Through a grassroots effort, students from Drake’s Social Media Strategies class earned Des Moines its own badge on Foursquare, a popular location-based social media app — and it all started with a tweet.
The project began when senior Hilary Henak discovered Foursquare’s challenge for users to create the best list of “gotta-see” sites in their cities. The reward? A citywide badge Foursquare users can earn by using their mobile devices to check in at each location.
Henak tweeted at her professor, Chris Snider, instructor of practice in multi-media: “I think this is something that really needs to happen in #DSM. Agreed?”
From there, the class diverted from their syllabus to focus efforts on the real world social media opportunity. Snider and his students collaborated to assemble a list of venues that exemplified the Des Moines lifestyle. They identified social media influencers in the community — like the Des Moines Register, Iowa Public Radio, Raygun and Jethro’s — and found ways to reach out to them.
“In Des Moines, people realize that social media is a great way to stay connected and get information,” says Sarah Coffey, a senior graphic design and public relations major. “All the support we received for the list via social media proves that.”
A Cutting-Edge Classroom
The contest allowed the 20-student class to experience a real-life application of social media strategy and see how their coursework may be used in their future professions. Coffey attributes this unique experience to Drake’s advanced, hands-on learning environment.
“Drake embraces social media more than any other school I’ve seen in the Midwest,” says Coffey. “The journalism school discusses Twitter as a reporting tool in classes and the public relations program talks about using it for promoting brands on Facebook.“
Snider allowed the students to make the project their own, acting as a collaborator rather than a facilitator. He encouraged the students to work together as they would in a professional setting.
“I didn’t impose any of my own ideas or thoughts about this on the group,” says Snider. “It was a class project; I wasn’t even the one to put together the list and submit it. That was Hilary.”
Why Des Moines?
The group’s hard worked paid off when Foursquare released the five winners on Jan. 24. After receiving hundreds of submissions, only five cities were chosen; Baltimore, Richmond, VA, Oklahoma City, and Stamford, CT joined Des Moines on the winning list. The Foursquare contest was inspired by the White House’s #visitUS initiative to boost tourism and travel in the United States.
The site provided the following commentary on the Des Moines location compilation:
“We were super impressed by this Des Moines city list made by Drake University’s Social Media Strategies class. They joined forces to write a bunch of great tips, got the word out and got over 250 followers. Their list features fairgrounds, zombie burger joints, delicious cornbread and more.”
The Des Moines social media community gave the students great recognition for their work; Coffey hopes that their win over big-city competitors like Portland, Nashville and Minneapolis will bring recognition to Iowa’s capitol city as well.
“Des Moines winning a badge might help people to see that Des Moines is more than butter cows and corn,” says Coffey. “It shows that we’re really up on the times and I think proves ourselves as a social media force in the nation.”