Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tweeting for Yale

The Yale Alumni Social Media Summit included special guests, experts, and lots of idea-sharing.  Dexter Upshaw '06, Teddy Goff '07, and Zeke Miller '11 (top left) discussed their experiences in digital and social media.  AYA Executive Director Mark Dollhopf (bottom left) summarized the day.(YWAA photos)
Twitter handles. Website domains. Twitter followers. Facebook groups. Blog postings. Facebook likes. Youtube subscribers. Website hits. Digital campaigns. YouTube production. Snapchat, Linkedin, Tumblr, Google-plus, Vine, Flickr, Vimeo, Instagram, and Pinterest. Hoot suite. Whew.

About a hundred Yale alumni from around the country (including some YWAA board members) joined sessions Jan. 25 at a Yale Alumni Social Media Summit, hosted by the Ogilvy Mather advertising firm in Manhattan.  What works? They asked themselves. What doesn't? They explored. What's novel and what's next? How does Yale do it? How is it possible to keep up with the jargon, multiple social-media channels, and the dwindling attention span of users?

Alumni guests, social-media experts, club leaders and shared-interest-group heads gathered to share best practices and make sense of the rush of social-media offerings. Summit participants debated how alumni groups can exploit this social-media thing to encourage alumni across the globe to communicate, stay engaged with Yale and--in the words of some speakers--"inspire," "serve communities," and "give back."  Alumni from San Diego to Boston, from the medical school to Berkeley College, and from the Yale Daily News to the Whiffenpoofs devoted an entire Saturday to the event.

AYA sponsored and directed the summit, along with the Yale Alumni Fund and Yale's Office of Public Affairs.  Michael Morand '87 '93 MDiv, Yale's deputy chief communications officer, presided over most sessions, set the tone for the day, and gathered a mountain of new ideas to take back to New Haven to share with other alumni groups. 

Alumni from younger classes gladly explained jargon to older alumni and hinted at what's next on the Internet horizon. Alumni from older classes proved they had long ago moved from flip phones to smartphones, boasting they knew more about Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin than what those from recent classes expected. 

Dana Astmann from the Yale School of Music showed off its colorful, digital opera campaign ("Opera is the new black," it states.)  Maura Scanlon from the newly refurbished Art Gallery demonstrated how it used Facebook to show clever new ways of presenting the gallery's old exhibits to encourage greater attendance.  

Mark Dunn '07, an assistant director of admissions, demonstrated how the admissions office had used YouTube, Tumblr blogs, and slick websites to get prospective students excited and interested in Yale. The admissions office was a reluctant user of Facebook years ago, he said. Nowadays its marketing campaign embraces and uses it to show off Yale's Gothic setting and the electric atmosphere of everyday life at Yale.

Mark Dunn '07 (top left) explained how the Yale admissions office has evolved in its attitude toward social media to attract top prospects to apply.

John Boak '70, an experienced professional in arts and graphics, showed the warm, colorful designs of the Colorado Yale Association's website. Tim Harkness '87 spoke about how he tapped Twitter, Facebook and blogs to attract large followings for Feb Club, Yale's winter-time tradition of revelry and distraction, and the Class of 1987's blog, which features a constant flow of amusing Yale updates.  Jennifer Din '10 presented YaleWomen's website and its coverage of last year's Global Conference in Washington, D.C.

A panel featured alumni experienced in digital campaigns beyond the confines of Phelps Gate:  Teddy Goff '07 directed President Obama's digital campaign during the 2012 reelection. Zeke Miller '11 from Time magazine, covering the election, used Twitter to report political stories. Dexter Upshaw '06 now manages digital media at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Goff recounted stories from the campaign and the ways it used Twitter and Facebook to tell a different Obama story, the second time around. Upshaw explained how the Apollo now permits its audience to use iPhones to vote for favorite artists during the theater's amateur-night contest.

Mark Dolphoff '77, AYA Executive Director, was delighted by the full day of discussion and idea- sharing. This is about prodding alumni not just to donate and participate, but to "inspire, become engaged and serve." He also promised that "we're going to do this again."

Benjamin Gonzalez '09 (top) presented his break-out group's list of challenges many alumni groups face in using social media. Dana Astmann and Maura Scanlon (bottom) showed what has worked at the Music School and the Art Gallery.
Tim Harkness's '87 presentation capsulized what has worked and not worked in social media for Feb Club and the Class of 1987.

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