How to Hype Homecoming Using Social Media

Do you need a social media strategy for homecoming? Absolutely! And you’ve probably already got one. Students, alumni, parents, and friends are living life’s biggest moments online. Your alumni post on Facebook, addictively scroll through Instagram and celebrate their marriages with custom hashtags; having a social strategy for homecoming helps you find them where they are.

Like a wedding, homecoming is a chance for old friends to hang out, reminisce, and make new memories. Then afterward, they can relive the good times, post new pics, un-tag themselves from the dance party candid pics, and hopefully make plans to attend again next year.  A good homecoming social media strategy helps you drum up participation and then effortlessly ride alongside as alumni generate most of the activity.

But, since social media is never effortless, it takes a lot of prep work and thought to create something that complements a big event. When you’re planning, it’s helpful to break up your social media strategy into three manageable segments: Before, when you’re building momentum and spreading the word. During, when you’re engaging and delighting. After, when you’re reinforcing memories and sustaining the relationship. Here’s how to get started:

Before: Build Hype

Start earlier than you want to. Ideally when all stakeholders are just putting together all the plans for this year’s events. You won’t start posting now, but you’ll be planning ahead for moments where social media will shine.

Are there alumni who are particularly engaged with your social media accounts already? Contact them and see if they’d like to do special coverage during homecoming. Will there be especially photogenic moments? Early is the time to plan a “babies of the Class of 2013 photoshoot.”  If homecoming has a theme, you can source the stories, people, and photos that will convey it in an exciting manner.

When you’re finally ready to post, you’ll be focused on getting people to attend the event.  Channel your best back-to-school nostalgia and reunion-of-old-friends vibes. The bulk of your outreach should coincide with the season: late August and September leading up to your event. Even if you’re focused on attendance goals, remember to make it all about your audience. This event is for them and so is the social media.

During: Nurture Engagement

Event-driven social media is supposed to be fun. Yes, you should have earnest “why I donated” types of posts, but also get people to wear shark masks and snap selfies.

If your homecoming alumni and friends are having fun at the event, prompt them to post and share. Your event attendees are your best event ambassadors. Their pictures, opinions, and snapshots of the day offer an authentic view of your homecoming that the official social media presence cannot.

Day-of gimmicks can prompt people to take the party online. Sidewalk chalk your hashtag to remind people to use it, create a day-of scavenger hunt with online components. Run contests to encourage people to share pictures or publish posts.

  • Feature Online-Only Content

This one is for the folks who really wanted to go but couldn’t. Or, to capture the alumnae scrolling through her newsfeed looking for something interesting to latch onto. Consider running online-only events throughout homecoming. Use your video and livestreaming capabilities to make the excitement of the live event accessible to people at home. Live tweet updates or share quizzes or nostalgic photos in honor of the event.

  • Collect Content for Later

Homecoming content can be used long after the event.  Assign members of your team to collect pictures, videos, quotes, and interviews. If you approach the event with an editorial calendar in mind, homecoming can generate fodder for blog posts, special email blasts, collages, and extra social media posts for the coming months.

  • Interact

If you see a great social post about your homecoming, request permission to share it on your official accounts. As long as the user is happy to share, posting user-generated content is one of the best testimonials there is. The more user generated content you can share, the better. And you can save some to post for after the event too.

After: Follow Up

As the tents come down and the balloons deflate, gather feedback and steward donors and friends. If you get good input now, you’ll be able to strengthen the event for next year—both online and in person.

  • Respond to Complaints

If you missed any complaints on social or need to respond to people’s difficulties during the event, follow up on them. Take notes internally for next time and make sure you’ve appropriately communicated with your followers.

  • Run a Survey

People love being heard and want their opinion to matter. Do your social followers have any comments about the event? Run an online poll to find out what people liked and what could be different. Use an anonymous online survey or opt for something more fun such as poll stickers on Instagram stories.

  • Tie in a Stewardship Campaign

If homecoming attendees donated to your annual fund, make sure you thank them. In addition, all homecoming attendees should be marked as being more engaged than other subsets of your constituent base. These folks are great candidates for periodic campus updates and marketing tactics designed to build their relationship with you. Finding ways to gradually strengthen their connection will help you improve event attendance or lay the groundwork for future gifts.

  • Publish an Event Retrospective

Sometimes the online recap of a good event can be just as fun to attendees as the event itself. Take people right back to the weekend! Capture exciting moments in the football game, grab some cameos of alumni of all ages enjoying the day, share photos of people all dolled up and having a great time. A slideshow or a montage video with highlights will do the trick—there are lots of ways to keep the event fresh in people’ minds for a few weeks after it happened.

Moving Forward

The post-event glow eventually dims, but if you carefully planned an editorial calendar and collected pictures, stories, and quotes during the event, you’ll have lots of content to power your social media during other parts of the year. You can use this content to represent your institution in a fun, authentic way online, or you can put it to work for more concrete goals. Whether you’re marketing for next year’s event, or making the case for the annual fund, your carefully planned homecoming social media strategy builds on itself to help you power the next big thing.