GW’s newest marketing strategy: social media influencers

Media Credit: Max Wang | Senior Staff Photographer

Mollie Bowman, a two-time graduate from the School of Media and Public Affairs, is part of the inaugural group of “GW Ambassadors."

Updated: Nov. 1, 2018 at 3:20 p.m.

The marketing department is tapping a group of students, alumni, faculty and staff to push GW’s brand on social media.

Fourteen individuals with connections to the University received packages of GW-branded merchandise in the mail last month, the start of the “GW Ambassadors” program created by the athletics and marketing departments, officials said. Leslie Ogus, the director of licensing, marketing and creative service, said the program picked GW’s biggest “fans” to highlight the University on social media.

“We want to build upon our GW spirit and enhance the experiences of students, alumni, faculty and staff and look forward to engaging the whole community through these efforts,” she said.

Ogus said ambassadors were selected based on their engagement with GW and “positive” presence on social media sites. The group will receive customized packages including GW-branded merchandise “a few times a year,” and members will also be invited to attend some on-campus events, she said.

The ambassadors will be expected to share their experiences on social media “a few times a month,” she said.

Ogus declined to describe the process of becoming an ambassador. She declined to say how students were contacted and how long they will serve as ambassadors.

She declined to say how officials will evaluate the success of the program and whether the University will choose new ambassadors next year. She declined to say what merchandise is typically included in a package for an ambassador and why officials decided to include particular merchandise.

Ogus also declined to say how much the program is costing the University.

Participants said they received a package last month including a card asking them to post about GW at least three times a month using the hashtag #GWAmbassador and attend at least two events at GW each semester if they live in the D.C. area. The University will provide them with merchandise and offer tickets for qualifying events, according to the card.

The card also states that officials would provide the ambassadors with “expectations” about how to promote the given material.

Mollie Bowman, a two-time graduate from the School of Media and Public Affairs, said because she has two degrees from GW, she has already been promoting GW in an unofficial capacity. She is part of the GW Young Alumni group, and her network with young graduates will allow her to reach a group of her peers, Bowman said.

“It feels like this program was made for me,” she said.

Bowman said employing social media influencers is often a successful marketing technique, so recruiting online representatives could boost GW’s application numbers.

“When I was a freshman, if I had seen something like this, I think it would be really cool,” she said.

She said she received GW M&M’s, a personalized water bottle and a GW hat in her package in early October.

Three-time Olympic medalist and alumna Elana Meyers Taylor said she was surprised to receive an invitation to be an ambassador, but jumped at the chance once staff said they would be able to work with her busy schedule.

“With my career, it’s been hard to get to GW as much as I like,” she said. “It was a no-brainer.”

Meyers Taylor, who is verified on Twitter and has more than 11,000 followers, said the global presence that has come from her success in Olympic bobsledding will enable her to encourage potential students and alumni to engage with the University.

She said participating in the program gives her an excuse to make the trip to GW and attend events that she might not have gotten the chance to go to as an undergraduate.

Junior Monica Mercuri, a former Hatchet staff member, accepted the offer to participate in the program last month. She said her experience running social media pages for both the Center for Student Engagement and her sorority, Pi Beta Phi, will help her in the new role.

She added that some of her experiences from her internship at Billboard this summer, including meeting celebrities like Taylor Swift, were shared by the School of Media and Public Affairs’ social media pages, which could have contributed to her selection for the program.

“I’ve never considered myself a social media influencer,” she said.

Devan Cole, who graduated from SMPA in May and writes for CNN, was offered a chance to be an ambassador but said in a Facebook message that he is “not in a position to speak on the program” because he is not currently a participant. Cole is verified on Twitter.

Alumnus Jason Lifton, who posted a picture of his package on Twitter, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Monica Mercuri interviewed Taylor Swift through her internship at Billboard. She met her. We regret this error.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.