Tag Archives: Facebook

Bangor Police Department: an arresting social media star

Among the most awesome things about social media are the unlikely superstars, such as the Bangor Police Department Facebook page. Not only has success failed to ruin the helpful, folksy content that brings smiles to multitudes, but the page shows us key insights into how to do the right things — in social media and in life.

Started by Sgt. Tom Cotton as merely a way to help keep the community informed and safe, the Bangor Police Department page has had a few posts that drew widespread attention, big media placements and a fanbase over 100,000 (or three times the city’s size) and growing.

The latest to go viral was friendly advice to Mid-Atlantic residents not used to the large snowstorm heading their way in late January. While many heartless Northeasterners chuckled at, smirked toward or derided the misfortune of the region, BPD extended heartwarming and humorous tips on how to whether the storms. Then they added:

Most of all, take care of each other. Be nice and invite neighbors to hole up at one location. Hide expensive things, but help them. (that’s the cop talking).

You will be fine. We drink lots of coffee and complain when we get hit like this storm. It works ok. It makes us grouchy but that’s why you come here in the summer. To hear stories from grumpy Mainers who sell lobster traps. Now, you will have some of your own to share with us when you get back.

Be safe and well and if you have any Cap’n Crunch left after the storm. It keeps very well. Bring it up this summer.

I found that rather beautiful, really: Advice, encouragement, a reminder we’re all humans who are all in this together. Cotton — who refers to himself as TC — quite simply nailed everything that makes an awesome post. Some would complain it’s too long, doesn’t feature eye-catching photos, isn’t posted at what social media gurus would say is the ideal time. None of these matter more than having a good story and a kind heart.

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Handy life advice, whether you live in Bangor or not.

In a world of self-puffing #humblebrags and narcissists who show false humility by pinning #blessed at the end of their boasts, BPD’s posts, even the ones acknowledging the size of their audiences, bear a beautiful bemused befuddlement at it all.

TC put it well in writing how awed and thankful they were at the huge reaction to their storm advice post:

With no knowledge of social media and apparently breaking most every rule, we have had a really good run on FB. I think it’s because people want to find out what police officers are actually thinking and doing rather than depending on everyone else to tell them. Maybe that is too simple an explanation but no one has ever confused me with with a genius. No reason to change hearts and minds now.

In addition to the above, a few key points related to social media come to mind.

Be yourself. Authenticity is the key to social media, and you can easily hear a friendly veteran officer offering advice or an interesting yarn in each post. TC pokes gentle fun at his fellow officers, makes corny jokes and celebrates the spirit of local kids. You expect that if you visited the station, you’d get the exact same tone and warmth.

Be awesome. Despite his humility, TC is a master storyteller relating everything from the human condition to the quirks of his town. He tells uplifting stories of simple but kind deeds like when Officer Dustin Dow asked an elderly woman they were checking on if there’s anything they could do, and she asked him to cook an egg. Which, of course, he did. And then there’s the even more unlikely celebrity, the wooden Duck of Justice.

Keep your audience in mind. BPD still posts safety tips, photos asking the public to help with an investigation, visits to local schools and other homespun advice, but it also celebrates everyday users far and near. After the winter storm/Cap’n Crunch advice, they posted fan-sent photos from readers as far away as Maryland and Virginia — all in the spirit of fun and community. (If Cap’n Crunch isn’t working on an endorsement deal yet, they should be.)

Don’t overdo it. TC doesn’t pour every off-topic idea or meme or thought onto Facebook; the updates come across just enough to always feel fresh and enjoyable. The department doesn’t try to replicate their experience on their Twitter account, and thank goodness it doesn’t autovomit every Facebook post onto Twitter.

Passion and purpose are key. When I hire interns, the things I look for more than anything are passion and a willingness to help others. TC’s passion comes coated in droll Maine wryness, but it’s clear he really cares about what he does and the people he and the man and women of the department serve.

TC finishes posts with some variation on “The men and women of the Bangor Police Department will be here.” It’s good to know that they are there for their community as well as on Facebook to make the world a brighter place.

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Make somebody happy

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Colleges do a lot of activities in social media — generally driven by goals, if you’re doing it right — but sometimes the most rewarding thing we can do is make somebody happy. On what’s become Random of Act of Kindness Week, social media is a great place to show you care.

We had an opportunity last week through a request from the family of Judy Letvak, a longtime dedicated alumni volunteer who passed away in 2013. A member of our alumni board and often the first person to like one of our Facebook posts and offer encouragement, Judy made a large impact reflected in her memorial overlooking Lake Ontario. Judy’s niece Allison told us via Facebook post she’d love to see the spot in winter. “Judy Letvak’s memorial overlooks the lake in the most beautiful spot I’ve ever seen,” Allison wrote. “It felt like magic up there and I could truly feel her spirit there and understand why her heart never left Oswego.”

How can you not answer that kind of request, even when the last several weeks have proven less than ideal for a trek to take a picture on a cold and breezy lakeshore? But a friend of the family and a former outstanding student of mine, Danny Distasio, reiterated the request via Facebook message at about the same time we had the sun break through for a while. The time was right.

The resulting picture won’t win any composition awards but, posted the next day as our Friday #oswegram, it resonated with those who loved Judy or the picture or the campus. As of Monday, 73 shares shows many people wanted to pass along this little tribute, which warms anybody’s heart. Perhaps the more important metric was a happy family, Allison saying: “Thank you to everyone who took the time to do this for me and my family! Hope to come up and visit Judy’s spot soon!”

(And if you’re hung up on ROI, there’s even something for you: The post generated at least one request for more information on how to get a memorial on-campus for a loved one.)

So you can be kind and create great content. Making somebody happy is always worth the effort.

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Social scrapbook: Learning from a year of Friday #oswegrams

Sunrise over West Campus. This is how it began.

Sunrise over West Campus. This is how it began.

It started on a lark, a trick of the light, a serene sunrise scene. A year ago this month, driving in to start the day, I saw the rising sun illuminating the residence halls on what we call West Campus and instead of just drinking in the sight, I pulled out my iPhone. Seemed nice enough to post on the Facebook wall and the response was phenomenal. It became the most popular single piece of content that month and drew requests from far-flung alumni that we post more photos of fall foliage or campus scenes.

And thus the now-weekly Friday #oswegram social feature began.

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Lake Ontario in November. Contrary to rumor, it doesn’t freeze up until later in winter and polar bears don’t take to the beach.

If you’re a fan of the SUNY Oswego Facebook page or follow our social media in general, you’ve seen our Friday #oswegrams. While I did not make them a photo album, if you skimmed them you would see the seasons change — scenic images, especially of the lake, are very popular — as well as snapshots of the campus cycle. Students moving in, preparing for Commencement and many mileposts along the way mark our Friday #oswegrams, which as a totality represent a kind of slideshow encapsulating bits and pieces of the Oswego experience.

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It’s nice when a simple photo like this can cultivate fans congratulating their kids and build anticipation for Commencement.

But it’s not just about posting pretty pictures. Strategy does play a role. One of the biggest assets of campus — something many students say helps them choose Oswego — is its natural beauty and Lake Ontario. Humanity may have advanced in many ways, but the draw of a beautiful photo of leaves changing or a big blue lake remain coded in our DNA. The #oswegrams also let us highlight unique aspects and interesting activities of our campus, while promoting a connection with the Oswego family — past, present and future.

At the time our #oswegrams began, our Facebook page was becoming stagnant and needed a boost. We’d heard suggestions for more photos, but of what? The evolution of the Friday #oswegram has shown us what images and scenes resonate with our various social channels, whether from simple likes, friendly shares or comments about what they miss about campus.

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Few mileposts generate more memories than content addressing moving onto campus.

I try to have an idea of what to shoot any given Friday, based on either particular events, the general time of season or what’s worked in the past. The original plan doesn’t always pan out or sometimes something even better comes along. With very few exceptions (usually logistics, such as my availability), I want to take them on Friday morning to make them immediate and fresh and relatable. I enjoy the opportunity to write small, poetic snippets — “The ivy adorning Hewitt Union provides a seasonal litmus test: Autumn has arrived,” for example.

The #oswegrams do best on our Facebook and Instagram accounts because those are most visually driven, but the best ones also generate activity on Twitter. Last week, I even tried Tumblr. We shall see.

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The numbers don’t lie. Many months our #oswegrams are atop and/or all over my social media reports tracking our most popular content. Additionally, the current formula for what Facebook deigns show its users factors in whether they have liked specific types of content from particular providers. If we’re serving up #oswegrams they like from our Facebook page, that means our other content is more likely to show up in their streams as well. Say what you will about Facebook’s formula — and there’s much one could say — it rewards good content and raises a ready challenge to generate good content.

And even when someday Facebook no longer sits atop of the social media chain, the Friday #oswegram is not about feeding one particular channel. It’s about finding content that resonates with all of our audiences … wherever they may be in terms of channel or geography. With any luck, it even gives members of our larger family a reason to look forward to their Friday #oswegram from Oswego.

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In social media, 1 big picnic in 1 park beats 100 scattered picnics

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When our new students are all on campus at the end of August, we throw them one big picnic under one big tent on the college quad. And it’s glorious (even if we’ve had a couple monsoons, students always had fun). Watching the #hewebmi conference tweet stream led me to this analogy: On social media, one big picnic in one park is better than 100 small ones in other parks.

Screen shot 2014-05-22 at 11.58.05 AMBlame Brian David Proffer of Marygrove College for triggering it with this tweet (RTed to my attention by the fabulous Alaina Weins of UM-Flint): “Points of wisdom: One site, one Facebook page, one Twitter feed, etc.” In short, make sure your community has one central place it can go to consume the best content your college has available.

But so many folks on so many campuses confuse and confound this notion. So many departments, offices and programs want their own Twitter feeds or Facebook pages with their own brand and logo and messages … and many efforts are abandoned after a few days or tweets that go nowhere because there’s nothing engaging happening and/or the student hired to run it graduates. And while some have valid reasons for that channel, many charge in with no content strategy — “let’s make a Facebook!” “let’s do a Twitter!” — or plan for providing and sustaining content, let alone how to respond to people who have questions. (Many accounts also feed updates into something that pushes them into Facebook and spits out cutoff sentences with Facebook links into Twitter, which essentially says they have no real interest in Twitter as anything but a place to blast messages … which isn’t the purpose of social media.)

To use a Memorial Day weekend (or, previously, Victoria Day in Canada) analogy: Wouldn’t you rather have all your friends get together at one picnic or barbecue, instead of having to drive all over the place to different gatherings? Of course. Similarly, your students probably want to have one main source of information they can trust and rely upon for constant updates — or, to continue the analogy, for the informative sustenance they need and want.

On college campuses, a staggering amount of time and effort is wasted by individual entities creating, promoting, haphazardly updating and often abandoning social media efforts. It’s like making a huge pot of macaroni salad for a picnic you want to control, even if it means nobody gets to eat it. But as a central social media communicator, I feel a need to do a better job of inviting and making everybody welcome at one big amazing picnic where everybody brings their own tasty dish to help nourish our campus community.

Screen shot 2014-05-22 at 12.12.53 PMBut how do we get there or, as my friend Deborah Edwards-Onoro sagely asks, “how to manage various stakeholders who want to ensure their voice is heard?” Not easy, but maybe it’s an opportunity for communication and collaboration.

Here’s my first take: I want to start building an outreach and process with our stakeholders. Basically along the lines of: “We want to share your awesome events and stories via social media. Here’s how you can submit them and here’s what we’re looking for.” As noted before, I love retweeting students who post great photos, student orgs who tweet details about upcoming events, anybody who has a link to a good story about one of our students/faculty or staff members/alumni. My guidepost is simple: Amplify the awesome that is part of our college family.

I’m not saying others shouldn’t have active accounts that serve their audiences, but that we should all work together to provide one conduit that improves everybody’s experience. After all, if @sunyoswego retweets a student club, we’re basically saying, “hey, here’s great content from this account you may consider following.” When various entities work together under one event hashtag (like our #ozwhiteout weekend) instead of everyone making their own hashtags, you see how efforts can dovetail to make a greater whole. In the college’s day-to-day picture, everybody’s content builds something bigger and more cohesive that paints the panorama of our institution beyond one snapshot or glimpse.

It sounds ambitious, and it is, but nothing good comes without effort. And if it sparks more conversations and collaborations and communications in the process, working together for a huge picnic in one park — or social media account — could feed and sustain well beyond one meal.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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What the decline of Facebook (or not) does (or doesn’t) mean to your brand.

Screen shot 2014-01-23 at 8.44.28 AM“Facebook is dead!”

You’ve seen that headline, or a similar one, by now, yes? About how young people are abandoning Facebook in droves, how it’s jumped the shark, how it’s bound for MySpaceCity.

Don’t believe the hype. In the blogosphere, Facebook has been killed off more times than Kenny from “South Park,” left for dead more times than Rasputin, been presumed vanquished more times than Doctor Who.

Q. Is Facebook losing primacy among young people?

A. Maybe. While the plural of anecdote is not data, I see indications many teens may be using Facebook as a network but not their main network any more. We opened our (closed) Accepted Students: Facebook Class of 2018 group about a week ago and nearly 300 accepted students already are making connections and some even said this interaction makes them choose Oswego (not bad for a dead network, eh?). Yet some say they’re not on Facebook much but encourage others to follow them on Twitter and Instagram to get to know them better.

Facebook. The Gateway to Twitter and Instagram. Not exactly Zuck’s next marketing phrase.

In any event, a Pew Research study released last year (albeit from 2012 research) found 94% of teens with a Facebook profile with 81% using it most often of any social network. Even with a 10% or 20% erosion, that’s still pretty strong market penetration.

Q. Is Facebook making it harder on marketers not willing or able to spend money?

A. Signs point to yes. Facebook hinted at this a while but now basically says advertising is an increasingly better way to gain reach than organic (i.e. normal) posts. This doesn’t mean your page is now worthless, just that it faces a stiffer test at getting attention if you can’t spend on advertising. And since Facebook has an annual subscription fee of $0, maybe you get what you pay for. It’s a shame that organizations like the Oswego County SPCA with few resources that are trying to place rescued animals with new homes, get donations to help feed its many sheltered cuties and spread the word about missing pets will find this harder to do, but maybe Facebook will change its mind again at some point.

Q. So, this is all means Facebook could be on decline, right?

A. Perhaps, but what does that mean? Nobody knows, really. As my friend and colleague Gary Ritzenthaler has pointed out, even if half of Facebook users suddenly up and left, it would likely remain the biggest and most influential social networking site. Facebook’s factbook lists 1.2 billion users, so if it declines to, say, 1 billion, does that make it a dead and useless network? Of course not.

Of course it’s sexy to say that Facebook is dead or employ other linkbait headline techniques, quoting such reliable sources as “our office intern,” “some kid we cornered on the street” or “our poolboy’s younger brother,” but those of us who work with students all the time know they still consider Facebook part of their lives. Let me repeat from earlier: Facebook may not be the be-all, end-all social network for teens any more, but chances are it’s still something they use. And if you’re trying to reach (or also reach) adults, the latest Pew Research points to 71% of those 18 and over still using it, 63% daily.

So if you run a Facebook page, what does this mean? It means … well, keep creating awesome content and providing the best customer service you can. If you have an important message and an advertising budget, consider this option … or not. In the greater social media picture, it reinforces that you shouldn’t (and never should have in the first place) put all your eggs in Facebook’s basket. Since Twitter and Instagram can be very powerful channels if done right, if you haven’t looked into them or other potential avenues, you should consider doing so.

But then you should always be testing and analyzing what’s working and not working in your communication, so chances are you already know how well Facebook works for you better than all the doomsaying bloggers in the world.

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Social media and college sports rivalries: Managing #OzWhiteout Weekend

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If you attend one of the schools or know DIII men’s hockey, you know that Oswego vs. Plattsburgh is a college sports rivalry of legendary proportions. The two teams always vie for the SUNYAC title, an NCAA bid (often both get in) and bragging rights. When it comes to school spirit, social media is an amazing outlet. But if you’re a social media manager, how do you harness that enthusiasm?

You plan, you prepare, you tap talented students and you all manage the plan early and often.

We started using #ozwhiteout as the official tag a couple years ago but were more aggressive with it this year. I’m happy we didn’t pare it down to #whiteout because Arizona used that tag this weekend for a big basketball game and our tweets would have been lost in the flood of a huge Division I program. An unofficial (funny but somewhat offensive) #puckflattsburgh tag stays around every year, and #whiteoutweekend was a player.

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While we didn’t have broad promotional support this season (goal for next year: get hashtag on the official T-shirt) I worked with our sports information director, Mike Bielak, to solidify early, and he made the above scoreboard graphic (also shared on social media) promoting the tag, which announcers read during games. White the Whiteout term originally just applied to the hockey matchup, the athletic department has broadened it to Whiteout Weekend, which featured eight home games total — two each for men’s and women’s hockey plus men’s and women’s basketball — even though the Oswego-Plattsburgh ice showdown is unquestionably the main event. We promoted the tag and the weekend fairly heavily on Facebook and Twitter the week leading in, with much of the Twitter promotion coming via retweets of other fans using the official tag.

Using topsy.com, I looked at the three main related hashtags, as of Monday morning:
– 643 mentions for #ozwhiteout
– 220 for #whiteoutweekend
– 97 for #puckflattsburgh

The #ozwhiteout figure was by far the biggest tag use I’ve ever seen for one of our campus events (maybe twice the previous record). In addition, 84 photos posted to Instagram sported the #ozwhiteout tag. I just imagine the figures if we could get everyone on one tag and not watering down the figures, but social media is a democratic, not top-down, communication device, so you just do your best and ultimately appreciate anybody who is (positively) active around your events.

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Our social media team — interns Kristen Burke, Alyssa Levenberg and Lavon Shim-Johnson plus video grad assistant Phillip Moore — deserve a lot of credit. Kristen and Alyssa alternated running our Twitter account (one would do game tracking, the other crowd/superfan shots) and Instagram for hockey-related activities. Lavon took care of basketball, which had its own exciting weekend. Phil filmed and posted a video showing the line of students camped out in the Campus Center waiting for Oswego-Plattsburgh doors to open, which we used as a post-event thank you to our students for their dedication … and can use to promote future #ozwhiteout games and student life in general.

On the ice and the hardwood, our teams went 5-2-1 for #ozwhiteout weekend. In the marquee game, our young Laker men’s team held Plattsburgh (ranked #1 in the nation) to a 3-3 tie, a huge growing and learning opportunity for our freshmen-laden squad. But overall when so many of our fans are active, proud, positive, enthusiastic and connected via social media, it’s a win for school spirit.

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