Monthly Archives: January 2012

hearing voices: doing a 180 on how we use 140.

When we launched the @sunyoswego Twitter account a few years ago, we weren’t using it in an ideal manner. But some evolution in Twitter itself and a change of our philosophy has led to a 180-degree change in how we use our 140 or less characters.

Going in, I knew Twitter was about interacting. But it began as One More Thing To Do, so the initial efforts were more push than interaction, and I didn’t do a great job budgeting time to responding to tweets mentioning our school. Of course, we had all those misleading polls and articles alleging Teens Don’t Tweet, although we discovered that was a fallacy fairly quickly.

So, with the help of great social media interns, we went more interactive, provided more live-tweeting, posted more photos in addition to answering questions. And it was good. But I realized that, while this painted a pretty good portrait of the campus, something was missing: Other voices.

Starting a few months ago, I placed greater emphasis on putting other voices into our stream, generally through retweets. Some thought-provoking #highedweb11 presentations provided inspiration, as did the idea from roller derby (and, before it, yes, professional wrestling) of “putting over” skaters, or helping audiences care and/or understand more about the players. I set up Tweetdeck columns for “sunyoswego” “suny oswego” and “oswego state” which keep us apprised of our mentions. Our goal: Weave in the stories of other accounts on campus and our supporters already tweeting our praises on social media — alumni, current students and incoming students.

The stream now features retweets of various organizations and offices on campus doing awesome events and programs. It provides value and validation to those accounts and their activities — growing not only their followers and participants but providing a better cross-section of what happens on campus. We’ve had accounts on campus ask for us to retweet them which we will do when they are providing value. A few times we’ll have someone ask to tweet their account’s existence, check to find they’ve posted no content and suggested they include @sunyoswego in a tweet of something they’re doing when they want a retweet. Saying “hey, check out this account that isn’t posting any content of value” lessens the value or our validations.

For the past week, we’ve had all kinds of students happily tweeting about their acceptance into SUNY Oswego. Here I stick with the awesome advice of Scott Stratten, aka @unmarketing: “I don’t know the ROI (return on investment) of tweeting back when a student says they’ve been accepted. And I don’t care. Just do it! It’s the right thing to do.” We usually retweet with a congratulations and/or welcome and/or something related to their tweet. A straight-up retweet seems lame and self-promotional, while adding some greeting or congratulations is more engaging and special to the recipient.

As a result of all this, we’ve seen a flood of new followers (the people we retweet will follow us, and often retweet our retweet, which leads to more followers), and a higher level of interaction than ever. We’ve been able to show those followers a wider swath of campus life. And most importantly we’re building a larger, more engaged and richer community experience … which is, as Stratten says, the right thing to do.

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management by wandering around, revisited.

“You are out of tune with the times if you are in the office more than one-third of the time.” — Tom Peters, “Thriving on Chaos”

One could wonder if Peters’ 1987 quote no longer applies now that we can connect with the world via email, social media and countless new channels without leaving our offices. I would argue his point is more valid than ever.

I’m bad at this. I spend way too much time in front of my computer in my office. There was a running gag where our web/new media coordinator, who reports to me, and I would say “good morning” to each other face-to-face for the first time in the afternoon. But this is marginal management on my part, so I’ve made a point to try to check in with her early in the day, every day.

Moreover, working on a college campus, it’s really hard to get a picture for what’s happening from the island of our offices. Getting out and around helps immensely.

Peters had a term for this: Management by wandering around. It’s not complicated. Just by walking around your area, talking to your employees, co-workers, bosses and the like (in our case, students!), you not only maintain a good line of communication but can improve how everyone does their job.

I notice this most when I get out of my building and go through places like our Campus Center. In buildings teeming with offices, casual spaces and interesting people, I often find myself in conversations that solve some kind of problem for one or both of us, move a project along or spark a whole new collaboration. Sitting down to lunch or talking over a cup of coffee provides a much richer, deeper and more fruitful conversation than text messages or email, Facebook or Twitter ever could.

This is not to discount online communication. I’ve worked on good projects and formed great friendships with people before meeting them in person. But meeting them face to face — interacting in three dimensions in real time — makes the relationship so much richer. The same goes for your bosses or employees, your colleagues and your students. Social media can facilitate connections and communication, but it can never replace in-person interaction.

So … if you’re reading this in your office, I offer this simple challenge: Get out from behind that desk and wander around to talk face-to-face with at least three people you don’t normally speak with over the course of today. It could prove much more fruitful than you imagined!

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seek and ye shall find: thoughts on content and serendipity.

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” — Thomas Jefferson

Some folks would tell you an immense amount of planning and work should have to go into a Facebook wall post with 275 likes, 48 shares and 28 comments. But it’s also possible to find that kind of content just walking out your door.

Or at least that’s what happened last Friday when I left work to find a brilliant sunset overspreading our campus. I took a simple iPhone photo and posted it on the SUNY Oswego Facebook page shortly after I got home. Oswego is known for its spectacular sunsets, so I figured maybe (if we’re lucky) a few dozen folks would like it and others may mention missing the sunset.

But never, ever underestimate the power of good content.

The most impressive figure in there, I think, is the 48 shares. I consider a share by far a better metric of engagement than likes or comments, because it means someone has found a piece of your content they like enough to “buy” it and make it their own. Also interesting that some alumni began reminiscing about a fellow student who used to play the bagpipes (!) at sunset every night.

It’s good that the photo speaks for itself. You don’t need a caption to explain what a beautiful sunset is, and it’s an arresting image to see on your Facebook feed, one that makes you stop and take notice.

Is finding this kind of content serendipity? Yes. And no. If you make a determined effort to seek out and document images, stories and links that are compelling content, you’ll have a better chance of finding it. This purposeful process has helped our Facebook page over recent weeks.

The reaction to this post does not exist in a vacuum. Thursday I posted a link to a story about SUNY Oswego meteorology graduate Thomas Niziol being named the primary winter weather expert for the Weather Channel (47 likes, 11 comments, 2 shares). Wednesday featured a story from the Oneonta Daily Star on a local student on our 23-member team climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (45 likes, 7 comments, 2 shares).

Which leads to the following observations on posting quality content to Facebook:

Be curious and be prepared. The Wednesday and Thursday articles came via Addictomatic, which I check regularly with a bookmark for references to SUNY Oswego. And while photographic skill is not required (obviously!) to get the sunset shot, it comes from recognizing quality content when you see it and being ready to act.

Build quality content and they will come. If our Facebook page was just spouting drivel or posting advertising taglines (I’ve seen this elsewhere, and it’s cringeworthy), no one would pay attention … or they may unlike the page and/or hide it on the feed. Our fan count of 10,663 is not large compared to many institutions, true, but we seem to have a very high level of engagement. One reason: Once you begin providing interesting content on a regular basis, audiences are more likely to stay tuned.

Content calendars can be overrated. OK, maybe a bit harsh, but when I hear consultants and agencies describe meticulously planned social media content calendars, this is ignoring how life really works. Yes, you should plan content around key events and dates (admissions deadlines or cycles, for example), but there are more things in heaven and earth than are in our content calendars, Horatio. Last week, our most popular Facebook content ever literally came out of the sky. We should recognize this possibility and remain flexible. (And those who fret over finding the ideal time, like 9:02 a.m. Thursday, to post things: Note this was posted at a “down time,” 5:21 p.m. Friday.)

Finding great content can involve serendipity, but it involves looking in the first place. Thomas Jefferson would have never even dreamed of Facebook, but he certainly had the right idea.

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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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