Tag Archives: social media marketing

What the decline of Facebook (or not) does (or doesn’t) mean to your brand.

Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 8.44.28 AM“Facebook is dead!”

You’ve seen that headline, or a similar one, by now, yes? About how young people are abandoning Facebook in droves, how it’s jumped the shark, how it’s bound for MySpaceCity.

Don’t believe the hype. In the blogosphere, Facebook has been killed off more times than Kenny from “South Park,” left for dead more times than Rasputin, been presumed vanquished more times than Doctor Who.

Q. Is Facebook losing primacy among young people?

A. Maybe. While the plural of anecdote is not data, I see indications many teens may be using Facebook as a network but not their main network any more. We opened our (closed) Accepted Students: Facebook Class of 2018 group about a week ago and nearly 300 accepted students already are making connections and some even said this interaction makes them choose Oswego (not bad for a dead network, eh?). Yet some say they’re not on Facebook much but encourage others to follow them on Twitter and Instagram to get to know them better.

Facebook. The Gateway to Twitter and Instagram. Not exactly Zuck’s next marketing phrase.

In any event, a Pew Research study released last year (albeit from 2012 research) found 94% of teens with a Facebook profile with 81% using it most often of any social network. Even with a 10% or 20% erosion, that’s still pretty strong market penetration.

Q. Is Facebook making it harder on marketers not willing or able to spend money?

A. Signs point to yes. Facebook hinted at this a while but now basically says advertising is an increasingly better way to gain reach than organic (i.e. normal) posts. This doesn’t mean your page is now worthless, just that it faces a stiffer test at getting attention if you can’t spend on advertising. And since Facebook has an annual subscription fee of $0, maybe you get what you pay for. It’s a shame that organizations like the Oswego County SPCA with few resources that are trying to place rescued animals with new homes, get donations to help feed its many sheltered cuties and spread the word about missing pets will find this harder to do, but maybe Facebook will change its mind again at some point.

Q. So, this is all means Facebook could be on decline, right?

A. Perhaps, but what does that mean? Nobody knows, really. As my friend and colleague Gary Ritzenthaler has pointed out, even if half of Facebook users suddenly up and left, it would likely remain the biggest and most influential social networking site. Facebook’s factbook lists 1.2 billion users, so if it declines to, say, 1 billion, does that make it a dead and useless network? Of course not.

Of course it’s sexy to say that Facebook is dead or employ other linkbait headline techniques, quoting such reliable sources as “our office intern,” “some kid we cornered on the street” or “our poolboy’s younger brother,” but those of us who work with students all the time know they still consider Facebook part of their lives. Let me repeat from earlier: Facebook may not be the be-all, end-all social network for teens any more, but chances are it’s still something they use. And if you’re trying to reach (or also reach) adults, the latest Pew Research points to 71% of those 18 and over still using it, 63% daily.

So if you run a Facebook page, what does this mean? It means … well, keep creating awesome content and providing the best customer service you can. If you have an important message and an advertising budget, consider this option … or not. In the greater social media picture, it reinforces that you shouldn’t (and never should have in the first place) put all your eggs in Facebook’s basket. Since Twitter and Instagram can be very powerful channels if done right, if you haven’t looked into them or other potential avenues, you should consider doing so.

But then you should always be testing and analyzing what’s working and not working in your communication, so chances are you already know how well Facebook works for you better than all the doomsaying bloggers in the world.

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Social Media Breakfast Syracuse: a grand central (social) station.

IMG_3242Was thrilled to attend Social Media Breakfast Syracuse for the first time on Thursday morning, at LoFo in Armory Square. Having so many of the most active, innovative and dedicated social media marketing professionals in Central New York in one location generated a kind of excited buzz and kinship among those of us who all speak the same language that seems so foreign to many colleagues.

The event, hashtagged #smbsyr, resembled 90 minutes of friendly frenzied networking chaos. Some found it unusual the event had no speaker or program, but I loved that it instead emphasized connecting — which is, after all, a crucial component of social media. I finally met wonderful people face to face I’ve had conversations on Twitter with for years, caught up with some real-life friends I haven’t seen in far too long and met plenty of amazing new people. Attendees included higher education and news media, corporations and creative agencies, small business owners and students. The marvelous mix just added to the merriment.

LoFo put out a great spread and about the only drawback was that the huge turnout, which seemed to exceed even the volunteer organizers’ ambitious goals, really packed the space. The event sold out in advance, and if it hadn’t I would have invited more folks from our college. As it was, Oswego had a nice showing of five folks from campus, all of us pleased with being part of such an exciting event.

Next meeting will take place Thursday, March 21, in the Hank Sauer Room of Alliance Bank Stadium, home of the Syracuse Chiefs. It will include a panel discussion on “Social Media and Sports,” and thus more structure than this month’s event, but should draw another great crowd in terms of quality and quantity. Like the Social Media Breakfast Syracuse Facebook page to stay up to date.

While the event keyed on social media, worth noting that I almost never pulled my iPhone from my pocket to check on what was happening on Facebook or Twitter. Why? Because despite all that we love about social, its ability to connect us with fascinating folks face to face is one of its strongest appeals. We’re reminded that social media is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

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Favorited tweets, rising: On content, connection and conversation.

While not necessarily the most important Twitter metric, the favorited tweet could be the most meaningful in its own way. I tend to think of someone favoriting a tweet as putting it in their Twitter scrapbook or hanging it on their virtual fridge. So when we see a huge surge in favorited tweets for our @SUNYOswego account, we must be doing something right.

The number of favorited @SUNYOswego tweets rocketed from 9 in November to 52 in December — and with 47 faves in the first 8 days of January, a new high-water mark appears inevitable. So why this astronomical leap? Of course, this all starts with tracking, content and interaction.

You really should track what people are saying about your college or brand online. Tweetdeck is great for doing this in real-time (other instruments like Icerocket and Addictomatic are nice too). We set up tracking columns for “SUNYOswego” (where people use the @ of our account or something the #sunyoswego hashtag), “SUNY Oswego” and “Oswego State.” (1: If your college has only one name commonly used, congratulations. 2: A feed mentioning merely “Oswego” became unmanageable by all those referencing Lake Oswego, a large Portland suburb.)

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What a busy, albeit awesome day, looks like in Tweetdeck.

Seeing a comment under these columns can spark engagement. If it’s a question we can answer or direct them the right place, responding is a no-brainer. Moreover, if it’s a student tweeting they’ve been accepted or offering up praise of something or someone at the college, we usually want to retweet it, perhaps with comment. Sometimes it’s as simple as “congratulations,” depending on space available, although we may add more commentary or humor when possible. (Acceptance tweets in all caps have been known to earn the #ALLCAPSWORTHY hashtag, for example.) Very often, our retweet gets a retweet from the person we RTed (if that’s not too confusing), we gain a new follower (or three, as others see the second RT) and increasingly the user (or someone they know) favorites the tweet.

As author, blogger and all-around smart guy Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) would say, if someone took the time to say something nice about you in social media, how can you not take the time to show them a little love and attention? This idea of kindness helps drive why we RT and engage with these acceptance tweets. But it also makes good business sense, presuming you’re into that kind of thing. Yes, these students now have a connection with and favorable view of our college and become an audience for our content (read: awesome things happening at our college). Sure, they now have a point of contact if they have questions if they’re weighing us vs. other institutions. Absolutely, they see other incoming students tweeting and can start to form a network with them via Twitter. But in a more personal way, we show that someone here cares and shares their excitement at getting into SUNY Oswego.

Note that even as these tweets sometimes come in every minute or so, we try to space out the RT stream a bit so it won’t be too much of a firehouse. We realize some students see these RTs and post so their own acceptances can be recognized too. We did see the rare snark or whine posted digging at the excited tweets, but you don’t let the occasional lonely troll keep you from crossing the Bridge to Awesomeness. It’s even nice to get positive feedback from others in social media enjoying the parade of good feelings:

Yes, we replied back and even favorited this lovely tweet, if that doesn't seem too meta.

Yes, we replied back and even favorited this lovely tweet, if that doesn’t seem too meta.

Buzzfeed recently published a minor buzzkill on this trend, saying favorites are likely up everywhere because of a change in way the option is featured and its use as a “Twitter fist bump.” The article actually traces this increase starting with a December 2011 redesign that made the option more prominent and may have fostered a culture and conditioning toward greater favoriting. Which in and of itself is good if their assumption that perhaps “it’s a sign that Twitter is getting a little bit friendlier” is correct. But note that change occurred a while ago, and the huge jump in favoriting @SUNYOswego tweets by far outpaces increases in other metrics.

And however you slice or analyze it, seeing a huge surge in the number of people favoriting, RTing and engaging positively with your content is a wonderful thing. Where and how this converts into those admitted students enrolling at Oswego remains to be seen, but at least we have some nice benchmarks (and feelings) to start.

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building a student social media team? look in social media.

If you work at a college, chances are you have more needs in social media than you have resources. As I’ve said before, building a student team is a great way to bridge the gap: you can build a productive presence, the students can receive hands-on training and you have a key target market involved in the creative process.

Where do you look for students for a social media team? In social media, of course. This sounds like it should be obvious, but even I forget sometimes. Most of my effort to assemble this semester’s team came through social media. I now have two students concentrating on web video, two on community management and one working both areas.

The first video recruit came after I stumbled across this YouTube clip on Riggs Hall:

OK, it’s a bit cheesy, but I enjoyed it and, more importantly, saw that students reacted positively. So I tracked down Ray, who made the video and appears with the Ahnold accent, and talked to him about putting his skills to work. He probably will do more videos in that general flavor, which is great: They are fun, fast-moving and informative. In our Facebook Class of 2016 community, we saw many students taking an interest in staying in Riggs, because the video makes it look awesome.

Then, while I had one social media intern lined up, that doesn’t exactly constitute a team. So I posted that I was looking for team members on my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and had eight inquiries within 24 hours. By the end of the week, I had filled up the team.

In the first week, we already have two video projects cooking (not counting Ray’s next project), the start of a special event tied to our big hockey rivalry White Out game vs. Plattsburgh (#ozwhiteout) and the beginning of transitioning in community managers for our main Facebook page, Class of 2016 page and @sunyoswego account. We’ll see how things evolve, but so far I’m pleased they know their way around social media.

The corollary lesson to all this is that if you work in higher education, especially in higher ed social media, you shouldn’t be afraid to connect with students. Yet I (all too) frequently see people who categorically say they will not friend students on Facebook or interact with them via social media. (I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a misguided college out there trying to write that into a social media policy.) If you work in social media and you have no intention on knowing what your students think or do, you simply shouldn’t work in social media. I accept friend requests from students regularly (although I generally don’t initiate requests out of respect for their privacy) and follow them back on Twitter. That alone is educational. And making those connections mean that when I have openings for a social media team, I already have connections and know if they are using this medium well.

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you can’t outsource authenticity.

Recently I made a comment on Twitter about a talented singer-songwriter and, a few days later, received an @ reply from someone suggesting I get said artist’s latest single. Curious, I checked the account to see it bragging about its “digital marketing clients” including a pretty decent roster of performers.

Too bad the whole thing is all kinds of wrong.

A couple years ago, I mentioned singer/songwriter Pete Yorn in a tweet. You know who responded and started following me?

Pete Yorn.

Pete Freaking Yorn.

Pete The Freaking Man Himself Yorn.

Not someone repping “digital marketing clients.” The artist himself, who tweets as he tours the country, promotes himself well but also shows his human side. And while I had sort of drifted from watching his career, I’ve bought all three records he’s released since.

Why? Because, strange as it seems, I feel a connection with him. Not with the team that handles him as a “digital marketing client,” but Pete Freaking Yorn.

Because I don’t go to Twitter to get marketed to. I go there for conversations.

If you’re an artist — or a company or an organization — who is a “digital marketing client,” you’re missing the boat. Sure, you can have people help you learn about social media, assist with a drawing up a digital strategy, but only you can be you. Heck, I bought two albums from the band Vancougar after discovering their tweet about attending a roller derby bout. Authenticity is the currency of social media, and you can’t outsource authenticity.

Look, I’m nobody special, yet I’ve had all kinds of performers follow me (or follow me back) and engage me in conversation. That makes me want to stay connected. To their music. To their brand, to use the marketing term.

I think most agencies struggle in the world of social media because they can’t do authenticity as well as their clients. They can’t converse when they focus on pushing messages. They can find suckers to pay them to tweet … then they spew marketing taglines and no one responds.

Because we don’t talk to taglines.

We don’t talk to entities repping their “digital marketing clients.”

We talk to people. It’s personal. It’s conversational. It’s authentic.

It’s what every performer who wants a presence on social media should be doing … themselves! Personally. Conversationally. And authentically.

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5 reasons businesses should be using social media.

I gave a presentation to a community leadership class last week and realized that (despite my arrogant assumption to the contrary) not all businesses and organizations are yet sold on the value of using social media. Whether it’s fear of the lack of control, tight resources or not believing they have the skills navigate Web 2.0, some businesses hesitate to take this step into what appears The Great Unknown.

Preparing for that presentation (as well as a rush job for class when a guest speaker had to cancel for a death in her family), I assembled 5 top advantages businesses and organizations can gain from social media presence. Turns out the reasons spell out the word MEDIA — pure happenstance, as I’m not nearly clever enough to create such a thing.

Multimedia storytelling: It’s so much easier to show with visuals than words, whether with video (the richest form of online content) or photos/slideshows. For example, would you rather read about our college having more than 100 student organizations or see a user-contributed Flickr slideshow with students in action? The bonus is you can embed slideshows on your own pages or share via social media.

Engagement: Your customers or clients, students or alumni are key to, and part of the narrative of, any business or organization. Interacting with them via Facebook or Twitter helps solidify their connections with you, and may help you better solve their problems. If a potential client posts on three Facebook pages looking for more info, and yours is the only one that responds, how much of a better chance do you have of earning their business? Or if you aren’t on Facebook, that discussion can’t even take place.

Direct communication: How traditional PR pushes out a story: We write a news release. We send it to editors who may throw it in the trash, put it into some kind of story purgatory or chop down to two sentences and make it a brief. Even if you get a good story, then consumers have to actually pick up a paper that day, turn to the page where it is and find time to read it. With social media, you bypass gatekeepers and uncertainty to get directly to your stakeholders. Also worth noting that our official Facebook page has decidedly more fans than our hometown daily newspaper has circulation.

Immediacy: Getting the word out, and placed in the media, can be a laborious process … albeit one that’s still worth doing. But if you create a Facebook event and invite all your fans to it, it’s immediate (and engaging and direct, as noted above). Or if something changes at the last minute, you can let attendees (or maybes) know immediately. There are other countless reasons businesses may want to get some kind of important message out instantly, and social media is delivers quickly.

Authenticity: Our businesses, our brands are not about buildings or sales figures. They’re about people. Authenticity — being who you are, telling the truth and embodying your values — is required for social media but also provides opportunities. Why not allow users to see behind the scenes at your operation in some way? Why not invite your most loyal customers to tell their stories? Why not make everyone feel like they are a genuine and important part of your story?

I’m not saying social media doesn’t come with perils, but then anything worth doing — just opening a business in the first place — comes with some type of risk. And I’m not saying delving into social media should completely replace existing marketing efforts, although they can greatly enrich, extend and complement existing marketing. Social media is more of an investment of time than of money, but it’s an investment that can reap great dividends.

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