One Tweet Will Earn $20,000 From KFC

Nov 20, 2010 6:00am

ABC News on Campus reporter Lynne Guey blogs: It may be the shortest application students will ever submit.  But keeping things short and sweet will pay off for the one high school senior who manages to answer why he or she deserves $20,000 towards a college education…in 140 characters (or less).
The KFC Colonel's Scholars program awards more than 75 college scholarships each year, but this year it will grant its first scholarship winner based solely on a single tweet.   The tweet must include the hashtag KFCScholar, meaning that with a simple Twitter search, all entries can be seen by Tweeters everywhere.
"This single scholarship is pretty clearly just an experiment," said Gary Ritzenthaler, a social media instructor at the University of Florida.  "It's a way to capture some of the current cultural buzz of social media and try to create something that's a little bit viral."
The contest kicked off Wednesday, and already thousands of KFCScholar hashtags are invading the Twittersphere, with many more expected to pour in through the November 26 deadline. 
Only high school seniors are eligible to apply.  Some entries resonate with idealism: "With a degree I could help enrich my community and plant seeds that would help all those grow around me." 
Others have a playful edge: "Colonel help me become a dentist, you can't eat chicken without teeth!"
Of course, there is also the occasional jab from vegetarians: "My dietary choices are well-informed enough to never eat your product."
Some older tweeters even complained of the scholarship being offered to only high school seniors.  One single mom said, "I don't think that's fair. There are so many other people who need the money too."
According to KFC, the winner will be selected based on 40 percent creativity, 30 percent need and 30 percent drive.  But how much can you really say in 140 characters? 
"I don't think you can tell enough about a student from one tweet," says Ritzenthaler.  "I would have a different reaction if the contest asked students to use Twitter in an innovative way – some selection of tweets that reveals both their personalities and their knowledge of the importance of social media."
Some contest entrants agree. "If I had a lot more space I probably could have explained why I think I deserve it better," said Shelby King, a high school senior from Tennessee.
Despite the character limitation, companies can't afford to ignore tweeting in this digital age. 
"I think it is going to be increasingly important that students are able to craft effective messages for short attention spans, so in that sense creating 140 characters of great writing is something to be rewarded," said Ritzenthaler. 
As for KFC, it is gaining a lot more than just potential scholarship recipients.  It's generating a following … and a type of publicity advertising dollars can't buy.     
"I've only known KFC for its delicious double double sandwiches … but i don't see it as just a restaurant anymore," said Kendall Moore, a Colonel Scholar hopeful.  "It's a support system, it's aid.  For me, it's a chance."

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