Storify: A University of Wisconsin Case Study

Our lives are stories, continually growing and changing every day. In my job at University of Wisconsin Hillel, I interact with many people and get to know their personal stories. Sharing stories of learning, community programs, and student leadership successes is the foundation of our online engagement efforts. I started to wonder how I could use social media to best meet our engagement goals and make students eager to get personally involved. One big Hillel initiative is taking students on a Birthright trip to Israel. We typically have up to 40 students for 10 days of non-stop exploring—this is exactly the type of story that would get our larger community excited. However, it is challenging to make time for students to sit down and reflect on what they are learning every day. I also knew that we shouldn’t create something with only a few weeks of shelf life, such as a blog—I wanted people to follow our story in real time and for students to be able to engage their existing networks to participate in the conversation. I began to explore options that allowed us to use the content that students were already posting on Facebook and Twitter, and Storify was the answer.

 

How It Works

Storify’s vision is to “(make) stories from the social Web, finding moments to remember in the real-time stream.” In other words—everyone can be a reporter. This mission aligns with Wisconsin Hillel’s passion to help the students become storytellers. Taking the guided tour of Storify will allow you to see how to create a story. In general, each user creates stories by collecting status updates, photos and even videos. One thing to keep in mind is that gathering content through the Storify editor can be a little buggy. For us, using the Google Chrome Storify extension has worked best—this tool puts a Storify button directly into your Twitter and Facebook feeds. Another option is to use Storify’s bookmarklet in your browser (though this method makes it harder to pull content from social networks though very easy from websites). Once your content is in your story on Storify – you can organize the information in a way that is engaging for your readers.  Then, Storify allows you to embed your story into your website. Storify stories can be about anything and are a visually appealing way to showcase what your community is talking about.

 

A Platform for Empowerment

Seeing a completed story is exciting. Our stories are powerful when students take ownership. Giving students a framework to use their social profiles to share about their journey allows them to become digital storytellers. By sharing their trip with their wide social networks, students can realize the benefits of engaging a larger community. Posting about their transformative experiences with Wisconsin Hillel on Birthright it is impactful for them, our organization, their friends and family, and their broader social networks. Storify makes the conversation a two-way street—students and their networks are given the opportunity to create, share and comment on content. As participants craft posts about their journey, their friends and family are able to engage in real time by following along. As the number of students that get connected to the UW Hillel community continues to grow, the options for storytellers increases. Ultimately, this is their journey.

 

Making It Work

The internet has allowed our worlds to become incredibly social—we are able to maintain almost instant contact with a huge and geographically dispersed network. As organizations, we need to find effective ways to use social media to engage these new types of communities to connect and share. Storify is the perfect tool to craft an engaging narrative by leveraging your community’s passion for your organization or cause. Being able to capture your community’s experiences allows for exponential growth within your organization’s social media efforts. While it takes time to see where your communities’ conversations are taking place online, your efforts will be successful when your members’ stories start to connect. Gather your content by creating a hashtag to monitor related twitter conversations, making lists of your Facebook connections, encouraging people to post pictures on your wall, and taking an extra leap to use Vine to create fun and exciting videos. This year, make your social media strategy about stories and your community will want to engage with you.

How does your organization share their social stories? I would love to hear your current strategy and thoughts about Storify in the comments on this post.

 

Bio: Jonathan Eisen is the Director of Programs and Engagement at the University of Wisconsin Hillel Foundation in Madison, WI. Jonathan works with UW Hillel’s social and cultural student organizations and manages UW Hillel’s social media efforts (facebook, twitter, and Storify) He is always checking his twitter feed and invites you to connect with him at @JonEisen.

 

 

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