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Crowdsourcing a historic day, and introducing content ownership strategy

Screen shot 2014-10-17 at 2.13.53 PMLast Thursday was our college’s biggest day in social media, coming together with a combination of preparation, teamwork and an active/engaged extended SUNY Oswego family — and a new focus on content ownership strategy.

Going into it, I recalled a lesson from a college internship at Channel 5 in Syracuse: You can be in the field getting firsthand information or you can be back in the studio getting a bigger picture, but not both. In a way, that has changed in the age of social media, and blending it together represents content ownership strategy … but more on that later.

A man who had his professional TV start at that same Channel 5, Al Roker, returned to his alma mater on Thursday, Oct. 16, to kick off a huge day at SUNY Oswego. One of the hardest-working men in the business started his broadcast day at 5:30 a.m. with live hosting of “Wake Up With Al” from our Marano Campus Center, followed by live hits for the “Today” show. My first text came in at 5:22 a.m., a colleague with a social media question from a reporter: What hashtag he should he use in covering the event?

Screen shot 2014-10-17 at 2.14.15 PMLong before that early hour, I had to make a choice: Should I go out in the field to join the throng of students and others watching Roker tape live segments, or do I set up a virtual “control room” to bring the bigger social picture into focus?

Fortunately, between having a colleague (Jeff Rea, doing a fine job sending iPhone photos) and a very motivated campus posting content, I could fire up Tweetdeck and provide live coverage and amplify the many voices excited about the momentous events — which also included an all-star media summit panel, 24-hour fundraiser and a public launch of our second comprehensive campaign.

Fortunately, I was able to commandeer a conference room to run social media for most of the "Today" show broadcast.

Fortunately, I was able to commandeer a conference room to run social media for most of the “Today” show broadcast.

I chose to pursue a content ownership strategy that represented an extended version of our amplification strategy, or sharing content of excited stakeholders — which can make very powerful crowd-based storytelling.

Amazingly, @alroker and @sunyoswego grabbed the #1 and #2 trends on Twitter for all of New York state on Thursday morning, and the overall 1605 mentions of @sunyoswego in a 24-hour period was higher than every whole previous month but one. We enjoyed a 12.5% engagement rate for tweets, pretty phenomenal giving the quantity of tweets, and in heavy figures for both, we saw 274 retweets and 302 favorites that day. I was especially pleased with so many retweets, denoting storytelling and content that connected well enough for our followers to want to share.

This is pretty sweet.

This is pretty sweet.

We used #ozmediasummit for not just the big panel discussion — which also included Charlie Rose, Ken Auletta (an Oswego alum), Connie Schultz and Dennis Thatcher — but for any event those and other luminaries, including another Oswego grad in ESPN SportsCenter anchor Steve Levy, attended. This was the first year we had everybody focused on one hashtag for this annual mega-event, and it showed: #ozmediasummit earned 1654 mentions in the same period, which (if memory serves) is around 1000 more than previous editions. A wonderful byproduct is that having everybody focused on one tag also maximizes the ability to engage in and archive the discussion.

On Facebook, our content obliterated a pair of high-water marks. That day, our content earned 826 shares — essentially people liked our photos or posts or links enough they wanted to take ownership so their friends could see this content. The content we posted on our page collectively earned 4896 likes, which is more likes than our content has attained for any previous whole month. The 131 comments on our posts were overwhelmingly positive and often reminisces from proud alumni.

Al Roker, king of selfies.

Al Roker, king of selfies.

Meriting special mention: our most popular piece of content of all time — Al Roker’s selfie with a crowd of Oswego students that he posted to Twitter but I repurposed for Facebook. As of Monday morning, it has 2497 likes (over 1000 more than our previous record) and an astounding 437 shares … and still climbing.

Over on Instagram, our content earned 1520 likes, also a resounding record, with 130 #ozmediasummit tag mentions compared to 45 last year. These both likely owe to greater user base, awareness and better marketing of the tag.

This success provides a lesson in our evolving thoughts on content ownership strategy. While content strategy — which includes focusing on who creates content for what audiences and why — is important, you can find even greater gold and greater good with content ownership strategy, which I define as focusing on the larger content ecosystem and how it can tell your story. Our college’s content team of professionals and interns is outstanding, but Thursday really drove home how many content creators exist among our students and alumni who can tell a powerful and empowering story when we share or retweet their posts under a broader content ownership strategy.

I’ll go into greater detail on content ownership strategy in a future post, but the advance tl;dr version is: Think about the stories you want to tell (based on strategy and goals), use monitoring tools and your cultivated network and think about how how your firsthand content (your field reporters) can fit together with your additional sources (what comes into your “newsroom”) to make a more comprehensive and awesome narrative.

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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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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.

ozwhiteoutbanner

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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Quick take: Content/brand strategy driving Facebook posts

Sometimes people who run social media accounts may find “content strategy” a daunting concept. It’s not. On the most basic level, it’s thinking about what’s important to your institution or organization (your “brand,” if you would), what’s happening in the world and how content may appear that provides a solution.

Consider the following:

  • On Thursday, it snowed in Oswego. This isn’t exactly rare but the OMGWTFBBQ! posts showing snow — which pretty much all melted by the afternoon — put out a perception of polar bears hanging out in the quad. (That doesn’t happen until February.)
  • The upcoming Friday through Sunday was Family and Friends Weekend, a big campuswide event we try to promote on social media various ways.
  • One of our strengths, according to everyone from prospective students to alumni, is our scenic campus.
  • Terms like “scrappy” and “resilient” often come up in describing our students. They are not the scions of privilege and many have to overcome obstacles to meet their goals. (And I love them for it.)

How can you wrap that all into a piece of content?

Simple: Grab the iPhone and wander outside. By Friday morning, the snow was long-gone and fall foliage remained. I took a few pictures of foliage, including some on the iPhone’s panorama function (which is simple but still confuses me) while composing copy addressing the above points in my head.

Here was the result, posted to Facebook and other social channels early Friday morning:

fallcontent

The copy read: “Even though the week brought a bit of snow, a bit of graupel and more than a bit of rain, we still have plenty of fall foliage to greet visitors when Family and Friends Weekend begins later today.” This addresses the weather (lest that was a concern for potential visitors), our upcoming event, our scenic beauty and the concept of resilience. (Graupel, btw, is a type of frozen precipitation and a great vocabulary word.) It garnered a pretty good 128 likes and 12 shares — plus we’ve since reused it as the page’s banner image, nearing 130 more likes.

Admittedly, not everything is that complicated in concept, but knowing what you represent and what’s happening are two main points as you consider what content to create and share.

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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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Content is more important than channel.

For all the discussion on campuses, at conferences and in corporate cubicles about which social media channels are reliable or “the next big thing,” one fact remains: Without good content, your channels are not useful.

This lesson jumped out while I worked on our web and social media analytics report for March. Usually Pinterest drives virtually no traffic to oswego.edu (less than 50 refers per month) yet suddenly, for March, we had 1,076 referrals. Does this mean Pinterest had suddenly broken through to undeniable relevancy?

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Not exactly. Almost all of that traffic (1,067) went to one page — a piece by Norman Weiner, emeritus director of our honors program, called How to Do Really Well in College. This was not the first time this page brought out-of-left-field traffic from a social network, and it appeared from several boards across Pinterest offering college advice.

For several months straight, StumbleUpon was always our third-biggest social referrer (behind Facebook and Twitter), except this month when Pinterest pushed it to fourth. What drives almost all of that StumbleUpon? You guessed it, How to Do Really Well in College. Weiner said he hears often about other colleges using it, and stats show now it has spread into the social sphere.

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So those two channels have been viable traffic providers only because of one piece of content. How to Do Really Well in College is our 39th most-visited page on oswego.edu, and almost all of its traffic involves straight entries from offsite, many from social media referrals. As if we needed proof that content drives channels and traffic, not vice versa.

So I’m amazed about people always running to the newest, shiniest social media platform without any content strategy … it’s like deciding you’re going to open a business without any idea what you plan to sell. Content that tells stories — in text, photo or video — is the building block of every channel. That’s what you should pay attention to, first and foremost.

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