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Time to Tweet: PHC Uses Social Media to Expand Presence

August 29th, 2013

By Rachel Aldrich

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 441-8722
OfficeOfCommunications@phc.edu

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Chelsea Rankin, PHC's Social Media Coordinator. Photo Credit to Christine Roe.

The Patrick Henry College Communications Department kicked off its new year during freshman orientation by hosting a tweet hunt and an Instagram contest. Chelsea Rankin with Communications said a lot of people participated in the tweet hunt, and the staff is brainstorming ways to increase participation next year.

The contests are just part of the push to develop new ways to expand the college’s presence on social media.

Rankin is the editorial assistant, social media coordinator, and web content specialist for the communications department. Since she got the position a year ago, she has focused on creating a “vibrant presence” on social media for PHC. And things seem to be going well – the school has seen 140 percent growth on Facebook since then.

This is the first time the communications department has marketed PHC on social media so aggressively, Rankin said. PHC is reaching across social media platforms, with accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr.

“It’s a learning opportunity for us and our department,” Rankin said.

The communications department held its first tweet hunt early last semester, which was followed by 100 new followers on Twitter.

But the new social media marketing isn’t all fun and games. A new policy change has the department releasing information for students on Twitter first. In cases of relaxed dress code, snow days, and other campus announcements, Student Life will post important information on Twitter before sending out a student email.

 
 

Instagram contest poster

But all platforms are not created equal. While Twitter is primarily for students, Facebook targets parents, prospective students, and others affiliated with PHC.

Rankin has more plans for the future, including another tweet hunt.

Communications hosted a check-in for Newsmaker Interviews last year, where students who checked-in on Facebook got donut holes. They’re planning on hosting that event for future Newsmaker Interviews. She is looking to hosting a tweet chat, where students could connect with and ask questions of an influential person over PHC’s Twitter, probably on a certain hot topic. She is also planning a “Pin to Win” contest, where students would create a board on Pinterest for their dream dorm room. Winners for any of the contests would receive gift cards to local businesses.

Rankin hopes to use social media to connect students and reach out to people who are interested in the school. Social media is important, she said, because so many people use it: “I wanted our students to be more real to people, and to make it come to life.”

So far, it looks like the team’s efforts are working. Rankin said freshmen students told her they were getting a Twitter account just to stay connected with the school. She expects to continue developing strategies to use social media in creative ways in the future.

“As platforms expand, we’ll grow with it,” she said.