I’m going to let you in on a little secret, even though it’s a bit embarrassing: I’m scared of tweeting. Yep, I’m a marketer and a millennial—though at the older end—and I’m petrified of sending a tweet.

I have a Twitter account. I follow people and enjoy reading my timeline. I know how to market on Twitter—and the importance of it. My blog even automatically tweets when I post something new. But the thought of personally writing a tweet and sending it out into the world causes me to panic. And instead of confronting my fear and moving past it, I remain a non-tweeter. That is, I did, until I got something in the mail recently that spurred me to action.

Not long ago, I was pleasantly surprised to open what looked like a greeting card envelope and find a $5 Starbucks gift card from my credit card company, along with a message thanking me for my business. In the bottom-right corner, there was a hashtag promoting the campaign. For the first time since I activated my Twitter account, I wanted to send a tweet. I wanted to thank them for the gift card. I wanted to reward their actions with positive social media chatter so others could read about it.

So I did it. It took me three days to muster up the courage, but I did it. Much like Alexei Leonov’s first spacewalk in 1965—but with a much smaller fear of death—I ventured into the unknown and tweeted the company a thank-you message.

I wasn’t the only one. Thousands of people were posting about the very same thing, thanking this company for being “awesome,” “cool,” and “making [their] day.” How many times do you hear people say all that about a credit card company? To make the social media engagement even better, this company responded to many of the tweets, saying they were glad the person enjoyed the gift and asked what they were going to get with the gift card.

This campaign impressed me quite a bit. Clearly, the amount of money spent on gift cards was nothing compared to the amount of interest people pay on credit cards each year, but the gesture made people feel special. It made them feel appreciated. It impelled people like me to embark on a social media journey I had yet to undertake. And it, likely, generated brand loyalty that will keep people with that company for years to come.

This same kind of engagement can be applied to higher education marketing to generate admissions interest and help increase enrollment. You don’t have to send out Starbucks gift cards to start a conversation; you just have to give people something to talk about.

Make your audiences—especially prospective students—feel appreciated and wanted. Inspire them to speak up about you. Make them want to be a part of the conversation—both on social media and later by attending your college or university.

If that strategy worked on someone as tweet-phobic as me, it can certainly help you reach key audiences in this ever-expanding social universe.

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