The search for answers to this question lead to the launch of WeAreIU.com in February, 2012. It turns out that prospective college students are very interested in hearing from students that are currently attending the schools they are considering.
But, we also learned they aren't really that keen on reading the "canned" content that is on the "official" school websites, brochures, and viewbooks. They are looking for the unfiltered version, the unvarnished truth, the rest of the story, or as one of our bloggers puts it - "what they didn't tell me".
These insights caused us to start considering how we, as a support unit for the recruiting departments at IU, could allow students to easily submit their stories, and share them with their friends and followers. After investing some time researching various content management solutions, we were pleased to find out that Compendium, a company based right here in Indiana, had a practically perfect solution for us. Compendium provided a platform and solution that allowed students to submit their stories, we could moderate them, and the student bloggers could automatically share them on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter when their stories were approved for publishing.
So, we had a web platform. Next, we needed to figure out how we could get some IU students to start sharing their stories. In January 2012, we sent an invitation via email to the currently enrolled undergrad students at IU. We weren't sure what kind of response we would get. We were hoping to hear back from about a dozen students.
Imagine our shock, surprise, and excitement when we checked the next day, and found out that almost 200 students had applied! Wow! Hoosier Pride is for real, folks. They are volunteering for this, carving out some precious time from their busy college schedules to share their thoughts, insights, tips, and guidance. These students were asked to share at least one story a month.
So far, we have had over 170 IU students share more than 1,000 stories with us on WeAreIU.com! We are so thankful for each and every one of them. Their stories have been viewed on the website by over 65,000 visitors, from all 50 states, and over 136 different countries.
These statistics alone are astounding for a brand new website. However, what is even more fantastic is that almost half of the traffic to the site came from social media networks, and one-fourth came from search engines. Virtually all of the traffic to WeAreIU.com has been generated organically, without any promotion or advertising.
Now, here are some fun highlights that we would like to share with you as we reflect on the first year of this site.
I want to close this post by saying "Thank you" to all of those folks who have made the first year for WeAreIU.com such an awesome success! All of the support folks at Compendium, all of the student bloggers, the IU alumni that have shared their stories, the staff and interns at the Office of Enrollment Management, and all of the other folks that have provided me with such incredible insight, guidance, and critique throughout the entire process.
We have lots of plans to continue expanding the impact of WeAreIU.com during the second year. Stay tuned for some awesome stuff! Oh, and if you are a current IU student or alum, we want you to share your story, too!