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How to Create a Global Social Media Campaign (with Students!)

Tiles of Global Baton images

This summer, I managed the Duke Global Baton, a campaign on Instagram where students posted photos and videos from their international studies and global work.

The campaign required me to connect with a new student each week in various locations around the world, and this was my first time coordinating an international campaign. Here’s some of what I learned, from one novice to another.

Before the Campaign Starts

Plan, plan, plan! There are numerous steps that need to be taken well in advance to ensure a successful project.

  • Advertise and recruit. This is a big one, and the earlier you start, the better. For example, starting in February or March, we would post graphics on social media inviting students, faculty and staff to apply to hold the baton in the summer. We would also promote through our newsletter and ask partners on campus to spread the word.

For sign-ups, we’ve used a Qualtrics form and email. Both work! With a larger campaign, it may be nice to have the additional organization that Qualtrics provides.

Applicants would send us their preferred name, year at Duke, program of study and availability. We also considered asking for a photography sample, but so far, we’ve had no issue with lack of quality.

  • Select participants. Decide what criteria you are looking for. For our global campaign, we like to show the breadth of Duke’s international work. We selected baton holders based on the region they would be traveling to and the type of work they would be doing. Availability is probably the most important factor, however! Which leads me to…
  • Schedule. During our ten-week summer campaign, our goal was to have a new student posting every week. Create a spreadsheet as candidates volunteer and use this to solve the scheduling puzzle.

And have a Plan B for scheduling. As we all know, life happens. During our scheduling step, we would make sure to note other Duke study away programs held during the same timeframes and keep a list of other students that we had worked with in the past and could possibly ask to fill in if someone cancels.

  • Prep instruction. We made a short document that explains the campaign and provides some guidelines. Once participants were selected, we would send the document in a template emails for participants that also included dates, passwords and trouble-shooting advice.
  • Design graphics. It really helps to have some of the design work done when the campaign starts. Think about how you might use graphics in advance. For our campaign, we used graphics as covers for the Instagram highlight reels and also shared flyers on Facebook. It helped to have a versatile design where we could plug in images from the different countries and adjust the text as needed.
  • Prepare thank-you’s. Everyone likes to feel appreciated. Write a template email in advance to save a little time, and tailor it to the individual participant.

During the Campaign

Screenshot of Global Baton homepage

Remind. A week before someone is scheduled to post, send an email to remind them of the dates that they are scheduled to post. In this email, we would also include our username, password and any other small reminders about hashtags and signing posts with their personal handles, etc. (We’ve also considered using LastPass to make it easier to share and change the passwords but haven’t quite implemented it yet.)

Respond quickly. Answers questions from participants promptly. With a multi-person campaign, it is important that you answer questions as fast as you can. For us, there were times when participants would have trouble logging into the Instagram account because of security concerns with their location. To allow them to post, we needed to send the authentication code, and quickly. You don’t want to risk your contributors losing interest or not being able to post during their scheduled time.

Send encouragement. A lot of our participants are either in intensive programs or spending time with family and sometimes need a little encouragement or a reminder to post. Let participants know what you’ve enjoyed seeing.

Monitor social accounts. We didn’t review posts before baton holders published, but we would read each post. We’ve never had an issue with content so far (fingers-crossed!).

Throughout the campaign, show some engagement on your social media feed, and it will pay off! We look for active posts and also like and comment on images from other users. Think of it like being an interesting guest at a party – share something valuable and encourage others.

Archive images. Keep in contact with the participants and ask for their original photos that they posted. These pictures will be extremely useful for any sort of documentation or advertising after the campaign, and the resolution is much better than a screenshot. After participants finished posting, we asked them to upload images to a Box folder. Some just emailed their images, and that’s fine, too.

Promote the campaign on other platforms. Here is another instance when having access to archived, full-resolution images can help. We would repost photos from Instagram to our Facebook account and share the link for the campaign. This would allow us to promote the campaign to a separate audience and generate more engagement on both platforms.

Contact partners, again. Let other communicators know when students in their programs are posting and ask other groups on campus to help promote the campaign.

Make highlight reels (Instagram) and collages (Facebook). This is the fun part. This is where your pre-made graphics are extremely helpful. This year, we decided to make a highlight from the country where each baton holder posted. Our highlights feature some of our favorite posts and most active posts this summer (another use of the archived photos; it’s all coming together huh?).

Highlight reel examples

After the Campaign

Once it’s over, there are just a few more things that need to be done.

  • Show more appreciation. Another thank you to the participants can’t hurt. Your mom would be proud. And by doing this, you help your chances with good participation during the next campaign.
  • Offer a reward. We would give participants Duke Global swag. If they completed a survey, the swag was even better ☺
  • Reuse content. We made a couple multimedia features that summarize the campaigns. To create the layout, we used Adobe Spark and posted the feature on our website and shared with partners. Again, full-res archived pictures are very useful. Show what your campaign is all about. This also serves as a last “thank you” to participants. Here are a couple examples:
Screenshot of 'A Week in Singapore' website

Other Tips

During this campaign (again, my first one. EVER) I found a few things that aren’t necessarily required but very helpful.

  • First, remember to leave lots of room for creative freedom. We want to make sure that our participants are expressing themselves (while representing Duke respectfully). You want variety, why else run a collaborative campaign?
  • Next, be flexible. Admittedly, this was hard for me. However, I learned with working on a campaign relying so heavily on outside participation, flexibility is a MUST. Be ready for things to change or not go how you planned. It is ok, and the truth is probably no one will know there is a problem but you.
  • My last bit of advice, before I send you off to be a global campaign expert – it’s okay to be annoying. Everyone is dealing with time differences, travel logistics and overall busy people things. I learned very early that it is ok to “hound” people, and they often seem to appreciate reminders. But you also must be very responsive, in turn.
Picture of 4 women from the Office of Global Affairs
(Here’s the wonderful team that made it all happen, the Office of Global Affairs.)