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Friendraising on Social Media

“Ice Cream with Bucky Day”

Bucky badger and 5 year old Ross Estok

In my role as the Social and Digital Media Specialist for WFAA, I’m blessed to have the opportunity to connect with people all over the world who love the University of Wisconsin. Obviously, our primary focus is on engaging with our alumni, but this summer, I realized our reach and influence on the people in the state of Wisconsin is much greater.

Back in March, the Digital Content Planning team decided to try something that had never been attempted at WAA. We planned and executed a complete April Fool’s takeover of the WAA website. All the stories were creative, fun, and engaging, and the response we got on social media was incredible. It was one of the best days we’ve had on social media in 2016, reaching 432,766 people and accumulating 5,417 reactions, comments, and shares on Facebook. Also, the stories generated almost 19,000 unique page views for our website.

The responses came in by the hundreds, and it was evident that many of our Facebook followers forgot it was April 1. One reaction that captured my attention was that of a five-year-old boy named Ross Estok from Wisconsin Rapids. Ross took our “Orange is the New Red” April Fool’s story, written by John Allen, pretty hard. The story was about the university going through a re-branding process, and it said that we would be changing the school colors to orange and black--or “tangerine and ebony.”

Ross hated the idea of an orange and black Bucky Badger, and his mother, Cassie, caught his reaction on a video that went viral on Facebook, reaching more than 25,000 people within the first 24 hours. Not only was his reaction one of the saddest things I’d ever seen, but it was also one of the cutest moments ever when his mother revealed that we were only fooling him. The smile on Ross’ face was priceless, and from that time on, I knew I had to meet this kid.

[shareprints gallery_id="22958" gallery_type="slider" gallery_position="pos_center" gallery_width="width_100" image_size="xlarge" image_padding="2" theme="light" image_hover="false" lightbox_type="slide" titles="true" captions="true" descriptions="false" comments="true" sharing="true"] Photos by the Estok Family

To reward Bucky’s biggest fan, I arranged an “Ice Cream with Bucky Day” at the Babcock Dairy Store for the entire Estok family. On June, 18 they spent an hour with Bucky eating ice cream, horsing around, and they even got an exclusive tour of the Babcock dairy production facility.

Neither of Ross’s parents is a UW graduate, but you wouldn’t know that by meeting them. The entire family showed up in their favorite Badger attire, and immediately I knew the Estok's bled Badger red. This interaction reminds me that our reach at WAA is much larger than we realize. We have an opportunity to bring joy not only to our alumni, but to all Badger fans and residents of Wisconsin. Hey, who knows--maybe in the year 2029, when Ross graduates from high school, he will become the first person in his family to attend the UW. On, Wisconsin!

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