How Furman University got more than 50,000 views with a Flashmob

May 16th, 2011 Karine Joly 1 Comment

Flashmobs on campuses and elsewhere have multiplied over the past few years – to the point they usually don’t get too much attention on the Web.

While they might look passe to some web and social media professionals in higher ed (you know who you are ;0), the recent flashmob done by 200 Furman University students in Greenville Falls Park on April 30 proved that they can still attract eye balls and engage a web audience.

I repeat: Flash mobs were kind of cool in 2008. Check the calendar.

[Funny, as I was working on this post last Friday, Colgate University posted a video of another flashmob organized by students – so, what might look passe for some could be seen as cool by others ;-)]

Becky Lane, Videographer for the Marketing & Public Relations Office at Furman University emailed me about the video of this flashmob a week after she posted it on YouTube: it had already more than 45,000 views.

What’s interesting about this 4.5-minute video is the fact that it’s pretty well produced and that you can see at 3:04 the president of Furman University, Rob Smolla, joining the fun and dancing among students.

After I watched the video, I decided to ask a few questions to Becky Lane to find out how Furman University managed to pull off more 50,000 views (at the time of this writing) with a flashmob.

1) Who organized the flash mob? How did you get FU president to participate?

The flash mob was organized by two Furman seniors, Julianna Battenfield and Dan Weidenbenner. They created a Facebook group for the flash mob and posted an instructional video so students could learn the dance moves in advance. They asked President Smolla if he would be interested in participating, and he was eager to be involved. He was attending a formal event downtown that evening, so he did the dance in his tuxedo! He said he was happy to be included because it gave him the chance to show the fun side of what is usually regarded as a stringently academic institution.

2) What were the goals of the video? Did you meet them?

Our main goal was to record the event and post it online to promote school spirit and emphasize Furman’s ties to the Greenville community. The response has been overwhelming! Many Furman alumni from a wide span of class years have commented on how much they love the video, and Greenville residents with no personal ties to the university have also responded positively.

3) In just 7 days the video got more than 45,000 views. How was it promoted?

We posted the link on our Furman online network, the Engage Community, as well as on the university Facebook page and Twitter account. Many staff members, current students, and alumni also reposted the link on their personal Facebook pages, or sent the link to friends and family. The local Fox station was at the event and ran a story on the evening news that night. The Greenville News picked up the story and interviewed the students and the president, and featured the article on the front page of the newspaper on Sunday, May 8. We were also featured by The State newspaper out of Columbia. A local radio station posted the link on their Facebook page, and WCNC, the NBC affiliate from Charlotte, featured the story and the video link on their website.

We now have over 52,000 hits on YouTube. The video has been viewed in all 50 states as well as around the world in places like India, Japan, Egypt, Russia, Sweden, Brazil, and Iceland.

4) A flash mob isn’t something easy to shoot. How did you do it? Any tips you can share?

We found out about the event just a few days before it was scheduled to take place, so we didn’t have too much time to plan how we would cover it. We had three cameras – one on a tripod high on a bluff overlooking the park and two roving cameras that moved through the crowd during the dance. Having more than three cameras would be ideal for maximizing angles and mixing up shots. If I had it to do again with the gear we have, I would have put a second camera on a tripod from a different, closer angle and only had one shoulder-mount in the crowd. An interesting note – for an event that was entirely organized, planned and coordinated by students, our camera crew was also comprised of all students, with the exception of myself.

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