Tag Archives: blogs

Anatomy of a (very) successful student blog post

krissypostA funny thing happened recently when one of student blogs unexpectedly exploded and became our most popular ever … by a very large margin. When that happens, it’s worth taking stock of some reasons.

University in Australia vs. College in the States by Krissy O’Farrell, a student visiting from Down Under, was well-written and engaging, but many of our students craft well-written and engaging posts. But it became our first student blog entry to net more than 1,000 visits in a single day (1,009, to be exact) and brought record traffic to the blog overall.

Most visits (884) came from Facebook, where we posted it mid-morning on a Monday. The Facebook post had a fairly modest 117 likes and 15 shares — but also many more comments than usual, many from alumni, some from others who studied abroad. But looking at the other end was more impressive in that this post was shared to Facebook via WordPress 191 times.

(Aside: We don’t post every student blog entry on Facebook; it’s more a “best of” or “greatest hits” in that if a blog entry shows up on our Facebook page, audiences are guaranteed a good read. I know some colleges and organizations hook up feeds that vomit every news item, sports story and/or blog entry onto Facebook, but this serves nobody. It discounts the value of every post in the eyes of your reader … and to Facebook. Many posts with few clicks mean your page’s Facebook EdgeRank drops, meaning less people will see your individual posts. By autofeeding, you don’t benefit your content or your reader, you merely create a new corollary to Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s Spiral of Silence. But I digress …)

Krissy’s posts have done well before. Her debut article, which we also put on Facebook, intriguingly titled From 104 degrees, to 3.2 degrees in a day (chronicling her journey from Australian summer to Oswego winter) did not receive that much traffic in one day but ultimately has been shared more via WordPress (217 times on Facebook). So we know her blogs catch attention.

But what about this specific blog entry may show us what can work more regularly? A few things I’ve noticed:

  • A strong headline. In a world of linkbait headlines that devalue this importance of this, a strong headline that gets your attention by letting you know what’s coming and making you interested really helps. Both the aforementioned headlines by Krissy get your attention and pique your interest for what’s to follow. Which in this case is …
  • An intriguing central question. How do universities in Australia compare with colleges in America? If that doesn’t interest you, well, you’re just not a curious person. It certainly made a lot of our Facebook fans want to click … and that so many shared it from the end of the article shows they read the whole thing and thought it worth sharing with others.
  • A unique point of view. The primary target market for our blogs are prospective students. To future freshmen, wherever they come from, college is a strange and fascinating new world. An exchange student from Australia is less different from them than one might expect, plus she brings an interesting angle to any current students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents reading the blog. Krissy was also our first blogger recruited from Tumblr; my associate Kelli Ariel saw her photos and posts there and thought Krissy would bring great storytelling and a compelling point of view to our student blogs. Needless to say, she was correct.
  • An inviting image. I’ll be honest: A good image for Facebook posts matters more than it probably should. An outstanding blog post with a middling image or no image won’t get read as much as if it had a good image. And an image of food? Win! As Susan Weinschenk noted in her excellent book Neuro Web Design, our old brain asks three very primitive questions when encountering images, even on the web: Can I eat it? Can I have sex with it? Can it kill me? It’s blunt, but it’s science … and explains why food imagery suffuses the web so effectively.
krissystats

Side note: Ignore the all-time stats here, because Jetpack is a recent installation that reset these stats.

I’m not saying to consider this a be-all end-all in terms of what works in student blogs. Many factors decide whether a blog or specific post gets readership or not. What I am saying is that there are some factors that may make some posts more likely to succeed. And when our students are telling great stories, they deserve many appreciative readers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Web

Potential students have questions. Provide answers. Get creative.

A previous blog entry lamented the lame state of FAQ pages and other stale/outmoded non-helpful attempts to help future students. How do we get past that? We listen, we look for creative solutions and we work with our talented current students.

Screen shot 2014-02-10 at 10.16.55 AM

Our most notable effort is the Alyssa Answers Your Questions Q&As with student video blogger Alyssa Levenberg, part of her popular Alyssa Explains It All video blog series. The past two years, she has asked accepted students in our closed Class of 2017 and Class of 2018 Facebook groups to post questions she can answer in video form. The curious students — many of whom are still deciding between Oswego and other schools — have provided plenty of questions and this year (for the second time), Alyssa had so much that she developed a Part One and Part Two to accommodate all the answers.

These are not from-the-guidebook answers and this kind of project could worry any administrators who covet complete control of all communication channels. And while Alyssa gets questions on subjects students wouldn’t ask administrators in the first place, she handles them positively and constructively. She is an ambassador for Oswego (she’s interning with me this year) but I don’t stage manage her work … because, frankly, her video blogs wouldn’t be as successful if she didn’t have this kind of creative freedom. I may come back and say, “hey, maybe you can elaborate on this point for another video,” and sometimes we talk out potential video ideas, but once we sign off on a concept, she runs with it.

And if you’re considering Oswego, of course you would take Alyssa more seriously as a source than some old dude like me. Current students, I like to say, are what prospective students want to be because they can’t wait to get into college and live that life.

Screen shot 2014-02-10 at 10.13.54 AM

“What’s the best dorm to live in?” We heard this countless times, in various forms, in the Class of 2017 group but there is no one answer, because it depends on what you want and what you value. How to communicate this? Again, we decided to get creative and tap our talented students.

The resulting “Why live in ___________?” video series was a team effort. Alex, an awesome contact in Residence Life and Housing (whom we invited to be part of the 2017 group) saw the value and worked with colleagues to find students to “sell” why their hall was a great place to live. My graduate assistant videographer at the time, Kevin Graham, spent a lot of time on interviews and editing, and did a phenomenal job on the finished product.

While not everybody will sit through 13 videos, having the playlist on YouTube — and shared on social media and embedded on our site — means viewers can browse. Others may find individual videos via the power of YouTube (and its parent company, Google) for searches … it’s no coincidence we phrased the title as a question. But it works better than some administrator talking or impersonal virtual tour embedded in an app you have to download because it’s widely accessible and has current students pitching their homes.

We don’t use video for everything. Last year, when we would see multiple questions in our Facebook groups on a particular club or aspect of campus, our interns would blog on that subject and we’d post up the link. In short, we let our audience interest drive some of our creative process. If we value our potential students, we should keep them in mind as we create content. And if current students can serve as virtual ambassadors, entertainingly explaining what college is like, they can connect even better.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

our quest: a day for research tuned into social media.

When doing social media for any college or community, you have plenty of easier, shinier events to tackle … but how do you take something like student research and creativity and give it a big treatment via social media? With a little (or a lot) of help from your friends.

At SUNY Oswego, Quest is our annual celebration of research and creative activity, where classes are canceled for the day and hundreds of sessions (mostly student-run) showcase the academic core of our college. For some, it means a day off to party (and/or to do so the night before), but for our serious student scholars, it’s a day they work very hard toward. It’s not as easy to cover as, say, a hockey game, but it represents the lifeblood of learning. So giving it big social media coverage — even if some would say it’s not “sexy” — is worth doing.

For this, our first major Quest social media campaign, we had a lot of help from Gary Ritzenthaler’s journalism students. Some live-tweeted events they attended; others blogged summaries of sessions. They submitted blog entries via Posterous and many showed up on our well-trafficked Oswego Student Blogs with a special Quest section. The extra-credit work of these students complemented the always awesome live coverage from my student social media team. I also shot and assembled photo galleries for our human-computer interaction (mostly gaming-related) session, our artistic demonstrations and poster sessions for the Quest blog. The #quest12 tag far, far exceeded any of my expectations, and anyone following it saw a nice sampling of everything the day presents and represents.

Preparing for Quest, student social media team members shot and edited multiple videos previewing student presentations. A few of us took video from sessions which one of my students edited into a Scenes from Quest project.

Topsy tracked 168 hashtag mentions, 120 on Quest day itself, which doesn’t make it a trending topic … but it’s probably about 160 more tweets than we’ve had about Quest in past years. The four videos may not have gone viral (I do hate that phrase) but garnered more than 550 plays and counting. I saw them widely shared around Facebook and Twitter as well. So while not everyone would consider these knockout social media statistics, they do represent a nice starting point for an event that hasn’t had much of a social profile previously. Moreoever, it shows it is indeed possible to build a social audience for an academic event, a nice finding in itself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Web

did facebook kill blogs? no. but it may have changed them.

For years, we’ve seen so-called analysis pieces pondering whether blogs are dead, due mainly to the ascendancy of Facebook. The latest round involved a Pew Internet & American Life report (where pundits didn’t bother to question sample size, differences between longitudinal and latitudinal developments, and convenient redefinitions of generational years). Any exercise declaring a communication channel dead is foolish, and millions of blogs are indeed alive and well.

But I do think Facebook and other social media platforms have changed the order of blogs in our universe. The connections and instant confessional of Facebook (and Twitter) changed some things: 1) The blog as primary community, 2) The primacy of multimedia and 3) The shift from general/personal blogs to more purposeful/professional ones.

Once upon a time, a main way I gained new friends, and kept up with their lives, was via the Xanga blogging community. Last I checked, only four of my Xanga friends updated in the past month, whereas I used to see many more than four update any given day. These days, most of my new online connections come via Twitter, perhaps moving on to Facebook.

As a microblogging platform, Twitter allows us to spill our thoughts in 140 characters or less any time with no muss or fuss, and allows us to connect with others in one catch-all location as opposed to surfing to their blogs. And yes, most of those I interacted with most on Xanga I keep in touch with via Facebook and Twitter now.

The boom in visual online sharing — whether YouTube for video or Flickr/Photobucket/Instagram for photos — means we can communicate quickly, simply and effectively with more than just words. I used to do photoblogs, but I find it easier to make a Facebook album and tell the story through captions. And with video the richest of online storytelling formats, content creators and consumers naturally gravitate toward this medium.

If you look at the blogs that are most known, most read, most ballyhooed, they are topical blogs, or those that revolve around a particular thread, theme or point of view. Blogging Nation is no longer about teenagers discussing their unrequited crushes. That can, and does, unfold quicker across Facebook, with greater ability to sate instant gratification. Now blogs are more likely to detail new products, apps or online communities; people defending or refuting various political positions; and people chronicling some kind of life journey. Taken as a whole, any given blog with any readership is more likely to have a more specific focus.

And oh yes, Facebook and Twitter drive more traffic to my blogs than anything else. So it’s not a zero-sum game but a question of how audiences and interests intersect and overlap.

Those are just my general observations as someone who keeps and/or contributes to five blogs and manages a sixth. What do you think?

2 Comments

Filed under Web

links for #hewebvc presentation.

So I’m doing this presentation titled “Students: Your Social Media Secret Weapon” at the HigherEdWeb Regional Conference (#hewebvc, for the hashtag-inclined). And I kinda promised I’d put related links somewhere.

Here they are:

Class of 2014 Lightning Fast Laker Contest

Oswego’s Awesome Hockey Fans

Admitted Student Day Video Essay

Clubs and Organizations Flickr Slideshow

SUNY Oswego Blogs

What 15 Freshmen Taught Me About Social Media

Um, OK. Wasn’t that exciting?

1 Comment

Filed under Web

a new fan-driven musical economy?

In 2006, the Damnwells became an unfortunate music-industry cliche. Despite a knack for crafting smart and catchy songs, critical acclaim and a building fan base, they were cut adrift by Epic Records, which also shelved their sophomore album.

And while they would eventually get that disc, Air Stereo, released by Zoe Records, they found themselves at a real crossroads. Their solution? Turn to the Web, social media and innovative measures.

They made their third album, One Last Century, available free to all on the Internet in exchange for an email address. They used those email addresses, and social media, to let fans know they are assembling their fourth album in a novel way: Via donations and fan feedback.

Through a service called Pledge Music, the Damnwells look to raise $20,000.30 to record the new album. This weekend, they passed the 75 percent mark and continue to steam forward. Donors can start as low as $12 to just get a copy of the album, go higher for a variety of public broadcasting type premiums (for $25, I’m getting a signed CD and T-shirt) or even things like Skyping into a recording session ($55), introducing the band at a show ($125) or admission into a sound check ($150). The band will provide a public performance wherever you want them at the high end; for $5,000, someone in Tokyo, Turin or Tahiti can even have The Damnwells play in their house (it’s $1,500 in the U.S., $500 in NYC).

Just as valuable is that any supporter gets a password-driven code to download demos and outtakes (all of which are pretty good), read Alex Dezen’s blog about the record and gain other inside information. Fans can provide feedback on posted demos on the blog to play an even greater part in making the record. On top of all that, part of the funds raised will aid a number of worthy causes.

Or is this totally new? During the Renaissance, artists and musicians were funded by wealthy patrons who enjoyed their creations. But this more democratic system makes even modest donors part of the team. And taking the future of music out of the hands of a closed, shortsighted music industry and into a forward-thinking community of music lovers definitely represents an improvement.

6 Comments

Filed under words