Mason COMM students create social good campaigns in COMM 384

by Suzanne Mims

STUDENTS PIVOT FROM “PERSONAL” TO “PURPOSEFUL” IN SOCIAL MEDIA FOR SOCIAL GOOD CAMPAIGNS IN COMM384

It's true that Mason students are spending hours and hours on social media every day, anywhere from 2.4 hours to upwards of 4.8 hours a day. Unfortunately, most of those hours are not particularly productive. An exception this spring semester are the students in the PR and Social Media class (COMM384) who spent many purposeful hours launching Social Media for Social Good campaigns.   

Content Calendars are Tricky

"Creating the content is the easy part," said Professor Suzanne Lowery Mims who has taught the course since 2014. "Creating a detailed plan is time-consuming but the content calendar is especially tedious. It's a giant puzzle and all the pieces need to fit."  

It's Not About "Buzz"

While “awareness” is valuable, each campaign was required to define a measurable objective for the 14–21-day campaign. Students need hands-on practice at measuring outcomes, Mims said, since employers will want to see a return on their investments in social media.

The campaigns focused on these measurable goals:

  • Activate a Mason Burnalong app to #GetActiveGMU.
  • Sign a pledge to #Drive_Safe_GMU.
  • Join Friday Free Play to fight loneliness with #F2FforFriendship.
  • Fight stress and register for a time management workshop with #PatriotSelfCare.
  • Sign a petition to #LightUpMason.
  • Nominate Pats for Patriots with #GMUKindness.
  • Put down your phone for #ScreenFreeGMU. 

What's the ROI?

For students who are juggling other classes and working -- many at full time jobs -- running the campaign and posting content as scheduled is a challenge. Several of the teams found that using some traditional PR tactics, like holding an event or partnering with another organization, helped to spur active responses. #ScreenFreeMason created an outdoor event with dozens of students putting down their phones, playing games and enjoying the face-to-face gathering. 

Mason Police joined the #Drive_Safe_GMU team at a kiosk in the Johnson Center, helping that team win 72 signed pledges to drive safe. Pats for Patriots supported the #GMUKindness team, whose campaign helped to prompt 63 new nominations. #GetActiveMason helped generate 52 new signups for the Mason Burnalong exercise account. 

Lessons Learned

As an online hybrid class, students met virtually only once per week online, force the teams to work together remotely. “This was a key lesson for students because that’s how many PR and social media teams are working since COVID,” Mims said. Another takeaway for many students, she said, was to modify content in response to engagement levels. One team even scheduled “interaction days” into their content calendar to respond to audience engagement.