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Making E-Scooter Safety Information Social

CAM the Ram poses on a Bird e-scooter on the Lory Student Center Plaza

In October, 500 Birds landed in Ram Country. And by Birds, I mean e-scooters.

Bird became the sole-provider to supply campus and Fort Collins with e-scooters as part of a one-year pilot program. Not surprisingly, CSU’s community had mixed feelings about the new flock of Birds.

A direct message to CSU's Instagram account from a follower that says: "No (angry face emoji)"

New scooters meant new rules on campus. New rules meant we needed to figure out a way to share safety information with students in an engaging way. Although our strategy was simple, it proved to be effective.

E-scooters coming to a campus near you

Bird has partnered with more than 20 colleges around the U.S., and the popularity (and sometimes distaste) of e-scooters is on the rise. If your college doesn’t have e-scooters yet, there’s a good chance it will.

The good news: E-scooters are affordable, convenient, and keep more cars off campus.

The bad news: They can be dangerous if not ridden responsibly. A recent investigation found that e-scooters were responsible for 1,545 injuries at 23 hospitals in the U.S. in 2018.

For better or worse, e-scooters are sticking around (for a year, at least), and it’s our responsibility to set up our students and the Fort Collins community for success.

Our strategy

From left: Darin Sanders (Graphic Designer), Aaron Fodge (Parking & Transportation Services Alternative Transportation Manager), CAM the Ram, Isabel Mayoss (student), Maggie Walsh (Manager of Communications for Campus Operations and Engagement)

Sharing safety information on social media with students can be hard. Creating content about safety information that students will actually pay attention to is even harder. Creating content about safety information that will cause students to change their behavior is, well, almost impossible.

But thanks to teamwork, we were able to secure CAM the Ram to help demonstrate e-scooter safety and rules. We spent one hour with CAM and a student filming the dos and don’ts of e-scooters, and flipped the vertical video into an Instagram Story in time for the debut of Birds on CSU’s campus.

Using mascots strategically

So, why does CAM “work?”

Mascots are the visual (and physical) personality of a brand, and often come with a loyal fan base. Consider the Oregon Duck on Instagram. The mascot has almost 100,000 loyal fans 🤯 who follow him and patiently wait for his sarcastic and hilarious posts, like this. Mascots help universities build brand loyalty. Again, why?

Studies have found that humans have an innate instinct to give animals and inanimate objects human-like characteristics (anthropomorphism). According to the Adweek article, we anthropomorphize beings and things around us because “we understand the most about human behavior, we are motivated to explain the behaviors of others and we thrive off of social connections.”

(It should be noted there is some controversy around anthropomorphism and the implications for animals.)

A study conducted at the University of Portsmouth Library found an introduction of a mascot, Pablo Penguin, enhanced the library brand, built trust, lowered barriers to service engagement, and emotionally engaged with students.

There’s more to mascots than meets the eye. By illustrating safety through CAM the Ram, we were able to get the attention of viewers through an entertaining brand personality they trust and share important information with them.

 

What went well

First, CSU and the City of Fort Collins did a great job outlining the rules of the road when it comes to e-scooters. Since Fort Collins isn’t a major city, the arrival of e-scooters has been slower, which has worked out in our favor. The city and CSU had time to prepare for Bird’s landing and create detailed rules and safety guidelines.

CSU, the City of Fort Collins and Bird created a messaging strategy that included CSU social media channels to help spread the Bird word to the campus community. They created specific messages and graphics for social media, ensuring we had what we needed ahead of Bird’s landing.

I had a team of four Rams and one CAM to help me with the video shoot (see above photo), and it truly made all the difference. Not only did the team help secure CAM the Ram and a student for the video shoot, they were also the experts on all things Bird safety/rules. Without them ensuring we were filming a safe-riding CAM, I, without a doubt, would have posted incorrect information.

Results

The Story had a 97.5% completion rate and each Story reached on average 11,500 people. CSU’s Instagram audience loved the Story, and even asked for more CAM.

A direct message to CSU from a student that says: "More cam social media posts! This is awesome!"

We unfortunately don’t have specific statistics about whether students have followed the rules and safety recommendations since watching our Story. As they say, you can lead a Ram to Instagram Stories, but you can’t make them ride safely on Birds.