For George Washington student Bryce Bender, winning the #GWInaugural Challenge—a contest that encouraged participants to share their inauguration weekend experiences on social media—was all about strategy.
Mr. Bender took to all his social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, to quote old speeches and post photos of famous people he ran into around the city on Inauguration Day. He even scheduled 100 tweets to post just before the contest ended, so other participants couldn’t just copy his hard work.
“What won it for me was getting up at 4 a.m. and going to the Dubliner to see ‘Morning Joe’ being filmed,” said Mr. Bender, a first-year graduate student pursuing a master’s of public policy in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. “They had a lot of guests that morning. I think I took pictures of around 25 people, so I was able to snap pics and post them on the social media sites.”
The hard work paid off. Mr. Bender nabbed first place, and came away with a 13-inch MacBook Air. The four other students who took second through fifth place (and their prizes) included: Lincoln Mondy (iPad), Daniel Wein (iPad mini), Nur Oktem (Big Jambox wireless speakers) and Gabbi Baker ($150 GW Bookstore gift certificate).
Mr. Bender, who is from Tyler, Texas, and experienced his first inauguration in D.C. this year, said his favorite inauguration weekend experience was the Texas State Society’s Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball.
“I really enjoyed the whole atmosphere around the city,” he said. “As a whole, it showcased the American democratic system and transfer of power—or in this case, reaffirming a president.”
Some participants, like Ms. Oktem, a freshman studying international business, said the challenge allowed her to share #OnlyatGW moments. Others said it simply rounded out their inauguration weekend.
“The challenge had a lot of fun components to it, and it seemed like it would maximize the experience I had during the weekend,” added Mr. Mondy, a freshman majoring in political science from Dallas. “Also, some friendly competition is always fun!”
Mr. Mondy, who said his favorite part of the weekend was actually Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Lisner appearance, relied heavily on Twitter for the contest, posting photos, writing haikus and quotes and live-tweeting President Obama’s speech—but he also got lots of family and friends involved.
“I had an aunt collecting pictures of newspapers from across the country, a friend who got a Twitter user who had more than 10,000 people following them to retweet one of my tweets, and another friend who took pictures for me and let me use her phone when mine went dead during the inauguration,” said Mr. Mondy, who follows the #GWU hashtag on Twitter to keep up with campus news.
Meanwhile, Ms. Baker, a senior studying business administration and marketing, found more than just fun in the contest.
“I’m studying marketing and have always been interested in the way people and brands utilize new media tools to share information,” the Columbia, S.C., native said. “Social media is becoming increasingly important for universities, and I was really impressed with the way GW developed a creative way to both engage students and promote our unique opportunities to external audiences.”
Ms. Baker said her Twitter haikus, a photo from her local newspaper and a photo of Dan Butler from “Frasier” helped her achieve her fifth-place finish. She also tweeted quotes from past inaugurations and photos of CNN’s coverage.
“A friend from across the country joked that watching my Twitter feed was more fun than watching the inauguration on TV,” she said.
Regardless of the prizes, the #GWInaugural Challenge allowed the GW community to share its inauguration experiences.
“Social media is truly what you make of it, but at the heart of it is sharing—the core of this contest,” said Mr. Wein.
Jon Hussey, the university’s assistant director for digital marketing strategy, said the best way to tell GW’s inauguration story is to let the community tell it.
“We designed the social media challenge to add a bit of fun to the day, but more importantly, to tell the story of what this momentous occasion is really like for members of the GW community,” he said.