Friday, November 4, 2011

Surviving a Pterodactyl Invasion with Social Media

On Halloween Monday the University of North Texas launched an awareness campaign for some official communication channels and procedures in a fun and creative package. The campaign had a simple premise: UNT had been invaded by pterodactyls.

The campaign included a fake press release, safety tips highlighting some campus resources and even a subtitled PSA from the mascot, Scrappy the Eagle.

Alyssa Yancey, a university News Promotion Specialist, pointed out that the project was "designed to show a lighter side of UNT" and encourage students to engage with the university’s Facebook page and Twitter 

(Full Disclosure: I am a proud alumnus of UNT and thought this was pretty cool.) 

I sent a few questions to Alyssa to get her take.

What was your inspiration for this project?
The University of North Texas’ Halloween mock-pterodactyl invasion was inspired by the Center for Disease Control’s Zombie Apocalypse preparedness tips from last May.

Why did you choose pterodactyls?
The University of North Texas wanted to choose a topic that would be recognized as a joke and not a serious threat immediately. UNT also wanted something that would resonate with students and alumni. An extinct dinosaur, with a striking resemblance to UNT’s mascot Scrappy the eagle seemed to fit the bill.

What did you hope to achieve through this initiative?
This initiative was designed to increase UNT’s engagement with our Facebook fans and our Twitter followers. We haven’t ever really done anything like this, so we wanted to show our students that we have a personality and a sense of humor.

Was it considered a success?
The invasion was definitely a success. Throughout the day, we engaged with students and others in the Denton community, and had a great time. We encouraged students to submit photos, and they did. Some went on to add to the pterodactyl storyline by submitting historic photos of pterodactyls on campus, and suggesting they know other dinosaurs are plotting a Thanksgiving invasion. Students also joined in on the fun by retweeting the safety tips, release and PSA, sharing information to their Facebook pages and blogging about the invasion.

On Twitter, our retweets, direct mentions and follower counts all showed a strong increase from regular news days. UNT Facebook posts about the invasion, as well as student-contributed content, received numerous likes and positive comments, and the Scrappy YouTube video shot to more than 500 views quickly.

In addition to Alyssa, I reached out to Samra Bufkins, MJ, APR, Strategic Communications Lecturer at UNT's Mayborn School of Journalism for some additional thoughts on the invasion"
"They were hoping for a little more student interaction, but we're finding many students still aren't on twitter or following UNT official accounts. However, I think it's the kind of thing they should try again, maybe at another holiday time. You expect stuff like this at Halloween and April Fool's Day—maybe have some fun around a holiday that's not one for pranks. It was a good, fun, creative outlet and allowed everyone to poke fun at the construction and some other things around here. And at mid-semester, everyone needs a laugh!"
I really loved this fun and creative attempt to increase awareness and usage of the university's Facebook and Twitter presences along with some basic campus resource information. This is a great example of an organization demonstrating that they have a personality. Well done.

[Top photo credit: UNT Facebook page submitted photo]
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