Taking Chats to a new level

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Analytics, Blogging, Higher Education, Lifecasting, Recruitment, Research, Technology, Thoughts, Video, Web | Posted on 30-10-2008-05-2008


Last night we had our Butler Bloggers Chat, which we do once a semester. It always has more students join than any other chat we do (What is Diversity at Butler University? Chat, Admitted Student Chat, Pharmacy Chat, International Student Chat, to name a few).

Last night the chat was from 8-10pm (I’ve done 7-9, 8-10, and 9-11pm.  8-10pm has been the most popular.) and we had 132 students come through. Last week’s diversity chat from 7-9pm had 22, for comparison, with the same group of students invited.

To learn more about the methods of promotion/emailing about the chat, read this post from last April.  For this post, I’d like to touch on some new methods I experimented with last night.

During last semester’s chat, I learned a few things:

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What is the ROI of Social Media?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Analytics, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Social Media, Thoughts | Posted on 29-10-2008-05-2008


I just read a great post by Jason Falls on the ROI of Social Media [Link].  It’s a must-read for anyone dealing with social media and sums some things that have been going through my head when trying to quantify the value/return on social media efforts.  Here are a few quotes that stand out to me from the article if you don’t have time to read the whole thing:

“The problem with trying to determine ROI for social media is you are trying to put numeric quantities around human interactions and conversations, which are not quantifiable. To illustrate that point for all our measurement and metric geeks out there, what you are trying to do is assign multiple choice scoring to an essay question. It’s not possible.”

“’Ultimately, the key question to ask when measuring engagement is, ‘Are we getting what we want out of the conversation?’ And, as stubborn as it sounds Mr. CEO, you don’t get money out of a conversation.”

“Avinash Kaushik says much of the same in his discussions on web analytics. This isn’t an end-around the need for ROI, it’s the answer. Or at least a big part of the answer.”

“If your goal is to participate in the conversation, to enhance your relationship with your audiences and become a trusted member of the community that surrounds your brand, then your measures should prove you’ve done those things. Your ROI is what you got out of the conversation, not what you got out of their checkbook.”

Well said, Jason. It’s exciting to be in a time when we are formulating all of this and are able to read and share thoughts and ideas with the leaders in the industry. Check out the post and comments and tell me what you think.

*update*: I DO think that it is important to track and find some sort of measure on social media efforts.  I just think it’s still too unclear on what the specific measurements are.  It’s almost as if I’m comparing apples to oranges when I look at different measurements for different campaigns/strategies on different platforms… if that makes sense. :)

Are you listening?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Free, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Social Media, Technology, Twitter, Usability, Web | Posted on 21-10-2008-05-2008


Are you listening to everything out there that’s being said about your school yet?

If you don’t have your ear on the train tracks, you’re never going to see it coming. And it’s going to hit you. Hard.

Some students would rather voice their opinions and concerns on the web than take the time to send you an email or *gasp* pick up the phone and call you.

Case in point:  Our online application was intermittently down for nearly 24 hours. Did anyone call us? No.  Did anyone email us? Nope.

Did Danielle voice her frustration on Twitter? Yes.

It just took a quick message for me to figure out the problem and realize that our online application was doing this:

Thanks, Danielle. Without your message, who knows how long it would have been or how many frustrated students would have turned around and not worried about trying to apply to Butler.

Interview Week: What’s happening?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts, Web | Posted on 17-10-2008-05-2008


This is part 5 of Interview Week at SquaredPeg.  Missed past interviews? Click below.
Interview Week [Part 1]: Jordan Goldman, CEO of Unigo.com
Interview Week [Part 2]: Pauline from “The ‘C’ Word”
Interview Week [Part 3]: Dara Crowfoot, DePaulQuad.com

Interview Week [Part 4]: Ben Jones, Oberlin College

To wrap up Interview Week I wanted to highlight a couple of projects out there that I think are pretty cool.  I hope you’ve found this week to be educational and has opened your eyes to some new ideas.  I’ve got a boat load of content to blog about in the coming weeks, lots of thought and application to some new and old ideas.

TweetChicagoAaron Rester at the University of Chicago is adding some Twitter API to their site to create this initiative. It’s a collection of Law School community members’ messages on Twitter. I love the clean layout, and always enjoy an integration of Twitter without the end user having to sign up or know what Twitter is.

CollegeSearch101.orgMike at Allegheny tipped me to a venture into the online video world in which the school is helping students find the university that’s right for them, even if it’s not Allegheny.  How did I know this concept was big? Listen to this. My co-worker’s Grandma saw the story in the local newspaper about CollegeSearch101.org and thought we at Butler would be interested.  So she hopped on to her WebTV and typed the article from the newspaper into the internets and sent it to us via email.  Transcending generations and going viral.  Nice job, Allegheny. :)

We Are Oberlin – You heard Ben talk about this in the video yesterday, but I just wanted to link it up.  The goal is to collect 1,000 personal stories from the Oberlin community to tell the story of the University through their site. Keep an eye on some of the stories at stories.oberlin.edu.


Keep up the great work, everyone.  You all motivate me to think harder and do better.

Interview Week: Ben Jones, Oberlin College

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Interview, Recruitment, Web, YouTube | Posted on 16-10-2008-05-2008


This is part 4 of Interview Week at SquaredPeg.  Missed past interviews? Click below.
Interview Week [Part 1]: Jordan Goldman, CEO of Unigo.com
Interview Week [Part 2]: Pauline from “The ‘C’ Word”
Interview Week [Part 3]: Dara Crowfoot, DePaulQuad.com


Wrapping up Interview Week here (and my 25th Birthday!) with a video interview.  If you don’t know the name Ben Jones, you might have been hiding under a rock for the past few years.  A pioneer and leader in the admissions blogging field at MIT, Ben has certainly set a standard for us all to reach in terms of the community surrounding MIT’s blogging efforts.  When I was asked in 2005 to be a student blogger at UIS during my senior year, I was told to “look at MIT’s blogging site” for reference.

Ben is now the VP of Communication at Oberlin College, his alma mater.  Watch this video interview with Ben as I ask him several questions about the new job and future projects.

Tomorrow, check back for a few more projects to keep an eye on. I hope you’ve enjoyed Interview Week at SquaredPeg!

Interview Week: Dara Crowfoot, DePaulQuad.com

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Alumni, Blogging, Concepts, Interview, Marketing, Recruitment, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts, Web | Posted on 15-10-2008-05-2008


This is part 3 of Interview Week at SquaredPeg.  Missed past interviews? Click below.
Interview Week [Part 1]: Jordan Goldman, CEO of Unigo.com
Interview Week [Part 2]: Pauline from “The ‘C’ Word”

Today we’re talking with Dara Crowfoot from DePaul University about DePaulQuad.com, a social network exclusively for parents of current students.  This hit my radar a while back and it was great to talk with Dara and learn more about the initiative, so I wanted to share it with you.

Dara is the Director of Marketing Strategy at DePaul, and comes from an impressive marketing background including time as the Director of Marketing of Verizon Avenue at Verizon and Assistant Brand Manager at Kraft General Foods.

SquaredPeg.com: When was DePaulQuad.com launched?
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Interview Week: Pauline from “The ‘C’ Word”

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Interview, Recruitment, Video, Vlogging, YouTube | Posted on 14-10-2008-05-2008


This is part 2 of Interview Week at SquaredPeg.  Missed yesterday? Click below.
Interview Week [Part 1]: Jordan Goldman, CEO of Unigo.com

A while back I listed “The ‘C’ Word” as a top 5 blog you should probably be reading. Pauline, the creator of the site and SquaredPeg fan, saw that I was going to be in Seattle for NACAC so she sent me an email and we met up to chat. She is a freshman at Seattle U and is fresh out of the recruitment cycle.

Here is a quick video interview with her about college and admissions.  Enjoy! And don’t forget to check out “The ‘C’ Word“.

Interview Week: Jordan Goldman, CEO of Unigo.com

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Free, Higher Education, Interview, Recruitment, Research, Technology, Thoughts, Web | Posted on 13-10-2008-05-2008


This week is special. Why? My birthday is on Thursday. That’s right, I turn 25 and cheaper car insurance is just around the corner (except for that speeding ticket I got last week…..). But you know how we do things here at SquaredPeg.com.  So keep your gift cards, animal balloons, and the keys to that Porsche.  Instead, here is my gift to you.  4 interviews with 4 people from all aspects of higher education.  And on Friday I’ll wrap it all up with some new projects to keep an eye on.

Today we’re going to kick off this 4-part series with an exclusive SquaredPeg.com interview with Jordan Goldman, CEO and founder of Unigo.com. Unigo is a new platform for college students to share reviews, photos, videos, documents, and more with students on their campus and across the country.

Alright, let’s get started.

SquaredPeg.com – Jordan, most people might not know it, but you’re no stranger to the Admissions. You were interviewed by the NY Times at 17 about the admissions process and later became subject of ‘The Gatekeepers’, a bestselling book.  You’ve also published two college guide books. What intrigues you so much about higher education admissions?

Jordan Goldman, CEO of Unigo.com

Jordan Goldman - I think … choosing what college you go to is an enormous decision.  It’s stressful, it’s incredibly expensive, in many cases entire families save for years and all chip in … and where you eventually go does shape you to an extent.  It helps teach you how to think, helps direct how you approach problems, helps define who you are and what you do with your life.

Up until very recently the best way to make this stressful, four-year, $50,000 to $250,000 decision was to buy a college guidebook.  And when I was 18, I came up with an idea to help make those guidebooks a little bit better – I created a series of 100% student-written college guidebooks, called Students’ Guide to Colleges’, that were published in a couple of editions from Penguin Books

About a year after I stopped doing Students’ Guide, I started thinking about the limitations of print guidebooks – each college only got a small number of pages, with no photos, no videos, no interactivity.  For a decision this important, that resource didn’t seem helpful enough.

High school students and parents needed more accurate, authentic, honest information.  And college students needed a place where they could really represent their college lives – if they loved their school, if they had issues with it, if they were someplace in-between.  The internet provided the opportunity to create an enormous, comprehensive and totally free resource that could help everyone.

I realize I’m going on a bit of a tangent here, on the very first question … but one of the things we were able to do with Unigo, that I think is pretty exciting, is that we strove to create something that was actually responsible and representative.  That we didn’t just sit back, open a review platform, and hope people came.

So what we did was, we hired an 18 person editorial team, and decided Unigo would initially cover 250 colleges.  We spent about 3 months researching every one of those colleges.  Then we hired interns on the ground, who really believed in what we were trying to accomplish and who helped corroborate our research.  For the next 5 months, we reached out to current students one by one, telling them we wanted to create this giant and honest resource and asking them to be a part of it.  We put in extra effort to ensure we received reviews from students from every major, extracurricular, gender, race, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation and more … students who love their school, who have issues with it, or have mixed feelings.

In the end, at 250 colleges, more than 15,000 students contributed more than 35,000 pieces of content.  In some cases, a full 10% of the student body took part.  And the value of having that volume of reviews is, if we have 150 reviews of a college, you can search by a variety of criteria.  You can say, only show me reviews by English majors, or African American students, or politically right-wing students at a left-wing institution … so you can see a school from the eyes of someone who’s just like you, and interact with them.  And as we go forward, we still have our 18 person editorial team, as well as the ability to rate, star, comment on and flag all content throughout the site.

SP -  You graduated college in 2004 and I finished in 2005.  Isn’t it amazing how much things have changed since we went through the process? What are the biggest game changers, in your opinion?

JG - I really think the internet transformed – or has the ability to transform, is still in the process of transforming – the entire educational landscape.  So much more information is available than ever before, ideas can spread and be shared and worked on collaboratively to create all sorts of new things.  And much of it is made available for free!   So many traditional barriers to access have been torn down.  It’s really exciting.  This has really broad applications – Project Gutenberg, for example, making tens of thousands of books instantly available to everyone, or Wikipedia putting an enormous range of knowledge instantly at our fingertips – and, in the case of Unigo, it means prospective students who previously couldn’t afford to go on campus tours all across the country, who weren’t able to grab a current student by the arm and ask them questions – now they have a way to find an amazing range of authentic information right from their living rooms.  Prospective students have a way to interact with one another and ask each other questions about these schools.  And they have the ability to see each college from the perspective of someone just like them. Sure, Columbia is a great school.  But is it a great school for African American students?  What about students from California?  Is it the same experience for a wealthy student as it is for someone a bit less well-off?  How about a conservative student, or a gay student?  Those are questions Unigo can instantly help you find the answer to.  We want to move the focus away from overly broad rankings that don’t tell you much of anything, and over to “What’s the college that’s actually best for YOU?”

Also, for current students, it gives them a platform to represent their experiences.  Previously, if they loved their school, there was no real way to share that with the world.  And if they had an issue with their college, they could protest in front of the library, but that’s about it.  Unigo lets them create content about their college lives, and see what their classmates are saying.  It really allows a conversation to start, that’s beneficial to other current students, but also for the institution, to be open to legitimate peer review, to assess what students are actually experiencing and perhaps change for the better as a result.

SP - Unigo is currently featuring approximately 225 schools.  Are there plans to get all institutions on the site?

JG – Absolutely.  In the coming months, Unigo will be expanding to include nearly every school in the country.

SP - Unigo might possibly be the tipping point for user generated content about universities. As students find their voice and start to share it, how should universities react?

JG - I really do hope that universities will embrace the idea of Unigo, even if they’re a bit wary at first.  Not only is Unigo one of the largest sources of college information, we also take great efforts to be among the most responsible sources.  And the site is a perfect way for administrators to see what students think about their schools. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses and acting on the information they read, administrators can improve students’ experiences—and ultimately their schools’ reputations. A number of universities have already contacted us and are pretty excited about the platform.

SP - Admission Offices are currently at a crossroads between traditional methods and electronic recruitment.  How does Unigo help fill that gap, both for the student and the school?

JG – I think … in the old way of doing things, administrators traveled from state to state, from high school to high school, explaining their colleges’ missions and programs to prospective students.  Now, with sites like Unigo, any student can instantly access a world of information about what it’s really like to attend these schools, direct from the real experts – the students who attend them.  Any student can find out about schools that are right for them instantly, from their living rooms.  It takes a lot of the mystery and anxiety out of the process for high school students, and (hopefully) removes a lot of the leg work to increase awareness from college administrators.

SP - Last question. SAT and ACT as a predictor for college success…. Thoughts?

JG - The SAT and ACT can provide useful metrics, but they should always be viewed as part of a much larger package.  A student’s scores are only a small part of who they are and what they’re capable of, and should ideally be assessed in that light.

SP - Thanks for your time, Jordan, and keep up the great work!  If you haven’t checked out Unigo.com yet, what are you waiting for? Click the image below.


Making a Viral Video

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Alumni, Analytics, Athletics, Blogging, Embedding, Facebook, Free, Higher Education, Marketing, Mascot, Recruitment, Research, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts, Video, Viral, Web, YouTube | Posted on 10-10-2008-05-2008


It’s been nearly one month since I created and released the Butler Blue II video during our missing mascot fiasco (no, they were never found).

I’ve refrained from posting on this until now because I wanted to allow enough time to look at stats and analytics on the video to say if it was a success or not. Conclusion?  Success.

I’ve never been one to throw the word ‘viral‘ around.  [Example] You can’t make a video ‘viral’, it’s up to the people who watch it if they want to pass it along.   But you CAN help the video become viral by choosing your key influencers and letting it go from there.

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Stamats08 Conference

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Conferences, Higher Education, Speaking, Technology, Web | Posted on 07-10-2008-05-2008


Remember when I told you to keep an eye on the HighEdWeb backchannel?  I hope you have been this week.

And like me, you’ve 1) probably felt a little left out, and 2) had no clue what some of the presentations were about.  I’m more of a front-end technology guy.  You all build the tools, I’ll figure out awesome ways to use them. :) Thanks, web geeks!

SO, are you ready to 1) experience an awesome conference, and 2) learn about the front end of technology such as analytics, social media, ROI, creating a web 2.0 plan, and more?

Well, my dear subscribers, I hope you’ll join me and many others at the Stamats Integrated Marketing Conference in St. Petersburg, FL from November 5-8, 2008.   Speakers include myself, Chris Brogan, Karlyn Morissette, Kyle James, Matt Herzberger, and several others. We wil discuss many of the hot topics in higher education, and you don’t want to miss out.

My presentation is titled ‘The Recruitment Long Tail’, and is shaping up to be my favorite presentation out of the ones I have put together.  While The Long Tail by Chris Anderson is certainly not required reading to come to the session, I certainly would encourage you to read the book for professional growth. The presentation stems from a post I did earlier in the year.  The good folks at Stamats asked me to come present it, and I’m looking forward to it.

It was at the Stamats 2006 conference, my first conference as a higher ed professional, where my eyes were opened to a world of possibilities in higher ed recruitment.  This will be my 3rd Stamats conference.

Budgets might be tight, and the economy might be down, but now is the time to start preparing your 2009-2010 recruitment plans and the Stamats Conference will provide you plenty of material to learn where to get started, how to do it, and how to measure the success of your campaigns. My personal goal is to give you your money’s worth in my allotted 1 hour of speaking, and I know others will not disappoint either.

Click here to register for Stamats08 for only $499!!