Monthly Archives: October 2013

Quick take: Content/brand strategy driving Facebook posts

Sometimes people who run social media accounts may find “content strategy” a daunting concept. It’s not. On the most basic level, it’s thinking about what’s important to your institution or organization (your “brand,” if you would), what’s happening in the world and how content may appear that provides a solution.

Consider the following:

  • On Thursday, it snowed in Oswego. This isn’t exactly rare but the OMGWTFBBQ! posts showing snow — which pretty much all melted by the afternoon — put out a perception of polar bears hanging out in the quad. (That doesn’t happen until February.)
  • The upcoming Friday through Sunday was Family and Friends Weekend, a big campuswide event we try to promote on social media various ways.
  • One of our strengths, according to everyone from prospective students to alumni, is our scenic campus.
  • Terms like “scrappy” and “resilient” often come up in describing our students. They are not the scions of privilege and many have to overcome obstacles to meet their goals. (And I love them for it.)

How can you wrap that all into a piece of content?

Simple: Grab the iPhone and wander outside. By Friday morning, the snow was long-gone and fall foliage remained. I took a few pictures of foliage, including some on the iPhone’s panorama function (which is simple but still confuses me) while composing copy addressing the above points in my head.

Here was the result, posted to Facebook and other social channels early Friday morning:


The copy read: “Even though the week brought a bit of snow, a bit of graupel and more than a bit of rain, we still have plenty of fall foliage to greet visitors when Family and Friends Weekend begins later today.” This addresses the weather (lest that was a concern for potential visitors), our upcoming event, our scenic beauty and the concept of resilience. (Graupel, btw, is a type of frozen precipitation and a great vocabulary word.) It garnered a pretty good 128 likes and 12 shares — plus we’ve since reused it as the page’s banner image, nearing 130 more likes.

Admittedly, not everything is that complicated in concept, but knowing what you represent and what’s happening are two main points as you consider what content to create and share.

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How often to update social media? How often to shop for groceries?

A question I hear all the time from those managing office, departmental or organizational social media channels is how often to update: “How often should I update our Facebook page?” “How often should we tweet?” “How often should we do that Instagram thing?”

My answer for all organizations and institutions, large and small, is the same: You should update when you have something interesting to say or share.

It’s that simple. If you don’t buy that because some alleged social media guru advised updating at 8:55 a.m. every Thursday, let me put it another way.

How often do you shop for groceries?

You shop for groceries when you need something, right? You don’t say, “I shop for groceries three times a week,” and then feel compelled to go grocery shopping even though you don’t need anything, do you? Of course not.

fbrecentSame thing with social media. If you have something relevant worth saying or sharing, say or share it. If you don’t, maybe you should do something else and come back when you do.

If you run a Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram, Tumblr, [insert name of trendy platform] or other social media channel, think about it in the context of receiving text messages from an acquaintance. If you (like some Facebook pages), post lame chatter like “How is everyone’s Monday?” “What are you having for lunch today?” or “What’s your favorite movie?” — consider some random acquaintance sending you these text messages. You’d think that person is fairly lame (or creepy) and would just assume everything they send is just as lame (or creepy). So you could block them (not dissimilar to unsubscribing from a page) or just ignore their messages.

If your Facebook page or Twitter account is spewing info for the sake of spewing info, then everything you send will automatically be seen as less important. Moreover, if you haven’t updated a Facebook page in several months, did you need it in the first place? So many people feel they have to “have a Facebook” or “set up a Twitter” only to abandon them with the wreck and refuse of so many other discontinued accounts.

If you want to maintain a Facebook page, Twitter account or other channel, content strategy is key. You should think about updates that are important to your audience. You should get a feel for what they respond to and find interesting. You should map interesting content within the context of what’s happening (i.e. do you have Admissions Open Houses, major speakers, campuswide events, etc.?) You shouldn’t say, “Oh, I haven’t updated our company’s Facebook page this week … so I should ask everyone what their favorite type of pasta is.” (Unless, perhaps, you’re a pasta company.)

So there you are. If you don’t have something interesting to say or share, why force it? You also could go looking … or sometimes (in our case) content just suddenly comes across your path. Stay active, engaged and watchful. But most of all, stay interesting.

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Webstagram: Making Instagram increasingly interactive

If you’ve been using and/or following the story of Instagram, you know that it’s very useful for visual communication and the biggest success story in social media of the past couple years. But you’re also probably aware that it doesn’t lend itself to the easiest institutional interaction since it’s smartphone-based and you’d have to do a lot of searches and navigating to truly take advantage of its potential. Especially if you have a personal Instagram account and an organizational account, you’d have to bounce back and forth, signing in/out, a lot of work for limited return.

Enter Webstagram.


Webstagram on grid view.

John Murphy of Brown University mentioned this tool recently at #heweb13 and it was almost as if the crowds parted, sunbeams permeated and birds started singing. Almost. More later on the awesome things John and Brown University do with Instagram images, but first a primer.

To get started, simply visit and sign in with your organization’s Instagram name and password. It’s free and easy to do. I did and searched for a #sunyoswego tag. And found … 2,226 entries. Just sitting there, almost none with any college engagement.

Tim fail. Major Tim fail.

Webstagram on list view. Simple start liking and commenting!

Webstagram on list view. Simply start liking and commenting!

But I jumped right in using list view (as above) and liked the appropriate posts and responded amicably. It was as if a whole new world opened up, and I apologize to those dealing with the nascent enthusiasm of the @sunyoswego account in these early days. For those of us with variant names, it’s beautiful because I found stuff under the #oswego tag I couldn’t have easily sifted through via Instagram. It also facilitates searching tags for photos to integrate into Storify or other aggregated storytelling efforts.

Webstagram is that simple to use, and if you run an institutional or organization Twitter account, I highly advise checking it out.

Perhaps no one is using Instagram searches and content as amazingly as Brown University, notably on its #brownuniversity tag. Murphy said they received more than 10,000 photos on that tag in less than a year once they started promoting it! They actively work the tag and when they see an outstanding image, they might ask permission to use it in things like their Scene By You at Brown albums on Facebook (here is their latest beautiful collection), among other uses (even the college’s home page). With Brown’s upcoming bicentennial, Murphy said the college plans to ask alumni users to Instagram photos of old Polaroids from their college years, which should create a beautifully diverse and democratic scrapbook created by its family. That’s really taking user-generated images to a new — and awesome — level.

If you put enough time and resources into Webstagram, the sky (whether blue or featuring a sunset) is the limit in engaging your audience to contribute to your online visual presence. It’s almost a picture-perfect find!


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#heweb13 quick take: on celebrating geek culture and education failing at it.

One of the most notable parts of this week’s HighEdWeb conference, #heweb13 in Buffalo, was how loudly and proudly it celebrated geek culture. My friend Colleen Brennan-Berry, a key organizer from Monroe Community College, called it “geek Christmas” and “geek camp,” which seemed a propos.

And yet our educational institutions sometimes can do a poor job of letting us find and pursue passions, and of celebrating all things geek.

#heweb13’s two excellent keynoters — Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak and Unmarketing‘s Scott Stratten — could not be prouder of being geeks. Wozniak happily said geeks have done more to change the world — through their curiosity, passion and commitment that leads to technological advancements — than anybody else.


The Woz captivating a geek-laden audience.

Not only did Stratten (more on him in a  later post) and the audience knowingly and acknowledgelly revel in their geekdom, but in discussing the viral video of the careless FedEx deliveryman that led to the company’s remarkable Absolutely, Positively Unacceptable apology blog entry, he mentioned: “Two groups of people you don’t want to tick off in this world: geeks and moms. If they’re geek moms, run!”

Consider the giveaway item I and many others most coveted — the Doctor Who Tardis lunchbox — combined two things that were massively uncool when I was a kid:

  • Doctor Who. While Tom Baker didn’t make people swoon like David Tennant did, at its core the show has long made Doctor Who a kind of geek who wanted to learn everything but also put his massive knowledge to work for good.
  • Lunchboxes. OK, they were cool at youngest ages, but after a while anybody using a lunchbox instead of a paper bag would get picked on in my school. I remember begging my mom to start putting my lunches in paper bags instead of lunchboxes as a result.

And yet in education, including the college level, we get this wrong so often. Not only that we don’t celebrate the tenants of geek culture as well as we could, but that some schools do some things that try to dissuade these traits and box young people in from the exploration and curiosity at the heart of geek culture. Consider:

That “Millennials” crap: First, the original Howe-Strauss stereotype of the Millennials was unscientific garbage involving skewing sample sizes and knowingly disregarding data that didn’t fit the picture they already wanted to paint. But I still see student affairs pros tweeting links to stories about Millennials (which generally contradict each other). You can’t stereotype a group of people by when they were born, unless you somehow believe that an outcast geek who spends his time designing video games is just like the captain of the football team or the student who only wants to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

StrengthQuest: How many colleges say: Let’s find your strengths so we can tell you what you can’t/shouldn’t do. Sure, the process can have some validity and utility, but if I pursued my alleged strengths, there’s no way I’d be in the higher ed web field. I am technologically inept in some ways (my DVD player is flashing “12:00” as I write) and would have been steered far away from doing what I love.

Briggs-Myers: Can we fit whole lives down into four letters? Of course not. Fun fact: I took the Briggs-Myers on two different days in two different moods with two different results. And yet I see student affairs professionals bragging about/continuously referencing their Briggs-Myers types. But how do you celebrate pigeonholing while helping young people fully explore every side of themselves?

Putting professional success over pursuing passion: The twin goals of education sometimes stand at cross-purposes — we want our students to become marketable, yet we want them to explore and discover who they are. It’s a tough balance. But if we turn our students into careerists, using their StrengthQuests and Briggs-Myers results to send them toward what we want them to do, we risk turning them away from what they love. The strength of geek culture is celebrating the pursuit of what we love, no matter how trivial or strange others my find it, and college is the best time to instill this sense. (Note: I’m not saying to stop using StrengthQuest or M-B, just to realize they are just tools in a bigger picture.)

That’s why I love Oswego student blogger Tom Kline’s post “On Doing Stupid Things (And Why That’s OK Sometimes).” Tom talks about doing the “Thriller” dance once in high school, where it was uploaded to YouTube and earned him ridicule. Yet in college he attended the massive Otakon anime conference and entered the Masquerade Contest where he danced to “Thriller” and “Beat It,” as he puts it, “in front of around 7500 raging nerds in a huge arena in Baltimore.” And he later started doing Michael Jackson performances at karaoke nights in Oswego bars that got him recognized around campus.

The moral of the story, as Tom posted it, made me choke up a bit and perfectly encapsulates why our celebration of geek culture at #heweb13 is a beautiful thing:

Never be afraid to do something stupid (as long as it’s legal and won’t put you or anyone else in danger, of course). Don’t worry about looking dumb or about being made fun of. If you’ve got a crazy skill or talent, show it off! One of the saddest tragedies in life is that so many people refuse to stand out and be different, for fear of ridicule. So don’t fall into that trap!

So true. As professionals who work in higher ed, we SHOULD encourage our students and others to let their geek flags fly. We should never put people in boxes because, much like Doctor Who’s Tardis, we are all much bigger on the inside than we appear.


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