Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Thank You & 12 Cents Go a Long Way

A while ago, I blogged about some frustrations with Instagram and how it's not as social as I'd like it to be. I want to "retweet" a community member's photo so they can experience ALL THE LIKES instead of me! But alas, Instagram hasn't built this feature in yet.

So the question for me became, "How can we share these likes and this awesomeness with the people whose content we're sharing so they know they're appreciated?"

I started by sending emails to people thanking them, but that only goes so far. After all, how many emails do we get a day? When I expressed my frustrations with my student social media team, one member came up with a great idea: thank you postcards, featuring that student's Instagram post.

Um. Brilliant.

When I share a community member's photo on the main St. Lawrence account, I wait a few days until the vast majority of the likes have come in, then take a screenshot of the post as it appears on our account and open it in Photoshop on my PC.

I built a high-resolution 4" x 6" template in Photoshop that looks like the university's flag (shown), then take the screenshot and place it on top. (Note: I am no whiz in Photoshop, as you can see. Just think how much better you can do!)

I upload the finished product to my phone and head to the local drugstore, which has a wonderful Kodak kiosk that prints these for 12 cents a pop and has them all printed for me in under five minutes. They look fantastic, too!

Cards moments before being sent!

Once printed, I hand write notes on the back, thanking the user for letting us repost the photo. I always make sure I find something that makes the post unique - was it in the Top 5 liked photos ever? Top 10? Did someone leave a great comment on it? I share those tidbits in my note. I always sign it "@StLawrenceU" (word on the street is they love that!). I then send them via campus mail (we're a small residential campus) to their on-campus mailboxes.

This is typically the reaction I see when a student finds one of these in his or her mailbox:

We don't just do this for students - I've done this for faculty and staff, too. When the day comes and we share an alum's photo, they'll get one in the snail mail, too. Who doesn't enjoy getting a random love note in the mail from their alma mater?!

In terms of social media currency, I learned early on that "liking" a student's photo got us some great street credit (and helped us earn trust on the platform and elsewhere, too). When we started asking to repost, it upped the social ante and we found a lot more students using the hashtag and directly tagging us in their posts, hoping we'd share. Now students are posting these cards when they get them. They can hold in their hands how much we value them. This goes so much deeper than a mention or a repost - it's on a whole different level.

I know; doing this is just a little thing, a very, very small part of what I do. There are no analytics to measure here, no way to assign any "tangible" value or ROI. My only takeaway is that this little thing could be making someone's day. And I'm perfectly content with that being the only outcome.

A huge shout out to Lexi Williams, a student here at St. Lawrence University; I may be able to write this post and share it with you all, but she's the one who had this idea. I refuse to take any of the credit as it all needs to go to her and my student team (and in case you were wondering about the value of getting students involved with your work, here's a great example of why. They have the best ideas!).

What ways do you thank your community members for sharing content?


  1. I was following the #casesmc chat last week. I really like this idea - thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks so much for reading! I appreciate it.

  2. This is a great idea and the student's reaction photo is worth every minute spent doing this. Great work.

    1. Thanks, Tyler! Seeing their reactions are the best, for sure.

  3. Stealing this btw! Thanks for being brilliant!

  4. hey guys i found old website for a Buy instagram followers!
    it's very cheap!