Our Little Twitter Experiment

We’ve just launched a little Twitter experiment. It’s called the Tweet for College Scholarship and as far as I can tell, it’s the credit union industry’s first scholarship driven entirely by Twitter. Here’s some background on the scholarship and our promotion strategy.

A different kind of scholarship.
Elements of Money teen program. The scholarship is open to all high school seniors who belong to their credit union’s Elements of Money program. Applicants must submit an essay to qualify. But unlike the typical 500+ word essays required by most organizations offering scholarships, this essay must be submitted via Twitter—and we’re holding applicants to the site’s 140 character limit.

That’s right. A collegescholarship essay contest in140 characters or less. We’re asking high school seniors to tell us in 140 characters or less, “how do credit unions make a positive difference in people’s lives?” We’ll pick one winner each month for three months (January, February, March), then pick an overall scholarship winner in April 2010.

Testing the Twitter waters.
Many youth marketers (myself included) remain somewhat ambivalent toward Twitter’s impact on the teen segment. On the one hand, Twitter experienced a slower than normal adoption rate by teens (which is rare for a tech-driven innovation). On the other hand, teen’s usage of Twitter is slowly increasing, thanks in part to musicians, athletes and other celebrities who are actively tweeting. While still not at the levels to match the hype, we believe Twitter has at least reached a point where it’s a viable delivery channel for a certain segment of the teen market. I guess we’ll soon see if this is indeed the case as our Twitter scholarship takes flight.

The goal of this experiment if pretty simple. Besides wanting to give away a scholarship (which we’ve really wanted to do for quite a while), we want to see if teens will follow a credit union program on Twitter. And if so, what do they have to say? Our goal isn’t to amass 1,000 followers made up of credit union insiders and other social media watchers. Instead, we want to find those few young members who have something to say, and who are interested in what we’re doing with the Elements program.

Taking an integrated approach.
Each of our credit union partners are taking the reins in promoting the scholarship (there are currently 23 credit unions across the country participating). Although the scholarship is driven by social media, we’ve recommended that traditional, as well as non-traditional marketing tools be utilized.

We’ve provided credit unions with flyers to distribute to members, a memo outlining the program to staff, and web buttons/banners to include on their general member website. Credit unions are also promoting the scholarship through their Twitter and Facebook accounts. In addition, we included an article in the January 2010 issue of the Elements Newsletter, which many of our credit unions send to their teen members.

On our end, we’ve developed a microsite for the scholarship (www.TweetForCollege.org), which provides details on the program. We’re also promoting the scholarship through each credit union’s Elements of Money website, as well as through Elements social media sites including Facebook and Twitter. A short YouTube video is also in the works [update: it’s done. You can view it here] . All-in-all, multiple channels are being utilized to promote the scholarship. (sidenote: we’re doing all of this at no additional cost to our clients. Subcat is providing all the marketing material, microsite, and scholarship funding, as part of the annual subscription fee.)

Waiting for the results.
As the first ever credit union Twitter scholarship, we’re not sure what to expect. We’ve already received a few entries, which we’ll retweet every so often. It’s actually pretty cool to read the positive things teens say about credit unions. As the program progresses, I’ll keep you posted on how our experiment is going. In the meantime, you can follow ElementsofMoney at Twitter.com/ElementsofMoney.

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