The social network: Taking debate storytelling to a whole new level

Very few students will be lucky enough to attend the Oct. 9 debate at WashU, but the entire university community will have remarkable access to the proceedings via social media. By using a common hashtag — #WashUdebate2016 — across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, students and alumni will become the university’s key storytellers, sharing the excitement surrounding the debate with the world.

Special events are planned to highlight the role our students can have in telling the debate story, while providing a variety of fun activities. And on debate day, the WashU campus will be front and center in a national “Our Story” feature on Snapchat, for which the campus community is encouraged to contribute.

Cassaundra Moore, director of new media strategy at the university, is focused on conveying the growing excitement on campus. “Right now our social media team is addressing the upcoming debate from two sides,” she said. “The first is building excitement about the transformation happening on campus and boosting WashU’s remarkable history with the debates. The second is building engagement within our community, figuring out how to convey what’s going on the week before, the 72 hours leading up to the debate and during the debate itself.”

Sigaran (right) demonstrates a debate geofilter with Haley Dolosic, president of the Graduate Professional Council and co-chair of the Student Engagement in Presidential Debate Committee.

Moore (right) demonstrates a debate geofilter with Haley Dolosic, president of the Graduate Professional Council and co-chair of the Student Engagement in Presidential Debate Committee.

The lead-up

Leading up to the debate, Moore’s team is hosting a number of pop-up events promoting student involvement with social media, including games and prizes, local food and debate-related giveaways.

“We’ll have a tent appearing in a few different places around the WashU campus,” Moore said. “We’ll have carnival games, Plinko and a putting challenge that will be a ton of fun.”

Students can play to win WashU-themed social media swag, from posters, buttons, laptop stickers, water bottles and even a stuffed WashU debate bear. While supplies of certain swag items are limited, Moore emphasizes that everyone who drops by the tent will leave a winner.

“And if that isn’t enough, we’ll have a selfie booth, and it’s very red-carpet. You can stand in front of the screen and get a great shot with our debate props, which one of our wonderful designers illustrated by hand,” Moore said. “Anyone who visits the booth will get a physical copy of the photo as well as a digital copy, so our hope is that people will want to share their images on Twitter and Instagram.”

This week the social media tent will be at these locations:

Tuesday, Oct. 4, 11 a.m.–1 p.m., Danforth University Center, Edison Courtyard
(with treats from Pint Size Bakery)

Saturday, Oct. 8, 1–4:30 p.m., Mudd Field
(with treats from Whisk Bakery)

Sunday, Oct. 9, noon–6 p.m., Mudd Field
(with treats from Whisk Bakery, STL Cake Pop and Hot Box)

As the debate nears, special debate-specific geofilters from Snapchat will also be unveiled, so students who are within a specific perimeter on campus will be able to select these debate images to appear over their snaps.

The day of the debate

Follow the story on Snapchat by searching “wustl_official” or using this image.

Follow the story on Snapchat by searching “wustl_official” or using this image.

The Danforth Campus will be buzzing throughout the day Oct. 9, from media events, student activities, Facebook live presentations, a Debate Fair and a number of watch parties during the debate itself. Stay tuned to the #WashUdebate2016 hashtag for the latest campus dispatches.

And Snapchat users will find the spotlight placed squarely on WashU that day, as Snapchat’s national “Our Story” feature will focus on the debate, and Snapchat representatives will be roaming campus. “Snapchat has been in contact with us, which is very exciting,” Moore said, “and the WashU community is already very active on Snapchat.”

Throughout debate day, Snapchat users can follow along, and those on campus can contribute their own snaps to this national feature as well. “Our Story” debuted on Snapchat in 2014, providing a collaborative, live-streaming platform focused around a single event. Snapchat users at the location can add to the story as it’s happening.

Snapchat also offered a few tips for contributing to the “Our Story” debate feature:

  • Vertical videos always work best.
  • Make sure your sound plays back.
  • Voice narration always helps.
  • Use captions, emojis, doodles and filters to take snaps to the next level.
  • Provide multiple perspectives — wide shots, selfies, first-person perspective, etc. Move around.
  • Provide context. Help the audience understand where they are and what they are seeing.
  • It should be as if you are sending snaps to a dear friend — be natural and casual. Have fun with it!

“There’s going to be so much to see, whether you’re a volunteer or observer. There’s a lot to take in and a lot to share,” Moore said. “We want everyone to know how proud WashU is to host a debate.”