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UNO makes history as first U.S. university to trend on twitter in India


Published: Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Updated: Sunday, January 19, 2014 14:01


Graduate student Pawankumar Sharma led the Twitter campaign that generated over 4,000 tweets about UNO's Indian student population


Despite being 8,200 miles away from home, graduate student Pawankumar Sharma was still able to make history in his home country of India.

Under the direction of Sharma and the International and Recruiting and Admissions Office, the University of Nebraska at Omaha became the first U.S. college to trend on Twitter in India, after the Mumbai-born Sharma launched a Twitter campaign strategy where locals tweeted #UNOinNewDelhi and #UNOinKolkata to users.  In just 48 hours, the campaign generated 4,213 tweets and reached 5.6 million people in India. 

“I think that the power of UNO marketing reached its zenith when the university name trended on the Twitter timeline of the world’s second most populous nation and a potential emerging superpower in the next 20 years,” Sharma said. “I think we should be proud of our campaign reach, the power it exercised on the mind of Indian tweeters and the subsequent result we got out of the campaign.” 

The purpose of the campaign was to capture the imagination of India and generate curiosity as to why these hashtags were trending, hopefully inspiring locals to visit UNO’s website and make Twitter users aware of the university’s facilities and programs. Sharma said his end goal was to help International and Recruiting build a bigger base of Indian-born students on campus. 

“If no one knows about a product or brand, they will never buy it,” Sharma said. “UNO is a fantastic institution to study, but unfortunately not many people know about it. They always go to either some college in New York or California, but not UNO in Nebraska just because of the fact that this amazing and highly affordable university isn’t well-known.”

Sharma’s strategy began when the Management Information Systems student approached Peter Gadzinski, who is the assistant director of UNO’s International Student Recruitment and Admissions, with the idea to launch the hastags in five Indian cities the office was visiting to recruit.  While in India, Gaszinski and his team also met with high school students, the Twitter campaign complimenting the office’s other recruitment efforts. 

To ensure the campaign was successful, Sharma reached out to opinion leaders, Twitter users in India with a large number of followers and social media influence, and asked them to be the first to tweet UNO’s name.  

Accompanying the hashtags were 20 different quiz questions about UNO and Omaha- covering such topics as the departments offered at the university, which Fortune 500 companies call Omaha home and which billionaire investor is titled the “Oracle of Omaha”- created to further generate buzz and encourage readers to view the campus’ website.

“I hadn’t realized how many people Twitter reaches,” Gadzinski said. “We were reaching academic cities in India we were nowhere near. I was impressed with the geographical spread and the number of areas that got involved. It seems very powerful and certainly demonstrates the power of social media.” 

Ultimately, Sharma said the campaign’s aim was to reach out to everyone on Twitter who falls in the age group of 16 to 25. Over 389 users contributed to the campaign by tweeting #UNOinNewDelhi or #UNOinKolkata, accumulating into 96 hours of brand hastag mentions trending in India.

The campaign resulted in an increase of 300 people searching the office’s website per day during the campaign, and ten percent of the site’s traffic is from India now, compared to two percent from last year. 

“Reaching the right audience with continued sustained efforts for generating excitement, development of the brand, improving brand image perception, enhancing brand consciousness among people and finally revamping and giving a makeover to a brand breathes new life into a product or a university like ours.” Sharma said. 

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