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.



Filed under Web

5 responses to “seek and ye shall find: thoughts on content and serendipity.

  1. Terrific post & spectacular photo, Tim. Creating and sharing good content is a mindset, backed up by experience. Based on people’s reaction to past posts, we can get a good idea of what interests them, particularly what interests them enough to share with others. Clearly, striking photos of campus beauty work — for you and probably for many others in higher ed too.

    Being on the look-out for good photos and videos should be an ongoing habit of everyone in a communications shop. Bryn Mawr College (one of my clients) had a great example of this — a student snapped a photo of a classroom chalkboard covered with words of encouragement during finals week. The FB post asked others to provide words of encouragement to students. Lots of activity:

    I find that a content calendar can help develop this awareness and serve as a reminder (rather than a rigid schedule) to strive to provide lively, engaging content on an ongoing basis.

  2. Pingback: 3 Ways You Can Make Your Campus Photography More Interactive | edSocialMedia

  3. I agree with you that a lot of times having a content calendar can restrict your company from feeling personal and ultimately put you back to where you started. I do think it’s great to have a general idea of where you are heading, but to me social media is one of those things where you have to constantly be probing the audience to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to content. You have to listen to your targeted audience and respond.

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