Monthly Archives: March 2013

.eduGuru Summit: Online conference for online communicators.

Screen shot 2013-03-19 at 4.25.33 PMCommunicating in higher education, especially via web and social media, is a fast-evolving field, so it’s marvelous that so many options for professional development exist. Next week comes one such opportunity you can tackle without even leaving your office or home: the 2013 .eduGuru Summit on Wednesday and Thursday, March 27 and 28.

I’m thrilled to be part of a lineup that tackles timely topics in strategy (day one) and technology (day two). Full lineup as follows:

Wednesday, March 27, Strategy Track (eastern time zone, presuming my math skills still work):

  • 10 a.m.: “How to Create a Culture of Sharing,” Donna Talarico, Elizabethtown College
  • 11 a.m.: “Building a Successful Web Team,” Matt Herzberger, FIU
  • noon: “Establishing a Social Media Program,” Michael McCready, NorQuest College
  • 2 p.m.: “What Robocop Can Teach Us About Alumni Engagement,” Jeff Stephens, University of Florida
  • 3 p.m.: “How Student Blogs, Video and More Can Help You Meet Goals and Provide Solutions,” Tim Nekritz (me), SUNY Oswego
  • 4 p.m.: “I Don’t Have Your Ph.D.: Working with Faculty and the Web,” Amanda Costello, University of Minnesota

Thursday, March 28, Technical Track:

  • 1o a.m.: “SEO for the Modern College Newsroom,” Kyle James, nuCloud
  • 11 a.m.: “WordPress FUNctions,” Lacy Tite, Vanderbuilt University
  • noon: “WordPress Themes 101,” Curtis Grymala, University of Mary Washington
  • 2 p.m.: “Designing Responsively from Mobile to HD,” Philip Zastrow, University of Notre Dame
  • 3 p.m.: “Rebuilding a University Homepage to be ‘Responsive.’ Twice. In Less Than a Year,” Erik Runyon, University of Notre Dame
  • 4 p.m.: “Making Analytics Reporting Actionable,” Becky Vardaman

Honestly, I find every one of those tracks fascinating and several extremely useful. So consider registering for the .eduGuru online conference and joining us next week. It’s an outstanding lineup, and you don’t have to worry about canceled flights and lost luggage to attend.

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Networking and newsgathering: Breaking stories via social media.

Screen shot 2013-03-19 at 8.33.17 AMWhen you’re Division III college or smaller school, your first former student-athlete playing in the pros is a big deal. If your institution also is the first outlet to put out that story and scoop traditional news media, it’s a bonus. As we learned this week, networking and newsgathering are critical to making this happen.

We knew that former Laker hockey standout Eric Selleck was well-regarded in the Florida Panthers organization, albeit perhaps more as an enforcer than scorer. We didn’t expect him to be called up so soon, but the Panthers didn’t expect so many injuries. So on Monday, a couple days removed from current crop of Lakers’ trip to the Frozen Four, former SUNY Oswego sports broadcaster Sean Balogh sent me this tweet.

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Students from our sports journalism program, which has produced the likes of ESPN’s Steve Levy and Linda Cohn, don’t idly pass on such rumors. But I tweeted that I was seeking verification, which brought the semi-anonymous friend who runs @OswegoTweets into the conversation.

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I checked @GeorgeRichards’ tweets and sure enough:

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While that was retweetable, it wasn’t enough to build a story. I contacted Oswego Sports Information Director Adele Burk but also wondered if Selleck would be the first Laker to play in the NHL. We have a long and storied hockey program, but I couldn’t recall anyone getting closer than former goalie Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt’s celebrated one-night stint filling a jersey on the Washington Capitals’ bench. So I contacted Oswego Coach Ed Gosek, who also played with many Laker legends back in the 1970s, and Joe Gladziszewski, former Laker SID, lifelong Oswego hockey fan and now the associate director of athletic communications at Ithaca College. They were confident Selleck would be the first former Laker to play in a regular-season game.

This was important because it adds great news value. Players get called up to the pro ranks every day, but the first from their alma mater to play on the highest level is a once-in-your-institutional-history story.

So what about some kind of official confirmation, a story with more detail than a tweet? Nothing from the Panthers’ website or traditional media channels. Then this tweet from Chris Horvatits, WTOP sportscaster and member of our merry band at the Frozen Four:

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So I hunted down that story on the San Antonio Rampage website, which sure enough led with “Florida Panthers Executive VP/General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the club has recalled F Eric Selleck from the San Antonio Rampage (AHL) …” I sent the confirmation link to Adele so she could finish the official story but had enough for us to file an official tweet with full context:

Screen shot 2013-03-19 at 8.14.18 AMSoon after, Adele had the official Oswego athletics story up and out via social media:

Screen shot 2013-03-19 at 8.14.40 AMWhich gave us an official story to post on Facebook, where it was very well-received:

Screen shot 2013-03-19 at 8.29.36 AM… and even though it seemed to take ages to confirm it, we were still way ahead of the media curve on it. Does that matter? It does if you want to establish your social media properties as places to go for breaking news (and not just canned announcements, but real-world good news). When your social media channels break stories of interest to your audience, and you value accuracy as part of it, you’re bound to build a more loyal following. Having a good social network and some newsgathering skills can help make this happen.

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Working social media at an NCAA championship: Humans still come first.

Through all the action of the rollercoaster ride of being an official social media correspondent at an NCAA championship for the first time, the men’s hockey Frozen Four in Lake Placid, what I’ll remember most are the eyes.

I saw them first when Norwich came into their news conference after losing to Oswego, and more acutely the next night when Oswego entered after losing 5-3 to UW-Eau Claire in the NCAA Division III men’s hockey championship game.

The Lakers and Coach Ed Gosek meet the press after their loss. With the emotion so raw, I opted not to tweet this image.

The Lakers and Coach Ed Gosek meet the press after their loss. With the emotion so raw, I opted not to tweet this image.

The windows to the soul, the eyes told of tears shed. They appeared shellshocked, as happens when great seasons coming to a screeching halts. Young men who would chat amiably and look you in the eyes earlier that day now looked up, at the table or into space, still grasping the biggest defeat of their lives.

It’s a reminder that social media is, more than anything else, about human beings, about telling their stories. In DIII, student-athletes receive no scholarships and play for the love of the game, so the thrill of victory and agony of defeat are the strongest currencies. It’s the job of anyone doing social media or other coverage to tell these stories, and to remember that a loss does not automatically diminish school pride.

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>> On Monday when our sparkplug SID Adele Burk suggested I apply for media credentials if I wanted to do social media for Oswego’s Facebook and Twitter accounts during the games at Lake Placid’s Herb Brooks Arena (home of the Olympic Miracle on Ice), a part of me dreaded an onerous process. But to their infinite credit, the NCAA championship guidelines are reasonable in their social media policies (pdf).

Their main concerns involve practices that would encroach on their rights to live coverage. They request official representatives of institutions and media not do real-time coverage via video, audio or blog — although we could provide “periodic updates ofscores, statistics or other brief descriptions ofthe Event” (according to their Terms and Conditions pdf). While they retained exclusive video rights, they happily supported radio stations (including Oswego’s WNYO-FM) broadcasting from the game.

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I tried to get around to tweet pregame and behind-the-scenes photos, from warm-ups to event staff briefings.

The NCAA media center at the Frozen Four was run by the perpetually helpful Jon Lundin, a genial, generous gentleman who made members of all media and colleges feel right at home. I’m sure he and his team deal with their share of difficult requests, but they were always pleasant and positive people. The media center was where you could pick up credentials, statistics and handouts, as well as where postgame news conferences took place.

Lundin finally convinced me to take a seat in the press box (I had a hard time feeling official), and I was happy he did. Various media reps and communicators traded quips and also helped each other get details of things like who scored, who assisted and what penalties were called on whom as we usually tweeted out details (almost everyone there was providing Twitter coverage) before the PA announcer filled in those details.

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Members of the media in the press box high above the action. We acted much less competitors than people who worked together to ensure everyone could do their jobs.

Media members are not allowed access to locker rooms and other areas where student-athletes gather for these high-pressure situations. Before the end of the game, we could request which players we wanted to speak two after the contest, and three players and the coach of each team come out. The NCAA works with a pool of photographers to minimize chaos while ensuring images are available to working media and partner schools. And no, you can’t great great photos from the press box with an iPhone, but I snapped some then quickly edited to post to Facebook during the updates I provided there at the end of each period. I updated Twitter much more frequently, but far short of the real-time play-by-play the NCAA prohibits.

The responses — especially on Facebook — far exceeded what I expected in terms of comments rooting on the team, liking and sharing. I was happy to be in a position to provide that content as well as to keep anyone unable to otherwise follow the action updated. It confirmed what I’ve always thought: Never underestimate the ability of social media channels to provide information and bolster/build community.

>> After falling in the finals, the Lakers we saw in the press conference, crestfallen though they were, came through like champions. Coach Ed Gosek made sure to talk about what these 14 seniors — who have made four straight Frozen Fours — mean to him. In doing so, he provided some very tweet-worthy quotes that resonate with what the players, the program mean to our college community. This is a key part of the narrative, so Gosek’s praise and support merited tweeting:

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But observation, looking at what players do as well as what they say, is part of reporting too, whatever your media. I noticed Oswego’s players, even though they had just suffered a heart-rendering defeat, walked over to the media members who covered them (even me?) to shake hands and thank them. Since the anecdote speaks to the character of the players and the program, it was well worth sharing:

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Our fans rose to the occasion to congratulate and thank the Lakers.

Our fans rose to the occasion to congratulate and thank the Lakers.

For their part, Laker fans on social media tended to find the silver lining. Shortly after the unfortunate conclusion, alumni and students, rather than dwelling on the loss, congratulated the Lakers for their unprecedented success, praised their never-say-die attitude and thanked them for making everyone proud. Since our Twitter philosophy is to emphasize the voices of the Oswego family, I was happy to retweet and amplify this Laker pride.

>> So as you watch March Madness and as you follow the social media accounts from member schools and media outlets, think about all the people on both sides behind the stories. Young men and women will compete hard and almost all of them will lose, and I hope their fans are just as supportive and proud as ours are. Remember that athletics, even at the highest level, are about people and their stories first.

As for me, I’ll never forget the fabulous experience, even if it didn’t culminate in an Oswego championship. And, of course, I’ll always remember the eyes.

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When unicorns fight bears, we all win: Book(s) on Business of Awesome/Unawesome reviewed

Businesses and organizations have opportunities to be awesome and spread awesome in person and on the Internet every day. Businesses and organizations also have opportunities to be unawesome and spread unawesome in person and on the Internet every day. Fortunately, author/blogger/speaker Scott Stratten (aka Unmarketing) has these phenomena more than covered with his must-read two-headed book, The Business of Awesome/The Business of UnAwesome.

It’s two books in one, unflinchingly honest and unstoppably funny, but it makes one unifying point: How much you care about your customers says far more about your brand than anything else. We’ve all had good customer service and bad customer service, and these experiences linger with us long after we remember our purchase, our meal or our stay.

The Business of UnAwesome side chronicles the many awful things companies do in customer service, marketing and social media. The misguided case of the unfortunately named Boners BBQ, which assailed a customer via social media for her even-handed review (and incorrectly claimed she didn’t leave a tip). Using social media to blast information but never respond to questions. Unbelievably awful marketing gimmicks. Lavishing gifts on new customers while ignoring your loyal customers. Poor use of QR codes. So many truly terrible things somehow conveyed with great entertainment.

If that side says beware the trolls, the Business of Awesome side asks you to embrace the unicorns. Stratten repeats the beautiful story he told at #pseweb about how one man’s heartfelt apology saved his whole view of Hilton Hotels. Even awesome people and businesses make mistakes, but he shows how they make things right. Stratten lovingly details customer service that brings a smile instead of a frown, social brands that make loving them fun, small gestures that make huge impressions, companies that don’t take themselves too seriously but are very serious about pleasing their customers.

A unicorn boxing a bear, or why Chad Frierson from Austin's Pizza is awesome.

A unicorn boxing a bear, or why Chad Frierson from Austin’s Pizza is awesome.

He saves perhaps the greatest example for last: John, a customer who placed an online pizza order and added a small, silly request in the comment field, “Please draw a unicorn fighting a bear on the box.” Chad Frierson from Austin Pizza’s Call Center took the order and knew it wasn’t something the stores were equipped to do. So he drew a picture of a unicorn boxing a bear on a Post-It and sent along with a nice explanatory note ending with “I hope this suits your needs.”

“Needless to say this is the greatest thing of all time,” Stratten worte. “John uploaded the picture to display its awesomeness, which then went viral and was seen by millions of people. This story reigns supreme over all others, not just because it includes a unicorn, although that certainly helps. This was done by somebody in a frontline position with seemingly little autonomy, at no cost to the company, in an industry not known for being mind-blowing. It was done with immediacy and personality, without focus groups or a meeting beforehand. … He simply decided that unawesome is unacceptable, saw the window and acted on the awesome …”

If you’ve enjoyed perusing Stratten’s @unmarketing Twitter feed, checking out his blog or seeing him speak live, you’ll love this book. If you haven’t, yet you work in social media management and/or customer service, you really should catch up on his awesome work.

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Content, not contests, key to long-term social media success.

Over the weekend, our student paper The Oswegonian racked up an amazing 158 Shares (and counting) for a photo on its Facebook page. That includes 73 Shares through the SUNY Oswego Facebook page reposting it — with the repost scoring another 480 Likes.

What didn’t these posts do? They didn’t say “Like this page for a chance to win a prize” or “Share this page if …” Why? Because good content through a good channel speaks for itself. It makes it own friends and pathways.

Screen shot 2013-03-04 at 11.45.34 AMSay it with me: Content, not contests, is the key to social media success.

Yet my Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of posts like “We’re giving a prize to our 1000th follower!” and “Become our 5000th fan to win a prize!” This is all stunt-based and has nothing to do with content. Also, if you’re one of the followers or fans who helped build the community’s success, how should you feel that some late joiner gets a prize for just showing up (and then may leave anyway)? You’re right, you should feel slighted and unappreciated. For that matter, many are running contests that don’t adhere to Facebook terms of service, which could get the effort shut down.

>> Back to this this weekend, what attracted that huge level of interest for The Oswegonian and SUNY Oswego? A photo of the Laker men’s hockey team celebrating beating Plattsburgh (our archrivals) to win the SUNYAC championship and a return ticket to the NCAA DIII Tournament. No, it’s not an image you can get every day. But …

… it also attracted that interest because it came via channels that have built their audience through content. People have stayed connected and even watch those Facebook pages for news because of years of providing useful, helpful content.

I’ve talked before about how you shouldn’t beg for likes. Contests for likes, while looking perhaps a bit less desperate, are short-term efforts … the long-term goal is having content strategy and a commitment to making yours a lively, engaging community.

If none of the above has convinced you yet, stop to equate a Facebook page with a personal relationship. You want your friends to like you because you’re an interesting person, right? Not because you have to bribe them for affection? Social media is the same way. You want to build a relationship with the members of your community. It should be based on much more than a stunt.

After all, providing useful, helpful content to your community on a regular basis is the REAL prize … the gift that keeps on giving.

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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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