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How to organize a revolution (or a snow fight)

Jenna Johnson

Ever wonder how other college students quickly coordinate massive events through social media? Last week Kyle Boyer, a senior political science major at George Washington University, organized an evening snowball fight against rival Georgetown University in just over 24 hours. I asked him to walk us through how it went down.

kyle_boyer.jpg

Last Wednesday #GWU recorded one of its most important victories in recent memory - a snowball fight against #GU. I use twitter hashtags to describe it, because as cool as it would be to take the credit for last week's 'epic' #gwgusnowdown (known by many names, with my personal favorite being the 'Massacre at Rose Park') the fight's success is really a testament to the power of social networking.

In no way did I intend to initiate a snowball fight that would eventually be referenced in one way or another by the Washington Post, LA Times, US News & World Report, NBC DC and a host of campus media outlets. All I wanted was a fun gathering with the potential to generate some spirit for two neighboring universities. I was able to get that, and obviously a lot more.

The day before the snowball fight, I sent a tweet to @GtownVoice, Georgetown's student magazine and blog, and suggested the idea. About 46 minutes later, they replied and planning began. We created an event page on Facebook and spread the word on Twitter. Within 24 hours, about 600 students from both schools had RSVP'ed (that number would eventually rise to 850 by the time of the event).

Conventional wisdom holds that only one-third of those who reply as 'attending' on a Facebook event actually show up. Anecdotal totals for the snowball fight show GW having 250 attendees and Georgetown 50 for a total of 300, which only reinforces the one-third rule.

Of course, once we realized that we had a legitimate event on our hands we put some organization behind it. Three students, including myself, invited friends via Facebook, retweeted the details of the fight, and monitored the press coverage.

There was some logistical planning: A neutral battlefield, Rose Park, was chosen, both schools had designated meeting areas on their campus prior to the fight, and GW had a moderate battle strategy. Still, the hardest part was spreading the word - and credit for that goes to everyone who posted messages on Twitter and Facebook, as well as the many bloggers and reporters who wrote about it.

There is no doubt that the #gwgusnowdown was historic, as was the snowfall that made it possible. Hopefully, though, students from both schools will hold on to the greater messages of the event.

One of those messages is that when organizational skill meets the power of social networking anything can be accomplished. Both GW and Georgetown have very active student bodies, particularly in the area of student government. Hopefully student leaders will learn to utilize the full potential of social networks to accomplish some of the more challenging "campaign promises." For instance, a campaign promise to help reduce book costs could be aided by a bookstore boycott organized via Facebook, but promoted via twitter.

Still, with or without the masses, and with or without the solid victory for GW, the #gwgusnowdown was at its essence a fun event. There is nothing wrong with a friendly rivalry between two top tier universities within walking distance of each other.

Don't worry Georgetown, GW students are quite aware that you will still be ranked higher, and that you'll probably never play us in basketball, but at least we won the snowball fight!

KYLE'S TIPS FOR ORGANIZING

Create a unique Facebook invite
Most college students receive multiple Facebook event invitations per day. Make sure your event appears relevant enough to stick out of the pack, including a catchy title and an attractive graphic.

Get on Twitter
Twitter is here to stay. Successful events are successfully marketed, so create a simple-yet-catchy hashtag for your event, and make sure campus media know about it.

Let the local media know
It is now standard practice for media outlets to have a consistent presence on Twitter. Send @ messages to local media, especially campus papers and blogs. The more your hashtag is seen the more significant it becomes.

Work with the administration
University administrations love good press, but they also respond to numbers. Show the university that enough students are involved to make the event significant and they will work with you - especially if it makes them look good.

Make friends with other universities
Humility is always in order. Allow others to share in the credit and they're more likely to throw weight behind a cause. Show other universities that your event can appeal to their students as well.

Set the tone
Tones vary depending on what is required. For something like a snowball fight involving multiple universities, its important to carefully message the event in your tweets and Facebook updates. Perception is reality, but your message is what needs to be perceived.


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By Jenna Johnson  |  February 19, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Networking  | Tags: George Washington, Georgetown, Twitter  
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