Monthly Archives: March 2012

how we use pinterest: it’s about goals, users and gut.

If you work in social media, you couldn’t help but catch the buzz over Pinterest, which repeatedly smashed records for fastest social media community to [insert just about any number] members. We’ve started up a Pinterest page — but not because it’s the next shiny object. The SUNY Oswego Pinterest page came about because we saw another way to connect with key users, fulfill communication goals … and because of an intangible gut instinct.

When I brought the idea of Pinterest up to our student social media team, the three young women in the group were immediately excited about it. That doesn’t happen when I mention working in Twitter or Formspring or Foursquare, so my gut instantly realized that if part of our target market was this into the platform, it had real potential. Of course, that Pinterest mainly appeals to women is considered a punchline in some sectors … but it’s foolish to pooh-pooh such a huge market (around 55 percent of our students are female, for one thing).

One intern, Jenna, immediately thought of two potential boards — photos of items students should bring when moving in (one of the questions we hear the most in social media) and images of places of interest in the Oswego community (ditto). Thus our ongoing goal of better communicating with potential/incoming students gives one great peg for using Pinterest. As I always say: Goals first, then tools. Ideas for boards about various living options, activities on campus, sporting events and even winter preparation followed … all produced by students on the team.

I’ve also talked to key folks in alumni relations, who are also interested in photos and items of interest to alumni. One of the alumni magazine’s most popular stories involved images and stories of famous performers who played Oswego over the years, so historic photo galleries are in the planning stages. Thus we can offer content that spans the student lifecycle — from when they’re choosing a college to graduates recalling their glory days.

Say what you will about Pinterest, but if your institution has goals, motivated people (students!) working on it and a focus on content of interest to your audience, it’s well worth pursuing.

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qr code #fail of the week: what’s that smell? (updated with author fail info)

EDITOR’S NOTE/UPDATE: Astute commenters have made the point that this is, in fact, not a QR code at all; it’s a CP tracking code. But Hal Thomas makes a great observation that the similarity could easily fool consumers (including this author) into thinking it’s a QR code and generate confusion.

I’m not saying I want to make QR code fails a weekly feature … but I could seriously make QR code fails a weekly feature. This one involves random implementation and poor follow-through — two features that will make adoption of the technology an uphill climb.

While putting on antiperspirant/deodorant the other day (I sweat a  lot), I happened to notice Speed Stick™ had slapped a QR code on the back of the product:

There is absolutely no context to it, other than looking like another pattern next to the much more recognizable Universal Product Code, and no reason any normal would have to scan it. Of course, I’m not a normal person, so I decided to scan it to see if maybe they unhelpfully sent users to their own homepage or something not task-oriented. Oh, but this was even worse …

Are you kidding? That, well, stinks. You put a QR code up and don’t even bother to maintain the page where you’re sending users? Maybe it was a one-time promotional code that expired. Or … well, I guess I’ll never know what it was. I do know that it’s not a very good use of a QR code, and that if for some reason this was my first encounter with this technology (presuming I knew what the heck it was and why I’d want to scan it), I probably wouldn’t have as much interest in scanning anything again.

If you want to hook up with trendy technology, have a goal in mind. And a long-term plan — especially for a product that has a longer shelf-life than your marketing folks’ attention to shiny objects.

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fishing with shiny objects: the trouble with apps vendors.

Apparently we have an mobile app vendor on a fishing expedition around campus. He’s dangling shiny objects and looking for bites. This probably happens a lot, and it’s generally bad news for your college.

If this were, say, the 19th century, I could totally see app vendors being snake oil salesman, going from town to town vending miracle tonics that cure whatever is wrong with you. It’s no coincidence that app vendors almost never contact any college’s web communication office — they don’t want to talk to those who think about content, audiences and goals for the web on a professional basis. Instead, they fish around the fringes, trying to sell their Miracle App that can, well, cure your boredom and need for a shiny object.

When the conversation turns to mobile apps, two main questions tend to follow:
1) Will this provide a mobile solution to a particular problem or meet a specific goal? If so, then consider exploring it, but be wary of overpromising and underdelivering on the vendor’s part.
2) Wouldn’t it be cool for my office to have an app? No. Just no. Do not pass Go, please don’t pay a mobile vendor $200.

Our college explored and released a mobile site which, by all research, is the more reasonable way to address things like user need, content delivery and tasks people would handle on a mobile device. But apps — for the right task, the right price — are not totally out of the question. Once we learned the apps vendors were on the prowl, we’ve started discussing some kind of app policy. I’m not a huge fan of policies, but I feel like there should be some kind of check before someone bites on that shiny object and gets reeled in at great potential expense. Plus the consistency of things like names, logos and colors are important … as well as the hub-and-spoke model to let users know where they can go for other campus-related tasks.

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vacuum company uses QR code. and it kind of sucks.

Amy and I were out shopping for vacuum cleaners on Friday night (such romantics we are) and came across what looked like a promising model. The box didn’t have a lot of info, but it did have a QR (quick response) code. So we scanned it.

How did the vacuum QR code work? From a customer-focused standpoint, it kind of sucked.

Instead of getting some kind of customized experience, the code sent us to the company’s … home page. Which had a bunch of unrelated information and, after scrolling, found a panel with a link to info on vacuums. I clicked on that, and came upon a list of products that I had to sift through. At Amy’s prompting, I finally ended the UX experiment and typed the model number into the search box and retrieved the information.

Here, once again, was a company that embraced the shiny technology of QR codes only to deliver a poor customer experience. Small wonder it’s so hard to find evidence of anyone scanning a QR code in the wild, let alone finding the technology useful.

I’ve said it before, and will say it again: If you must use a QR code, do it to meet a goal or provide a solution, not to be trendy. Many people are already sick of anything related to QR codes because marketers find so many dumb and impractical ways to use them. We ended up buying another model, and I’m not sure having a dedicated website would have sold us, but just taking a few minutes to produce a QR code that went straight to the product page would have spoken volumes about their understanding of technology and their customers.

Ultimately, think about what would help your customers and whether a QR code is a practical way to deliver it. It’s really that simple.

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