Recruitment Focus

Texas A&M Video Campaign Shows New Face of Marketing

In a move that will certainly be echoed by other institutions if it hasn't been already, Texas A&M University just launched a new microsite specifically to let students post YouTube-style videos showing what life as an Aggie is all about. The site, along with a new Facebook profile, is part of a university marketing campaign called "Do You Wonder?"

The campaign also uses more traditional marketing means, such as TV spots, print ads, and online banners, but incorporates the microsite and its student-generated video content. The aim, according to Olga G. West, executive director of marketing and communications at Texas A&M, is to "let our 48,000 student body population--and our faculty and staff--tell the Texas A&M story from their own perspective and show the outside world what it's like to be an Aggie."

Students and others can access the microsite and videos directly at doyouwonder.tamu.edu, or in other ways, including through the Texas A&M Web site, on iTunes U, and through Facebook, where the new Texas A&M page is also part of the campaign.



Student videos are vetted for appropriateness by West's student interns; most productions follow what has become a common style on YouTube--hand-held cameras, no script, and simple subjects and staging. The campaign started just about a month ago with some 80 videos about Texas A&M, many of them gleaned straight from YouTube. The university also contributed some videos, included some that West arranged to have produced, along with professional TV spots the institution uses in other venues. Since the launch, students have contributed more content, and student productions are now beginning to outweigh the original content.

The marketing approach of using student-made videos along with a page on Facebook to show off the university makes sense, West said, because "we all know that social media is where it is right now." Current and prospective students "are very used to brochures and direct mail. They've been marketed to since they were born.... They're also used to conversing peer-to-peer."

Videos range from academic to cultural to social; lab projects are popular, for example, as are more personal topics. In one spot, a student gives a detailed tour of her dorm room; in another, the five-star-rated "Man vs. Wild," a student parodies survival shows with a nine-minute video of roaming the campus as if it's remote wilderness.

The university is working on the campaign with an Austin-based advertising agency called GSD&M Idea City, which helped come up with the idea of using student-produced videos to portray the school. West said that the idea for the project was sparked in part when she did a cursory search of YouTube and realized that there were already many student-produced videos there portraying Texas A&M.

West said that marketing efforts to drive current and prospective students to the new microsite include standard internal communications, such as the student newspaper, campus fliers, and screensavers on lab computers. There is also an online-oriented media campaign using Facebook, AOL, MSN and other sites to drive students to the microsite. A month after the launch, the Facebook site has more than 10,000 "fans" and the microsite is getting 500-plus views a day. "So far, so good," West said. "It's going to be a year-long effort."

Students also can subscribe at the microsite to an RSS feed via YouTube, allowing them to receive notice of new videos without having to visit the site regularly.

Since the launch, the university has added features including the ability to e-mail a friend with a video link, rate a video, and, soon, use social bookmarking tools like Digg and Del-icio-us. "It's so organic [in design and structure]," West said, "that the possibilities are really endless in terms of what we can do with it."

West's advice to other schools interested in using videos produced independently by students for marketing purposes: Avoid being too judgmental of the content and approach. Amateur video production values are part of the student-to-student approach, as are simple topics and meandering approaches. In creating some initial content to help start the site, West said, her team followed that style, walking around campus with a single camera, stopping students, and asking questions like, "Tell me about the food and dining services."

"This site is meant to be very real and genuine," West said, and most of the content is "two minutes of people just talking about something." As simple and sometimes off-topic as that might seem, it can help address a huge issue for prospective students at any institution, West said: Will I fit in here? "It helps to see videos of people having a good time; they see somebody like [them] hanging out, riding a bike, doing biology lab, going to a game, and they feel like those are things they want to be involved in."
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