A Flurry of Photos and Other Ways to Experience Snow Days on Campus

close up of ice on a treet“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.

Michigan Makes Snow Day History

snowboarder jumping in air at umich

Photo courtesy University of MLive

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.

This Storify from Mlive captures all of the fun.

TribeSnow at William & Mary

william and mary students spell out W and M in snow

This photo was tweeted with this message: “We’re holding auditions to find an ampersand.” Photo by user @rachelhbee

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.

I could get used to no Wednesday classes this semester… #wmTribeSnow pic.twitter.com/H749jFcyI0

— quackyduck18 (@quackyduck18) January 29, 2014

A search of the hashtag also revealed this great video of the snowy campus.

UMWSnowDay

snowy path through trees in woods

Photo from user @berkleyRS from #UMWsnowday

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.

Trinity College Captures Snowfall

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.

Snow-E Town

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.

A Note About Snow Day Precautions

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.

  • LoriPA

    Love the video from E-town, Donna! Such a great idea for campuses that are lovely in the snow — for prospective students, for nostalgic alums, for cold current students/faculty/staff.

  • Mike Thornhill

    We always seem to get the most engagement out of our Facebook fans/likers/whatever-we’re-supposed-to-call-them when we post snow or other weather related photos.
    Here are some of this year’s galleries:
    http://tinyurl.com/mhu-snow-20140213
    http://tinyurl.com/mhu-snow-20140128
    http://tinyurl.com/mhu-below-zero
    http://tinyurl.com/mhu-snow-20131127

    MHU folklore is that “we never cancel classes,” so on the occasions when we run on a delayed schedule or *do* cancel classes (or just have snow and cold weather), we get a flurry (!) of posts from alumni telling their tales of Mars Hill winters past.

    • http://www.donnatalarico.com/ Donna Talarico

      Mike, that’s great! E-town rarely closed either until recent years so it’s always fun to hear the “folklore” type stories. Thanks for adding to the article with your comment!

  • amy white

    Donna, a few of our students at Lehigh University spent their snow day building a life-size igloo just off campus and we featured photos of it in our campus photo Tumblr – http://lehighu.tumblr.com/post/76458481757/scenes-from-south-bethlehem-during-last-weeks-2

    Snow fun!

    (Meant to share this with you last week but apparently forgot to hit “post”). Thanks for organizing this snow roundup!

    • http://www.donnatalarico.com/ Donna Talarico

      Thanks for adding this! Love it.

  • Peter Anglea

    A local alumnus brought a camera-equipped drone to campus and shot some great aerial footage. Snow is Greenville, SC is rare, so we compiled it into a nice video. https://www.facebook.com/BobJonesUniversity/posts/10152141358551236

    • http://www.donnatalarico.com/ Donna Talarico

      How cool! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.jaimelhunt.com Jaime Hunt

    We did a time lapse of the snowfall on our campus. Amazing reach on social media! https://vimeo.com/86928672

  • http://www.donnatalarico.com/ Donna Talarico

    Thanks everyone for sharing your comments!

  • Mary Jo Stockton

    Our students spent the day making snowpeople and posting photos. Many were wearing something Longwood related such as our scarf. We collected them and posted to a Facebook album (with permission).
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152196917603011.1073741866.55130113010