To answer this question, the first thing I thought to use was social media, particularly Instagram. I chose Instagram because it seems like a social media app that many students use aside from Facebook. Additionally, the learning curve would be low as a person who only recently learned to use social media. Not to mention, I felt that it would be similar to posting posters around campus but on a specific digital space for the club. Overall, I thought that by using social media it would allow me to raise interest in our, J-Club, online events which in turn would raise attendance.
When looking into this question, I first asked two specific questions:
- What ways are there to increase online event attendance?
- What ways are there to increase followers on Instagram?
Below, I will go into more detail regarding the questions and the answers I found. Please note I was able to produce the results via J-Club’s Instagram Business Account along with Presence and Zoom attendance tracking. Additionally, all the resources I referenced while researching these two questions will be at the end of the article.
But before I do that, I will introduce some important terms that I use throughout this article.
- J-Club = Used to be known as Japanese Club, but recently renamed to J-Club. The Japanese Club highlights aspects of traditional, pop, artistic, linguistic, and literary Japanese culture and brings them to campus. We host food events, screenings, celebrations, and workshops. We also attend events in the surrounding area. Everyone is welcome regardless of experience with Japanese language or culture. Instagram is @middjclub, and the link to our Presence page is go/j-club (go.middlebury.edu/j-club).
- Presence = Website used by student organizations for organizing and advertising events. The website also helps students find student organizations, and events happening around campus.
- SAO = Student Activities Office. The office that coordinates as well as supports student organizations. Click here to be taken to SAO’s Instagram page.
- MILC = Middlebury Intercultural Leaders Coalition. A cultural organization cluster that works together with the Anderson Freeman Resource Center to facilitate communication and cooperation between student cultural organizations and offer programs on campus.
What ways are there to increase online event attendance?
Out of the things I learned when researching information regarding this question, one of them was to make the event interactive. To make the event interactive, various sources stated that you could host events like live games or competitions, movie nights, trivia nights, challenges, celebrate unconventional events, and more. Another important tip was to give the audience an incentive to attend the event and create a posting schedule. Other tips were to promote the event during the event and get feedback from attendees.
For J-Club we did make the events interactive. Examples of such events are our Jeopardy and Escape the Room events. Throughout the year, we had two Jeopardy events—one during Fall term and the other during Spring Term. The first seemed of little to no interest for our members. On Instagram, we had only 2 likes, 0 interactions, N/A reach, and 3 attendees (which was just J-Club Board Members). On the second try, we had 1 like, 9 profile visits, 48 reach (and 47% of those accounts weren’t following us), and 51 impressions. Unfortunately, I don’t have the Zoom attendee number because I didn’t create the event and it wasn’t on Presence (due to complications). (Yet, I believe there were 4 attendees, 3 of which were J-Club Board Members.) For the Escape the Room event, there was 1 like, 5 interactions (out of that four were profile visits), and 38 reach on Instagram. According to my memory, 4 people attended excluding me (and two of which were J-Club Board Members).
Regarding incentive, we did events in which students could receive something—particularly, our White Day and Stressbuster event. White Day is a day (on March 14th) in which people return gifts to those who gave them one on Valentine’s Day. For the event, we had members register to receive small bags full of Japanese snacks from J-Club on March 14th. We also allowed international and remote students to register. We received 7 registrations, although 3 were from J-Club Board Members. On Instagram we received 9 likes, 3 profile visits, 53 reach (45% of the accounts weren’t following us), and 4 interactions. According to our President, all the students who registered attended and got their gift.
Like the White Day event, the Stressbuster event was an event that students registered to receive small bags full of Japanese snacks but could also eat outside with the J-Club members that were on-campus. We received 21 registrations during the registration period. Out of the 21 registrations, 4 were from J-Club members. This was a huge increase in attendance! However, out of the 21 people registered only 5 people came to eat outside the J-Club members according to the President. The rest picked up their snack bag later. On the other hand, this was the event that most students registered for out of the Spring semester!
For the posting schedule, unfortunately, I was unable to stick to it and mostly posted sometime on Sunday, Monday, and/or Friday. For the most part I tried to post at certain times in which it was considered the time in which most people would see it according to the image below.
Image from Later.com.
However, as a student myself, I was busy during the school year and ended up posting when I could.
Moreover, I did try to promote the event during the event, but I often forgot as I was also enjoying the event and conversations. The one time I did promote while the event was ongoing, I saw no other students entering the zoom room later i.e., students who joined the zoom room after the event start time. Lastly, I did try to get feedback from students after the event and I did this through the Instagram Story emoji slider sticker (image below).
Image from Adweek.com.
I did this about 4 times throughout the academic year, and on average I received about 2 responses. Images of the stories I added the feedback feature to are below.
I would say that if you wanted to increase event attendance:
- Make the event more interactive as well as give the student an incentive to join.
- I would have to follow the posting schedule more often to give conclusive results, but I will say I think student organizations should post at least twice a week in the morning to increase event attendance.
- I don’t believe organizations have to ask, “How was the event?” after every one, but I would suggest trying it a few times throughout the semester. You will sometimes receive replies. On the other hand, I would suggest that student organizations promote the event during the event as I did receive many interactions on our Instagram story during those times.
What ways are there to increase followers on Instagram?
After researching, I found that one should: leverage the biography, write in-depth captions, create and use hashtags, and comment and engage with people’s posts.
I did leverage the biography on Instagram. We added what our club was about, our email, and linked our Presence page. At first, I changed the event link to the zoom link and added the password to the corresponding post every time we had an event. However, I later learned that it could be dangerous for Middlebury Students as non-Middlebury students could end up attending and disrupting the event. Although that has a low chance of happening, I decided to stop and instead state in our posts to go to our Presence page. Below is an image of our biography:
Later, I decided to use the biography to not only send students to our Presence page but also to our Google Forms if we were using one to receive student responses. For instance, I changed the link to a Google Forms link when we were trying to get students to join J-Club, and when we were asking for feedback on our events.
According to my research, writing in-depth, blog-like captions would help to increase Instagram followers. Yet, again, I am also a college student, so I only wrote captions with the relevant information. They were not that long, about two to three lines. Regarding hashtags, I have no results for whether using them increases followers since I did not create or use any. I did not use any hashtags in J-Club’s posts because I was afraid of accidentally using a hashtag that could lead students to offensive, scandalous, or controversial images. Lastly, I would have loved to have engaged and connected with people over comments, but no one commented on our posts.
I would suggest that student organizations use their biography, whether that be by just linking their Presence page, using it for registration with Google Forms, etc. Lastly, there is nothing I can suggest to do regarding the captions, hashtags, and engaging with students via comments on your posts.
Throughout this inquiry, please consider that event attendance is mainly based on overall student well-being— finals vs. midterms vs. regular school days. (Although the inquiry is to get students to attend even through all of that.) Based on that, I would say that students are more willing to participate in online events in February and March. Additionally, students are more willing to take part in stressbuster related events in April, but not in May. I am unsure of students’ willingness during the Fall Term.
I would also suggest that student organizations use SAO and MILC resources such as SAO’s Instagram shoutouts, etc.
I need to further look into doing interactive and incentive events during the Fall Term, using a posting schedule, and getting feedback from students via Instagram.
Below are the sources that I referenced when answering the aforementioned questions.