Tag Archives: Web 2.0

do you keep a social media inventory?

In preparation for this semester’s first meeting of our student social media team, I decided to compile a social media inventory for all the platforms where our office keeps an active presence — which I posted online as a Google document.

My first two thoughts were: 1) Wow! Even I was surprised at how many channels we had; and 2) Why didn’t I do this earlier?

If you haven’t compiled a social media inventory this yet, the process yielded good reasons why you should:

1. Creating your own social media map. You can see where you are and who’s there. The inventory can note what audiences (prospectives, current students, alumni, etc.) use the channels, what kinds of content we share (video, news links, blog posts, etc.) and any related goals. We can realize what channels are best available for what audiences and what kinds of messages.

2. Facilitating assignments for your social media team. It helps my four-student social media team — three generalists and one web video producer — know what channels need monitoring and can provide opportunities for content they generate. It also can serve as an assignment sheet to break down who focuses on what channels and works on specific projects. And as a Google documents with links, it provides a one-stop shop of where we are.

3. Helping others in your organization understand social media options. If I was mildly amazed at the number of social-media channels we have, imagine the reaction of those who don’t pay that close attention. This document helps underscore the important work of our social media team and, in better budget times, could support any requests for more resources.

Making it a Google document means it is, like the social web itself, dynamic. For instance, I just plugged in a new Transferring to SUNY Oswego Facebook page, which recognized a gap in coverage, since about 1/3 of our incoming students are transfers and have specific questions and needs (it’s a cooperative effort with Transfer Services). Note these are just the resources available to our small team, and does not currently include social media presences elsewhere in the college, including the alumni office’s well-trafficked outlets.

If I haven’t mentioned the backstage answers wiki before, it’s proven exceedingly helpful. We set it up as a place to put all the questions we receive via social media, as a behind-the-scenes reference for our social media team as the same questions come up. New questions, and the answers, are added to the wiki, which is organized by topic for easy browsing.

So if you don’t have a social media inventory yet, consider putting one together. Given the time and brainpower you likely put into your social media efforts, having some go-to information seems a worthy investment.


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a video i love and why: what we learned from responses.

About a week and a half ago, I posted a blog challenge called A Video I Love and Why — choosing the Vancouver 2010 With Glowing Hearts video — and asked others to also post web video they enjoyed and why they did. The results were awesome — and, I think, showed some trends on what we like in video on the web.

  • Andrew Careaga stepped up almost immediately with Battle of the Album Covers. It’s a very creative, if a tad gory, animated story of various classic album covers creating mayhem — and a treat for music lovers.
  • Georgy Cohen suggested The Fully Sick Rapper, part of Christiaan Van Vuuren’s series on his months in tuberculosis quarantine. To try to maintain his sanity, he created videos of himself rapping — and improved his editing skills in the process.
  • Denise Graveline offered a classic Will It Blend? entry from Blendtec’s series of putting various objects through its blender. I found the joyfully cheesy video sufficiently interesting to use it in my media copywriting class.
  • The inimitable Todd Sanders served up Bill Genereux’s YouTube in Classrooms, a plea for educators to use YouTube in their lessons instead of banning access and creativity.
  • Michael Klein volunteered this TEDx video by Derek Sivers using the classic Guy Starts Dance Party YouTube video to make a point about leadership and movements.
  • Lori Packer shared the Red River College’s The Holiday Card, a mix of The Office type satire and screwball comedy, featuring an endearingly self-effacing performance by its president, Jeff Zabudsky.
  • JD Ross checked in with The Machine Is Us/ing Us, a powerful look at how Web 2.0 is not a concept or technology, but the sum total of ourselves.
  • Joe Bonner supplied A Life on Facebook, a current sensation imagining how our lives unfold publicly that is also a classic boy-meets-girl tale.

A wide variety of videos emerged, but some commonalities prevailed.

Substance over style. Most videos people chose were made on fairly low or no budgets. They tended to be simple stories where the appeal was the storyline itself, not anything glitzy or glossy. The same theme came up over and over in responses that you don’t need a lot of money to make a great video. But one thing you do need is …

Talk about the passion. Passion emerged as a common driving factor. Zabudsky is passionate enough about his college leadership, he’s willing to look a bit silly to promote it. Van Vuuren developed a new passion in quarantine and decided to share it. I’m sure the guys at Blendtec want these videos to sell blenders (and they have), but I love their infectious glee over seeing what kinds of crazy things their blender can pulverize. If you do a video — or anything — with passion, it is going to shine through.

Web video is an art form unto itself. If you see a traditional promotional video on YouTube, doesn’t it look out of place? Web video demands good pacing and evocative storytelling. For the highly overrated That’s Why I Chose Yale video, what didn’t work for me (and many others) was that the setup was a couple minutes long, which is longer than most web videos, period. YouTube in Classrooms may be run 10 minutes, but it hooked me right away, and its pacing and content kept me riveted. And Sivers’ TEDx talk is a YouTube video within a video, showing the form itself as something to study.

If you still want to post a response, you’re welcome to do so. Many thanks to those who responded to build this meme. It was fun, sure, but I think we also gained more insight into what goes into great video!


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pull vs. push: new media, new rules.

I had to leave a Facebook group I’d rather stay part of last week. Unfortunately, they did not understand that social media is a pull, not push, medium.

Every day I’d log into Facebook, seems I’d find a message or two in my inbox from them. They were sending me news releases. OK, not even — they were copying and pasting links to news releases into the inboxes of every group member. I’ve talked before about overcommunication via social media streams, but pushing overcommunication directly upon an affinity group is even worse. And I prefer my inbox for personal messages, thank you.

Social media works best on demand. If you’re trying to communicate, you do want to have an audience, know how to communicate and (one place the group failed) provide a message of value. The key is trying to pull them into an action: enticing them to read, to learn more, to engage … you’re not force-feeding them information.

Your readers are engaged in pull as well — pulling in only the messages they want from the sources they want. It’s like instead of picking up the paper and finding the opinion section and reading their favorite columnist, they merely pull in the latest column (blog) from that favored writer and don’t deal with the rest of the old routine.

Admittedly, communicating via social media has its advantages over traditional PR. Normally, we’d send news releases to editors who may discard them, may cut them down to briefs, may incorporate them into a story or may (shockingly) run almost as is. Then we rely on the audience to pick up the newspaper that day, happen to go to that page, and find it interesting enough to read beyond the headline (which we don’t necessarily control) and lead (ditto).

Facebook is a great example where, if you’re communicating for your college, non-profit or organization, you’re already finding your affinity group or customers. Or they’re finding you. They’ve self-selected, made a conscious decision to be your friend, join your group, become a fan. They’re receptive to messages if they provide some kind of value. They may accept a pushed message from you once in a while, but they’ve spent their whole life dealing with pushy salespeople in real life or on TV. If you repeatedly push messages upon them via social media, then you’re no better than any car salesman shouting at them from a TV.

It’s a new world, and new rules for communication. Actually, it’s more complicated than that: In Web 2.0, every user sets his or her rules. We need to pay attention and do our best to figure out what they are. And know that as they change, so should we.


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learning about social media goes both ways.

Feels like I’ve been on a social media barnstorming tour of campus, leading four sessions in the past two weeks. There’s no one reason for this — I was asked to do two, while the other two were my initiative — but just as with social media itself, the conversations in this sessions always teach me something as well.

I’ve talked to freshmen about social media and learned their habits. I gave a session titled Everybody Has A Mic: The Brave New World of Web 2.0 to people in the room and scattered across the world on Second Life. I presented Social Media 101 to staff members. And I imparted thoughts on social media and marketing to an Advanced Public Relations class. My own presentations notwithstanding, and with my observations on freshmen listed in another entry, here’s some of what I’ve learned back:

1) Social Media 101, as an hour topic, is too big for a wide audience. While most came to learn practical applications of social media, one attendee didn’t seem know what Facebook or blogs were. So maybe something so catch-all is too ambitious and unfocused. But then I saw a college running a whole course on how to use Twitter, which is excessive too. At some point, we’ll find a happy medium for a range of audiences and applicable topics.

2) Students’ use of social media changes during their time on campus. While sample sizes so far are small, what I’ve found backs up what I’d heard anecdotally. For the upperclass Advanced PR class, 20 of 20 were on Facebook (no surprise), 18 of 20 checked daily, 8 of 20 had MySpace accounts and 3 of 20 used Twitter. Recall for freshmen, all 15 had Facebook accounts they checked daily, 10 were on MySpace (though barely used it), none on Twitter. This slim sampling reflects what I’ve heard about college students abandoning MySpace and picking up Twitter in modest amounts, but I aim to do more surveying.

3) I may have given up on Second Life too quickly. Maybe it took viewing several avatars hearing my presentation virtually, but I finally see that Second Life does have untapped collaborative and communication potential. Maybe I’m just flattered someone from NASA would show up in SL to hear what I have to say. Maybe I still think the economics of outfitting an avatar seem too much like Dungeons and Dragons. But clearly my dismissing Second Life out of hand without learning more is as ill-informed as those who’ve never been on Twitter scoffing it’s all about people tweeting what they had for lunch.

This all also reflects what I’ve long believed: presenting is a two-way street. Just like in social media, every interaction and every conversation is an opportunity for enlightenment.


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how ‘social’ should social media be?

The question came across Twitter this weekend about social media identity, specifically mixing the personal with the professional. Should we keep them separate? How much should we put out there? Who should we let see it?

There are no manuals for such aspects of a 21st-century world, and the rules to a degree keep shifting. But it’s a sufficiently compelling topic that I at least wanted to start a discussion.

Fig. 1: The ever-popular Venn Diagram

Fig. 1: The ever-popular Venn Diagram

My thoughts are that, if you’re dedicated to social media, the personal and the professional necessarily overlap in some places — like a Venn diagram (above) — to show the real you. Your presence in blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other Web 2.0 platforms is different aspects of who you are. Perhaps only as much you as you want to show, but my favorite social media people show real personality. Real dilemmas, real concerns, real victories (however small) = really interesting. I find fairly useless those who only retweet (RT) others’ posts or self-styled experts/gurus who mainly regurgitate links, articles and platitudes. If a person doesn’t have a life beyond scouring the Internet, imho, their advice doesn’t have any real-world value — just as I wouldn’t trust someone who only watches TV talk shows to give me relationship advice.

Facebook, being the most popular among people I know, remains a prickly pear for some. But you do know you can limit the content you show to the world and even your friends, right? This neat blog post from Jessica Krywosa tells you more. I recently had two people ask to have their photos removed from a Fans page. The main reason? Because they were, you know, on Facebook! That evil Facebook!

But the most thorny issue deals with friend requests. Even with limitations, your friends can still see a lot of your life, and that I’m Facebook friends with our college president means I will never feel safe using the status line Tim Nekritz shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. But I do get friend requests from students and, recently, even prospective students. What do you do when that happens?

Everyone would handle it differently. Since I champion social media, I would feel like a hypocrite to refuse an earnest requested friendship, so I friend students back. I even approved friend requests from two prospective students — who seem to be friending everyone at their future alma mater — after they saw me put a helpful post on a group forum. Again, if I value social media as a communication form with prospective students, how could I do otherwise?

I should note, however, that I don’t put out friend requests to current students first (with the exception of my intern, because I was asking her to help maintain a Fans page). The reason is that I’m still most comfortable if a student wants to start a social-media interaction with me, not vice versa.

I’ll leave it there for now, because I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.


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pondering the point (.0) of web writing.

I’m presenting yet another workshop on Writing for the Web next month, but starting to wonder if I’m using outdated information.

When I served as chief content editor for our campus-wide redesign in 2003-04, prevailing literature suggested using phrased hypertext linking in clear, concise sentences driving a listener to action. I think that’s all still important but, in a Web 2.0 world, it seems like the amount of content in actual sentence form on the ‘Net is shrinking.

Currently, our Web site incorporates three plans for linking within the body of any page:

A sample oswego.edu page.

Fig. 1: A sample oswego.edu page.

Left/red circle: Sibling or structural links = related within directory structure

Center/green circle: Contextual links = phrases sending reader to information that sparks their interest

Right/blue circle: Related links = other pages that may interest the reader

As a creator and reader, I mostly employ/look for contextual links, but then that’s the tendency of someone who’s wanted to be a writer since I was four years old. Some others prefer navigating by structural or related links. Yet others just go straight to the search box and type in their term. All are valid ways of finding information.

But when I look at something like Facebook, arguably the top social-media presence going, the main links are structural or related. And short. Its navigation is certainly intuitive — anyone knows what links that say view photos or send message or view friends mean — but it provides a challenge, if not a full-blown conundrum, for those trying to teach others to write Web copy.

I certainly don’t think colleges should ditch Web writing in complete and grammatically correct sentences. Our primary pages should contain what we would call marketing copy (much as those words make some academics bristle) to make the pitch … but are readers becoming more accustomed to just searching for links or Twitteristic 140-character communication?

But then I took a step back and remembered that Web 2.0 is about conversations. Those conversations tend to take place in sentences, not just through posting links or photos (though links and photos can start/continue conversations). And good Web copy, like good advertising copy, should be in a conversational tone. The rise of Web 2.0 doesn’t demolish Web 1.0 … in some ways, it actually helps us understand traditional Web sites better.


Filed under Web, writing

wanted: college web speakers for suny cuad conference.

In a somewhat questionable move, I was recently appointed the Web track chair for this year’s SUNY CUAD Conference June 10 to 12 in Lake Placid. So I’m looking for interesting, informed, informative higher education professionals who may want to present to fellow college peeps.

Wanted: College-based doers who can discuss Web-related topics, particularly social media. Must have something to say and an ability to say it well. Perhaps have solved some common Web-related higher-ed challenge in a cost-effective way. Audience is college practitioners following such tracks as Web, marketing, PR, publications, alumni relations or development; ability to appeal to more than one track is a bonus.

The conference will take place at the High Peaks Resort in the lovely little Adirondack city of Lake Placid. The resort has a spa, a marvelous view of Mirror Lake … and even a Facebook page, Flickr tour and Twitter account (yay for Web 2.0!).

Conference organizers can cover travel and accommodations for presenters. Alas, we can not pay honoraria to track speakers due to a tight budget. I could be convinced to buy a drink or 10 for speakers if they so desire (those into microbrews may enjoy the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery). And our attending SUNY CUAD peeps tend to be wonderful down-to-earth folks and a lot of fun.

Interested? Feel free to drop me a line. Or even if you just want to suggest a good conference topic in the comment box, go ahead!


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social media: it’s not a trip to the dentist.

Back in college, I visited our dentist over winter break and he lamented that he wouldn’t be able to fix one of my cavities until I was home for spring break.

I said no prob — it mainly hurt when I’d open my mouth in cold weather to say hello to people around campus.

Then don’t say hi to people, he replied.

In a way, this is analogous to businesses — colleges included — debating the use of social media. The potential pain seems an impediment to trying to communicate. People worry about the time involved, of having one more task to do. Others don’t see the payoff; there are no 20-page annotated graph-filled Best Practices Reports yet, no clear return-on-investment model. Managers worry about the lack of control, of the perceived perils of empowering people to create conversations on your behalf.

But here’s the thing: If you’re a college, business or person of any renown — a brand, essentially — people are talking about you. A lot. All over the Internet. You can go to Addictomatic and type in any institution name and find the current Internet buzz in terms of news, blogs, videos, pictures, Twitter and other media. Don’t you want to be part of your brand’s conversation? Moreover, don’t you want to lead your brand’s conversation?

When I poured time, brain cells and hustle into launching the SUNY Oswego Student Blogs, I was often asked why. Social media is not just an emerging form of communication, it’s THE form of communication for many of our prospective students. Sure, we have to pay attention to print, TV and other traditional media, but more and more students receive their info from the Web. Colleges design elaborate student-led admissions programs for incoming students because they know current students are great ambassadors. So why not allow students to become cyber-ambassadors, whether as bloggers or on Facebook or other social media platforms?

Which brings us back to the barrier of perceived pain, and the beginning of my story. Did I stop saying hello to friends and others while walking around campus? Of course not. A little bit of discomfort is a part of life, but it shouldn’t be enough to keep us from enjoying quality conversations.

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