Two Wicked Awesome Social Media Ideas…That I Had Nothing To Do With Whatsoever

It really is all about me.

By “it” I mean the blog that you are reading.

Please let me explain.

When I first started writing this blog in August 2013, I did so for mostly selfish reasons. A few months earlier, I had started a new job at the Harvard Business School (HBS), one which focused entirely on social media. This meant, unfortunately, that I wouldn’t be able to write on a regular basis (contrast this with my previous position at the Tufts University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences where I penned a blog, an e-newsletter, and was a contributing writer to an alumni magazine), so I decided to start blogging about the one thing I knew something about…

The boy band, “One Direction.”

Just kidding.

The answer is social media, of course (though, I must admit I know way too much about Harry, Niall, and the rest of the lads from 1D).

One d

Over the next year and a half, I wrote posts on everything from event coverage to my favorite social media mistake (actually, I wrote three separate posts on this topic, so maybe I don’t know as much as I think), with the majority of blog entries focusing on a social media strategy I conceived and what I learned from it.

Again, it was all about me.

But in this post I want to do something different. I want to write about a pair of social media ideas that my colleagues came up with and that I was charged with implementing. Because in social media, as in life, nobody can reach their full potential alone…or as T.V.’s favorite zombie-killing sheriff Rick Grimes would say, “We survive this by pulling together, not apart.”


Idea #1: Social Media Ambassadors

During my tenure at HBS, we’ve developed close ties–well, as much as one can on Twitter–with a number of alumni on social media. The relationships have been forged through our direct engagement with graduates based on their personal and professional interests (for more, see my post titled, “Rules of Twitter Engagement”). Our approach, which has resulted in over 15,000 unique interactions–retweets, favorites, and replies–with more than 1,300 alumni since January 2013, is about more than alumni engagement, though. We have also used social media, especially Twitter, to drive traffic to our alumni website. We have done this by connecting alumni with content involving their section mates or classmates (see below).


A few months ago, my supervisor devised another way we could increase web views.

He asked me to identify our most active alumni on Twitter–who had also graduated within the last five years–and see if they’d be willing to help amplify our content.

Once I completed my research, I sent the following email to my alumni prospects; these people would later become our first class of “Social Media Ambassadors.”


All told, I sent 30 emails and 25 of the alumni I targeted agreed to participate in the project. The next logical step was to provide the ambassadors with content they could share with their alumni networks. Below is an example of this first “official” email, as well as one article I pointed alumni to.



As expected, our ambassadors shared the content with their networks–via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and email–and we have, at this early stage, seen an increase in web traffic. While the long-term success of this strategy is unknown (since we are most definitely in the pilot stage), I feel confident that this approach will lead to more web hits, especially when we roll it out to alumni from multiple classes.

Idea #2: Alumni Directory Twitter Handle Integration

My Twitter work, as I shared in previous posts, begins and ends with the alumni lists I have assembled. These lists, five in all, are critical to the work I do on a day-to-day basis. Each morning, I review these lists (an example of which is below) and look for opportunities to engage with alumni.


When we do have an alumni interaction–that is, when an alumnus/a favorites, retweets, or replies to one of our Tweets–I add the individual’s name, Twitter handle, year of graduation, and other details to a tracking spreadsheet.


The spreadsheet provides the raw data I use to connect alumni with each other based on everything from geographic region to year of graduation. The list currently stands at 1,300 alumni, which is nice but…

We have more than 5,000 alumni on our Twitter lists.

This means there’s a large cohort of alumni we haven’t interacted with. These alumni may find our content engaging, but this is mere speculation since we haven’t had a confirmed interaction with them. This has troubled me for some time, but I couldn’t think of a solution to this problem.

Until, a colleague in our web communications group suggested a rather ambitious research project.

The project, which I estimated would take 3-4 months to complete, involved taking all the alumni we have tracked and adding their Twitter handles to our alumni directory. This would be a painstaking process, requiring one of our staff members to go through each individual name on our lists, copy his or her handle, and then add this information to the corresponding alumni record in the directory.

But once this project is completed, we’ll be able to extract these Twitter handles, as well as a wealth of other alumni information, onto a separate spreadsheet. So, if we pen a profile on a 2010 graduate from section A, I will be able to send this content to ALL alumni we have tracked from this section. Currently, I can only send this content to those who have made it onto my tracking spreadsheet based on previous Twitter-related interactions.

And once we have a larger pool of alumni data to draw from, I feel confident we’ll see a significant increase in alumni engagement on Twitter.

Was this post helpful? Is there anything I missed? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Robert Bochnak manages social media for the Harvard Business School’s alumni office. He’s also the former writer and editor ofGradMatters: The Blog for Tufts GSAS.

Follow Robert on Twitter at


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