SMC Review 10/8

Nancy and Pete Frates

Nancy and Pete Frates spoke to the Social Media Council about the #IceBucketChallenge, technology and ALS.

It was a BC Social Media Council that none will soon forget. Nancy ’80, Andrew and Pete Frates ’07, spoke to our group about Team Frate Train, the #IceBucketChallenge  and living with ALS.

What was responsible for this summer’s viral sensation? Nancy explained that three key factors played a role:

1. Pete is a master communicator and relationship builder, a skill that has been honed throughout his life. Pete’s network is large, varied and geographically diverse. From elementary school to college friends, teammates and professional associates, he’s always made a point to remain connected to people through visits and phone calls. As his disease has progressed, Pete relies more now on email and social media – Facebook Messenger in particular. Nancy recalled her family’s eye-rolling episodes when Pete called someone “my buddy” or “my buddy’s buddy”. “We would always say, ‘he’s such a name-dropper,’ but after his diagnosis, all those buddies came running.”

The history of the challenge in Time, explains how Pete’s network gave the ALS awareness movement momentum. Nancy said the resulting response from Pete’s video came as a shock to almost everyone. 

“I knew it was coming,” said Pete. “I was ready for the boom.”

2. A clear call to action and a 24-hour deadline. 

The night of his diagnosis, Nancy remembered, Pete refused to be overwhelmed by negativity.

“We all sat around the table and Pete said that this is an opportunity – that is the word he used – he said that this was opportunity for us to change the world. We’re not looking back we’re looking forward.”

The Frates became focused on raising awareness and helping fund research for a cure. ALS is a disease that progresses rapidly, so there is urgency to their work. The immediacy of the challenge – participants had only 24 hours to pour a bucket of ice over their head or make a $100 donation (many did both) – presented pressure to act immediately.

“My favorite video is Bill Gates,” said Nancy. “He put real effort into it. It’s also because six hours after his diagnosis, Pete said ‘I’m going to get the ALS message in front of Bill Gates.’ He did it. It’s profound.”

The Frates talked with engineers at Facebook about the magnitude of the response. The numbers are staggering – to date, 2.5 million videos uploaded, number of views in the billions. On Twitter, a successful campaign for breast cancer awareness had 142,000 posts to a hashtag in the month of June. The Ice Bucket Challenge had 142,000 tweets in one hour on a Monday afternoon in August.

The fundraising component has also been unprecedented – by some accounts the total may hit $500 million for ALS support and research worldwide by the end of the year, Nancy said.

3. Fun.

From celebrities to everyday people, the spirit of the challenge resonated around the world.

“The consistent thing in all the videos is laughter,” said Nancy. “People were having fun, laughing. And people laughed watching the videos.

“ALS is a terrible disease, it takes away so much. This gives something to families dealing with ALS: hope. You couldn’t log into social media for weeks without hearing about ALS and the Ice Bucket Challenge. That is incredible for an underfunded disease that most people had ever heard about.

“It’s been a game changer.”

For more information on Pete, visit his website.

WeAreBC Snapchat

Teaser GraphicFor more than six months, we’ve been toying with the idea of launching a Boston College Snapchat.  Yes. Snapchat.

In an effort led by NPA Office Manager Michael Maloney MBA ’15 and BC alumna Kathryn Breen ’12, the “WeAreBC” Snapchat launched Oct. 3.

I’ll admit to being a skeptic. Even with a strategy in place, questions persisted: Are we jumping on the bandwagon to a trend that will fizzle in a few months? How can this possibly be useful when the content disappears after 24 hours? What about the lack of analytics?

It’s Snapchat. Why do it?

Some facts:

• It’s getting harder and harder to ignore the numbers: there are more than 100 million* active monthly users are on Snapchat, 71% under the age of 25. An astounding 77 percent of college students are on Snapchat and approximately 400 million snaps are sent each day. 

• Higher ed is starting to test Snapchat. In our research, the list of schools is growing and now includes: University of Michigan, UNH, University of HoustonUniversity of Kansas, Eastern Washington UniversityUniversity of Central Arkansas, Tennessee Wesleyan College and our own BC Athletics. From offline professional conversations, many other schools are considering the platform. Brands outside higher ed are already well represented and thriving: Taco Bell, the NBA,  Audi and GrubHub to name a few.

• Analytics are challenging, but not impossible. What we are able to see are the views, screen shots taken and tally followers. Although it would be nice to have more, even these basics are enough to start to measure ROI. As those of us who administer social channels know, analytics evolve as the platforms grow: enter Instagram/Facebook, Twitter

• Finally, BC students were on board. Our new team of Social Fellows (along with every other student we spoke to) were excited and shared ideas of what they’d like to see.

It’s important to note here that most of our social media efforts started despite outside criticism. (I’ve heard that Facebook is a fad that would be gone in six months and no one would waste their time on a college Instagram or Pinterest account.) These channels were each started as a way to connect and meet students where they are.

They’re on Snapchat. They check it several times a day.

Boston College’s official Snapchat, WeAreBC,  launched Friday. An hour prior to launch we sent out a teaser tweet from @BostonCollege:

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We posted a first message to our Snapchat Story:



Then promoted the account with an introductory contest through a tweet and a post on @BostonCollege Instagram:

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My healthy skepticism was surrendered within the first five minutes. Here’s the third snap we received:

IMG_9658Jesuits snapped us from church. It wasn’t staged. It happened completely organically. And over the next four hours scenes from our community poured in, some of them are highlighted below. We received snaps not only from Newton, Brighton and Chestnut Hill, but from California, from Italy and from Israel. We added them to our Story. Winners were picked and arrived to claim their prizes. And it was all gone in 24 hours.



We’re now up to 600 followers. Like most of our social media channels were, the pilot year of Snapchat will be a learning experience for both the administrators of the account and the community. Our strategy and execution will need to be modified and fine-tuned. But four hours proved that this can be an effective tool in our communication arsenal. The only one? No. A unique way to provide relatable, real-time content? Absolutely. We found that Snapchat isn’t just where our students are, but it’s where our alumni are. It’s where are staff are. It’s even where our priests are.

The launch of WeAreBC has been a gentle reminder that even those of us who are constantly plugged in may be missing something. Social media will continue to evolve and we need to remain agile enough to find the best ways to connect.

– Written by Melissa Beecher, Social Media Manager at Boston College

*Although the company has refused to disclose the total number of active monthly Snapchat users, it has been published that the numbers exceed 100 million: DMR, Forbes, DailyTech

SMC Preview: 10/8

People holding phones, iPads and cameras to take a picture with the President of the Philippines

A shot from the recent visit of the Philippines President to campus captures the role technology plays in live events. (Photo by Caitlin Cunningham)

Time to kickoff the new semester, SMC!

Our first Social Media Council meeting of the year will be held Oct. 8, 2 p.m. in McGuinn 521 (Please note a different room than usual!)

On the agenda is the annual “State of Social,” where we will take the macro view of how social communications have grown and changed at the institution in the past year. We’ll cover platform preferences, user/administrative expectations and trends, among other topics. There will be time to brainstorm and discuss challenges facing individual accounts. So bring your ideas, gripes and future campaigns to the table.

The Frates family will join us for a discussion about viral content. The #IceBucketChallenge went global this summer after alumnus Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, issued a challenge to friends. The Frates will talk about the response, achieving virality and how our channels can support ALS awareness.

As always, please RSVP so we can have enough chairs for everyone! Email

Social highlight of the week: C21 Center launched a great video to promote Espresso Your Faith Week. Produced by student filmmakers John Campbell ’15 and John Walsh ’17, the video included more than 1,000 students, faculty and staff dancing to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.” Watch it. Love it. Share it.


Strike up the band! A new semester is here! (Photo by Caitlin Cunningham) See more BC Scenes at

Strike up the band! A new semester is here! Time to #BCWelcome the students back! (Photo by Caitlin Cunningham)

They’re back!

Student Affairs’ BC Beat is heading up the #BCWelcome campaign, and has asked for help in supporting the hashtag. This is a great opportunity to introduce new and returning students to Boston College through interesting posts from your school, department or group. Let them know what services you provide or give a snapshot of the people in your office. Starting tomorrow, we’ll be promoting the #BCWelcome Tagboard so make sure to plan posts for the remainder of the week to get some visibility.

Also, mark your calendars for this semester’s Social Media Council meetings: Oct. 8 and Nov. 12 in McGuinn 521 (please note the room change) and Dec. 10, back in McGuinn 334. All meetings begin at 2 p.m.

It’s also been a busy summer for many – some departments have signed on to social for the first time and others have expanded to offer more channels. So let’s give a warm welcome for: Office of Admission, Marketing Department, Chemistry Department, Fine Arts, Boston College Football, Boston College Police on Instagram, and BC Emergency’s new app. Athletics has launched our first official SnapChat on campus (you can find them at @bcathletics on the app.)

Did we miss you? Email with your directory update.  

Click on This: #BCSummer

BC Summer in the sand

A few weeks of #BCSummer remain (27 days until students return!) and your school or department’s social editorial calendar is looking…bare. What do you do?

Inspiration is here in the form of University accounts that have been going strong with fresh content throughout the summer:

BC Bookmarks is a blog and Twitter account continually producing interesting, new material promoting all things literary at BC. The posts on faculty, staff, student and alumni publications fuel the Boston College Books Pinterest page. Offered by the Office of News & Public Affairs, the blog is great resource for publications, events and awards.

Although on hiatus until September, the John J. Burns Library Blog continues to be a phenomenal resource for historical information. A great, evergreen post from this week, “Where is Chestnut Hill, Anyway?” was done by Anna Whitham, Conservation Assistant at the library.

BC Social Work in Italy is a pictorial story on the BC Graduate School of Social Work‘s social media accounts. Students of Prof. Westy Egmont traveled to Italy this summer to study the response to increasing immigration from Syria and North Africa. An interesting topic and interesting student photos gives perspective into this unique program.

#EagletoWatchBoston College Alumni produced this new series of posts every Wednesday. Featuring young alumni “doing great things,” this is an example of scheduling themed content. (What is themed content? Think #TBT.)

Everyone is hungry for great photos. Two options to keep on your radar: Boston College Flickr – which is quickly approaching 1 million views — has select photos that were published in the Boston College Chronicle from 2010 to present day; and the recently launched OMC Stock Photo – a catalogue of select photos from the Office of Marketing Communication staff photographers.

Finally, BC Athletics has been building excitement around football season with a #KickoffCountdown, illustrated with a series of player graphics. This, along with the College Colors competition should get Superfans pumped for the upcoming sports year.

What is your favorite resource for summer content?

Later this month we will be featuring new social accounts at Boston College. If you know of a new social account to be added to the University social directory, email

Click on This: Changes to Facebook & Twitter

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Big changes have come to Twitter and Facebook. Both platforms have (or soon will) launch redesigns for profiles and pages that will force users to revisit how they represent themselves to fans and followers.

Don’t panic.

First, a bit of background. To read all about the specific changes to Twitter, click here. Facebook’s changes are outlined here. Next, make sure your profile photos follow the new size requirements. According to Twitter, that means profile pics should measure 400 x 400 pixels; Cover photos are 1500 x 500 pixels. On Facebook, profile pictures should measure 180 x 180 pixels, cover photos 851 x 315 pixels.

Both platforms seem to be morphing to a similar profile appearance and placing even greater value on compelling content: photos, videos and engaging posts. Simply stated, those who produce interesting, share-able content will get preference. Some ways to do this? Mashable’s Lauren Drell explains:

“Facebook research has shown that posts between 100 and 250 characters — one or two lines of text — get 60% more Likes, comments and shares than ones that are more than 250 characters. Buddy Media research found a similar trend, determining that posts with 80 characters or less in length have 27% higher engagement rates. The moral? Like content on Twitter, keep it short and sweet. Of course, your post should be different than your content on Twitter, or else your fans don’t have a reason to follow you on both platforms.”

Be mindful of two additional changes: users now have the ability to “mute” noisy feed cloggers on Twitter and Facebook has slashed organic post reach over the past few months. (For more on that, here’s a response from Facebook’s Brian Boland.)

Panicked yet?

The challenge is to continue to think visually and be social. You simply can not succeed on these platforms with occasional status update and link pushing. These changes give us all an opportunity to freshen up, rethink how to promote important content and evaluate if all the channels are needed in our strategic communication plans.

Throughout the summer we’ll be sharing some tips and resources here. Also, remember that one of our greatest assets is the established network of social media administrators at BC. Tagging, liking and sharing one another’s content has become more than simply boosting engagement or encouraging colleagues, it is now a vital strategic action.

What have you done in response to the changes on Twitter and Facebook?