Tag Archives: instagram

GroupMe: the new secret weapon for our social media team

One of the great things about having students on your social media team is that they bring you new ideas and platforms — some of which even work behind the scenes. GroupMe — which our students suggested — has been a noteworthy new tool that has improved our efforts this semester.

GroupMe is a private messaging service that allows you to share text, photos and video — and to help organize what you do.

This semester, we have our largest social media student team ever — seven students. How do we keep activities organized, especially spontaneously? GroupMe.

With that larger group, most of the students are specializing on one particular channel. But when they get that great content, how do they share it with the rest of us for the other channels? GroupMe.

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img_1493The perfect example of how we use it came this weekend, with a special and decidedly visual event — our first-ever Teddy Bear Toss to benefit local kids. In a nutshell, attendees to the Saturday night men’s hockey game were asked to bring teddy bears (or they could buy them in the arena from the local Girl Scouts) and throw them on the ice after the first Laker goal. A wonderful way to make spirits bright for a number of children this holiday season.

But it’s also clearly great content. Saturday afternoon, I sent a group message asking who was available to get video and/or photos at the game. Two students, Ilyssa and Erika, replied they would be there and they determined Ilyssa (whose main channel is Twitter) would get photos and Erika (whose main channel is Instagram) would get video.

img_1492The Lakers scored an early goal, teddy bears rained down and both teams helped collect them. Great visuals, indeed. Ilyssa’s photos and Erika’s video were posted and shared to appear across Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, all doing very well at showing this event that supported a worthy cause and underscoring we are a caring community.

A lot of people focus on the dazzle and the sizzle of social media, but you can’t do a good job without the structure and the steak. Whether its something as simple as Yousef, our intern who specializes in athletics, telling me he’s taking care of promoting today’s action, or as complex as coordinating a big social media moment on the fly, GroupMe has really been a fabulous addition to our social media game.

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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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The king of social media content on campus? It’s not us.

Those of us who work in social media and web communication professionally like to think we know all the answers about creating content that works. And then somebody comes along and makes us look like pikers. Such was the case of Charles Trippy of We the Kings, who played at SUNY Oswego on Saturday night. In addition to playing a good set, all he did was create the most popular piece of content ever to come from our campus … by far.

Not only was it a great plug (even if it did contain the word “badass”) but it told an interesting story:

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As backstory, Charles’ father, better known as Chaz Trippy, played percussion in the Gregg Allman Band. So he posted: “This is the badass venue we are playing at (SUNY Oswego) my dad played here too in the ’80s!” It’s a big compliment to our Campus Center arena and a great historical note (the Gregg Allman Band did play at SUNY Oswego, albeit likely in the less impressive Laker Hall, in 1982).

If you’re squinting at the number of likes, do not adjust your set, it does indeed say more than 31,000 people liked it on Instagram (now nearly 32,000). If one of our posts gets 100+ likes, I consider that impressive. I don’t see us dethroning this feat worthy of a king.

The post also appeared on Twitter, where the figures also rang up high: 96 retweets and 504 favorites (updated: 98 and 523).

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We can learn lessons from this, of course. In terms of social media success, yes it helps that Trippy is a good-looking guy who plays in a popular band. But he wouldn’t have 404,316 Instagram followers and 464,000+ Twitter followers if he didn’t create interesting content. His use of media crosses over into YouTube with his popular Web series Internet Killed Television, which basically chronicles Trippy’s life on the road and at home, sometimes with appearances from his parents. And his Charles Trippy Family x Core channel, where the episodes air, has 1,469,912 followers.

Trippy did indeed document his time at SUNY Oswego with a video blog episode, featuring several students and calling the whole experience “pretty awesome.” He enjoyed playing on the same bill as two bands that inspired him growing up, Motion City Soundtrack and Say Anything. Calling the experience “a dream come true,” he offers advice: “Never let anyone ever tell you that your dreams are stupid.” As of Monday morning, or in about its first 24 hours, his video featuring our campus had some 264,000 plays … and climbing.

Plenty of bands are more famous and sell more records, but Charles is certainly a king of content. A lesson learned in retrospect is how anybody involved with the show, including us so-called professionals, could have better engaged him sooner on social media and tried to leverage his huge following to promote the concert. Advice going forward for people promoting shows at any campus, concert hall or cafe: See who’s coming to perform and try to connect with them in advance and in a meaningful way.

Sure, I don’t expect to create a piece of content with better reception that what Charles Trippy got, but he put a lot of Oswego love and interesting stories all over social media. I’ll take that royal treatment any time!

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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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How often to update social media? How often to shop for groceries?

A question I hear all the time from those managing office, departmental or organizational social media channels is how often to update: “How often should I update our Facebook page?” “How often should we tweet?” “How often should we do that Instagram thing?”

My answer for all organizations and institutions, large and small, is the same: You should update when you have something interesting to say or share.

It’s that simple. If you don’t buy that because some alleged social media guru advised updating at 8:55 a.m. every Thursday, let me put it another way.

How often do you shop for groceries?

You shop for groceries when you need something, right? You don’t say, “I shop for groceries three times a week,” and then feel compelled to go grocery shopping even though you don’t need anything, do you? Of course not.

fbrecentSame thing with social media. If you have something relevant worth saying or sharing, say or share it. If you don’t, maybe you should do something else and come back when you do.

If you run a Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram, Tumblr, [insert name of trendy platform] or other social media channel, think about it in the context of receiving text messages from an acquaintance. If you (like some Facebook pages), post lame chatter like “How is everyone’s Monday?” “What are you having for lunch today?” or “What’s your favorite movie?” — consider some random acquaintance sending you these text messages. You’d think that person is fairly lame (or creepy) and would just assume everything they send is just as lame (or creepy). So you could block them (not dissimilar to unsubscribing from a page) or just ignore their messages.

If your Facebook page or Twitter account is spewing info for the sake of spewing info, then everything you send will automatically be seen as less important. Moreover, if you haven’t updated a Facebook page in several months, did you need it in the first place? So many people feel they have to “have a Facebook” or “set up a Twitter” only to abandon them with the wreck and refuse of so many other discontinued accounts.

If you want to maintain a Facebook page, Twitter account or other channel, content strategy is key. You should think about updates that are important to your audience. You should get a feel for what they respond to and find interesting. You should map interesting content within the context of what’s happening (i.e. do you have Admissions Open Houses, major speakers, campuswide events, etc.?) You shouldn’t say, “Oh, I haven’t updated our company’s Facebook page this week … so I should ask everyone what their favorite type of pasta is.” (Unless, perhaps, you’re a pasta company.)

So there you are. If you don’t have something interesting to say or share, why force it? You also could go looking … or sometimes (in our case) content just suddenly comes across your path. Stay active, engaged and watchful. But most of all, stay interesting.

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Webstagram: Making Instagram increasingly interactive

If you’ve been using and/or following the story of Instagram, you know that it’s very useful for visual communication and the biggest success story in social media of the past couple years. But you’re also probably aware that it doesn’t lend itself to the easiest institutional interaction since it’s smartphone-based and you’d have to do a lot of searches and navigating to truly take advantage of its potential. Especially if you have a personal Instagram account and an organizational account, you’d have to bounce back and forth, signing in/out, a lot of work for limited return.

Enter Webstagram.

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Webstagram on grid view.

John Murphy of Brown University mentioned this tool recently at #heweb13 and it was almost as if the crowds parted, sunbeams permeated and birds started singing. Almost. More later on the awesome things John and Brown University do with Instagram images, but first a primer.

To get started, simply visit Web.stagram.com and sign in with your organization’s Instagram name and password. It’s free and easy to do. I did and searched for a #sunyoswego tag. And found … 2,226 entries. Just sitting there, almost none with any college engagement.

Tim fail. Major Tim fail.

Webstagram on list view. Simple start liking and commenting!

Webstagram on list view. Simply start liking and commenting!

But I jumped right in using list view (as above) and liked the appropriate posts and responded amicably. It was as if a whole new world opened up, and I apologize to those dealing with the nascent enthusiasm of the @sunyoswego account in these early days. For those of us with variant names, it’s beautiful because I found stuff under the #oswego tag I couldn’t have easily sifted through via Instagram. It also facilitates searching tags for photos to integrate into Storify or other aggregated storytelling efforts.

Webstagram is that simple to use, and if you run an institutional or organization Twitter account, I highly advise checking it out.

Perhaps no one is using Instagram searches and content as amazingly as Brown University, notably on its #brownuniversity tag. Murphy said they received more than 10,000 photos on that tag in less than a year once they started promoting it! They actively work the tag and when they see an outstanding image, they might ask permission to use it in things like their Scene By You at Brown albums on Facebook (here is their latest beautiful collection), among other uses (even the college’s home page). With Brown’s upcoming bicentennial, Murphy said the college plans to ask alumni users to Instagram photos of old Polaroids from their college years, which should create a beautifully diverse and democratic scrapbook created by its family. That’s really taking user-generated images to a new — and awesome — level.

If you put enough time and resources into Webstagram, the sky (whether blue or featuring a sunset) is the limit in engaging your audience to contribute to your online visual presence. It’s almost a picture-perfect find!

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