Tag Archives: engagement

Favorited tweets, rising: On content, connection and conversation.

While not necessarily the most important Twitter metric, the favorited tweet could be the most meaningful in its own way. I tend to think of someone favoriting a tweet as putting it in their Twitter scrapbook or hanging it on their virtual fridge. So when we see a huge surge in favorited tweets for our @SUNYOswego account, we must be doing something right.

The number of favorited @SUNYOswego tweets rocketed from 9 in November to 52 in December — and with 47 faves in the first 8 days of January, a new high-water mark appears inevitable. So why this astronomical leap? Of course, this all starts with tracking, content and interaction.

You really should track what people are saying about your college or brand online. Tweetdeck is great for doing this in real-time (other instruments like Icerocket and Addictomatic are nice too). We set up tracking columns for “SUNYOswego” (where people use the @ of our account or something the #sunyoswego hashtag), “SUNY Oswego” and “Oswego State.” (1: If your college has only one name commonly used, congratulations. 2: A feed mentioning merely “Oswego” became unmanageable by all those referencing Lake Oswego, a large Portland suburb.)

Screen shot 2013-01-09 at 8.58.22 AM

What a busy, albeit awesome day, looks like in Tweetdeck.

Seeing a comment under these columns can spark engagement. If it’s a question we can answer or direct them the right place, responding is a no-brainer. Moreover, if it’s a student tweeting they’ve been accepted or offering up praise of something or someone at the college, we usually want to retweet it, perhaps with comment. Sometimes it’s as simple as “congratulations,” depending on space available, although we may add more commentary or humor when possible. (Acceptance tweets in all caps have been known to earn the #ALLCAPSWORTHY hashtag, for example.) Very often, our retweet gets a retweet from the person we RTed (if that’s not too confusing), we gain a new follower (or three, as others see the second RT) and increasingly the user (or someone they know) favorites the tweet.

As author, blogger and all-around smart guy Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) would say, if someone took the time to say something nice about you in social media, how can you not take the time to show them a little love and attention? This idea of kindness helps drive why we RT and engage with these acceptance tweets. But it also makes good business sense, presuming you’re into that kind of thing. Yes, these students now have a connection with and favorable view of our college and become an audience for our content (read: awesome things happening at our college). Sure, they now have a point of contact if they have questions if they’re weighing us vs. other institutions. Absolutely, they see other incoming students tweeting and can start to form a network with them via Twitter. But in a more personal way, we show that someone here cares and shares their excitement at getting into SUNY Oswego.

Note that even as these tweets sometimes come in every minute or so, we try to space out the RT stream a bit so it won’t be too much of a firehouse. We realize some students see these RTs and post so their own acceptances can be recognized too. We did see the rare snark or whine posted digging at the excited tweets, but you don’t let the occasional lonely troll keep you from crossing the Bridge to Awesomeness. It’s even nice to get positive feedback from others in social media enjoying the parade of good feelings:

Yes, we replied back and even favorited this lovely tweet, if that doesn't seem too meta.

Yes, we replied back and even favorited this lovely tweet, if that doesn’t seem too meta.

Buzzfeed recently published a minor buzzkill on this trend, saying favorites are likely up everywhere because of a change in way the option is featured and its use as a “Twitter fist bump.” The article actually traces this increase starting with a December 2011 redesign that made the option more prominent and may have fostered a culture and conditioning toward greater favoriting. Which in and of itself is good if their assumption that perhaps “it’s a sign that Twitter is getting a little bit friendlier” is correct. But note that change occurred a while ago, and the huge jump in favoriting @SUNYOswego tweets by far outpaces increases in other metrics.

And however you slice or analyze it, seeing a huge surge in the number of people favoriting, RTing and engaging positively with your content is a wonderful thing. Where and how this converts into those admitted students enrolling at Oswego remains to be seen, but at least we have some nice benchmarks (and feelings) to start.


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want followers? don’t beg … create and engage!

How often do you see Twitter or Facebook accounts begging for followers or likes? Do you find these motivational? Or desperate? Or just pathetic?

Here’s a substitute solution: If you want more followers, don’t beg. Create content. And engage users. It really is that simple.

The above message for our @sunyoswego account appeared in the inbox last week. Quick math says the account added almost 10% to its total in one week. One week! But this wasn’t done via begging, or even via splashy posters or signs around campus (my social media budget remains stuck at $0).

What happened? We created. We engaged.

You may recall that, with students moving back on campus, we interacted, retweeted and crowd-sourced content. Then for the Student Involvement Fair, we asked participants to send photos, which we retweeted. And all along, we’ve been following our engagement strategy focusing on sharing what’s positive about our campus and retweeting/promoting what students and their organizations do.

What haven’t we been doing? Tweeting marketing taglines. Pounding our chest about how awesome we are (better that any praise come from students, alums and the like). Or begging.

Admittedly, a lot of those followers are new students or students coming back to campus, so it may not be sustainable at that meteoric level. But the new followers keep coming, most of them existing students. And those students in turn engage with us and create content we can retweet. Which brings more followers. It’s a wonderful loop, and it comes from positive and proactive stances on creating and engaging.


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crowd-sourced event coverage, next level: engaging the crowd.

Getting students involved on our (or any) campus is mission-critical. Reasons include the personal — students’ sense of fulfillment, friendships and fun are important to their success — to the institutional, as conventional wisdom says involved students are more likely to stay in school and on track. So our Student Involvement Fair, the first week of classes, is kind of a big deal … and this year, for the first time, it made a big splash in social media thanks to more crowd-sourced event coverage.

When the fair unfolded on Wednesday, our campus-wide social media staff (all one of me) was stuck in the office dealing with news releases (a 20th century paradigm?), but students started carrying the banner for involvement. Representatives of various clubs and organizations tweeted invitations for any followers to come to the Student Involvement Fair, which we saw via our search columns for “sunyoswego” and “suny oswego” on Tweetdeck, so the @sunyoswego account amplified these invitations by retweeting. And then I realized just doing that was a missed opportunity.

So @sunyoswego not only posted a message for student organizations to tweet us pics of their setups, but we @ replied to all the organizations who had sent tweets asking students to come to the involvement fair. Responses from the @ had a 100 percent success rate — a perfect 10 out of 10, which isn’t huge but it’s 10 photos we didn’t have, and we collected a couple more.

In addition to RTing everything we received on Twitter, we posted the neat dozen photos as a Student Involvement Fair gallery on Facebook, which immediately drew a lot of attention, including 73 total likes, 14 comments and two shares with the first day. A picture of Alpha Phi Omega (above), our national service fraternity, even brought nice testimonials including “Yay!!! APO!!! One of the best decisions of my college years!” and “Great times with great friends. Met my best friends and my wonderful husband in APO. … Glad to see APO is still active.”

Our posting also drew at least one happy Twitter comment:

And, working in social media, we should all be very happy when we can build excitement and engagement. Or, rather, when our bright and involved students do it.

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when oprah met twitter, 2.5 years later.

Almost 2.5 years, or 30 months ago, could have been a watershed moment in the history of modern communication. Or maybe not.

That’s when Oprah sent her much-talked-about first tweet on Twitter, complete with all-caps and curious use of “Twitters.” Many of her millions of viewers jumped on the new service, legacy Twitter users grumbled … and the world, somehow, kept turning.

The good news is that Oprah introduced many, many people to a communication platform that has many good uses. The bad news is that the initial foray showed them the wrong way to use it. All-caps faux pas aside, here are just some of the ways Oprah meeting Twitter on April 17, 2009, had inherent difficulties:

1. Twitter is not a megaphone, it’s a mass telephone. Oprah blasted out a well-intended message to everyone but wasn’t really listening back. The New York Times’ Nick Bilton tweeted that day that Oprah was getting more than 1,000 replies per minute. The problem: She didn’t respond. Which leads into …

2. When a new technology is used wrong, users miscast the blame. Imagine you’re a devoted Oprah follower. Here, at last, your hero is using what is touted as a democracizing communication channel where everyone talks to everyone. Except she won’t talk back to you. Since Oprah is your hero, you can’t blame her for this disconnect. Hence, Twitter must be flawed. And perhaps pointless.

3. Twitter backlash perfectly positioned. When all the media went, ahem, a-twitter over Twitter, people who rushed to the site may have found a fail whale from its rolling outages due to limited capacity. Or they found a simple interface that wasn’t exactly a shiny object. Their fave celebs didn’t return their @ messages. And overall, Twitter is a community that requires work cultivating connections and having conversations to appreciate the benefits. It’s not a quick fix. So people who didn’t get it and saw all the Twitter headlines hated the service all the more.

4. You have to find the signal among the noise. When people rushed onto Twitter and made a beeline for their fave celebrities, they discovered something: Celebs may not have much of value to say on Twitter. Many of my friends created accounts about this time. Many of them abandoned their accounts shortly thereafter. “Twitter is boring,” they complained. But my response, straight out of Twitter 101, is: If you follow boring people, Twitter is boring. If you follow interesting people, Twitter is interesting. Put another way: If you and I both go to a cocktail party, and I speak to the most boring people in the room, while you talk to the most interesting people, our perception of the party will be shaped by those reactions.

But Twitter, and the many dedicated Twitterati, shrugged off the surge and subsequent departure of fairweather members. Some friends who abandoned the service came back eventually and found value. Twitter’s overall membership boomed from an estimated 10 million at the time to near 200,000 accounts now. But it wasn’t necessarily Oprah.

Most people I know in the time since who have become active on Twitter did so because a friend recommended it, not because they read some glitzy article. And it’s a proven marketing truism that we’re much more likely to try and find satisfaction from things our friends recommend than that pushed upon us by the mass media. Whether this increase would have taken place organically, on a peer-to-peer basis, who knows … maybe Twitter was was always poised for logarithmic growth?

And away from the spotlight, 2.5 years or 30 months later, a funny thing happened. If you look at Oprah’s Twitter account, she’s doing a great job of engaging with followers. She’s using Twitter the right way. If she or her team had researched Twitter and done this from the start (and admittedly she was much busier while still doing the show daily), would that have changed folks’ perception of Twitter? Or were most of the people who rushed there bound to leave Twitter anyway? The world may never know. But it’s interesting to see that Oprah — just like Twitter itself — has continued to evolve.


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5 reasons businesses should be using social media.

I gave a presentation to a community leadership class last week and realized that (despite my arrogant assumption to the contrary) not all businesses and organizations are yet sold on the value of using social media. Whether it’s fear of the lack of control, tight resources or not believing they have the skills navigate Web 2.0, some businesses hesitate to take this step into what appears The Great Unknown.

Preparing for that presentation (as well as a rush job for class when a guest speaker had to cancel for a death in her family), I assembled 5 top advantages businesses and organizations can gain from social media presence. Turns out the reasons spell out the word MEDIA — pure happenstance, as I’m not nearly clever enough to create such a thing.

Multimedia storytelling: It’s so much easier to show with visuals than words, whether with video (the richest form of online content) or photos/slideshows. For example, would you rather read about our college having more than 100 student organizations or see a user-contributed Flickr slideshow with students in action? The bonus is you can embed slideshows on your own pages or share via social media.

Engagement: Your customers or clients, students or alumni are key to, and part of the narrative of, any business or organization. Interacting with them via Facebook or Twitter helps solidify their connections with you, and may help you better solve their problems. If a potential client posts on three Facebook pages looking for more info, and yours is the only one that responds, how much of a better chance do you have of earning their business? Or if you aren’t on Facebook, that discussion can’t even take place.

Direct communication: How traditional PR pushes out a story: We write a news release. We send it to editors who may throw it in the trash, put it into some kind of story purgatory or chop down to two sentences and make it a brief. Even if you get a good story, then consumers have to actually pick up a paper that day, turn to the page where it is and find time to read it. With social media, you bypass gatekeepers and uncertainty to get directly to your stakeholders. Also worth noting that our official Facebook page has decidedly more fans than our hometown daily newspaper has circulation.

Immediacy: Getting the word out, and placed in the media, can be a laborious process … albeit one that’s still worth doing. But if you create a Facebook event and invite all your fans to it, it’s immediate (and engaging and direct, as noted above). Or if something changes at the last minute, you can let attendees (or maybes) know immediately. There are other countless reasons businesses may want to get some kind of important message out instantly, and social media is delivers quickly.

Authenticity: Our businesses, our brands are not about buildings or sales figures. They’re about people. Authenticity — being who you are, telling the truth and embodying your values — is required for social media but also provides opportunities. Why not allow users to see behind the scenes at your operation in some way? Why not invite your most loyal customers to tell their stories? Why not make everyone feel like they are a genuine and important part of your story?

I’m not saying social media doesn’t come with perils, but then anything worth doing — just opening a business in the first place — comes with some type of risk. And I’m not saying delving into social media should completely replace existing marketing efforts, although they can greatly enrich, extend and complement existing marketing. Social media is more of an investment of time than of money, but it’s an investment that can reap great dividends.


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social media’s never-ending quality vs. quantity discussion.

If your college had a million students, but most of them didn’t go to class, would you consider that a success? No? Then why do people chase mythical figures in social media (“I want a million fans!”) for numbers’ sake, and not care about engagement?

The quality vs. quantity discussion on social media seems a never-ending debate. I come down firmly in the quality camp, frequently saying things like 100 engaged fans are much better than 10,000 fans who do nothing. And I believe it’s true. While it’s nice the SUNY Oswego Foursqure account has 3,277 followers, many list Indonesia as their address and probably won’t check into Penfield Library any time soon.

Back in the 1990s, collecting massive e-mail lists was a popular craze. Folks would brag about the size or their e-mail lists, but ask how many folks they e-mailed actually gave money or volunteered, and they would bluff some answer about the prospects of potential audience, etc. and change the subject. And how many of those people had a negative view of an organization or institution that plucked their name off an email list and spammed them unbidden?

Facebook and Twitter allow for very public, instantaneous engagement, which represents much of their appeal. Yet you’ll see folks do everything but beg to rack up large memberships, and we all catch ads or spam on ways to get more fans or followers. We should ask such entities: What does having all those followers really get you if they never engage? Do they have any true brand loyalty, any interaction, any connection other than being a fan or follower?

Granted, fan engagement can take all forms — including complaints, arguments, off-topic posts — but if they are genuine folks who stay connected and feel some kind of loyalty toward your institution (even after they complain about classes not being canceled), then that’s tangible.

When we posted on Facebook about our men’s basketball team, which set a record for consecutive losses in the ’70s/’80s, going to the NCAA tournament, reactions included many Likes, encouragement from current students and alumni from losing years expressing amazement and support. Those are parts of a greater narrative, a simple thread that tells us volumes about our community. Yes, numbers of Likes, numbers of comments, those figures count. If we had 10 times the number of fans and _none_ of them Liked or commented, that would say something much less flattering on the viability and vitality of our community — both physical and virtual.

Or have you ever seen a prospective student post on a page or group weighing attending your college vs. another one, and have a bunch of (unprompted) students and alumni tell them reasons why they should choose your institution? That is the greatest feeling and measure for any community manager — confirmation it’s not the overall size, but the spirit that counts.


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atlanta braves hit a home run on twitter.

If you’re looking for the potential to do awesome things on Twitter, look no further than the Atlanta Braves account, @Braves (huge tip of the cap to Joe Glad for the lead). In their use of social media, the Braves show responsiveness, creativity, awesome fan-friendly engagement and organization-wide buy-in.

Braves wish fan happy birthday

Many of us monitor our “brands” online, and the Braves are no different. But they take it a step beyond. Consider the above photo, learning of a fan’s birthday and having one of the Braves hold up a whiteboard sign of birthday greetings. Or when learning of a young fan (I assume) coming to his first game, tweeting a player’s message of welcome (below). Or when a fan tweeted a picture of a Turner Field cake she made for her father’s birthday, @Braves retweeted it, the image enjoying more than 1,000 views.

Hard to top that in terms of engagement. You get the feeling the organization loves fans as much as the fans love the Braves.

They keep the stream going with more functional news tweets (nightly lineups) or event-based in terms of near-live photos. The Braves stumped for reliever Billy Wagner to make the last-chance vote for the All-Star team, but they’ve also tweeted in support of charity. While @Braves racked up more than 23,000 followers, the account — unlike, say, Oprah — actually follows back a fairly healthy chunk of nearly 1,000 fans.

In addition to their responsiveness in identifying tweets and finding ways to pleasantly surprise their fans through creative engagement, I’m also impressed with the organizational buy-in. If you can get players, broadcasters and management to join in the greetings and Twitter games, that says a lot. While I don’t know how big the team’s Twitter-related staff is, I can tell that the support for it must come from very high for so many parts of the operation to happily play along.

However the Braves do it all, one thing is clear: Their use of Twitter is a home run. We can all draw ideas and inspiration with how they cover all their bases.



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is redeveloping oswego.edu a big project? yes. and no.

So this is my summer: I’m part of a great, dedicated team moving our massive website, oswego.edu, to a new content management system and giving the site a whole new look. Ideally, by the start of the fall semester. Is that all a big project? Yes. Absolutely. And, in a sense, no.

While it’s definitely a big project, I could describe it as accurately as a merging of many different projects and goals. Consider the activities of our small, merry band:

– We’re creating new schemas (templates), stylesheets and components (added features) in our new CMS, Ingeniux. (When I say “we” here, I mainly mean “Rick Buck.”)
– We’re migrating content for around 10,000 pages.
– We’re training a couple hundred users or so on the new CMS.
– We’re tracking and documenting all of the above.
– We’re creating around 30 new landing pages that raise the presentation of academic areas.
– We’re working with a freelance designer on four primary templates, including a new home page. (The CMS is skinnable, so the new look will be “turned on” all at once.)
– The powers that be have tasked me with making our new site more engaging and interactive.
– Under the umbrella of engagement, I carry six other emphases — more user-centered, greater portability (interactive with both mobile devices and social media), greater usability, more conducive to microtransactions (meaningful ways to interact), promoting storytelling and cultivating community-building. Yes, those are a lot of things, but they can help guide this and future projects.

We have a fabulous cross-campus CMS team working on the back end, and content migration is under way. The designer delivers first drafts of template suites (three options) this week. Support from the top has been marvelous.

We’ve come a long, long way. And there is so much to be done — in pieces large and small. It’s like assembling a giant puzzle, but we know all the pieces are around and we’ve started putting them together. Don’t be surprised to see more blog entries about this big project … or collection of projects.


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3 tips for dealing with a conference backchannel.

Last week’s SUNYCUAD Conference featured its most active Twitter backchannel (defined as a real-time discussion thread using a hashtag, such as #sunycuad). While the backchannel is usually constructive, often retweeting the most salient lessons, it can occasionally include questioning of speaker effectiveness. Certainly nothing at SUNYCUAD reached the level of the #heweb09 Great Keynote Meltdown, but some comments centered on consultants appearing to present infomercials, speaker suggestions deemed debatable and seemingly suspect strategy.

To their credit, one presenter who faced some mild backchannel questioning, an integrated communication consultancy, tried to engage commenters after the fact and thanked them for their suggestions. They also asked if Q-and-A was moving increasingly to the backchannel, as the phenomenon was apparently new to them, and I applaud their efforts at making it a learning experience.

The worst thing that could happen would be if Twitter backchannels discouraged helpful folks from speaking at conferences. It shouldn’t. Backchannels are much more manageable if speakers take proactive steps to engage their audiences. Some suggestions:

1. Use a backchannel buddy. When Rick Allen (@epublishmedia) and I both spoke at the HighEdWeb Regional at Vassar, he asked if I’d have his back(channel) and offered to do the same. At the start of a session, you can note someone in the room will monitor the backchannel and ask any questions posed there if people don’t want to ask directly. And just knowing the backchannel is being monitored in real time may keep people more civil in their tweets.

2. Understand your audience. This was the real problem in the #heweb09 meltdown; the speaker was imparting antiquated information and just wasn’t playing the right room. Perhaps unfairly, consultants have an inherent challenge speaking to higher ed practitioners who may view them as mercenaries who make lots of money for telling administrators things the underpaid, underappreciated peons have said already. I don’t see practitioners rip other campus practitioners on the backchannel, due to mutual respect of the day-to-day challenges. That said, presenters may want to ask organizers about the job descriptions of attendees, skill levels (is a 101 or advanced approach best?) and whether the conference has hosted similar topics. Letting attendees know in advance you’ll focus on beginner-level information could make a world of difference.

3. Provide value early and often. Give someone something useful and they’ll respect you. Period. If presenters eat up considerable time pumping up themselves and/or their company/institution at the beginning, they’re missing an opportunity. Many presenters wait until the last five minutes to get to takeaway advice, but why not instead bring out some great stories, tips, tricks or helpful advice in the first five? Making a good first impression will buy you social capital.

Moreover, speakers should not take backchannel comments personally … sometimes the audience is just restless, feeling trapped in a presentation they didn’t expect and reacting the only way they feel they can. Any criticism in any medium can become a learning opportunity, including Twitter comments, but taking steps to create a productive and positive backchannel is even better.


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new title, new focus, new directions.

As noted in various social media outlets, I’ve been promoted to director of Web communication for the college. The shiny new title continues much of the work I do but also features an acknowledgment of the key role of the Web in communicating and a new institutional focus on using the Web to better engage.

These things never happen overnight. I started working professionally on these Internets in 1996, when I did content and planning as my employer of the time went online. (What? You don’t believe I was 11 years old?) I taught myself basic HTML, set up a (not too attractive) personal site, read a lot, surfed a ton. I started blogging before it was called blogging. I served as online editor for a daily newspaper. Then I got swept up in Web 2.0, and the years since involved plenty of research, trying (and occasionally failing) new ideas and interacting.

That last part is important. I’ve seen what interaction can do, and thus its power in planning Web operations. Setting up and shepherding our fan page or Official Class of 2014 group are like seminars in communication studies — how people transmit and receive information, conversation/reaction patterns, formation of digital relationships. I’ve learned so much from friends on Twitter, Facebook and conferences that informs what I do. This is an amazing medium with so much potential.

My biggest project is redeveloping our Web site. I’m calling it Refreshing Oswego (title is a work in progress too), and it’s about making our presence more user-centered and engaging. The project includes a six-person team — our reconfigured three-person Web communication office working with three key Campus Technology Services staffers on migrating to a new content management system. The players bring a variety of skills in the necessary but not-too-glamorous process of building everything that powers our Web site. But I now have to start tackling on the design aspect — the look of this car whose engine, drive train and chassis we’re building. Our CMS is skinnable, so while the design process relates to functionality, it proceeds on a parallel line.

The promotion included my first presentation to our President’s Council, as I discussed the refresh project. They were more supportive and receptive than I ever imagined, and showed interest in visiting eduStyle.net and .eduGuru after I name-checked the sites. At the end of the presentation, our president said: “Sounds like a lot of fun.” I agree!

So I hope you’ll tolerate any future posts on the progress of the project. Perhaps we’ll figure out some things of value to others. And maybe even have a little fun along the way.

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