On Wednesday, the hottest social media ticket was the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
For 24 hours, University Communications ran a large-scale social media project, dubbed #UWRightNow, to capture a day in the life of UW-Madison students, faculty and alumni. The idea was to highlight what makes the campus community tick -- both in Madison and abroad.
The call went out for anyone interested in participating to tweet with the #UWRightNow hashtag, make a YouTube video, or email a short post.
UW communications specialist John Lucas said the inspiration for the project came from 24-hour photo projects at other schools, including UW-Green Bay. Based on popular support for other social media projects on campus, including the recent national March Madness-themed Klout Influencer Insanity bracket, communications officials knew UW-Madison had an engaged and excited follower base. The idea was to give these people a shared space in which to highlight their distinct and lasting connections to campus.
"There's such a vibrancy and life to campus, with so many feelings and emotions about the place," he said. "We wanted to give people a platform to share their stories and essentially put them in a time capsule."
Lucas said he sees the project as another way of transmitting information about departments across campus. He also said the project would be archived and could be used to recruit students.
Tweets and photos started pouring into the project's headquarters right after midnight. Lucas said a whole team was tasked with editing the site in shifts throughout the day. Although the project's information page contains a disclaimer that not all content submitted would be posted, Lucas said the editing team worked to balance UW staff photos and videos with student content and to keep the focus solely on campus. He said tweets about going to the bar or about specific political campaigns would likely be omitted.
UW journalism professor Katy Culver said the project emphasizes the personal connections between individuals and helps boost the university's prominence in the social media sphere. Culver said she was fascinated by students taking on the role of content curator and actively inviting others into the conversation.
"It sends a great message to [future] students that we used the interesting tools of the day," she said. "We'll be able to say, 'this is how it was on campus in 2012.'"
Throughout the day, tweeted pictures of scenes on campus included: a first pitcher of beer after class on the Memorial Union Terrace; a recent graduate stretching in front of the Taj Mahal; and, an alumna describing her work with students as part of the Teach for America program in St. Louis.
Some of the earliest submissions included pictures from UW researchers working at the IceCube observatory center at the South Pole and from Badgers studying and living abroad in Paris, Venezuela and Italy.
By 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, more than 3,000 tweets had been sent to the Twitter hashtag, and nearly 800 were posted to the site, said Dennis Chaptman, director of the communications team. The final number of posts at midnight was more than 1,000. The project attracted some 12,800 total visitors and 10,000 unique visitors, or individuals visiting the site for the first time.