Students Just 140 Characters Away From A College Education

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FULLERTON, Calif.-How much can you really say with just 140 characters? How about "I've got a college scholarship"?

SubCat Marketing, a Southern California firm that works with credit unions, has launched the second incarnation of its "Tweet for College" program, which will award $2,000 among five high school seniors entering college next year. To enter, students must tweet about this year's topic: What it means to be a credit union member.

SubCat has worked with CUs for about eight years, providing marketing and educational services aimed at attracting and serving the youth and family market. The group has financial education programs for kids, teens and parents.

In order to be eligible, teens must be members of a CU affiliated with SubCat's Elements of Money program, must have a Twitter account, and must follow Elements of Money on Twitter (@ElementsofMoney). About 30 credit unions across the country currently participate in Elements of Money. The scholarship money comes from SubCat's operational budget.

SubCat CEO James Flores said that when the contest started last year it was "part scholarship and part social experiment," because the marketing company was able to then track entrants Twitter usage patterns over time.

"We wanted to also learn a bit about how teens are using social media," he said. "We found out last year that most of the people using [Twitter] signed up just prior to the contest. Many times we were their first tweet or their first follower." He pointed out that the contest is not necessarily linked to Twitter for all time, and might switch to Facebook in future years.

He noted that, from his perspective, one of the downfalls of Twitter-as opposed to Facebook, for example-is that there isn't the same level of data available for SubCat to drill down to statistics such as geographic and socio-economic status of contest entrants. But what's almost more important than any of that, he said, is that each student's contest entry is seen by all of his or her Twitter followers, "so that message goes out to their peer network."

Final winners will be announced on March 14.

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