February 12, 2014
“Snow day” could be defined in two ways. First, the snow day in the traditional sense that most of us who grew up in areas that experience winter remember as kids — the kind where there is NO SCHOOL! Second, you also could think of a “snow day” as simply a day that blankets campus with layers of the white stuff, even if classes are on.
At Elizabethtown College, snow pictures continue to be the most-liked, most-shared and furthest-reaching social media posts — and we have a gorgeous fall! Even text-only, weather-related tweets — without a visual — get more traction than other seemingly more pivotal updates. It got me thinking: This has to be the case at other snow-covered schools. I wanted to know what kinds of special social media things my higher ed colleagues were doing as the snow clobbered much of the northeast on a recent Monday, and then again when the snow turned to freezing rain that Wednesday. I turned to Twitter to poll my peers.
Some colleges take pride in weathering the storm — trying the best they can to remain in operation but making the difficult decision to delay or close when necessary. So it’s not unusual to see schools go years without a delay or closure. But University of Michigan went 36 years without a snow day! Thirty. Six. The last one was in 1978.
Last time Michigan had a snow day my dad was a freshman at UMich.
— Allie Tharp (@tharpsohard) January 27, 2014
“As you can imagine, students were completely shocked and incredibly excited,” said Hillary Frazier, senior social media specialist at UMich.
It wasn’t just snow, however, that led to this decision: The windchill that day made the temperature feel like 30-degrees below zero. The cancellation tweet was retweeted 594 times, according to Frazier. And the response from students and alumni included shock, with comments such as “Unbelievable” and “WHAT?” and “You know it must be cold…” and “last time Michigan had a snow day by dad was a freshman.” One person shared a picture of a celebratory waffle — topped with a pile of, not snow, but close enough: vanilla ice cream.
Williamsburg, Va., home to historic College of William & Mary had some snow scenery over the past couple of weeks. Tiffany Beker, web developer and social media coordinator, said the college, on numerous snowy days, promoted the hashtag #wmTribeSnow on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and then they created a Storify after. Beker said the response was positive.
“Snow-related posts on Facebook got higher than average engagement and likes,” she said, adding that the hashtag garnered more than 60 photos on Instagram and Twitter.
— quackyduck18 (@quackyduck18) January 29, 2014
A search of the hashtag also revealed this great video of the snowy campus.
Brynn Boyer, assistant director of media and public relations at Frederickburg, Va.-based University of Mary Washingon, said her team solicited content from students using the hashtag #UMWSnowDay. Then they created a Storify to showcase the snowy images all in one spot. The Storify tells the story (as a Storify should, right!) of the day. “The snow started out slowly…” Images of light snow follow the intro. But then another headline: “But soon, campus had turned into — at the risk of sounding cliché — a winter wonderland.” Snowier scenes follow — there’s sledding, snowmen and snowball fights.
Boyer reports that these efforts led to great engagement. There were about 1,180 views on Storify between two stories, and Facebook posts received 1,099 likes, 40 comments and 83 shares. UMW “regrammed” student photos on its Instagram account, and the student-generated content led to 176 likes.
There’s something about snow falling that is so peaceful and pretty. But, for some reason, it seems more beautiful when flurries fall against a backdrop of ornate architecture. Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut captured just that in its “Snowfall at Trinity College” video. Set to a serene soundtrack, the video showcases many angles of the college’s landscape, as well as students enjoying the weather through activities from building snowmen to playing snow football.
Thanks to Caroline Deveau, associate director-digital communications, for sharing this video with us.
While I’m writing this, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to share what my team and I did. At Elizabethtown College, things happened organically this snow-filled season. We didn’t even need to prompt students to share wintery photos — I was thrilled to see so many photos appearing with the official college hashtag, #etowncollege — it seems to be second nature now with our audience. We created a Storify to collect all of the Instagram and Twitter images from Monday and Wednesday’s storms in one spot. On one snow day earlier this season, I was working from home and was super bummed that I could not take campus scenery shots myself. Then I remembered an app I thought I’d not have a use for, and I ended up “regrammming” student photos — asking permission first. That was a fantastic solution to share photos our followers crave without having to be on campus.
If you were to go for a walk in the snow or ice or frigid temps, you need to take precautions such as wearing proper footwear, covering your ears and walking slowly. Just like those safety measures, there are a few things to consider about promoting social media fun in certain cases. Frazier explained that at UMich, they chose not to do much in the way of snow day promotion because of the wind chill — they didn’t want people going outside if they didn’t have to. Also, although classes were cancelled, many employees still had to report to work so they want to be sensitive to that.
Social media snow days can be piles of fun. Maybe it’s because it makes us feel like kids again. Maybe it’s because snow is just so pretty. What ever the reasons, it’s clear that students (and employees!) at colleges and universities everywhere share an affection for snowy scenes and wintery weather. With that said, snow suits a spontaneous social media promotion — yet, social media managers also should consider any potential issues (such as encouraging students to take photos on an icy day.)
(And then there’s the tweets such “why AREN’T classes cancelled?” But that’s a whole other topic!)
Thanks to everyone who shared their snowy stories. Now it’s time to hear from others: what have YOU done this season on your campus? Share below in the comments section.