© 2018 V
Social Media Ambassadors Boost University Admissions
Most people consult reviews or seek a friend’s recommendation before making a
large purchase. A peer’s approval is almost always worth more than that of the
seller. University of Pittsburgh (Pitt; Pittsburgh, PA) found a way to use this
standard to their advantage by introducing an ambassador program that put social
media marketing in the hands of their students.
Below-average enrollment numbers spurred Pitt to examine potential
disconnects in their brand messaging. Prospective students were having a hard time
visualizing themselves on campus. In an effort to offset this trend, the admissions
office hired eight student workers to serve as social media ambassadors for a 12-
week period to help increase enrollment.
“Prospective students want to hear from current students rather than
marketers,” says Marketing Content Manager for Pitt’s Office of Admissions and
Financial Aid Michele Hop-Ganev. “The best way to get an accurate picture of life
at Pitt is hearing it straight from the students, so we decided to get out of the middle
and let them speak for themselves.”
Now, when prospects visit Pitt’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, they see
student-generated posts that accurately reflect their interests. Engagement has
exploded as honest interactions take place online every day.
“First, we trained social media ambassadors on how to be authentic to the Pitt
brand while still staying true to themselves,” says Jeremy Ryan, executive vice
president of creative and digital services for Lipman Hearne, a Chicago, IL-based
marketing agency. “They learned how to reinterpret brand messages in a way that
worked for them. This helped create a framework the institution could implement
consistently across channels.” Ambassadors are provided with information and
content related to topics like student life, athletics and academics, which are used to
open dialogue with prospective students.
Here is why Pitt’s social media ambassador program works:
• Gamification is incorporated. Offering bonuses to ambassadors who garner the
most engagement helps keep this campaign going strong. “Humans are
competitive by nature, so rewarding the completion of simple tasks goes a long
way,” Ryan says.
• Authenticity is prioritized. “We were upfront with our ambassadors about
expectations, but we didn’t micromanage the ways in which they delivered their
messages,” Hop-Ganev says. “Extra breathing room allows ambassadors to tell
our story in unique ways.”
• Engaging content is generated. Pitt’s social media presence went from zero to
100 thanks to the daily, ambassador-generated posts and updates. Inclusion of
creative hashtags and campus-specific lingo helps reinforce brand recognition
among prospects and other online viewers.
• Maintenance is manageable. “A social media ambassador program can be
administrated by a single, tech-savvy resource,” Ryan says. “These programs pay
• Program is flexible. “We originally used a leaderboard to show ambassadors
how their posts’ engagement stacked up,” Ryan says. “When students expressed
their dislike for this feature we eliminated it completely and found new ways to
reward diligence. Not everything is going to work — a willingness to be flexible
can take your program to new heights!”
Source: Jeremy Ryan, Executive Vice President, Creative and Digital Services, Lipman Hearne,
Chicago, IL. Phone (312) 809-0080. E-mail: email@example.com. Website: www.
Michele Hop-Ganev, Marketing Content Manager, Office of Admissions and Financial
Aid, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA. Phone (412) 624-9995. E-mail: michele.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.oafa.pitt.edu
When you’re called upon to give a
presentation about your nonprofit,
remember the KISS rule (Keep It Simple,
Stupid!). Don’t overwhelm your audience
with too much information. Remember,
they’ll only remember a small portion of
what you say anyway.
In drafting your speech outline,
select two or three main messages and
then build your talk around them.
Reinforce and reiterate these key points
to make sure these are what your
audience will remember.
Limiting your words may be
difficult. After all, you may feel so
enthusiastic about your cause that you
want to go on and on about it.
Instead, channel that enthusiasm into
sharing key points with an energy and
spirit that your audience won’t soon
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