Can I have your attention, please?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Analytics, Higher Education, Marketing, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts, Viral, YouTube | Posted on 16-06-2010-05-2008

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I ran across this interesting graph at ThoughtGadgets, which shows data from TubeMogul, news outlets and “YouTube stars”.  The lifecycle of a typical YouTube video.

The half-life of a viral YouTube video is now 6 days. Charlie bit me.  David after Dentist.  Evolution of Dance.  Videos have typically stuck around for awhile.  Now, with increasing saturation of content and decreasing attention span (are you still there?), the shelf life of your efforts is quickly diminishing.  75% of eyeballs on a video happen in the first 20 days.  Viral lasted twice as long in 2008.  What’s the future hold?  More of the same.  I’d expect the half-life of a viral video to be 3-4 days within 18 months.

In the future, viral trends will come and go so quickly that most won’t even know they existed. This is huge to understand.  As the web continues to evolve into many micro-communities that make up the whole, it’s possible for trends and memes to sweep through certain areas but not others.   This isn’t the Twittersphere of 2008 anymore.

How to stay relevant and successful? Think narrow, not broad.  Focus on your direct, relevant audience. And most of all, just hope that luck is on your side.

Who’s Linking? Research on Social Web Callouts.

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Alumni, Analytics, Callouts, Embedding, Facebook, Flickr, Higher Education, Integration Week, Marketing, Recruitment, Research, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter, Web, YouTube | Posted on 13-03-2009-05-2008

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This post wraps up Integration Week at SquaredPeg.  Be sure to check out the posts from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday!

Today I’m lending the platform over to my partner and co-founder of BlueFuego, Joe Gaylor. Joe has spent the last week working on some very interesting research.  Over the past several months we have noticed that some schools are very up front with their social media efforts, other bury their hard work deep in a 3rd level text link.

While we don’t have specific research on this, we can tell you one thing:  To your target audience, the Facebook ‘F’ is probably just as familiar as other ‘brand name’ logos. So why not put it where they can see it? If you have a great Facebook page with tons of quality content and engagement, brag about it!

BlueFuegoAnalysis of Social Web Callouts on .edu Sites

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How #2013 will help us yield better.

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Analytics, Community, Facebook, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Research, Social Media, Strategy, Thoughts | Posted on 12-01-2009-05-2008

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With the saga of #2013 behind us, it’s time to focus on the future and how lessons learned can be applied to benefit your university. One benefit in particular that I am already seeing is the potential for increased yield over the Class of 2012.

I didn’t see anyone else do Class of 2012 research, but I am glad that I have mine to benchmark this year against last year’s numbers. (All details can be found at http://squaredpeg.com/index.php/class-of-2012-research/ .) I find it helpful to monitor the growth and conversation of the group.

Here’s what I’m seeing with #2013:  By actively promoting the Class of 2013 group rather than sitting on the sidelines, we are seeing more students join earlier in the decision process and connect with students in a meaningful way. I sent out an email to all admitted students (like I mentioned I would do in the #2013 post) and it had a 37% open rate with a click-to-open rate of 26%.

As of January 11th, the group already has more members than the 2012 group did on May 21st (338 vs. 331).  That means we’re nearly 4 months ahead this year in terms of growth. Looking at wall posts, there are more posts as of today than March 19 of last year (246 vs. 226).  So the conversation has begun more quickly and is continuing to grow. Discussion posts are growing as well, 317 to date compared to 298 on April 16th of last year.

Comparing same-week numbers between 2013 and 2012,  there are 1700% more members, 1130% more wall posts, and nearly 16000% more discussion posts.

So what does this mean? A few things.

  1. At Butler, we adhere to the National Candidate’s Reply Date of May 1. So the more we can engage students and connect with them before that date, the better.  More deposits are a good thing.  The fact that our Facebook group is larger than it was at last year’s May 1 date shows that we have a larger audience of the admit pool to help and engage.
  2. Our yield events are very early in the year, with the majority of them happening in January and February. Right now we are coming up on 2 yield events, and it’s the main point of the conversation in the Class of 2013 group.  Students are asking who’s going to be there, making plans to meet each other, and they are already meeting friends and finding roommates.  This didn’t happen last year.  If a student knows other students who are going to a yield event, they are much more likely to attend.
  3. 5 students who emailed/messaged me are now the Admins of the group, so they already feel like a part of the Butler community.  The more you can share this experience and feeling with others, the more you will yield.
  4. The conversation is evolving sooner. Last March, 3 months into the research, I posted:
    “Now, some general observations. The conversation has taken what I believe is a typical course for this type of online/community interaction: Starting at “where are you from?”, going to “what major”, then on to “what early reg date are you going to?” and finishing with a deeper connection level, such as Roommate surveys, what dorm to live in, meeting up this summer, etc.”
    With that conversation happening sooner and the deeper connection level evolving earlier in the year, I can assume that yield will be positively affected.  It reminds me of the college Brian Niles once mentioned that sends their roommate assignments out as early as February.  Kids basically yield each other because they connect and after the whole “are you going? yeah, are you going?” conversation they begin to plan their room.  While we still aren’t sending out roommate assignments until late summer, these conversations will still take place and help us yield better.

So there’s one positive outcome of #2013 and FacebookGate.  What’s your story? Where are you improving?  How has the story helped you approach administrators?

The Good Project Graveyard [Part 3]

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Analytics, Higher Education, Research, Thoughts, Video, YouTube | Posted on 01-12-2008-05-2008

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‘Part 3′ of this story was not planned. But it happened, and I wanted to share the ending with you.

I got back into the office this morning and received a forwarded email from a prospective student in response to the ‘You’ve Applied, what’s next?!’ email that I talked about in the last post.

A student responded to the email after seeing the video, and it brought the whole project together for me.  Delivering timely content at the moment a student needs it most wins every time.  AND it helped the rest of my staff see the power of a video that took a small portion of my day to put together and send out.

Here’s a screenshot of the email.

Needless to say, I’ll be doing this again.

The Good Project Graveyard [Part 2]

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Analytics, Free, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Research, Thoughts, Video, YouTube | Posted on 25-11-2008-05-2008

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When we last left off, a video project got sent to the good project graveyard, never to be seen again.

That’s not what this post is about.  This is about a video that survived. Why? It didn’t go to the dreaded committee, I just did it.

Looking at our comm flows, there is really no communication between when the application is submitted (Nov 15 deadline) and when the decisions are mailed (Dec. 17).  Isn’t this a great time for a touch point with a student? When they are just sitting around, wondering what’s going on with their app at your school?

So I decided to put a video together. I called Megan, a counselor and blogger, and told her what I wanted to do. 15 minutes later, we were ready to roll.  I grabbed the Kodak Zi6 and went up to her office.

The premise of the video would be this: Here’s what happens to your application after you submit it. Pretty simple, keep it around 2 minutes. No script, just say what you would say to a student if they asked what happened.  So we went around the office to various areas that an application will travel through, and filmed the video. We did the whole thing in 1 take.

Total filming time: 10 minutes
Total downloading/converting time: 15 minutes
Total editing time: 15 minutes
Total uploading to YouTube time: 15 minutes

Boom.  A fully ‘produced’ video in under one hour. So the next step was to get it in front of the students.  I put together an email, wrote the copy, designed it, and took it to my boss and said “I want to send this to everyone who has applied before the Nov 15th deadline.” She took a look at it, didn’t see anything that needed to be changed, and approved it. Alright!

The email was designed with the video as the call-to-action, and when the video is clicked the URL directs the student to our http://go.butler.edu/cs/forums area, where a post with the video was placed. So here is the email, the video, and the results.

The Email

The Video

1,303 views as of this post (the video has been live for 7.5 days, the email was sent 4.5 days ago). 2nd most viewed video on the Butler Bloggers YouTube channel.

The Results

99.1% emails were successfully sent.
There were 2,205 unique opens (52.3%). There were 3,391 total opens.
There were 1,157 unique clickthroughs (27.4%). So, 52.4% of those who opened the email also clicked through. (I like this measurement better than clickthroughs/sends.)
There were 1,444 total clickthroughs. (42.5% of total clickthroughs out of total opens)

The Analytics

YouTube Insights provides this nifty graph of the hotspots in the video. (Click to enlarge)

Google Analytics tells me what happened after we got them there.

The Feedback

I sent the video around to the office as well.  Everyone loved it and gave good comments and feedback on it.  The students who I’ve talked to that have seen the video also enjoyed it and found it helpful.

The ‘Next Time’

I see in Analytics that students did not stick around long on average.  Pages/Visit, time on site, and bounce rate are all way off the average mark for the site. I had put some links above the video to try and engage them in the BUForums more, but they seemed interested in the video only.  My Hot Spots tell me that the ‘dark scene’ was where I lost most students.  Maybe I could cut the video to 1:30 and leave out the part about the BUForums and Bloggers since they were already there?

In all, I consider this project worthwhile.  2 hours from idea to implementation, 25% of our app pool found out what happens to their app, and our BUForums increased by nearly 100 new students. Those who did stick around after the video are now getting more questions asked. The video avoided the good project graveyard and was successful.

As always, comments, suggestions and thoughts are appreciated. Leave a comment!

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

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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

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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. :)

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

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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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Split Test Your Emails: A or B?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Analytics, Concepts, Email, Thoughts, Usability | Posted on 11-08-2008-05-2008

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At eduWeb I chimed in about A/B testing on emails during the Q&A Session of Kyle James’ presentation (that’s me around 27:40).  I just wanted to share an example of a recent test that I did.

The email was to announce that our online app was available.  I knew from last year’s send that the subject line was fairly effective (“Butler’s Online App Now Available!”), so I wanted to take a look at the content and see where I could actually push more students to click through and take action.

For the 2007 send, it went to 14,650 students, and the results are below.

For 2008, we have 17,566 students to email.  Rather than do it the same as last year, I first ran an A/B Test. I left the first email the same as last year, and for the 2nd one I used a button graphic to see if it would help clickthrough rates increase.

Test A: Same email as last year.

Test B: Added a visual clickthrough.

Results: Each test was sent to 3,500 random students on 8/7/08.  The winning test after 36 hours would then be sent to the remaining 10,566 students.

Test A: 3,282 successful. 339 opens (10.3%), 72 click throughs (21.2%) as of 8/11
Test B: 3,292 successful. 719 opens (21.8%), 273 click throughs (38.0%) as of 8/11
2008 Send: 9,454 successful. 1,378 opens (14.6%), 449 click throughs (32.6%) as of 8/11

And for comparison,
2007 (1): 14,650 successful. 5,137 opens (35%), 853 click throughs (16%) after 1 month
2007 (2): 9,513 successful. 1,232 opens (13%), 270 click throughs (22%) after 1 month

So in first 4 days, we have had 47% of the opens as last year (2,436), and 93% of the click throughs (794).  These numbers will continue to rise as the days and weeks go on.  Based on early #’s, I can say that Test B has been a success, 34.4% click through rate to date compared to 17.6% click through rate over the course of last year’s entire campaign. Those are results.

Even if we don’t do a 2nd send this year, I think we’ll get close to the amount of opens we had last year cumulatively.  I might do a 2nd send with a different title to see how that affects open rates, using the content from Test B to continue to push click throughs higher.

I started thinking about the button after reading Designing The Obvious on a flight last week. It was a really good book and made me think more about how I can incorporate more design-friendly aspects into emails.

I’d encourage you to consider an A/B test in the future and see how you can make the most of your email campaigns.  This isn’t a new technique, but it’s usually overlooked.

Unexpected Growth

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Alumni, Analytics, Facebook, Higher Education, Recruitment, Research, Thoughts | Posted on 15-07-2008-05-2008

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I’ve been wracking my brains for a month now trying to figure out what happened, but it’s just an unexplained mystery. Nothing we did, just user-generated growth.

While presenting at the Innovative Educators Conference, I mentioned the Butler Facebook Page. I talked about how we had the name reserved, but weren’t really using it. And as I opened it, I said “I think it went over 200 Fans last night.” Sure enough, it was sitting there at 207 fans.

And during the days after the conference, I noticed the page views went way up. From 3-6/day to 80-100. “They must just be checking it out”, I figured. But the Fans were rising just as quickly. Surely the conference attendees weren’t become Fans of Butler University? So I check the recent fans, and sure enough they are all in the Butler network.

And the list keeps growing. And growing. It doubles within a week. I ask the Alumni office, they said nothing. No one in the Admission office did anything. When it hit 440 members on June 23rd, I figured I’d throw it into the Butler Class of 2012 group for fun. Now, my post is extremely outdated.

So what is the cause of this growth? And the bigger question, what should we do about it? Nothing? Are people joining the group to show their Butler pride on their Facebook profile? Do they like the group because there is no content?

The majority of members seem to be current students or alumni. Not exactly what I set out for it to be at first, but it’s still good that we have it in possession to utilize if we choose to. It seems that the group just snowballed one day. When you add the group, it puts the event on your mini-feed and other friends might see it on their home page.

I think right now I want to continue to grow the membership, add a little bit of content, and in a few years, hand it the keys over to the Alumni Office. What a resource that could be for them.