As I noted on Twitter at the beginning of the week, Butler University has come forth with a lawsuit against an anonymous blogger for making libelous and defamatory statements about administrators on his blog, The True BU. This post is intended to be a glimpse at how The True BU got started, as well as provide additional insight regarding my previous communications with the defendant. Everything posted here is factual to my knowledge.
Several things about this story (more at Inside Higher Ed) are interesting to me, being a former employee of Butler and one who had several conversations with the student being sued (while under his moniker).
A year ago to the day I posted the lawsuit link on Twitter, this student got his start as an anonymous commenter in our BUForums, an area that I was in charge of and the community manager for.
This student had previously applied to be a Butler Blogger, and I had several email correspondences with him regarding it.
We correctly guessed who the anonymous commenter was about 2 weeks after he began commenting in our forums, due to several pieces of ‘evidence’ that matched what he said with who we thought it was.
There is also a huge difference between how we handled the anonymous blogger in the Admissions area, and how the higher level university employees handled it.
Another week, another blog post about the continuing debate of the question “Are Teens on Twitter?”
We first heard from Mashable, who reported in early August that the “Stats Confirm It“. Then, the phrase ‘Teens Don’t Tweet’ was a trending topic all day long. Not because of the usual Mashable RT crowd, but because of teens coming out of the woodwork. At any given moment, search.twitter.com results would resemble something like this that day:
So the latest ‘research’ comes from a TechCrunch post, and it’s again spreading like wildfire. Don’t miss the first line of the article: “This guest post is written by Geoff Cook, cofounder and CEO of social networking site myYearbook.”
This research (or is it just a well-positioned promotion for MyYearbook??) is now causing people in higher ed to exclaim on Twitter that “More teens tweet than Facebook“. False. Absolutely False. According to the post, a higher percentage of twitter users are teens than the percentage of Facebook users who are teenagers. But when it comes to straight numbers, teens on Twitter don’t even compare to teens on Facebook. Not yet, anyways.
Looking at Quantcast.com data, 22% of Facebook’s 98.7 million monthly US viewers are 17 or younger. That’s 20,614,000 teens. On the Twitter side? 9% of Twitter’s 28.0 million monthly US viewers are 17 or younger. That’s 2,520,000 teens. According to that count, there are 818% more teens on Facebook each month vs. Twitter. More teens tweet than Facebook? Hardly.
Are they on Twitter? Are they not? What should we do?
Here’s the thing. Twitter should not be at the core of your marketing strategy. Yet. But should you have a presence? Absolutely. Do you need to know how to use the site? Yes. Are you building your presence and community as the site grows? I hope so.
If you use Twitter, remember the last time you complained about a bad experience with a company or site and they weren’t there to listen online? What about your favorite brands that you desire to interact with online and receive valuable information from? What do you think of them when they aren’t on Twitter, ready to listen? It’s a huge customer service opportunity. Conversations about your institution are happening all the time online, and in increasing frequency on Twitter.
Apply the same thought to your institution or office. Twitter is not going to solve all of your goals and objectives. But there are teens out there ready to engage and interact with you. They want to connect with you, and if you are not there, you’ve missed an opportunity. (Or worse, someone else takes over your brand/identity and runs with it like many universities we see in our research.)
The research is nice. But how much weight should you actually put into it? My challenge do you is this: do your own research. Throw a quick survey together and integrate it into first week activities.
IU East did, and found out that 67% of incoming students are on MySpace, while only 60% are on Facebook. (Twitter? 6%.) If IU East had just ‘followed the research’, they’d be listening to everyone who says MySpace is dead and missing out on reaching a large percentage of their student and alumni base.
Almost a year ago I reminded everyone to do their homework after a conference. The same thing goes for any research online. If you’re changing your entire marketing strategy based on what Mashable or TechCrunch posts on their site, you’re going to have some issues. And if you’re retweeting and spreading this information without even reading or confirming it… please stop.
What do you think?
Do you agree with the research that’s out there? Disagree? Indifferent? Let me know below in the comments!
Welcome to the April 8, 2009 edition of Carnival of College Admission! Thanks to Mark Montgomery at http://greatcollegeadvice.com for letting me host this edition. I have found some great content and new blogs from the submissions below. Take a few seconds to look at the great posts below; you’ll definitely find something new and interesting.
Adam Epstein presents Finding the Right Fit posted at Adamissions, saying, “Sure you have academics, location, and people. But remember that you are going to *live* in this location for the next four years. You need to be comfortable with your decision.”
Tom Williams presents Presentation – SM for Recruiting posted at InnoGage, saying, “The embedded presentation in this blog discusses social media strategies, technologies and monitoring to enhance and improve recruiting efforts.”
Khan presents The EMBA Story posted at Higher Education and Career Blog, saying, “Choosing an executive MBA program is like picking a mutual fund. There are so many choices that you have the nagging feeling that maybe you’ll choose the wrong one. Where should you begin?”
Last Friday’s post was the 200th post published to SquaredPeg.com. It’s been a great ride so far, thanks to all of you who read and share this blog with your coworkers, boss, colleagues and others.
The subscriber #’s for this blog have really grown in the past 6-8 months, which means you might have missed a lot of the early content. Some of it was pretty bad, but some is worth mentioning again. Here is a list of the ‘top 10%’ of SquaredPeg…. 20 posts to take a first look at, or revisit if you’ve been around since the beginning. Enjoy!
This great post by Ron Bronson wanted me to talk a little more about a slide I use in several presentations, dealing with your .edu website vs. social media. One line in particular that stood out to me in Ron’s post is:
But using social networks can’t be viewed as a panacea, instead, we need to establish why we’re using them and adhere to that purpose.
Before you establish why you’re using social networks, I’d encourage you to first take a look at your foundation.
As a homeowner, you want to make sure your house has a solid foundation. If you build on a bad one, you might be alright in the short run but you’re as good as done over time. No one wants to build on a bad foundation, and your social media efforts should be no different.
I always use this slide in presentations before diving into the ‘fun stuff’. Why? Because without a solid website, you’re like the homeowner who’s building on sand. Schools are using social media to essentially have new avenues to reach out to people, connect with them, be a part of the conversation, and build that relationship. But are they applying to your school there? Are they asking for more information? Are they giving a donation? For most schools, no (and I would say… not yet, but soon). For most colleges and universities, you are using these tools, but the end goal is to get them to take action on your website.
Here’s the point: You can do the coolest stuff on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube, but if the student gets to your site and can’t figure out how to apply or get more information, you have failed. Make sure your .edu website is solid. In most cases, it is… but a little usability testing can go a long way. (PS – you can do it with $10 and 10 minutes.) Do the little things now and you’ll succeed in the long run.
How does it work? First, you login at the top using your Twitter login credentials. Buzzable says your password is encrypted and will never be shared!
Then, go to http://www.buzzable.com/highered and join the group. When you post a question here, it also posts it to your twitter account with a link to the Buzzable group. Any responses that are made to your question from the Buzzable group are threaded as a conversation, making it extremely easy to keep track of everything being said. You’ll likely even find new people to follow out of the 40+ who have already joined the group!
To keep track of everything being said in the Buzzable group without having to login, you can also follow @higheredbuzz, where all tweets are being aggregated. But responding to @higheredbuzz or just responding in general won’t add your comment to the thread; you have to go through Buzzable to do that.
I am very excited to share with you a recent study that comes from UMass Dartmouth, which looks at social media usage within college admission offices at 4-year universities.
Guess what? We’re doing pretty good. As one who has been advocating and pushing the usage of social media in higher ed recruitment for a few years now, I just wanted to pass along some information from the study as well as a ‘thank you!’ to all of you out there helping to make it happen.
According to the 10 page document, which states “The new study compares adoption of social media between 2007 and 2008 by the admissions offices of all the four-year accredited institutions in the United States”, in 2007 “institutions of higher education were outpacing the more traditional Fortune 500 companies as well as the innovative Inc. 500 companies in their use of social media to communicate with their customers (i.e., students).”
In 2007, 8% of the Fortune 500 companies were blogging compared to 19% of the Inc. 500 and 32% of college admission departments.
In 2008, 13% of the Fortune 500 companies were blogging compared to 39% of the Inc. 500 and 41% of college admission departments.
Some statistics to note
More private schools have blogs than public schools (72% vs. 28%)
50% of schools with undergrad enrollment <2,000 have blogs.
Only 8% of schools use an internally developed application for a blog platform.
More schools are allowing comments on their blogs in ’08 vs ’07 (61% vs. 72%)
54% of schools monitor the internet for buzz, posts and conversations about their institution (still not high enough, in my opinion!)
29% of admission offices used social networking in 2007. 61% of schools did in 2008.
The % of schools not using any social media in their recruitment strategy dropped from 39% in 2007 to 15% in 2008.
85% of institutions are using at least one form of social media. Usage is up for every tool studied.
I’ll leave some for you to look at. Make sure you download the PDF or DOC at the bottom of the link above and check it out.
I look forward to seeing these numbers continue to rise!
There is a lively discussion on the comments of my previous post as well as many other posts in the blogosphere about the situation and implications surrounding it. 11,000 hits in 24 hours… thanks for spreading the word.
In an effort to continue my mantra of ‘educate and inform‘, I wanted to post separately to highlight this. On Monday I will host 2 free webinars (or more if demand warrants it) to briefly touch on the situation, offer suggestions and advice, and answer any questions that you have about Facebook or social media in general.
The webinars are limited to 20 connections. If your school connects and has a projector, you can have as many as you’d like in the room. You must register with a .edu email address or I will ignore your request for a ticket. Just want to make sure that the proper people are getting the seats! If you are already a social media maven, please consider leaving a spot for someone who might need the help.
Thanks again. Keep the discussion flowing, I’m enjoying all of your thoughts and comments.
I really need you to listen up for this post. Please.
Something is going down on Facebook, and it has implications for your school.
Several weeks ago I was contacted by my friend and colleague Michelle at Winthrop about some questions pertaining to her Class of 2013 Facebook Group. The email read:
Since we are on rolling admissions I’ve been watching to see when a 2013 group would spring up. Interestingly we have no info on 18 of the 23 members. In fact, even though they are all out of state they all (include two 08 alum of Miami) seem to be connected. My only thought is that they could be a group of squatters? Would that even be beneficial to them? Have you see anything like this or have any thoughts?
I did some research for her, and looked through the friends of Patrick Kelly, the creator of the group. At first, I saw nothing out of the ordinary other than the two ’08 alumni and the fact that this small group of 16-18 students were all interconnected with each other, like she said.
Yesterday, we sent out our admit packets. Today, I got on Facebook to see if a Class of 2013 group had popped up yet. I found 2. One has the exact logo that was used for last year’s group, a non-Butler bulldog image, so I click on that one. And I look at the Creator of the group. Patrick Kelly, Plano Senior High School. I check our system. No Patrick Kelly that has applied and been admitted to Butler.
I dig deeper into Facebook, searching for ‘Class of 2013′ groups. And here’s a list of what I find.
And guess what? This is only from the first 7 pages of a search that returns more than 500 results. Start looking at the names of the group creators and admins.
See how many times those names appear in admin for these groups, and look at their friends and see how many times those names pop up. A LOT. This isn’t just the Common App Effect, where students apply to every school under the sun. These people aren’t interested in going to every school they have started a group for. No, this is an inside ring with a common purpose. They don’t always create the group, but they do always get in, friend someone, and get control rights.
You might have the same thought I had at first. I responded to Megan, “That is very interesting. I don’t really see where squatting could be beneficial. After all, the students who join and participate will steer the group in whatever direction they take it. I’ve never heard of anything like that.”
Sure, not for one school. Not for tiny little Butler, with 900 incoming students.
But for 500+ schools? Owning the admin rights to groups equaling easily 1,000,000+ freshman college students?
Think of it: Sitting back for 8-10 months, (even a few years), maybe friending everyone and posing as an incoming student. Think of the data collection. The opportunities down the road to push affiliate links. The opportunity to appear to be an ‘Admin’ of Your School Class of 2013. The chance to message alumni down the road. The list of possibilities goes on and on and on.
I’ve said many times, step back and let the student group start on its own. Today, I change that position. It seems that we have been gamed, and we need to at least own the admin rights to the group in an effort to protect our incoming students. To end the possibility of them being pushed ads and “buy these sheets for college” stuff this summer. You know there is a motive behind all of this. And you know it has to do with money. And you KNOW you’re going to get calls about it when it happens.
Tomorrow I will set up the OFFICIAL Butler Class of 2013 group. Tomorrow we will promote it to our students, and explain to them why the other groups are potential spam. Tomorrow I will let them know we are not there to moderate them, but merely to provide the safe platform for them to interact and get to know each other. I encourage you to consider the same.
For most of us, tomorrow is too late already. Luckily my group has 2 students in it. Most schools are at 300+ students and growing every day. Make an effort now.
I can’t wrap my head around this all the way yet. I’ll be back around 9pm to write more. Please, join me and comment with your thoughts. What I have said above might not be the right solution. Maybe it involves Facebook’s help to take the ring down. For the first time, I truly believe we can’t sit back on this one. If you see more schools, add them to the list. Together we can figure out a solution for our incoming students.
And please, blog/tweet/email this out to others and link to this so we can have a common place to figure out the best steps.
I have created a Google Doc to start trying to tie the schools all together. Collab with me! http://bit.ly/W1Cg
It’s pretty neat to see everyone working together! Check it out. Thanks for your help!
To keep an eye on the twitter backstream as well, click here.
We have over 200 schools and are starting to notice some patterns. Certain names are affiliated with bigger schools, and others are with smaller schools. Some people are usually ‘creator’ and others are always ‘admin’.
A lot of the names are linking back to College Prowler. More updates after we do some research. *HUGE SHOUTOUT to the 15+ people helping out in the Google Document and on Twitter. You’re all awesome. Be sure to leave a comment so I can recognize you properly.
We feel we can reasonably confirm that College Prowler is behind the mass creation of ‘Class of 2013′ groups on Facebook. More to come.
Out of the 243 ‘Class of 2013′ groups we listed on the Google Doc, these are the most frequent names (n=493) listed as Creator or Admin of the group:
Ron Tressler – 58
Justin Gaither – 55
Josh Egan – 42
Jasmine Smith – 20
Ashley Thomas – 20
Mark Tressler – 10
James Gaither – 10
Searching these names on Google, my colleagues found several direct connections to College Prowler via LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, and more. Perhaps the most disheartening tidbit we found was a post spread across the US on Craiglist. Here is an example of a local ad put out for a ‘Facebook Marketing Internship‘.
“Viral Marketing Internship (Spring Semester)
An internship that combines the addicting glory of facebook with viral marketing? It’s true. College Prowler Inc., the Pittsburgh-based publisher of the only complete series of college insiders’ guides written by students, is actively seeking an unpaid viral marketing intern who has a solid understanding of the web, social networking, and interactive marketing. Responsibilities
- Implement Facebook marketing campaigns that will engage high school and college students
Hours: 15 hours per week
Salary: Unpaid, internship credit
UNPAID to do the dirty work. What a shame.
I am not here to say that College Prowler is a bad company. There was obviously a business motive behind the decision to create 250+ Class of 2013 groups. Unfortunately, we may never know that decision now that this has been brought into the light by the higher ed community. Stories can quickly be changed. An incentive can be a service with one PR release. Truthfully, I hope we don’t find out what future plans were down the road for this massive infrastructure that has been laid across Facebook to unsuspecting high school seniors.
I do need some sleep. I’ll revisit this again in the morning. Please add your thoughts and reflections and ramifications as a comment below. And again, thanks for your help everyone.
One thing that concerns me, after sitting back and looking at this. Most (75+%) of the students who are joining these groups list themselves as ’09 high school students. The position is for a college internship. I don’t know too many high school seniors looking to pick up an internship in the spring of their junior year. It reeks of inauthenticity. I also noticed several high school names popping up throughout as the networks that these people were a part of. Last I knew, to be a high school student and join a network you just had to have 3 people confirm you went there. Join a school, add random people as friends to confirm you (you’d be surprised at how many students would probably do this for someone they have never met or heard of), and you’re in. Also, I have noticed that the friend list of these ‘students’ are often alphabetical. Start with an A search and friend students until you get what you need.
*added 9:45am, Friday
With recent talk on Twitter about what a school’s role should be on a Facebook group, I thought this research would be timely. (To see all of my Class of 2012 Facebook Group research from last year, please visit this page.) I surveyed our incoming class of 915 students, and about 315 responded. These questions relate to the Class of 2012 Facebook Group:
16. Did other universities and colleges use these type of sites to contact you?
Yes: 70 22.44%
No: 242 77.56%
17. Were you ever helped with a question about Butler through a social media site?
For example: Facebook, Butler Bloggers/Forums, Zinch, etc.
Yes: 195 62.50%
No: 117 37.50%
18. How helpful is it to ask questions about Butler on sites like the BUForums or Facebook?
1 being ‘Not helpful. I would rather call.’
5 being ‘Very helpful. I like using the internet to get info.’
1 – 23
2 – 17
3 – 80
4 – 93
5 – 94 Average: 3.71
21. Butler Admissions’ involvement in the Class of ’12 Facebook group was:
1 being ‘Too much. Let us have our own area.’ 1 4
5 being ‘Perfect. Got questions answered when I needed help.’ 2 13
1 – 4
2 – 13
3 – 114
4 – 110
5 – 52 Average: 3.66
My research shows that it’s ok for us to be involved in a ‘Class of xxxx’ group.
I have chatted with reporters at both The Chronicle of Higher Ed and Inside Higher Ed. Serious interest from them. Also emailed my contacts at Chicago Tribune and Campus Technology. Thanks to Sarah Evans at http://www.prsarahevans.com for her PR help. Might have a lead for a CNN story next week.
*added 7:51pm, Friday
I’m planning a small, free web-based roundtable next week for anyone who is completely lost and needs some help or clarification. More details to come. Thanks again for all your content creation and collaboration.
I’ve started Butler’s official group and drafted the email to all admitted students to notify them of the group and the tiny role we will play in it. I have asked in the email for students who wish to be the moderators/admins of the groups. That’s where we are at right now.