Social Loops: Tappin’ in Tappan

February 25th

I open up Tumblr for my daily listening, and see this photo on the Oberlin tag. At first glance, it’s nothing big (only a photo and some commentary are on the original post, and even to this day, only two people have interacted with it), but then I read the sign.

The sign says: Tappin’ in Tappan. This tree is being tapped to make maple syrup as a part of a collaboration between Oberlin College Grounds and the Environmental Studies Program. We’re tapping campus sugar maples using tree-friendly 5/16 inch spiles and boiling down the sap. It requires about 40 gallons of sap to make each gallon of syrup. Feel free to take a closer look at our setup! However, it’s not hard to dislodge the tubing, so we’d appreciate it if you did not touch it. If you have any questions about our project or about the maple syruping process, please contact Sean Hayes.

And my jaw drops. First of all, Tappin’ in Tappan is a wonderful pun. It’s so wonderful that someone else (I don’t even know WHO) took a photo and posted it on Tumblr simply because it’s a wonderful pun. Tumblr is powered by cool content, photos, and sometimes, yes, really great wordplay.

Overall, this was a Very Good Find. I email the email address on the sign asking more questions about the project. I get a full backstory, a list of partnerships (hint: there’s so much more than the ones listed on the sign), and the students driving the project, and by the end of the exchange, I’ve started talking out loud to the creative suite and in particular, with Zach, our video mastermind, and we forward along the whole exchange to our editorial team, already decided that we’re doing a video.

Moral 1: Always be listening. Always be ready to dig deeper.

March 17th

Zach and I meet with the two main students, Griff (YAY one of my bloggers!) and Arthur, to talk about the process of making maple syrup, schedules some shoots (later the same week!), and the potential additional angles for this cool story. Arthur and Griff wrap up the first half of the meeting by giving us a taste of the first batch of maple syrup, and Zach and I conclude the second half of the meeting by looping Jamie, our editorial fellow, in to what we learned and invite him to the shoots.

It’s also during the meeting that one of the most quotable elements of the project — comparing sap collection to donating blood in terms of process — materializes. Go team!

Moral 2: Go straight to the source. Also, bring treats.

March 20th and 21st

Zach and Jamie joined the student coordinators for two shoots and interviews. Why two days? One day was maple sap collection and one day was maple syrup production! Zach captured the main interview that served as the main driving narrative on the porch of Tank Co-op during the second day shoot — the first attempt in the kitchen was too noisy, so the outside porch was the best spot, while Jamie asked additional questions for the written piece.

Moral 3: Double up on creative duty. Rather than ask the busy students to meet up twice, both video and editorial assisted each other by meshing together the Q&As.

April 2nd

Our final written story is done, and awaiting publishing as our final video is cut together. Keeping the story queued up as we wait for the last piece means that we can release everything at once rather than separately, because all the content pieces help each other rather than relying on each to operate alone.

Moral 4: Not all content production is the same, and the timelines associated with each have to depend on each other.

April 7

Congratulations, your video is on Youtube!” With that, our multimedia story is complete and published in our news center as well.

Moral 5: Waiting is worth it.

April 17th

After Zach wrapped up a solid week of project uploads (something like 7 new videos in a week!) he looped in the rest of our office so we can watch and figure out a final distribution plan for all the recent video work. We start planning for a series of upcoming homepage images, including a feature on Tappin’ in Tappan.

Moral 6: If you don’t have a distribution plan, why are you making it?

April 28th

The big day! Tappin’ in Tappan is featured on oberlin.edu, and I get to do my magical social media stuff, too. Zach’s video to gif rocked heartily on Tumblr, and I got to FINALLY share our super cool final product that showcases our students so beautifully and authentically. (It’s easier to gush about how cool Oberlin is when we can share something automatically awesome.)

One of the most significant things to me is that the first thing that caught my attention with the project — the well-timed and placed pun Tappin’ in Tappan — stuck with the project from start to finish, and is the best hook we could have asked for. It was even talked about in our class of 2018 group on Facebook as an excellent pun later in the evening! YEAH!

Oh, did I mention that part of the video shoots included some still photos? Yeah, do that. It’s yet another opportunity to piggyback on multiple pieces of media content for a final story. At this point, we know that homepage features are a viable way to distribute our video content, so Zach makes sure to capture a few photos while on his shoots.

Moral 7: There are so many ways to create and share content and even a singular story has many different pieces.

Two months may sound like a long time from start to finish, but consider the wonderful evergreen (legacy sugar maple?) nature (ha!) of this story that we discovered entirely by chance. If we hadn’t been listening, ready to ask, ready to explore, and ready to act, we would have missed this wonderful project that fully embodies Oberlin’s mission and ideals: collaboration between the college and students based entirely on a student idea, a commitment to local foods and sustainability, plus featuring a handful of Oberlin specific spots and people.

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