How do you market STEM education? Throw a party

Oct 08 2012

When Reese News Lab’s managing editor, Alex Barinka, asked me to brainstorm ideas to celebrate the launch of our newest project, STEMwire, I was initially uncertain.

STEMwire is a news service that is part of the 100kin10 initiative, a nationwide collaboration aiming to add 100,000 science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers to U.S. classrooms in the next decade. It’s a worthy cause, but one that doesn’t necessarily resonate with 100 percent of people. For that reason, I wanted to come up with a way to engage those who were already passionate about STEM while catching the attention of those who weren’t.

Finally, two words came to my mind: Twitter party. Over the summer, I worked at a public relations firm and helped run a décor sweepstakes for a client. To promote the sweepstakes, we invited influential bloggers to join us for an hour-long online conversation. The event was a great success, and I wanted to replicate it for STEMwire.

There was only one problem: Our @STEMwire account had less than 10 followers – not exactly my idea of a great party. I knew the first step had to be outreach, so I worked with the other staffers to come up with a list of contacts ranging from education reporters to directors at nonprofits. Then, I crafted a press release and pitch email and hit “send” about 50 times.

By the day of the party, Oct. 3, a handful of national organizations, such as Teach for America’s’s STEM initiative, had agreed to facilitate or participate in the conversation. We hoped that, with their support, we’d be able to increase our following and generate visits to STEMwire.org. I made sure to send out follow-up emails and coordinated with the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication to announce our Twitter party on its homepage. At 4 p.m., it all began.

tweets appearing during twitter party

The #STEMwire conversation generated more than 100 tweets and increased our following by 15.59 percent. At the start of the party, we had 76 followers. As I’m writing this a day later, we have 116.

The most impressive statistic, though, has to do with website visits. The day before the party, 34 people visited STEMwire.org. The day of, 115 people clicked to our site. According to Google Analytics, a majority of those clicks came from Twitter.

Here’s some more advice for anyone planning on marketing work by hosting a Twitter party:

• Don’t just promote. Have a conversation! When I wrote our script, I made sure to include a variety of questions and topics. For example, one tweet asked participants to name their favorite movie robot. Another tweet introduced our sponsor, Carnegie Corporation of New York. Another tweet included a fact about STEM.
• Think about your goals. We wanted to drive traffic to our new website, so we made sure to link to our content and homepage throughout the hour. We also got our reporters involved by having them use their personal accounts to tweet links to the stories they’ve worked on.
• Think about analytics before you start. How will you measure results? How will you document the conversation? How will you know how many people were reached? On that note, be clear about articulating expectations. Many of our participants tweeted @STEMwire instead of using the hashtag #STEMwire. That made it harder for us to count total tweets after the fact.
• Be meticulous about the specifics. When I sent out emails, I said that our Twitter party would be from “4 to 5 p.m.” I didn’t think about the fact that many of our contacts were located in different time zones. This seems like a silly error, but we suspect that at least a couple of tweeters missed the party because of it.


One comment on “How do you market STEM education? Throw a party

  1. […] hosted a Twitter party in the fall, and learned a lot about interaction on social media. When participating in the U.S. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *