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Special Project

Special Project
From the 7th Annual Shorty Awards

Storytelling the #OnlyatGW Way

Entered in Education

About this entry

At the George Washington University, our students don't have a typical college experience. The GW university community has a front row seat to history in the making and takes advantage of all that GW's location in the heart of the nation's capital has to offer. Digital storytelling is a core component of our social media strategy.

We've created a community around #OnlyatGW moments and other university events and initiatives, including Commencement on the National Mall (we're the only university that gets to graduate our scholars in the shadows of the national monuments) and the naming of what will be our largest residence hall on campus. Not only have we found ourselves trending nationally and locally, we've enjoyed having students reach out to us with their stories hoping they will be showcased.

From Twitter to Facebook, Instagram to Snapchat, our social media channels present first-hand accounts of life at GW and the #OnlyatGW moments that inevitably transpire. Using entirely in-house resources at no additional costs to the university, our team regularly creates digital series that resonate with our community and help promote university messaging in unique ways.

Why does this entry deserve to win?

While other schools may find traction with just a hashtag and tout the number of uses, we've taken the next step, combing through hundreds of #OnlyatGW (a very popular hashtag among students, faculty, staff and alumni) posts and inviting select community members to share their stories in a video series launched in August 2014. #OnlyatGW stories share both common experiences like waking up and walking a few blocks to catch the perfect Instagram of the sun rising over the Washington Monument, to studying in the Library of Congress, or taking an art history class in the National Gallery of Art, to the extraordinary, including interning at the White House, hearing Supreme Court justices give a lecture at our campus auditorium, or traveling internationally to bring dance to students in Suriname.

The campaign has resonated with our audiences. From late August through December 2014, there were more than 55,000 total views of #OnlyatGW videos, nearly 430,000 total impressions on Twitter and Facebook, and 2,825 likes, 197 comments and 190+ shares on Facebook.

While the #OnlyatGW videos are lighthearted, our storytelling embraces serious topics as well and we utilize social media to inspire our community to action. For example, GW is a participant in "Its on Us," a White House-facilitated national campaign designed to combat sexual assault on college campuses. In support of this initiative, our social media and video teams joined with student leaders from across the university to produce seven videos. The videos were promoted on social media and hosted on a YouTube channel and have made an impact on the campus, helping to facilitate conversations about sexual violence. The series has more than 74,000 total views across Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo and nearly 235,000 total impressions across Facebook and Twitter.

Social media has become a part of the biggest moments on our campuses. We're the only university that gets to graduate our students on the National Mall in the shadows of the monuments. Last year, we introduced social media feeds into our live commencement activities, so that our community could share their day on this inspiring stage. On commencement day, we drove 2,335 total social media mentions, were trending on Twitter in DC for most of the day and trended nationally for more than 10 minutes. On Facebook, we had a reach of 700,000 with 5,000 likes, 750+ shares and 350 comments and on Twitter our reach topped 5,000,000.

In February 2014, we launched the #HistoryLivesHere social media contest, which allowed our students to name a new residence hall on campus. 815 names were supplied by 450 community members during the first half of the contest and 1,077 community members voted in the selection of the winning name. University President Knapp introduced the contest in a video challenging the students to name the dorm. This video, which showed President Knapp in a more comical role than the university community was used to was referred to as "…the funniest thing the GW administration has ever done," by our independent student newspaper. President Knapp was also featured in another lighthearted video announcing the results. The two videos had more than 5,100 views, reached 229,944 on Facebook and garnered 372 likes, 97 comments, 48 shares and nearly 6,000 clicks.

We deserve to win because we're not afraid to try new things. We've even taken the student and alumni stories shared on social media and highlighted it in environmental branding—taking digital content into the physical realm. Some of our most prominent campus buildings have featured signage that promotes social media stories from students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Lastly, we broke the mold with this year's holiday video, creating a wintry wonderland out of paper where mascot George and his furry friend, President Knapp's dog Ruffles, find what makes them happy. Designed to share positivity with the university community, the video received 10 times more views than an average video. On Facebook, the video is among our top three most shared posts of all time, receiving three times as many likes and 10 times as many comments as an average post. We used the video to launch a Snapchat presence, which we are actively growing.


Video for Storytelling the #OnlyatGW Way

Entrant Company / Organization Name

The George Washington University: The Division of External Relations' Marketing & Creative Services Team


Entry Credits