The first step in outreach was creating marketing items to publicize our #TigersVote hashtag outside of social media channels. To do this, we drafted designs to use on stickers and t-shirts.
Initially, we planned to use #LSUVotes and LSU’s image to market our hashtag to students. As LSU Graduate students, we felt that the project should tap into the students’ pride in their school and use it to encourage use of the hashtag, and in a somewhat broader context, student voting. However, when we ran our initial designs by University Relations, we were alerted us to the dangers and liabilities of using LSU trademarks in our project, an issue we had not anticipated. To remedy this, we collaborated with the LSU Trademark department to find a way of achieving the major aspects of the project without violating university trademarks. As a result, we chose to use #TigersVote instead of #LSUVotes. After modifying the designs, we ordered approximately 3,000 custom stickers and 50 purple and gold t-shirts to market the hashtag to the student body and relevant voting groups and campaigns.
Due to the time associated with the creation and shipment of the materials, we delayed the official launch until October 29th 2014, the day of the final Louisiana Senate Debate among Mary Landrieu, Bill Cassidy, and Rob Maness. The debate took place at the Holliday Forum in the Manship School’s own Journalism Building. While the t-shirts did not print in time, the stickers arrived the day before the debate, allowing us to distribute about 500 stickers to debate attendees and groups outside and around the building. With the help of Manship faculty, staff, and students, we encouraged the community to co-opt the hashtag while tweeting about the debates.
Through our own Twitter efforts, we managed to get @LSUReveilleNow (with approximately 2,500 followers) and multiple students to tweet using the hashtag. The hashtag saw little residual effect after the debates until Monday, November 3rd, the day before the election, which was the first of two tabling days we designated for the project. It was our hope that the marketing materials would prime the community to use the hashtag on social media networks during Election Day. With both the t-shirts and stickers ready to distribute, we handed out over 1,000 stickers and around a third of the t-shirts we printed. We even managed to meet and give t-shirts and stickers to this year’s homecoming king and queen!
While we did see a small effect, the greatest volume we saw during Election Day was a product of a more targeted effort by Manship faculty who offered students extra credit for posting a picture of themselves voting using the hashtag. This produced a greater response than our tabling, which led us to re-evaluate our strategies moving forward.
Following the November election, we reached out to Senate campaigns and voter advocacy groups in hopes of increasing our reach within the broader Baton Rouge community. We tabled a second time at Free Speech Alley on the Tuesday directly proceeding December’s Saturday run-off election.
On Election Day, #TigersVote was used only occasionally, but an LSU student’s tweet using the hashtag was re-tweeted by Congressional candidate and former Louisiana Governor, Edwin Edwards.
We are now in the process of compiling usage data and writing up a final report that contextualizes our project within the scope of student participation in the 2014 election cycle.