Monthly Archives: July 2010

don’t forget the value of face-to-face conversations.

Sometimes finding a solution is as simple as sitting at the right lunch table.

As we redevelop our website, we recognized a need from the top down for feedback and input from prospective and/or incoming students. But I wasn’t really sure how to do it. Until one day I decided to sit with the good folks who run our New Student Orientation program during lunch in our Campus Center.

They were discussing an informational scavenger hunt where incoming students had to perform a certain number of tasks while competing for prizes. And it dawned on me: Hey, maybe one of those tasks could have something to do with our new website! A couple conversations later, a task involving our web redevelopment was part of the scavenger hunt, and my summer of interacting with hundreds of incoming students began.

For the first two scavenger hunts, I asked students stopping at my station their opinion on three different design protypes for the new site. An overwhelming winner emerged, with 62 percent preferring an option with a narrow pictoral (often scenic) banner on top. Which happened, fortunately, to also garner positive feedback from faculty, staff and current students. But to be able to back that opinion up with results from surveying more than 200 incoming students provides great confirmation.

a simple card sort

The following orientation sessions involved a card sort. I asked each member of the teams of scavenging students to take a card with a topic on it and tell us which section of our website (About, Academics, Admissions, etc.) they would expect to find it. Some results held to form, while others were eye-opening … but having a couple dozen students choose each card during each hunt gave me a pretty good sample size. And the conversations made them aware that 1) we are redeveloping our website, and 2) we value their input.

Overall, the information, connections and visibility proved quite valuable … but it all comes back to that initial conversation. I think sometimes those of us working in social media get caught up in the value of conversations on Facebook or Twitter (and imaging ROI) that we forget about the importance of face-to-face conversations. Of getting out there and speaking to people from different backgrounds. Of the serendipity that can follow something as simple as just sitting at someone’s lunch table.


Filed under Web

location-based email marketing: at&t, you’re doing it wrong.

a not-too-helpful email from AT&T

On a rainy Friday morning, I woke to find an email from AT&T telling me the seemingly great news that there was a newly remodeled store in Angola, Indiana, to check out.

One slight hitch here. I live nowhere near Angola, Indiana.

angola is way too far for a road trip

Come to find out, upon posting this on Twitter, the snafu was not unique to me. Quite the contrary: Many AT&T users around the country received it. So perhaps they failed to do a simple zip-code sort before sending the email. No big deal, right?

Wrong. It’s not like AT&T is already a much-beloved brand. This just makes it worse. Moreover, location-based marketing is becoming more and more important and rich in potential … look no further than the booming growth rate of Foursquare and other geosocial platforms. So AT&T — a mobile communication provider who therefore should understand location-based marketing as well as any large corporation — really looks far afield in this one.

Oh, one more thing. Here’s what the email looks like with images off (my default):

not much to see in this message

Granted many of the images in the original email were decorative and, um, not all that great to begin with, but the inducement (25% off coupon) doesn’t even appear with images off or in an alt-tag message. That’s both a usability #fail and a marketing #fail. Maybe Karlyn Morissette needs to talk to them about her Five Commandments of Email Marketing. Because this effort looks misplaced in more than one way.


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branding is a battlefield: winning lessons from pat benatar.

Since in a high school English class, I once used Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield” as an example of a metaphor, her music has been around a while (as have I). So when I was fortunate enough to pick up her Best Shots greatest hits disc *free* at a tweetup/swap meet/BBQ in Ithaca this weekend, I realized just what an amazing body of work Benatar produced — and what she can teach us about branding.

In addition to her many solid, catchy, memorable songs, Benatar the entertainer has a lasting image. An unmistakably tough yet tender persona that always seemed authentic. Sexy, but never slutty. A string of hits including “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Heartbreaker,” “Treat Me Right,” “Promises in the Dark,” “Fire and Ice,” “We Live for Love,” “We Belong” and many more. (Archeologists cite her song “Invincible” as the only proof the movie “The Legend of Billie Jean” ever existed.)

Pat Benatar in "Love Is A Battlefield"

Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield" video is considered groundbreaking in its insertion of dialogue into the narrative (image courtesy of Yahoo! Video).

But Benatar’s brand is substance with style. While so many acts from Samantha Fox to the Spice Girls sold sizzle but no steak, Benatar provided content. Quality content. Enduring content. “Love Is A Battlefield” pioneered inserting spoken dialogue into a video to help tell its story and provided a strong message of female empowerment. She scored a hit with “Hell Is For Children,” an unflinching look at the then-taboo subject of child abuse. Among her 10 gold/platinum/multiplatinum albums, some sold better than others, and she did make a (credible) foray into the blues, but she stayed true to herself and never did anything misguided or embarrassing (yes, Madonna, I’m looking at you).

If great branding is consistency, Benatar had it covered with good songs and her distinctive delivery and vocal style. With so many ’80s bands based on gimmick or image becoming one-hit wonders, Benatar focusing on music and messages provided her a long, influential time in the spotlight. Her popular albums, videos and nearly 20 top 40 singles led to Billboard declaring her the most successful female rock vocalist ever, so clearly her “brand” was successful. If not everyone is a Pat Benatar fan, I’ve never heard of anyone disliking her or not respecting her discography.

If you work in branding, think about Benatar in comparison to your brand. Is your marketing about gimmicks, or content and connections geared for the long haul? Are you authentic, or pretending to be something you’re not? Are you creating content that’s relevant for the next 30 days, or for the next 30 years? Is your message consistent enough to be recognizable, like hearing Benatar’s trademark vocals or the timeless opening riff of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”? If not, aren’t those nice targets? Branding, like love, is a battlefield — but I think Pat Benatar’s career provides us a bit of a field manual.

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atlanta braves hit a home run on twitter.

If you’re looking for the potential to do awesome things on Twitter, look no further than the Atlanta Braves account, @Braves (huge tip of the cap to Joe Glad for the lead). In their use of social media, the Braves show responsiveness, creativity, awesome fan-friendly engagement and organization-wide buy-in.

Braves wish fan happy birthday

Many of us monitor our “brands” online, and the Braves are no different. But they take it a step beyond. Consider the above photo, learning of a fan’s birthday and having one of the Braves hold up a whiteboard sign of birthday greetings. Or when learning of a young fan (I assume) coming to his first game, tweeting a player’s message of welcome (below). Or when a fan tweeted a picture of a Turner Field cake she made for her father’s birthday, @Braves retweeted it, the image enjoying more than 1,000 views.

Hard to top that in terms of engagement. You get the feeling the organization loves fans as much as the fans love the Braves.

They keep the stream going with more functional news tweets (nightly lineups) or event-based in terms of near-live photos. The Braves stumped for reliever Billy Wagner to make the last-chance vote for the All-Star team, but they’ve also tweeted in support of charity. While @Braves racked up more than 23,000 followers, the account — unlike, say, Oprah — actually follows back a fairly healthy chunk of nearly 1,000 fans.

In addition to their responsiveness in identifying tweets and finding ways to pleasantly surprise their fans through creative engagement, I’m also impressed with the organizational buy-in. If you can get players, broadcasters and management to join in the greetings and Twitter games, that says a lot. While I don’t know how big the team’s Twitter-related staff is, I can tell that the support for it must come from very high for so many parts of the operation to happily play along.

However the Braves do it all, one thing is clear: Their use of Twitter is a home run. We can all draw ideas and inspiration with how they cover all their bases.



Filed under Web

foursquare next steps: claiming and consolidating.

By now quite a few of you have read (or been subjected to) my basic primer blog about Foursquare. In the months since, many institutions (mine included) have become more serious about using this geosocial platform. But how do we bridge from grappling over mayorships to serving institutional purposes?

The first (and dreadfully obvious) step is creating a location or locations for your institution, if such doesn’t exist already. The next step involves claiming your official Foursquare location. Weeks ago I applied to claim SUNY Oswego online and heard nothing. When the subject came up earlier this week on Twitter, the ever-helpful JD Ross at Hamilton College mentioned the email address of, so I sent a follow-up email with the site I wanted to claim, my Foursquare account ID and contact information if they had questions. Within _minutes_ Foursquare responded to say I had successfully claimed the venue.

The next step is consolidating locations if duplicates exist. In our case, one could find 3 SUNY Oswegos and 2 Suny Oswegos. Many users wander concentric circles but don’t share a neighborhood. I had noted the duplicates in my follow-up email and someone named Ian from Foursquare asked me to provide him the locations and they would consolidate. First thing Wednesday morning I emailed the duplicate locations and after around 4 hours Ian told me it was taken care of. Fast and effective service!

What to do next? We have the opportunity to create a special for the mayor of SUNY Oswego. This would be easier if my social media budget were more than $0 (zero dollars). Or, more accurately, whatever I feel like paying out of my own pocket.

I also want to create more sites (buildings, key attractions) around campus when I find time; I don’t have any social media interns until fall, so that would be an assignment if I don’t do it in summer. I’ve claimed a Foursquare user account (sunyoswego) for my institution, but whether I remember to change back and forth from my personal account to the institutional one (let alone recall the respective passwords) while creating venues and checking in remains to be seen.

Since I emphasize goals over tools (aka chasing shiny objects), with Foursquare, my overarching goal is to build connections both among the campus community and with the campus itself. Sure, new students and visitors can use it to discover and explore things or become mayor of our library. But I’d like to throw in some other fun, engaging initiatives; as a geocacher I think maybe we could put hidden prizes in some locations and use tips to find them. But these are things to brainstorm and develop … the first step is (was) to claim the space and consolidate to bring our users together.



Filed under Web