Tag Archives: #heweb10

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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the eye-opening world of google in-page analytics.

To hear Avinash Kaushik, one of the world’s foremost analytics evangelists, speak — as I was fortunate enough to do at SIMTech10 — would make anyone with a pulse want to dive into researching more about their website traffic. The hitch, of course, is finding the time to do so. But with the recent rollout of Google’s In-Page Analytics Beta, you can get eye-popping measures on your key pages in an instant.

If you have Google Analytics linked to an account, you start by logging in, selecting View Report, clicking Content (upper left) then choosing In-Page Analytics [Beta]. It will then pull up your top page in a window with various traffic metrics as well as which links visitors clicked. Like so:

Screen capture of Oswego home pageOn some browsers, if you open up another tab within your analytics account (for me, anything on oswego.edu), pages will have in-page metrics superimposed … which means you can surf various areas of the site for a quick read on how users interacted.

Of course, this brings other contextual considerations:

1. All bounces are exits but not all exits are bounces. I want to say Hubspot‘s Kyle James made this summation at HighEdWeb10, the best definition of it: A bounce is when someone hits their first page on your site and next leaves your site, while an exit means they have visited one or more pages of your site before departing. If someone surfs a bunch of pages, finds what they are looking for and then leaves, then this exit is not necessarily unglorious. Generally, you’d wince at a high bounce rate — do you want people visiting just one page of your site? — although there can be mitigating factors … if your home page is the default in computer labs when a machine is turned on, you could expect a high bounce rate.

Where do you want a low bounce rate? For specific landing pages meant to steer people to find more information or take actions. Thus this page having a bounce rate of 0.0%, presuming it’s not an error, is outstanding:

I mean, about a week with 274 visits and every one passes along to either a desired action (apply, check out majors, schedule a tour, see costs and scholarships) or another navigational element — and none leave — is that even possible? I guess so, but it brings us to another key consideration:

2. Sample size. You want to see what works and what doesn’t, but a day or two does not a pattern make. Especially if any of those days is a weekend, when our traffic is decidedly lower, results may be atypical. But if you see patterns emerge on a well-trafficked page for a week or two, you can draw more reasonable conclusions. For instance, over the course of a week, I’ve seen that home-page news items listed as having video tend to draw 5 to 6 times more clicks than those without. That’s a fairly remarkable difference, though one next wonders if the content itself is more compelling, with or without the indication video is available.

3. Be prepared to be wrong. We all make assumptions about our websites all the time. “People often skip to our A-Z Index instead of navigation.” “Topic navigation is more useful than audience navigation.” “Users won’t scroll.” Wrong, wrong and wrong. Maybe it’s because we installed drop-down accordion menus on our home page (among others), but our A-Z Index generally draws less than 5 percent of traffic there, and much less throughout the site. Topical navigation sees much higher clickthroughs than A-Z, but audience navigation (especially Prospective Students, Current Students and Alumni) appears very strong in some areas. As for scrolling, long pages with good content get just as many clicks farther down as they do above. People will indeed scroll for content they want.

These are only a few thoughts and tips. I have to admit jumping into analytics — especially a tool as rich as In-Page Analytics — is a bit overwhelming, and certainly a learning process. But so far, I definitely think it’s worth it!

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top 5 takeaways from #heweb10.

I’ve returned from my first full HighEdWeb conference (#heweb10), also full of other firsts: First time riding a mechanical bull, first time petting a penguin or shark, first time singing karaoke in a gay bar. The conference was full of win (not just two victories in Just Dance or our luck-infused undefeated record on the pool table at Madonna’s) as great information and connections virtually poured like Skyline Chili over pasta. I could never, in manageable length, blog about every takeaway, so I boiled it down to a top five.

1. People matter. Yes, we talk about tools and technology all the time, but this business is really about people. One of my favorite lines came from Mark Greenfield, on institutions not being brands or logos; they are all the people who attend (or attended or want to attend) that college or work at it. This ties in with my love for storytelling as well, and underscores that we’re really in the people business. Also, the conference is about meeting, interacting and learning from some of the best damn people on the whole planet.

2. Use it or lose it. Any conference where the keynote speaker is the king of usability, author Steve Krug (“Don’t Make Me Think,” “Rocket Surgery Made Easy”) is bound to teach a thing or two about creating user-friendly websites and why we need to test them to ensure they work. Krug is great at disarming all the usual excuses people (including me) have and essentially said: If you’re going through all this trouble to make a beautiful and rich website experience, is taking steps to ensure it works too much to ask?

3. Location, location, location. Given the explosion of geosocial media, I anticipated more sessions about location-based at the conference. But Tim Jones from North Carolina State did marvelously with a 45-minute overview that also showcased some neat things his college is doing … and a cross-platform aggregator they plan to launch. QR Codes and related services mentioned elsewhere offer tantalizing potential: Imagine a campus tour where a smartphone accesses text, photos, videos and other context from a chip on a building, or a code at a theatre performance gives more interactive information about the play, actors or academic program.

4. Count it up. One of my goals is to better understand and utilize analytics tools (where next week’s Stamats SIMTech also will help). Many robust and free services giving you figures exist, and Kyle James particularly brought it home simply with things to look for in your analytics to help improve your site (i.e., what gets hit most often and from where, whether people find what they want or bounce from your stie, what throws up the most 404/page not founds). Figures to back up decisions and new directions can prove worth their weight in gold.

5. Count your blessings. Yes, working in web communication is no picnic. We’re asked to do a lot with few resources. Deal with frantic emails that want things yesterday. Shudder at the mention of words like “meeting” and “committee.” And yet. Working with the web means what we do matters. It’s the medium of choice for most prospective students, general users seeking news/information/entertainment and some 500 million Facebook users. The web and what goes on with it is only expanding, so it’s an exciting field. And, as I learn every time I’m blessed enough to attend a conference like #heweb10, the field abounds with awesome people who are incredibly generous with their time, advice and energy.

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