When the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva planned how to commemorate an historic anniversary this year – fifty years of the Graduate Study Programme (GSP) – it was clear that social media would play a vital part.
The United Nations is increasingly drawing on social media tools, such as Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, to connect with the world; and the international students participating in the #GSP50─as we called it on Twitter─embodied the new generation of socially-networked youth that the UN is reaching out to.
From 2 to 13 July, the 2012 programme GSP50 welcomed 65 postgraduates from 39 countries to the Palais des Nations. To celebrate the 50th anniversary, UNIS planned an interactive opening ceremony that brought together past and present participants and featured a panel discussion that was ‘live tweeted’.
Earlier in the year, UNIS launched a GSP50 Facebook Page where alumni shared GSP memories, photos and video messages, which UNIS then used to create a short film that was broadcast during the ceremony.
There were many familiar faces from past attending the opening ceremony. Those alumni unable to travel to Geneva got involved online via Twitter. During the event Gisella Lomax, UNIS Social Media Coordinator, read out tweets and questions sent by alumni on every continent, from China to the United States, the United Kingdom to Kazakhstan, Japan to Nigeria and beyond.
Social media continued to play a key role for the remainder of the programme. UNIS used the GSP 50 Facebook page as its main form of communication with the graduates, posting information, deadlines and schedule changes.
Every day, intern and photographer, Yann Castanier uploaded video montages, which were filmed with DPI-issued FlipCams as well as photo albums of GSP50 highlights, in which graduates ‘tagged’ themselves and ‘shared’ with their own Facebook networks.
Statistically, the GSP50 Facebook page was very successful, with a ‘reach’, or viral effect, of an impressive 23,500 people viewing its content. The photo album of students receiving their graduation certificates from UNOG’s Director-General– himself a keen Twitter user – was especially popular, garnering 11,000 views.
For the GSP organizers, Facebook and Twitter allowed them to receive feedback from the graduates – both complementary and critical – and provided an important opportunity to answer their comments. As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently said: “Social Media is the best way to reach out and to be connected with the world.”