Tag Archives: connections

All the lonely people — let’s help them all belong.

Cloudy morning over campus

I was on campus tonight for quick stop (saying hello to the 2018-19 Oswego women’s hockey team — go Lakers!) but a walk while killing time brought back some not-so-pleasant memories of starting college.

I saw a number of people sitting by themselves, maybe by choice, maybe not. I gazed out the window toward the bus stop where one student looked like he wanted to join a conversation but wasn’t sure how. I saw people who, in an exciting new environment surrounded by thousands of people their age, paradoxically looked a little lonely.

In essence, I saw myself in those people.

When I went away to school at Brockport, it should have been the most exciting time in my life. But it was the most lonely and discouraging first couple of weeks. I was a shy, skinny, awkward, pimply kid with bad hair. I didn’t know why all these kids who were better looking, cooler and richer than I would even want to hang out with me. I wouldn’t say I was homesick so much as just missing a place where I felt I belonged. Fortunately, I decided to wander down to the student newspaper, The Stylus, and found my tribe, including friends who remain to this day.

But what I’m saying is it’s not easy for a lot of people. They’ve left their usual friends, their routines, their comfort zones. They might be homesick. They might be unsure of what to do. They might be lonely.

One of the more gratifying parts of my job is working the incoming student social media communities, in essence trying to facilitate connections for our students before they ever reach campus. I’m blessed to work with staff and students to create content to help with the transition. And many of them find roommates, classmates, friends. But it’s not a perfect science. I met some nice people when I started college but didn’t click with them. That person who seems like an awesome roommate on social media may not in fact be a good match in real life, leaving people drifting.

I can only hope the lonely people looking for their fit can be as fortunate as I am. But even if we can’t make all the connections for them, we can do our part. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be willing to help. It’s the least we can do.

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app review: color = better concept than execution

Say you’re getting ready to host an alumni reunion or open house event, and you’d like your visitors to create a community-driven photo album. This is, in theory, possible with the Color geosocial photo application. But good luck making it work easily.

Ed Tatton of Westchester Community College and Greg Kie of SUNY Canton talked a few of us attending the SUNYCUAD Conference earlier this month into trying to create just such a photo album. You’d think people who work in web communication and/or social media for a living could figure this out with little difficulty. Ah, not so much.

The resulting community album (see active view. above right) took a lot of work. Taking the picture is easy enough: Just open the app and click on the color wheel (center button, colored when you’re in camera mode). But for a social application, the real difficulty comes when you try to get, you know, social.

For what seemed like an hour, about a half-dozen people who work on the web for a living had great difficulty creating a community album. I created any number of albums no one could join and that I couldn’t delete. Finally, after seemingly doing the same thing over and over, something worked and suddenly we had a shared album. You can see the results of a couple of days of fiddling at right. As for the buttons along the bottom: The map icon stands for “take photos together” (if you can figure out how to do it), the globe means “see all your albums” (for a globe?), the color wheel means take the picture, the calendar means “view your albums by day” and the envelope means “messages you’ve received” (i.e. likes and comments).

Note that you cannot friend anyone for a permanent relationship, which — given the appeal of enriched connections in social media — seems an oversight. After you take a photo, you can press a paper-airplane icon to share it by Twitter, Facebook, e-mail or SMS. Yes, that’s OR, not and.

Looking at Instragram, which I consider a great geosocial photo app, the competition isn’t even close. Instagram encourages you to find and friend contacts, and offers easy ways to do so. When you take a picture, you can share it simultaneously via Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, Flickr, Tumblr, Foursquare AND Posterous (if you want). While the geolocation feature with Instagram is still buggy for me, you can create an album via hashtag — as the #pancaketweetup album at right shows. Instragram’s menu includes helpful words that break things down very simply: Feed, Popular, Share, News and Profile, and submenus are intuitive as well. Interaction via comments and likes are very easy.

All apps have to start somewhere, and Color does bring a good concept to the table. That it is difficult to come together at that table with others is unfortunate — since connections and content are the currency of social media — but maybe the app’s developers will figure a way for its execution to improve.

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content + connectivity: analyzing the brand of @tsand.

For perhaps the first time in a college classroom, my #brc328 class Wednesday evening involved a lesson in branding using the most beloved higher-ed social media figure, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Todd Sanders, aka @tsand. If you work in social media or would like to, you simply must follow @tsand on Twitter. He’s entertaining, authentic, engaging and sneaky brilliant.

I asked my class to tweet (with #brc328 hashtag) what they thought was a good brand, and why, the results running the gamut from Apple to Bose to Converse to (interestingly) author James Patterson. Then I introduced them to the brand of @tsand, via his successful video submission to participate in the Mercedes-Benz Tweet Race to the Super Bowl™.

I looked at @tsand in the context of the definition of a brand which, according to Luke Sullivan’s book Hey Whipple! Squeeze This!, is “the sum total of all the emotions, thoughts, images, history, possibilities and gossip that exist in the marketplace about a certain company.” As an innovative web communicator now involved in a high-profile social-media contest that could win his #MBTeamS a Mercedes-Benz and raise a lot of money for St. Jude’s Hospital, @tsand presents three traits I think successful brands share:

1. Established identity. Those who know @tsand would describe him with words like funny, creative, crazy, unpredictable and genius. His secret to success, as noted in the video, is to create great content that wins friends and influences people. That content, coupled with his larger-than-life personality, has established broad and supportive connections across the social-media community.

2. Positive association. In the video, he notes being followed back by selective accounts like the Today Show and Ellen DeGeneres, plus more than 100,000 hits to his Flickr account and 200,000 to his YouTube channel. He’s a nice guy to boot, never above responding to those who tweet him. But the biggest indication of his popularity? The loudest ovation at #heweb10 went to keynote speaker and Don’t Make Me Think author Steve Krug, but the second-loudest may have come when the absent @tsand made a surprise appearance in the video introducing Krug.

3. Ability to create action. Many of us aren’t big supporters of social-media contests, requested retweets or hashtag bombing. But we’re doing all that — apologies for all the #MBTeamS tweets that give he and co-driver @ijohnpederson “fuel” and points — for Todd, and for his ability to win this contest and support St. Jude’s. I can’t think of another person in the higher-ed Twitterverse who could rally so many people … and it’s all because of what I would term brand loyalty to @tsand.

Win or lose, the contest is proving quite the social-media promotional experience. And, unexpectedly, showing us how a person who creates great content and makes authentic connections can represent a powerful brand.

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social media is a complement, not a replacement.

While I enjoyed the whole experience of the first-ever Post-Secondary Canadian Web Conference, I’d say my favo[u]rite moment was completely unplanned and again showed the connective power of social media.

At #pseweb, like many web conferences, I find myself “meeting” lots of interesting folks via the Twitter streams — whether engaging in @ conversations or retweeting keen comments — but not always meeting them in person. So as the last sessions ticked away, I lamented on Twitter that I hadn’t yet met many of my new tweeps face to face. The solution came quickly, as several other folks called for a tweetup and arranged a time and place (2:45, outside lecture room 203) within minutes.

The impromptu tweetup between sessions found around 12 to 15 (should have counted) folks introducing themselves and chatting amicably. Some even admitted it seemed easier to communicate via Twitter than face-to-face, with an outside context driving the discussion, but everyone seemed quite pleased to meet those they had been tweeting with the previous couple of days.

And this is what those who quickly dismiss Twitter miss: The community it builds is the platform’s greatest feature. Twitter has become the hub of activity at most conferences, with folks starting discussions and posting helpful links even during sessions, but also a true connector on a personal level. Its inclusive nature is not limited to just those there physically, as the positive feedback of those unable to make #pseweb and enjoying our live-tweeting of sessions demonstrates. As for social media changing conferences, I only gave out one business card, yet gained 35 new Twitter connections and even several LinkedIn invites.

But, as the impromptu tweetup showed, social media is not a replacement for regular interaction — it is a complement, and often a catalyst. When incoming students interact in our Class of 2014 group, it isn’t for the sake of using Facebook; they mainly want to get to know future classmates. And meeting someone I’ve interacted with via Twitter is always a treat, confirming an earlier electronic connection. One should never view social media as a kingdom unto itself but instead a doorway that can lead anywhere.

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climbing mountains and social media.

One of the quickest ways to flummox an Adirondack mountaineer is to say you’ve come to the area unsure of what you want to climb. Similarly, if you tell people you’ve jumped into social media to promote your college, organization or business, they’ll scoff if you say you haven’t planned the whole thing out.

Both mountaineering and learning the ropes of social media require preparation, hard work and determination. As I hiked Indian Falls last week, I pondered some other parallels between exploring the mountains and social media.

Know your options. In the mountains, you’ll want to know what hikes are available, how challenging they are and how they match your ability. While you shouldn’t have to map out mission statements and full social-media plans before engaging in Web 2.0, you should know what tools to consider (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn, blogs, etc.), what they will require of you and how much you can tackle. On either end of the metaphor, you want to avoid getting lost or taking on something that you can’t accomplish.

Say hello. An overwhelming majority of those you’ll meet on hikes will say hi or return your hello. You can engage in — or overhear — the most interesting discussions. The same with social media: One of the first things you should do is say hello to people and engage in conversations. Just the way folks you meet on a mountain can give you good advice, so can others working in social media become great sources of ideas, sounding boards and resources for any questions.

Pause once in a while. There’s a tendency while mountaineering to keep driving on non-stop. But I find it better to stop and catch your breath once in a while, enjoying the burst of energy upon continuing. Just like with social media: If all you’re doing is reacting and day-to-day maintenance, it’s hard to think about what you’re doing, what else you should do or even not do. You should take time to evaluate where you are on the trail, how achievable your goals are or rather you should seek another peak.

It's worth the climb.

It's worth the climb.

In either pursuit, remember it’s worth the effort. When you reach the top of the mountain, the payoff is the tremendous view and sense of achieving a goal. With social media, there’s no one summit that marks an end, but the continuing journey, the connections you make, the problems you solve are the real rewards.

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twitter abandonment issues?

Since anything involving Twitter these days makes news (for good or ill), much fanfare greeted last week’s report by Nielsen Online that 60 percent of new Twitterers abandoned the popular microblogging site after 30 days. The haters rejoiced, Twitter fans cried foul and the 140-character engine that could had another turbulent trip through popular discussion.

While the exponential growth of Twitter means an overall net gain, the report’s author David Martin noted a lack of retention represents a longterm challenge to the community: By plotting the minimum retention rates for different Internet audience sizes, it is clear that a retention rate of 40 percent will limit a site’s growth to about a 10 percent reach figure, he blogged. To be clear, a high retention rate doesn’t guarantee a massive audience, but it is a prerequisite. There simply aren’t enough new users to make up for defecting ones after a certain point.

And while some questioned the methodology, which Martin later tweaked and defended, common sense provides several possibilities for so-called Twitter quitters. Many who jumped aboard because of the media hype, expecting the best thing since sliced bread, may not have realized the amount of activity required for a fulfilling Twitter experience. Those adding due to the celebrity/glamour angle may have despaired upon learning that, even in Web 2.0, their favorite stars still don’t actually talk to them. (And Oprah virtually abandoning her tweeting likely left her fans unsure of what to do next.) Marketers who stampeded onto Twitter may have not realized that neither traditional hawking nor get-rich-quick schemes are all that welcome or trusted.

I also think about studies involving college students, which find those who make quality connections more likely to stay in school. What kept me on Twitter? Not hype, not novelty, not voyeurism but real people, connections and conversations. Those just don’t happen right away. As I’ve explored in Twitter 101 and Twitter 102: The Twitterduction, finding good tweeps takes time, effort and interaction. Facebook, by comparison, is much easier. We may interact in micro form but Twitter is, by no means, a place of easy instant gratification.

It’s sort of a shame that, in a world where every Twitter twist and turn makes news, the media didn’t look too far behind the headline for reasons. Maybe some journalists’ attention spans can’t get past 140 characters now.

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HighEdWeb Cornell: people and things.

It seems appropriate I wouldn’t have even known about last week’s HighEdWeb regional conference at Cornell if not for Twitter. The hot site was a key thread of the conference, but Twitter’s success mirrors what the conference reinforced for me: Technology is great, but ultimately people are what count.

I jokingly referred to the conference as Twitter: Behind The Avatars, because I met a lot of neat folks I only knew from Twitter and gained a few more tweeps. I was one of the busy live-tweeters imparting information and interpretations for those not present. Though if you look through the #hewebcornell hash tags you’ll also see lots of snarky comments, jokes and even spirited debate over speakers’ points.

@rachelreuben channels eduGurus @fienen, @karlynm, @NikkiMK, @kylejames, @nickdenardis for a social-media discussion.

@rachelreuben channels eduGurus @fienen, @nickdenardis, @kylejames, @karlynm and @NikkiMK for a social-media discussion.

A very quick recap (140 characters or less) of speakers and key points:

* Dirk Swart (Cornell) on introductory usability: champion simplicity, make users comfortable, provide consistent layout, function > form.

* Christine Kowalski (UBuffalo) on usability w/team of 1: seek creative ways 2 find time, people, $, approval. Noted userfly.com, crazyegg.com.

* Rachel Reuben (New Paltz) and eduGurus, social media storytelling. Great minds emphasizing content, authenticity, building community, goals.

* Casey Dreier (Cornell) on launch sites: give subgroups hyperlocal content, make info delivery flexible, keep your sites interesting/fresh.

* Jesse Rodgers (Waterloo U) on project management: track issues; contain scope, cost, time; ID risks/alternatives; consider critical paths.

* Mark Greenfield (UBuffalo) on embracing change: What are colleges’ core competencies? What will be outsourced? Evolution key to survival.

A meeting of the minds.

A meeting of the minds.

At the end of the conference, I watched a few engaged higher-ed social-media types — @rachelreuben, @ICchris, @jakedaniel and @jrodgers — talking to @kprentiss about a fascinating project he’s developing. Preparing to leave, I realized that, even though I previously only knew most of these people via Twitter, I had thoughts to share with each of them: a compliment for a presentation, a good-luck for an exciting idea discussed, a thanks for making this fun. Sure, the technology brought us together, but ultimately what I found on the other end of the avatars were a lot of interesting folks. The things that connect us will come and go, but connections with quality people have the real lasting value.

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