#UFGrad is a booming success
Published: Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 2:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 2:58 p.m.
Social media is here to stay. And so is #UFGrad.
“Social media is a thing now,” said Bruce Floyd, UF's social media guru. “All the kids are doing it.”
Floyd's job, with the help of his assistant Sixtine Gurrey, has been to come up with new and more engaging ways each year for the thousands of graduates, parents and others to connect during spring and fall commencement.
It's one of the reasons UF doesn't discourage students from taking selfies during commencement., something that many other universities around the country have begun to ban. They discussed it after hearing that the University of South Florida would be cracking down on "inappropriate behavior" like taking selfies with the president and other dignitaries at graduation ceremonies.
"That has never been a problem here," said Janine Sikes, UF's assistant vice president for media relations.
Social media allows graduates to share their experience beyond the confines of the UF campus and the O'Connell Center, where most of UF's 16 commencement ceremonies take place. It gives them a way to celebrate and share with friends and family who can't physically attend graduation. And it allows those from far away to share in the excitement.
“It allowed me to connect with the alumni association, find photos of myself pre- and post-graduation as well,” tweeted Allanah Roberts, a 2014 psychology graduate from Palm Bay.
The use of #UFGrad has proven to be a booming success. This year, nearly 6,000 tweets reached out to 2.4 million unique timelines during the May 2-4 spring Gator graduation weekend, with a potential delivery to 23.7 million. Seventy-eight percent tweeted on a mobile device.
UF's colleges used social media to memorialize their own commencement ceremonies, as well. The Levin College of Law made a video of its graduation ceremony and posted it online. The College of Medicine used Storify to collect the memories of its 2014 graduates.
Floyd and Gurrey attend each graduation, with Gurrey shooting photos and video while Floyd coordinates Twitter, Facebook and other social media feeds for references to #UFGrad to post on video screens inside the O'Connell Center.
Creating that much buzz puts pressure on Floyd and Gurrey to one up themselves with each successive commencement, to increase engagement and stimulate even more buzz.
Last year, they teamed up with Tagboard to aggregate all references to #UFGrad at one location. They also tested a smartphone app called Vyclone, which synced up multiple video or photo feeds of the same subject taken simultaneously by different people from their own devices.
This year, they teamed up with the College of Journalism and Communications not only to find a solution to coordinating thousands of live tweets on the video screens inside the O'Dome but to post Instagram images as well.
"Just look at all the mentions of #UFGrad on Instagram that show up on the board," Floyd said. "There is lots of activity."
Instagram had the third most tweets, 377, after Twitter for Android at 725 and Twitter for iPhone at 2,944.
Floyd also created a landing page this year, a “digital gift to our students."
The page includes a custom-made video featuring several graduates, a message from UF President Bernie Machen, links to the #UFGrad twitter feed and Tagboard, a map showing where other Gator grads are located, and other features like custom wallpaper for cell phones and images to use as avatars.
"We're always trying to top what we did, trying to create more engagement, more opportunities to share, more opportunities to converse," Floyd said.