Our Engagement & Annual Giving team within University Advancement at the University of Virginia works to create inroads and contacts by supporting over engagement activities all over the world through the UVaClub, Lifetime Learning and Cavalier Travels programs. Reaching an all-time high in the 2014 fiscal year, 19,000 individuals registered for almost 1,400 events, resulting in total of 31,500 registrants.

Though those numbers were fantastic, we’ve been working to take a deeper plunge into the realm of web events and measuring individual digital engagement.

On January 30, 2014, we launched HoosNetwork Digital Events, a series of web events using Google+ Hangouts a medium were streamed on the office’s website. Topics of those events ranged from Rotunda Renovations, advice on the Admissions process and the research of Ph.D. students.

The live streams were a fairly simple way to capture as many as 500 people, excluding those who instead chose to watch the production at their convenience. Additionally, they provided a breakthrough. We were now able to reach those who don’t necessarily have a strong UVaClub presence in their hometown or those who prefer to engage digitally.

How could we expand?

After some brainstorming and deliberation with partners in the U.Va. Alumni Association, we rolled out the ‘Hoos in the City (#HoosCity) – Photo Sharing Contest on Instagram and Twitter. For two weeks (Sunday, October 5-18) we wanted to see Wahoo spirit from all corners of the world, and of course we provided some incentives for individuals and regional groups to aide in the engagement process. We used the @hooscam Instagram account as our primary engagement tool and focus of the challenge.

#HoosCity Daily Challenge Calendar

#HoosCity Daily Challenge Calendar

During that span we asked U.Va. alumni, parents and friends to highlight the best of their respective city, taking photos that corresponded to our daily challenge. A calendar was created that displayed these challenges, highlighted by ‘Hoos at Work, Best CityScape, Spell ‘Hoos with Something Unusual and Game Day Spirit.

The premise was pretty straightforward. Take a photo based on the challenge, tag the photo with #HoosCity and denote your city (#DC, #NYC, #Philadelphia) and share it on Instagram or Twitter.

In an effort to promote the event to as many as possible, we designed a webpage, pushed it on our four social media platforms, asked other entities around Grounds to tweet about the contest and sent out a series of emails about the contest.

Tracking was probably the most difficult and tedious process of the project. We used a Google Sheet to list the users who participated daily, another to track UVaClub participation and one more that kept a tally of how many times each user submitted a photo. The use of a hashtag (#hooscity) search helped us track those who participated; however, if a user was private of Instagram, the search would exclude that account.

We tracked participation on a daily basis, selecting a random winner who would receive a $25.00 gift card to the

Challenge reminders shared on Instagram

Challenge reminders shared on Instagram

U.Va. bookstore. There was no judging the photos, we simply threw names into a hat and selected a winner.

Once a name was chosen, they weren’t eligible to win another daily prize. However, to keep those winners engaged, they still could win the grand prize ($100 bookstore gift card) by participating in at least seven challenges.

On a larger scale, we wanted to challenge UVaClubs. The top three cities that shared the most pictures from the greatest number of unique individuals, would win some money that would go toward a future event. Participants could submit as many photos as they wanted per day, though the Club would only receive credit for one photo. We wanted numerous people to participate, not one person binge posting.

A great feature about this contest was the creation of a Tagboard. By setting up this component, it pulled in all the entries across all social media platforms that used the #HoosCity hashtag. The only drawback was it only pulled in the entries over a two day period. The benefit of it greatly exceeded its shortcomings.

You can view the Tagboard here.

When it was all said and done, the #HoosCity Photo Sharing Challenge was a great success!

We had over 300 photos shared by more than 60 alumni, parents and friends of the University of Virginia living here in the U.S. and around the world in places like Dubai, Australia and the U.K. Over 20 alums answered seven or more challenges during the two-week period.

To view all contest photos, please visit Iconosquare.

Post authored by guest blogger, Todd Mounce, Online Engagement Coordinator on the Engagement & Annual Giving Team at the University of Virginia. Todd is a colleague of Ryan Catherwood, co-host of Advancement Live.


Article Author

Ryan Catherwood

Ryan Catherwood

Higher Ed Live blogger and Former Host of Advancement Live
Assistant VP for Alumni and Career Services, Longwood University

Ryan Catherwood is the Assistant VP for Alumni and Career Services at Longwood University. Prior to joining Longwood, he was the Director of Digital Strategy in the University Advancement office at the University of Virginia. His work is dedicated to strategies that utilize events, crowdsourcing, inbound and content marketing, email marketing and social media community management in order to drive alumni and student engagement, participation, connections, networking, volunteerism and giving at Longwood University.


Ryan Catherwood

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