Have you seen students stopping mid-stride walking around your campus? Maybe sitting in the library frozen mid-sip of their coffee? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. It’s just the Mannequin Challenge.

The latest social media craze is in full effect across the United States. No, this has nothing to do with the 1987 movie (that produced one of the greatest karaoke duet songs/most awesome ’80s music videos of all time). #MannequinChallenge started exactly how you would expect it to start. Here’s the 30,000 foot view:

  • Teenagers at a high school posted what is believed to be the first #MannequinChallenge in late October.
  • The challenge is exactly like it looks; get a group of people to stay completely still for as long as possible, while someone walks in and out of the group to show the scene.
  • Some scenes are set to music. The most popular choice is Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” (the song does include profanities, but most people choose to use the first 15−20 seconds).

 

Since the start of November, the Mannequin Challenge has taken social media by storm, especially in the sports world. The Dallas Cowboys completed their own challenge on an airplane after their game on Sunday.

Texas Christian University (TCU) picked up a big victory at Baylor on Saturday. How did they celebrate? I think you know.

Southwestern Adventist University’s men’s and women’s basketball team’s put together one of their own as well.

Based on the #GoCards hashtag and the TVCC signs, I think this might be from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas. It’s probably the most impressive one yet.

So, what does a bunch of people standing still for as long as they can have to do with higher education marketing and branding? Absolutely nothing. But, it does give you a chance to connect with your current (and prospective) students at their level, as long as you do it the right way.

When I managed social media accounts at the University of Iowa, we always looked for ways to engage with our students in ways that would connect the “authoritative university voice” with the student population. Our president took part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. We communicated with GIFs and memes during finals week to try and ease the tension. Little things like that can show the overarching university is listening to its students and trying to meet them where they want to be met. It shows a human element to your campus and the figures behind it.

There is a big difference, however, between trying to look cool and failing miserably and taking part in a trend with a strategic approach. If your campus social media voice is traditionally serious and informative, don’t try to do too much with this. Don’t be Joey from Friends trying to act 19 to get an acting part. Reach out to your campus partners (athletics should be the first call you make) and see if anyone has done the challenge or plans to do it. A simple retweet of one of those accounts is all you need to do.

If your social voice is more open and spontaneous, you can have some serious fun with this. See if you can get your president and the cabinet to do this before or after a meeting. Get your mascot to do it with students. Maybe do a series of challenges in the same building when the video goes classroom to classroom for a few minutes. The opportunities are endless.

Is the Mannequin Challenge the silver bullet to a declining enrollment or a brand perception problem? Of course not. This is a trend that, as communicators and marketers, you should be aware of and it’s probably happening on your campus.

 

Quick wrap-up:

  • This is probably happening on your campus and it’s not a bad thing. Other than a few choice words in music selection, the videos have been harmless. It’s fun.
  • If you see it happening on your campus (or you hear of a plan for one), get more information. A simple share or mention from the official university/college social accounts goes a long way in connecting with your target student audiences.
  • DON’T OVERTHINK THIS. It’s a trend. It will be going away in one or two weeks. If you want to do a video, get one or two prominent campus figures (president, dean of students, mascot, athletic director, et al.) to participate. This is also a great opportunity to get those prominent figures in a fun and engaging activity with students. Don’t hire a video crew or produce this. Use your phone and be done with it in five minutes.
  • If you don’t want to participate, you aren’t going to lose recruiting numbers. This is a trend, it’s not a solution to anything.

 

If you end up doing a #MannequinChallenge, please email me at aaron.blau@stamats.com! I would love to see it.

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