Tag Archives: content

Crowdsourcing a cover shot? Sure, why not.

We’ve hoped to make the SUNY Oswego Facebook page more interactive without resorting to irrelevant claptrap (“How do you feel today?”), lame contests (“be the 14,000th to like our page and we’ll give you a prize, showing we don’t care about the first 13,999!”) or other gimmicks. So when suddenly an odd idea popped up to fit a content need, I decided to go with it.

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 8.20.41 AMThe page still had a cover image of a snowboarder from the semi-recent Rail Jam, and as I pondered a spring shot to replace it with, I realized this would be a great time to get our tech-savvy and photo-passionate audience involved. So I posted*: “While we love our snowboarder photo, we feel like it’s time for a spring cover shot. Have any great images of campus in the spring? Post them on our wall, and maybe we’ll use yours (with credit, of course) as our next cover banner!”

[* Scott Stratten of Unmarketing would probably note that some organizations first would have to put together a committee to establish a focus group to test the message before posting it. I’m glad we can go with the flow for such things.]

The first post was a picture of a blizzard, followed by a good-natured jab or two about spring only lasting a week in Oswego, but before I had time to wonder if what seemed a decent idea would swirl down the drain, people started posting photos. Some pretty darn good photos, actually. Often sunsets, but some flowers budding and even a rainbow. Sweet!

Finally, after about 24 hours of collecting, we chose a winner:

Awesome photo by Tim Herrick

Awesome photo by Tim Herrick

We posted it with the promised photo credit but also kept open turning some of the others into cover photos down the line. And maybe we’ll do this from time to time to see what happens. Pretty decent reaction: 165 likes, four shares and a few comments from alumni missing the famed sunset view.

Winning shot postedIt isn’t rocket science or a major innovation, I know. It’s a small thing, and I’m sure some way-too-serious sort is questioning the ROI of something that took a mere couple minutes. But it also isn’t cynically using your audience as pawns to get to an arbitrary number.

Anyone running a Facebook page will have content needs from time to time — photos are often a big one — so why not see what’s out there? There’s a pretty good chance your community has, or is willing to create, plenty of awesome! And in the process it becomes even more their community.

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No snow job: Celebrate who you are.

We get snow in Oswego. Sometimes a lot of snow. That’s just a fact. It’s also the subject of fake photos, fiction and folklore. But it defines our part of the Upstate New York experience. The story goes that the massive 2007 blizzard in Oswego County making national headlines attracted many passionate meteorology students. (Did I mention have our own lake-effect snow research center?)

But how do you handle this from an admissions standpoint? If you pretend it doesn’t exist, it would shift from a recruitment to a retention issue after a bad winter. So we’re pretty up front about it, including our winters in everything from our admissions video to a Pinterest board.

To a degree, it all involves accepting, sometimes even celebrating, who we are. As the only U.S. campus directly on the shore of Lake Ontario, we take the ups and the downs. Snow pictures can be beautiful too, so toward the end of my lunch hour on Tuesday, I trekked to take some iPhone photos of our statue of founder Edward Austin Sheldon in front of our signature building, Sheldon Hall. Since we adopt a “been there, done that” attitude with the snow I put on a caption of “A snowy day in Oswego? We get the feeling Edward Austin Sheldon has seen this before.”

Was by no means an award-winning photo, but figured it would provide some fresh Facebook and web content, maybe get a few likes or comments. I had no idea.

Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 11.21.58 PMNo idea, that is, it would become our most-shared photo ever. With a Tuesday afternoon posting, at last glance it had 70 shares, plus 319 likes and 24 comments. The shares, as I’ve said before, are valuable because it shows someone likes your content enough to “buy” it in a sense and pass along to their friends, as it eclipsed the record of the sunset shot mentioned in this blog entry about content and serendipity.

Were all the comments positive? Not really, as some did talk about not missing the snow at all. But others yearned for their snowy fun with friends, and one alum provided one of the more interesting testimonials ever: “I visited Oswego in a snowstorm and knew it was where I wanted to be. Miss the snowball fights.” (Note: We don’t officially condone snowball fights. Just saying.)

Snow is part of the Oswego family fabric. Our winters build character, and surviving and thriving in them become a badge of honor. So even if we don’t enjoy all that shoveling, the cold, having to wear layer after layer, we can still embrace opportunities to show how this makes us special. Judging by the numbers of likes and shares, many many members of our extended campus family would agree.

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stop begging, start creating (cont.): a very short story

I’ve talked before about how social media accounts should stop begging for users and instead find and post quality content. Saw a very stark example of that with our campus this weekend. At about the same time on Saturday, the following two posts went out, the first from an affiliate site, the other from our main site.

The “please, please like us to reach an arbitrary figure” post goes against the very currency of social media — creating content people want to see, interact with and share. It makes everything about the account itself, and not about the user (and it should be about the user). As you can see, this post scared up 5 likes, no comments, no shares and — surprise! — as of Monday morning, the account still needed 7 likes to reach 2,000. It’s unfortunate because this account is run by smart, creative and very likable people capable of producing outstanding content.

Contrast that with the above image of the mind-bending 3-D chalk art from Art for After Hours, part of our Family and Friends Weekend. By Monday morning, it had 192 likes, 7 comments, 7 shares. While those are a good number of likes, the shares are what I consider the highest level of user engagement — they like it enough to take some kind of ownership and share it with friends. While this was far from our most-shared image, it had more shares than the begging post had likes. Plus this scene was available for any member of the campus community to capture and share.

As my friend Georgy Cohen of Meet Content has pointed out, the most-shared stories are ones to which the initial reaction of users is “wow!” or “whoa!” That was my actual reaction upon seeing the chalk art, and others seeing it in a photo (which honestly didn’t do it justice) felt the same way. No one says “wow!” or “whoa!” over an account begging for more users. Sadly in part because it’s so commonplace.

Consider this cocktail party example: You walk into the party and one person is asking people to like him, while the other is telling interesting stories. Where would you gravitate? Exactly.

I can’t say it enough: If you run a social media account, stop begging and start creating. Look around you for interesting content. It’s quite possibly everywhere. Then share it. It really is that simple.

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a man who wasn’t there: adventures in crowd-sourced live-tweeting.

If you work in social media in higher ed, you love the opportunity to live-tweet an exciting occasion like Move-In Day. But when social media is just one of your many duties — and you can’t get around on such a busy day — where do you turn?

Students, of course. In our case, we had a community of social-media-savvy incoming students moving in at SUNY Oswego on Friday — and it just so happened they were already live-tweeting. We just amplified their efforts, highlighted great content and enabled them — through things like promoting a #welcome2oswego hashtag — to build their own community and story.

While I did get out just long enough for a quick photo album of students moving in, helped by our awesome Red Carpet Crew, this Storify shows that the students themselves did most of the commentary on the day. Since Move-In Day is about them, that seems appropriate.

  1. This was our favorite tweet of the day …
  2. Jared_Lahm
    I would hate to be the guy/girl in charge of the @sunyoswego twitter lol.. Its gunna be a long day for them. #QuickShoutOut
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 05:17:36
  3. … but truth be told, Move-In Day was so much fun on Twitter! It started early and ran late. Here are just a few highlights.
  4. MommaDiBo
    On our way to drop my baby girls off at #SUNYOSWEGO #bittersweet �
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 02:48:38
  5. sunyoswego
    We’re ready for you! RT @Cmerc29: All packed and ready to be @sunyoswego bound in the AM! #letsgo #soexcited #newstart #welcome2oswego
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 04:40:04
  6. sunyoswego
    Great idea! RT @taylormachin: @KatieRussell8 bringing biking back to SUNY Oswego #letsgo bringing my blades too 😉 #welcome2oswego
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 05:07:01
  7. sunyoswego
    Beautiful morning so far! RT @MommaDiBo: On our way to drop my baby girls off at #SUNYOSWEGO #bittersweet #welcome2oswego
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 05:09:07
  8. sunyoswego
    We’ll have people waiting to help you move in. Seriously! RT @melissavasti: Off to @sunyoswego !!! #welcome2oswego
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 05:13:25
  9. DerekGoodroe
    Welcome Class of 2016 to @sunyoswego! Wish I could rewind time and be moving in today and experiencing #welcome2oswego all over again.
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 05:23:49
  10. julia_heck16
    So this is it?! #packingthecar #welcome2oswego �☺
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 06:10:39
  11. mcgnotes
    Can’t believe it’s move-in day already @sunyoswego! Dropping off my freshman… So exciting
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 06:14:19
  12. 24KathyB
    its move in day at @sunyoswego ….. I sooooo miss school, the lake and Daga living =( awesome 4 yrs in the land of Oz =)
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 07:18:18
  13. LifesLike_THIS
    You’re almost here hun! RT @fancett_rae: Everyone is moving in. I just want to be at @sunyoswego already! #notfair #twodays
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 07:20:18
  14. sunyoswego
    Check out our early photo album of new students moving in with our awesome Red Carpet Crew! http://on.fb.me/R79zoM #welcome2oswego
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 07:44:31
  15. sunyoswego
    Hooray for our Red Carpet Crew! RT @jessiknewso: Helping freshman move into @sunyoswego today! #welcome2oswego
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 08:14:32
  16. dougyorks
    All moved in up at Suny Oswego @lindacohn @espnSteveLevy #sophomoreyear #letsgo
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 08:41:09
  17. OmyMelo
    Lots of excited first year students and transfers in Scales Hall! #welcome2oswego
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 09:06:32
  18. AntonioCaban10
    Long day ahead. So happy for my sister who’s continuing the rest of her education @ SUNY Oswego!
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 09:23:27
  19. danielleworkit
    All moved into my dorm room! So much change in just a few hours.. but I’m ready 🙂 #sunyoswego #freshmanyear
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 10:23:12
  20. Julirex_rae_psm
    You’re going to love it here!!!! 🙂 “@sunyoswego: Woohoo! RT @yazelroque: Im at #Oswego State!!! #welcome2oswego”
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 10:39:36
  21. LeAnneStGelais
    The arena all set up for Welcoming Torchlight for new @sunyoswego students! #welcome2oswego http://instagr.am/p/OuG4NjNTO-/
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 11:38:03
  22. Maggidy_
    @sunyoswego Back from moving new students in and completely wiped, great job red carpet crew! Only three more events to attend today.
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 14:31:41
  23. mattfeeney29
    walking SUNY Oswego campus right now. hopefully a fun night to come…
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 17:48:41
  24. zbpolin
    Getting ready for @sunyoswego Torchlight Ceremony!! #welcome2oswego http://pic.twitter.com/Hc8IH53q
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 17:51:40
  25. OMAdriana
    @sunyoswego To all my residents and to all new to Oswego, welcome! #welcome2oswego http://pic.twitter.com/y14vwfKE
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 17:57:11
  26. Taylor_AB
    My resident hall’s theme is Harry Potter #awyeah #win #sunyoswego
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 18:13:41
  27. SUNYOswegoFANs
    We know how to throw a party at @sunyoswego #welcome2oswego #OswegoPride http://pic.twitter.com/ZWtMCS9p
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 19:01:32
  28. ludnut23
    I’ve only been in SUNY Oswego for 1 day and I’m already loving it
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 19:06:49
  29. r2rDSexton
    holy cow, the college life is for real at @sunyoswego. let’s see how this goes
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 19:17:07
  30. Brandatello
    #welcome2oswego all moved in and relaxing before my roommate comes tomorrow
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 19:53:24
  31. sunyoswego
    To everyone who moved in today, #welcome2oswego! And remember, the journey is just beginning …
    Fri, Aug 24 2012 20:20:15

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launching a mobile site: content and users come first.

After much behind-the-scenes work, we finally just announced the launch of the SUNY Oswego mobile site. Our traffic via mobile device has climbed from 1.5 percent in October 2010 to 4 percent in October 2011, so clearly we’re seeing increased demand for something optimized for mobile.  Thanks in large part to tips from other colleges and conference presentations — and especially the skilled hands of our talented developer Rick Buck plus some trial and error — this lengthy and not-so-simple process taught us many lessons along the way.

It’s about content. I was pleased that presentations on mobile development at HighEdWeb11 emphasized thinking about content before the technology. Sessions like “On Your Mark, Get Set, Mobile!” from William & Mary and mStoner and the University of Central Florida’s “A Utility Belt Approach to Mobilizing Content” focused on existing content you can mobilize and optimize for your mobile platform. Knowing the content and building around it is made easier when you can employ a good framework and template like WVU’s Dave Olsen assembled through Mobile Web OSP. (Dave’s name always comes up when presenters mention mobile and higher ed, and we are among the many who owe him a debt of gratitude.)

It’s about users. We needed to think about how our users might interact with location-based content as well as the things they access the most on our website. As such, the mobile map was a given. The interactive directory that allows users to email or call a professor or staff member with a single click provides real convenience that takes use-care scenarios into consideration. News, an events calendar and emergency information provide timely and relevant information at (literally) the touch of a button.

Testing, testing. We did a soft rollout for New Student Orientation this summer, with an emphasis on the orientation schedule and locations. It went well and also taught us about user behavior at a (relatively) slow time before we did the main rollout. We’ve done spot testing from time to time, a practice we expect to continue.

Think mobile before apps. While all kinds of characters roam the fringes of academia trying to sell apps, anyone of any expertise emphasized how important it is to develop a mobile site first. The advantages are many — it works on all platforms and one need not negotiate with an Apple or Droid store, and wait for the process to play out for months so your users can access updates. This Cappex survey of parents of prospective students adds more support, as 79 percent of respondents preferred a mobile-friendly site to an app. While apps developers emphasize shiny objects and one-trick ponies, the mobile site is the big tent where you welcome all your users.

It’s a continuing process. We look at launching the mobile website as a beginning, not an ending. We’ve already made tweaks and upgrades in its first “official” week, and we have many other features in the pipeline. And of course we’ll keep an eye on analytics both for mobile and the regular sites to see what’s working/not working and what other features become relevant.

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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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1 page speaks volumes on how web has evolved.

Last week I finished working on a new landing page for our Admissions Video, and it made me realize how far we have come — which I mean globally as well as locally.

Here was the old site in our old design, hosted by vendor, created several years ago:

And here’s the new one, presented (via YouTube embed) on our site:

First and most obvious, the new one represents our cleaner, sparser redesign which makes content more user-friendly. Did you notice anything else? Like that visitors no longer have to download/use RealPlayer or QuickTime to view the video?

I really think this transition reflects larger web trends over the past few years.

  • Better sharability. YouTube was not the commonly trafficked site back then, and its cloud-based platform that can be easily embedded is (overused phrase ahead) a real game-changer. Paying for outside hosting of static web video is less necessary also because of …
  • Improved metrics availability. One of the reasons I’m told we went with this vendor was the ability to track number of visitors, plays, etc. Which we easily can now do on our own site via Google Analytics as well as YouTube’s own metrics. We could also set up funnel reports to see how many people go from this video to fulfill other tasks … which, since this video is currently a conversion tool, will be increasingly interesting come next admission cycle.
  • Increased in-house web knowledge. I had only minor involvement in (and less knowledge of) the web when Admissions set up the previous system. We had limited awareness of what other options may have existed and certainly did not have access to the awesome collective resource of Twitter #highered folks. I love that Admissions will come to us now for web solutions that we can provide at no or marginal cost with greater functionality. I think (or hope) colleagues at other colleges have similar experiences.

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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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content + context = compelling: in defense of raw video.

At the risk of stirring up a hornet’s nest, I’d like to advance the theory that not all web video need be extravagantly produced, meticulously edited and mini-Hollywood productions. Raw video, with the right content in the correct context, can be every bit as compelling.

Last week, for instance, a colleague used a Flip to take raw video of a new experimental wind turbine’s mounting on the roof of SUNY Oswego’s Lee Hall. In the abstract, 47 seconds of video, occasionally shaky, showing a couple of people affixing a turbine and starting its first revolutions doesn’t seem the most marketable footage. But when reviewing it, I saw a neat little narrative (content) on the ever-hot topic of alternative energy (context) and (not having to edit) quickly posted it to our YouTube account, then linked it from a homepage story which I fed through Twitter and Facebook.

And a funny thing happened: People started watching, retweeting, liking and commenting. Then our regional paper, The Syracuse Post-Standard, decided to add the raw video to its event coverage (several P-Sers follow us on Twitter) and the number of plays continued to climb. (Which also caused more hits on our related college videos.) All for a 47-second video that, to the Spielberg wannabes in the world, would appear unremarkable.

But this isn’t our first success with raw video. This spring when our men’s hockey team beat our fierce rivals Plattsburgh to win our first conference tournament in many years, and clinch an NCAA bid, among the celebration, I saw something cool. The team took the trophy around the ice in front of the student section and the remaining fans cheered loudly, pounded the glass and shared the joy. I caught some quick raw video, posted it on our Facebook page, and it quickly scored hundreds of hits and a couple dozen Likes. It’s shaky and hardly slick. But it had content (deliriously happy fans) plus context (a long-awaited conference tourney championship) and thus proved compelling.

Longform video is a tough match for the web and busy people. Some highered folks fell all over themselves praising the 16+ minute Yale admissions video, but I was beyond bored within 30 seconds and shut it off. Yet I repeatedly watched UQAM’s one-take lipdub video — which scored 10 times the YouTube hits of the Ivy League piece and, unlike the Yale yawner, the lipdub generated actual student buzz. Sure, it involved a lot of planning, but the UQAM students knew the right pace, made it fun and were more concerned with content than something slick. (Or consider the authentic awesomeness of the Guy Starts Dance Party raw video that preceded the flash mob craze.)

So don’t underestimate the power of raw video, and the opportunities available if you carry a camera or smartphone with at least some video capability (or ask students to do the same). The ability to capture short compelling raw video that needs no edits and almost instantly disseminating it via the many possible web/social media channels can offer nearly limitless potential.

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