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Oklahoma State University shares the love on Valentines Day

Not everyone loves Valentine's Day, but whether you're planning an extravagant night out or looking forward to a night in your pajamas, it's hard to ignore the buzz around Valentine's Day.

And for institutions, it's a great opportunity to develop campaigns that show appreciation for students, alumni, faculty and staff, and to demonstrate a softer side to university life away from the typical pressures to excel academically and find employment on the other side of graduation.

The Orange Crush Competition gets social

This week we're covering an annual photo contest, The Orange Crush Competition, that has launched again in the run-up to Valentine's Day over at Oklahoma State University.

The institution has held this social contest for more than five years, in partnership with the core marketing and communications teams, athletics and alumni associations, admissions and the OSU Foundation.

Last year, the contest opened for the two weeks leading up to Valentine's Day to give people time to participate and generate more engagement and voting.

Participants were encouraged to share their #okstatelovestories, whether it be how they fell in love with a special someone or by expressing their love for Oklahoma State University itself. A public vote took place with the submissions and prizes awarded on Valentine's Day.

This year's love story contest is open for voting and there are dozens of entries sharing their unique personal tales of love and happiness from OSU.

Campaign management with Strutta

The institution is utilizing a platform called Strutta to coordinate the campaign. The software can be used to run Instagram contests, Facebook sweepstakes, and photo and video competitions to drive engagement for campaigns.

In this case, the university is using Strutta for promotion tracking and to moderate entries. Moderators are able to judge entries and approve or reject the content based on appropriate use. Once approved, the entries are automatically presented through the promotion gallery. Strutta also offers exports of participant data collected via promotions in CSV format, as well as exports of media files collected as part of entry submissions.

OSU commented that Strutta seems to be particularly effective in the context of increasing engagement with an already-connected audience, for collecting user-generated content and expanding reach.

Creating engagement and celebrating life through seasonal campaigns

The contest winners last year were decided through a random draw selected from among the top ten entries in terms of votes. The Judge's Choice was selected based on the visual impact and how relevant they were to the 'Orange Crush' theme.

First place went to Courtney and Jeremy who met in the fall of 2011 at Edmon Low Library. Jeremy was the library's circulation supervisor and saw Courtney on the third floor. They began to talk and would often meet in Murray parlor in between classes. They officially became a couple a few months later and spent the rest of their college careers together. Fast forward, and now they have received their Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Oklahoma State University and are married. OSU will always hold a special place in their hearts.

Meanwhile, the judge's choice went to two 'Cowboy Sweethearts'. Megan and Jake started dating as they entered their freshman year when they had the same major and class schedule. The happy couple has many of their best memories from OSU, including Jake proposing at Megan's sorority house. They even had Pistol Pete, the athletics mascot of OSU, as their ring bearer at their wedding.

The initiative demonstrates how a solid campaign idea built around an annual event can gain the attention of different audiences. In the case of OSU engagement has grown and grown, and the contest received an impressive 49 entries and 940 votes in 2019.

And this year's #OrangeCrush 2020 Contest looks set to be even more popular!

Celebrating love, life, and lectures

Valentine's Day isn't just about romance. It's also an opportunity to celebrate the many flavors of love you experience in university life and a chance to honor a loved one, or of course, to honor your university.

"Our OrangeCrush Contest allows alumni, students, employees, and donors to engage with our institution in a heartfelt way," said Megan Horton, Director of Brand and Digital Strategy at OSU.

"#OrangeCrush sparks nostalgia among these audiences and allows their stories to showcase the amazing experiences and relationships that happen at OSU."

Across the pond, the University of Sussex in the UK is bringing back a popular alternative event for Valentines where doggy cuddles can be had for a small donation. They will be selling heart-shaped dog treats to give to the volunteer's dogs, and baked goods for humans to sweeten up people's day. A fun event for students, staff, and anyone on campus.

One-fifth of students meet the love of their life on campus

These campaigns are a great way for students, parents, alumni, and staff to engage with institutions and share meaningful experiences.

They're personal campaigns that show potential students that there is more to the campus than just education and facilities - there are friendships to be made, and experiences to be had and these contribute and shape students' future too.

Is your institution doing something for Valentine's Day? If so, please share in the comments or on our social media. We'd love to hear more.

Tagged: Social Media, Campaign

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