The Playbook for Impact

By Elijah Kabban, son of HGSE Communication Fellow Mark Kabban


I am 13 years old and live in San Diego. I took the week off from school to visit my dad who is on a one year sabbatical studying at HGSE and is a Communications Fellow. He took me from class to class and we ate pizza any time we got the chance. He asked me if I’d like to go to a workshop about social media and I was excited. At first glance I saw Matt Weber, who seemed exciting and entertaining and full of energy. The topic of the workshop was “The Playbook for Impact” in social media, which caught my attention because I’ve been curious about how things go viral or “blow up” on the internet.

Matt broke down how to use different channels and partners to get your content out in the world.

Here they are:

1. External partnerships (Medium)

2. Internal partnership (Gazette)

3. Owned Channels (HGSE channels)

He showed us an example of an article HGSE was trying to get circulated called The Biology of Positive Habits. This was part of their blog called “usable knowledge,” where they share information that people would find useful. They also made a short video and compared the two to see what got more interest. The video got 5,209 views and the article got 2,164 views. This shows that people like to watch a video rather than read, not a surprise. These stats were from the first site they posted on, Bright.

Then Matt Weber, said, “Let’s try this on HGSE, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.” The article they posted on the HGSE Facebook page, was the same one they posted on the Bright website. It got 26,085 viewers. Youtube posted the same video as the Bright website and got 2,883 views.

The second way they tried to get their article out was through one of their internal partners which was the Harvard Gazette. Because I only use email for school, I was surprised when Matt said, “Don’t underestimate the reach of emails.” The analytics showed that almost half of the web traffic came from the Gazette.

They then pushed this content through their own channels. With every different post, they would tweak the title and present it in different and fresh ways. Also, I kind of realized that the internet is like the “cool kids” at school. In other words, when people with influence and a following share something it helps content reach more people.

Here was the reach based on all their different strategies.

External partnerships-

1. 11k unique views on GSE website (6k from Gazette email)
2. 5k views on Medium blog  
3. 40k video views (adjusted) on HGSE video/social
4. 300k impressions on FB
5. 100k+ impressions on Twitter
6. 950 retweets on this content (people retweet Cng are principals, supts., ed leaders)
7. All organic (no $) Over 56k read or watched on HGSE/Bright. Close to 400k actually saw this content in some way shape or form on HGSE social media.

Lastly, Matt talked about a video by Donovon Livingston that went viral. He gave an amazing speech at the HGSE graduation that Matt knew right away would connect with a lot of people. But what I did learn was all the work that takes place behind getting a video visible and the years of work it takes to build an audience. In one weekend, the video by Livingston doubled the following of HGSE on Facebook that took years to build up to that point. After this workshop, I will never look at a viral videos the same. It takes strategy and thoughtfulness to get your message heard.