Mason Students Use Social Media for Social Good

Conversation-starter videos attract 1,500 views in 15 days

by Suzanne Lowery Mims

Mason Students Use Social Media for Social Good
Students in COMM 388 created a social media campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault, the "elephant on campus."

What makes some content so sticky, spreadable or contagious that the message goes viral? How can the average citizen tap into the power of social media and use it strategically, for social good?

Mason students in “Contemporary PR and Social Media” (COMM 388) fall semester found answers to those questions and more. They also found an audience of about 1,500 viewers in 15 days for their “social media for social good” pilot campaigns.  

“Their assignment was to try to start a conversation about an issue of concern on campus,” said Professor Suzanne Lowery Mims. “Students wisely chose issues that were compelling and highly relevant to the target audience.” The conversation-starters focused on sexual assault, cancer awareness, drunk driving, connecting through diversity, and voter empowerment. Students first conducted secondary and then primary research on their topic, developed a message strategy and storyboards, and created a short video. 

“There is an elephant on campus…” grabbed students’ attention as an elephant-clad student sauntered across campus to a mix of mild interest, blank stares to intentional looking away. “The elephant is sexual assault, a topic no one wants to really talk about but we wanted to get that conversation started,” explained senior Kenia Zelaya.

The “Rainbow of Ribbons” video urged students to “think beyond pink” and learn more about cancers other than breast cancer. The “Friends Don’t Let Friends…” video simply and clearly urged students to help stop friends from doing stupid things like drive drunk. “Listen up, Millennials” used humor and practical information to urge students to value their right to vote as well as to register and plan to vote in upcoming elections.  

The videos were launched using the full range of social media relations tactics including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others, as well as more traditional media relations, emails, and face-to-face and word-of-mouth tactics.  

“We were excited by the qualitative response to our video – not just the number of views but who viewed it and passed it on,” said senior Ace Chapman. His team created a video urging students to celebrate the school’s diversity and to connect more cross-culturally, using the hashtag #IAmMason. Mason President Ángel Cabrera and the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education retweeted messages about the video.

The “social media for social good” campaigns were used by the students to test their messages, video concepts, and tactics. Teams analyzed their results and then developed proposals for a complete social media engagement campaign based on what they learned in the pilot.