MIT Commencement 2015

July 28, 2015

I took what I learned from the past few years and applied the learnings to our social media efforts for this year's Commencement week. We received great engagement on MIT's social channels. 

The hashtag

At MIT, we used the hashtag #MIT2015, which followed our usual pattern: MIT and the year of the graduating class. I've managed social media for several Commencements. The first time I was involved, I observed that some people would use the hashtag we set, but some would use #MITCommencement. We would have to track the analytics for both, and the conversation was split. I recognized that we would have to improve our pre-Commencement marketing, and we did. Now almost everyone uses the marketed hashtag (e.g., #MIT2015). 

There were many secondary hashtags that complemented and accompanied the main hashtag. For example, the Department of Biological Engineering used the hashtag #mitbe15 to congratulate graduates from the department. The Alumni Association used the hashtag #techreunions; some of their events belong to both Commencement and alumni events, such as the procession of the Class of 1965 during this year's Commencement. 

Twitter engagement

After setting the hashtag, I started tracking it using Hashtracking, which provides basic analytics for Twitter. From early May through Commencement, about 2,800 tweets were posted by about 1,300 unique tweeters, resulting in 28 million timeline deliveries. The hashtag's reach was 6.5 million. Fifty-six percent of tweets using the hashtag contained media, such as a photo. 

Instagram engagement

On Instagram, I saw more Commencement-related posts than in any previous year. More than 350 Instagram photos were posted from Senior Week all the way through to family dinners after Commencement. It was incredible to see how Instagram went from being a new, emerging platform to an established way that students and their families share their lives with each other and with the world. Instagram was also one of the top apps people used to send tweets. 

How we used print to support social media

We continued a few of our marketing efforts that previously had been successful. For example, all students must pick up their regalia in the weeks preceding Commencement, so we printed business cards with social media information and handed them out with regalia. It was an easy way to reach all the students. We also made table signs for display in the information tents on Killian Court. These efforts were the same as last year

Social media on large displays

On the Jumbotron the morning of Commencement, we displayed tweets as usual: this is the second year we've included both text and images—in previous years we only displayed the text of the tweets. 

We also displayed results from a campaign started in May called #alwaysMIT. This campaign garnered some great engagement. We received over 90 responses on our LinkedIn post and we were still receiving responses on the post in late June. 

Our social media team

Another improvement this year was the addition of two people to the Commencement social media team: Emer Garland and Tom Pixton of MIT Communication Production Services. Tom used a GoPro to show a wide bird's eye view of the events. He started in the Johnson Athletic Center, where graduates were lining up. Tom also headed to 77 Mass. Ave. and down the Infinite Corridor. 

Emer used an iPod and was stationed in Killian Court. She captured the scenes on Killian Court before, during, and after Commencement. While Tom got some unique height to his photos, Emer got more personal photos on the ground to show what the typical attendee on Killian Court would be experiencing. Both views were helpful in capturing the whole experience. 

I roamed Killian Court in the morning, then managed live social media monitoring, content creation, and analytics from my desk during the rest of the morning and the ceremony, headed out into campus in the afternoon to take photos, returning to my desk in the late afternoon and evening to work on more posting, curation, analytics, and reporting. 

To communicate with each other, we chose text messaging. The three of us have iPhones, so we could rely on WiFi or data to send messages to each other. We shared photos in a shared iOS album so that Emer and Tom could send the photos they were taking on location and I could post the photos in near-real time on MIT's social media. Unfortunately, it took a long time for photos to come through on the shared album. Emer and Tom eventually had to email key photos to me, which was faster than waiting for a photo to come through in the album. 


After combing through all the social posts related to Commencement, I compiled Storify stories so that the MIT community could see highlights. MIT's Storify account features the following stories: 

MIT Doctoral Hooding 2015
Megan Smith: MIT Commencement Address
President Reif’s Charge to the MIT Class of 2015
Commencement: Class of 2015 Point of View
MIT Commencement 2015 in Photos
MIT Mortarboards 2015
MIT Commencement 2015
Family and Friends Congratulate the Class of 2015

Posted By
Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Stephanie Hatch Leishman

Former MIT Social Media Strategist

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