on Facebook than Instagram, unless they've spent the past school year building up their Instagram presence.
- Notifications: When someone goes "Live" on Instagram, users receive a push notification unless they've previously opted out.
- Audience engagement: While most schools have a larger reach on Facebook, Instagram is proven to have more engagement
- Life of the live video: Once you're done "being live" on Facebook, your video is automatically saved and posted to your wall. The same is not true for Instagram.
- Competition: Because Facebook Stories are newer (and appear at the top of your page like in Instagram) there is most likely less competition on Facebook than Instagram for making sure your stories get seen. Because of course on Instagram, there's an algorithm for that.
6. Feature student profiles
Feature select graduate profiles — like your valedictorian or salutatorian — on social media on the days leading up to graduation. This serves a dual purpose: First, the featured students and their families will feel inclined to share the social post, helping your content and marketing reach new audiences. Second, it's a way to subtly promote the outcome of your school's education.
If you're really short on time, rather than doing in-depth profiles, you can also share college matriculation stats or other fun facts about your graduates prior to commencement.
7. Get amazing content to share on social media later on
Aaron Schorn, Hawai'I Prepartory School's Webmaster, is an industry trailblazer for authentic content marketing who knows exactly how to use an event like commencement to create content that can be used at any point during the year to encourage donations and spark new inquiries.
"If you want amazing content, you need to find parents when they are reflective and emotional," he said. "So, a student and myself came up with the not-so-unique idea of asking parents questions right after graduation."
The last-minute plan entailed three questions:
- Describe graduation.
- What has HPA done for your child?
- What advice do you have for your child as they head off to college?
All Aaron and his fellow student had for equipment? A camera, monopod, and microphone.
The content of this video lends itself to multiple scenarios:
- A parent testimonial about the HPA experience
- A student testimonial about the HPA experience
- A video that showcases the school's diversity (naturally — not forced)
"Through trial and a decent amount of error, I found that simple questions yield good responses, but the simple follow-up questions create great responses," said Aaron. "A follow-up question like 'Can you expand on that' or 'tell me more' gave us the specifics we needed for this video."
After garnering the content, Aaron cut a simple video intro that was used at the beginning of every video posted to social media from graduation. Keeping them about 1-minute or less, these videos are quick, impactful, and easy to re-create over and over for different social media campaigns.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, story-telling, coffee, and creating content that connects.