Officials end social media ambassador program after single-year pilot

Media Credit: Photo Illustration by Arielle Bader | Assistant Photo Editor

The GW Ambassadors program ends as several universities across the country have begun similar programs, which higher education marketing experts said have generally been successful.

Officials will not continue their social media ambassador program after a one-year trial run.

The GW Ambassadors program, which launched last fall, comprised 14 ambassadors who received packages throughout the year with GW-branded merchandise to feature in social media posts promoting the University. The program ends as several universities across the country have begun similar programs, which higher education marketing experts said have generally been successful.

University spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said the program was a “pilot” that officials decided to discontinue. Officials will still post content to promotional social media accounts like @StyleGW on Instagram and Twitter, she said.

“Marketing and Creative Services are brainstorming different opportunities to surprise students and the GW community over the next year,” Nosal said in an email.

The 14 original ambassadors, selected in November as some of GW’s “most passionate fans,” included three-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor, Forbes contributor and former Hatchet reporter Monica Mercuri and Deloitte consultant Mollie Bowman. Officials in May said posts from the ambassadors led to more conversation about the University over social media.

“We definitely saw a lot of enthusiasm about the University and increased interaction about GW on social media from our ambassadors,” Leslie Ogus, GW’s marketing manager and director of licensing, said about the program last spring.

Bowman, a brand ambassador and School of Media and Public Affairs alumna, said she was “honored” to participate in the program and thought the campaign was “very clever and relevant.”

“I’ll proudly keep wearing all my gear I got throughout the program,” she said.

Bowman said she received a package from the University quarterly with GW merchandise and apparel appropriate for the season. She said she posted unboxing videos for each package on her Instagram account.

Bowman added that the program made her realize how many of her colleagues and neighbors have connections to GW.

“It has been a really cool talking point at work as part of the vibrant alumni community that I’m engaged with,” Bowman said. “And that’s been a great segue into my new job, where I can use my GW alumni experience as a foundation for starting conversations with other people.”

Angi Roberts, the manager of communications and marketing for the University of Guelph’s admissions services, said she would be “devastated” if she was told their student social media ambassador program was ending because she has seen its direct benefits.

She said one former social media ambassador at the institution tallied nearly 90 students who recognized him from his promotional role.

Roberts said that while it is difficult to pinpoint an exact reason why officials might have ended the program, it is possible it took too many resources to monitor and manage the social media ambassadors.

She added that her university saw the need to shift from Twitter ambassadors to those on Instagram and Snapchat to respond to the rise in popularity among those social media platforms.

“We have to shift every year what we’re doing to properly and effectively target our prospective market,” Roberts said.

Kelsey Potes, the marketing director at Northern Michigan University, said officials at her school started an ambassador program in 2016, through which they provide ambassadors with a small stipend and merchandise.

She said that when the program first started, the ambassadors did not have clear responsibilities, which hindered the program’s success just after taking off.

“When it was first launched, we did not do a good job of giving the students clear expectations of what and when to post, and we didn’t ensure that they felt integrated with our marketing office,” Potes said in an email.

But Potes said that as the program has continued, officials at her school gave brand ambassadors more clarity by providing them with a posting schedule, content suggestions and regular meet-ups with the group, increasing the program’s success.

“It’s truly transformed the content we are getting out of the program and, even better, they feel better about the impact they are having on the university,” she said.

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