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.

Location Based Campus Tours with Gowalla

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Marketing, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts | Posted on 28-01-2010-05-2008

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Let me start by saying this is NOT going to be a blog post telling you to run to Foursquare and Gowalla because it’s the hottest thing since Twitter and you’re definitely going to want to invest all of your time and resources there. Because that’s not the case (yet?).

Gowalla, my preferred location based social network, has intrigued colleges and universities for months with its ‘Trips’ section of the site.  Trips provide a list of suggested spots for you to go to, and was previously a list up to the discretion of the Gowalla team.    It might be 5 famous restaurants in an area, or 10 great photography lookouts on the shore, or a bar crawl in Austin.  But until now, it’s been a headache trying to submit yours to the site.

That changed today.

According to the post, “You’ll be able to name your trip, give it a description, add up to 20 spots of your choosing, then publish it to Gowalla. Your published trips will be viewable in the Gowalla app by your friends. [...] Also, for now, you may only complete featured trips and trips created by your friends.”

I’m excited for this, particularly for one BlueFuego client that happens to have a very saturated population of iPhone users on its campus. I see value for First Week/Orientation, for visitors, and much more. But again, it works for some schools and will be extremely pointless for others. And if you create a trip for your university at this time, the only people who can see it are your friends. This might create a future headache of multiple tours of campus once everything is merged publicly.

Take a good look at your audience before investing too much time in these platforms.  But if you want to have some fun and try the newest toy, check out Gowalla or Foursquare today!

URoomSurf: FacebookGate 2010?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Community, Ethics, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts | Posted on 19-01-2010-05-2008

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If you’ve searched for your school’s Class of 2014 group on Facebook, you might have noticed another group come up in the search results. The group has your institution’s name in the title, but it’s a “roommate finder” sponsored by URoomSurf.com. The logo for the group, a gigantic blue U.

When I first saw these groups popping up, I immediately thought back to the College Prowler / MatchU incident for the Class of 2009, or as you might know it better, FacebookGate.  And here are the two things I thought to myself:

  1. Whoever is behind this is fully aware of what happened with FacebookGate last year.
  2. Whoever is behind this learned that as a community, we weren’t big fans of them 1) using our official logos and 2) calling it an official group.
  3. Whoever is behind this learned that it’s best to be transparent about who is behind the group.

This year’s story starts with Scott Kilmer from Abilene Christian University, a BlueFuego client. He started with a general inquiry to URoomSurf asking for them to provide the contact on ACU’s campus that has purchased their services and/or given permission for URoomSurf to host a matching program with the indication that ACU’s residence halls would be able to fulfill the requests created there. After URoomSurf noted there is no affiliation, Scott asked that they remove the group, which URoomSurf would not. They did, however, change the name of the group from “Abilene Christian University 2014″ to “ACU 2014″. (Luckily, ACU owns the copyrights for both and Scott will now be pointing to 2 lines of the Facebook TOC: 3) We will provide you with tools to help you protect your intellectual property rights. 5) If you repeatedly infringe other people’s intellectual property rights, we will disable your account when appropriate.)

So this is where it gets interesting. I passed the email chain over to the rest of the BlueFuego team to keep them in the loop, and Joe comes back to me with a simple email.  ”Does this name ring a bell???” The WHOIS on URoomSurf.com brings up this name: Justin Gaither.

Either the person behind URoomSurf is so intimate with the details of FacebookGate that they even decided to register the domain name after one of the perpetrators, or it is indeed Justin Gaither who is again behind it, back for round 2.  The same Justin Gaither who owned a company last year called MatchU, which had no web presence and was left largely unremembered/unscathed through the whole incident as College Prowler took the majority of the PR hit.

I’m leaving it open as to whether it’s Justin Gaither behind this again, but here’s what we also know.  It certainly makes sense to forget the MatchU name all together and go with something else to match roommates, such as “URoomSurf.” It also lines up that there’s yet to be a website for URoomSurf.com, just as last year with MatchU.

So, here we go again. :) Here’s the spreadsheet of all of the groups and member names to date, feel free to chip in. We’re already seeing the same trends as last year, such as common names starting groups as admins.

http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AoR-2dTA7L87dGRlZVRNUFRHaFJXN3M4REtBYS0yQmc&hl=en

Here’s the list of 499 colleges and universities that URoomSurf intends to target (also listed on the 2nd tab of the Google Doc). Feel free to search schools and fill in the spreadsheet with the information.

Last year I mentioned that I thought this would be less of an issue if they had 1) not pretended to be official institution accounts, 2) used copyrighted images, and 3) had been transparent about who was behind the group.   They certainly listened to the community.  So now that you know the information at hand, what do you think?  What is the institution’s place? Discuss in the comments below.

And a huge thanks to Joe and Scott for kicking this off and making this post happen with their sleuthing!

UPDATE: Scott has successfully gotten the ACU and Abilene Christian University trademarks removed from the group name. It’s now called “Incoming students going to college in Abilene and looking for roommates!!” and no longer shows in a search for ACU 2014.  Nice work, Scott!

UPDATE 2: It’s nice to see they’ve actually put a placeholder on their .com site. We’ll see what happens from here.

UPDATE 3: I removed erroneous claims pointing to a Craigslist ad.  After last year’s Craigslist connection with hiring students to do the dirty work, I overlooked a sentence and did not fully read the Craiglist ad I posted.

Before taking on that new project in 2010

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Marketing, Research, Technology, Thoughts, Web | Posted on 11-01-2010-05-2008

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Some questions you might ask before that you start that new project in 2010.

It’s always good to ask questions, both of yourself and others involved. It’ll likely make the project a little easier for you to implement and manage.

  1. Is it realistic?
  2. Do we have the staffing to manage it for long-term?
  3. What is our goal for this? Are we chasing tools instead of goals? (hat tip to @howardkang)
  4. Is this the right tool to make it happen?
  5. What other projects and initiatives will have to sacrifice from the time I need to invest into the new project?
  6. How many other schools/competitors are already doing this?
  7. Can we do it better or differently from them?
  8. Will I have the support I need to get it to a finished project?
  9. How can I document the success of this for my boss?
  10. Who could help me look at this with fresh eyes and give an alternative perspective?

Skydiving into the Social Web

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Higher Education, Marketing, Research, Social Media, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts | Posted on 06-01-2010-05-2008

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A couple of months ago I had a spare day on a client trip.  I went to on Tripadvisor.com to see what there was to do in Wollongong, Australia.  The number one result?  SkyDive the Beach. I decided to take the plunge and it was pretty amazing. (Video here.)

I’ve reflected back on that event many times in the past weeks, thinking of the rush, the thrill, the adrenaline (and more importantly, the landing!). I believe that skydiving can be a great metaphor for how we jump into the social web and use it. Stick with me.

Skydiving

Tandem Skydiving starts with some initial training.  Here’s how you jump out of the plane, and here’s how you land.  That’s it. Nothing can truly prepare you for what’s about to happen in a few short moments.

From there, you take a slow, spiraling plane ride up to 14,000 ft and you begin to see the world from a much broader view. Before you know it, you’re getting shoved out of a plane and you’re free-falling at 120+ miles per hour towards the earth.  You do this for about 9,000 feet, and then, hopefully, your parachute deploys.  It’s a violent jerk that lasts for a few seconds.  Your head is still spinning, but you start to feel a sense of calm.  And for the next 5,000 feet, you’re gliding and gently coasting through the air, still taking in the scenery, but from a much smaller perspective. You view of the world shrank from 15,000 to 5,000 feet.   You then zone in on your landing point, the end goal, and begin floating towards it.  You pull the strings to line yourself up, you get closer and closer, and you finally touch down to the ground, reaching your goal.

Social Web

The Social Web is a lot like Skydiving.  First, you hear about it. (We’re pretty much all past these first few stages, so reminisce for a bit.)  You look into it a little, and it seems fun. You sign up for it, and search around for some initial training.  Blogs, podcasts, and books provide you some general information of what you can do and what to expect.  But like skydiving, nothing can truly prepare you for what’s about to happen.   For example, there are intrinsic values of community managers and marketers that aren’t easily trained.  Like skydiving, a lot of learning comes from doing.

So you become ready to take the plunge.  You’re at the top, with your 15,000 foot view of the Social Web.  (And someone has probably shown you an image of the Social Media Landscape, a Conversation Prism, or an Ohio State Social Media Butterfly at this point.)  You have this great view of what’s possible, and you’re able to see it all.  It’s overwhelming, but thrilling.  It’s daunting, but it seems doable.

Next, you jump.  The freefall begins.  Your heart is racing, the new sites, tips, tricks, blog posts, links, tweets and tools are flying by you faster than you can consume them.  The first 9,000 feet go by so quickly you hardly have time to take it all in. You’re scrambling to make sense of what’s happening with it all.

Before you know it, your parachute springs opens at 5,000 feet. You now have a much smaller view of the world, a more targeted view. Your end goal is closer and much more visible, and you’re able to focus on it and move towards it more carefully and methodically by pulling the right strings in the right direction.

Where are you at in your jump?

I’m going to assume that for most of you, the parachute has deployed or you’re ending your initial free-fall.  You’re able to breathe a little more and you’re not looking at the 15,000 ft view of the social web anymore.  You’re down around 5,000 feet, focusing on a smaller landscape of tools and sites to work with.  Are you focusing on the goals more carefully now? Do you know where you want to land with your project?  And when you get there, are you ready to take it all on again?

If you haven’t deployed your parachute yet, maybe you’re thinking it’s time to settle in and focus on a few that work best. If you’re still freefalling, you might still be trying to decide how much is manageable and where it all fits in.  Regardless of where you are, know this:  many others have gone before you, many others will jump after you.  And for the most part, we’ll all survive. :)

Oh, and one more similarity. For both skydiving and the Social Web, you’ll definitely run into someone who says “I cannot believe you are doing this. You’re ridiculous.” Ignore them. Both are a blast. :)

Differentiation in Higher Ed Marketing

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Branding, Concepts, Marketing, Recruitment, Research, Strategy, Thoughts | Posted on 16-12-2009-05-2008

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There are countless blog posts about differentiation and standing out from your competitors. Rather than try to brush broad strokes about what I think schools should do differently, I think I’ll paint a different picture on this one.

Over the past two days I’ve been updating BlueFuego’s Social Web Research, which has exposed me on over 3,000 URLS for admissions, alumni, and .edu homepages of 1,000 university and college sites (400 sites to go!). I continue to see the same boring story again and again. So I decided to set up some advanced searches on common quotes and sayings that continue to pop up.

A Google search for “professors who know you” on .edu domains returns 14,000 URLs.
A Google search for “you’re a name, not a number” on .edu domains returns 18,200 URLS.
And to complete the Trifecta, a Google search for “not just a number” +”professors” +”small class sizes” returns 5,120 URLS.

(And if you want prospective students to “Become a VIP“, there are 16,799 other URLs just like you.)

Are you really that different?  Have you taken the time to look at your 10 most frequent cross-app schools to see what students see there?  I’d venture to guess there are more than a few similarities. I think back to this blog post, Give Them More Than The Expected, and encourage you to look outside of the basic/expected product and give them the Wow Factor.

Good luck. :)

When Chancellors Tweet

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Marketing, Technology, Twitter | Posted on 30-11-2009-05-2008

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Chancellors and Presidents on Twitter.  A glimpse into the daily life and events of a university’s highest ranking official.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Over the weekend, I was pointed to a tweet by @TeecycleTim, web extraordinaire and mastermind behind @MarquetteU. (Side note – Tim recently received a $1K donation from an alumni through direct message on Twitter. More on that later this week.)

Enter Biddy Martin (@Biddy_Martin), the Chancellor of UW Madison. Back in June, she announced that four furlough days would help reduce Wisconsin’s $6.6 billion budget deficit.  One day would be November 27, 2009, the day after Thanksgiving.

Fast forward five months to November 27th.  Michael Knetter (@DeanKnetter), Dean of the Wisconsin School of Business at UW-Madison, tweets:

And Biddy, in what was meant to be a direct message, responds:

My thoughts: Forget the Direct Message, Biddy! In the future, tweet that publicly (like you mistakenly did). It’s funny, it’s light-hearted, and it shows your human side. (Her PR team might beg to differ.) While I have no clue if you actually shouldn’t be tweeting during a furlough, I wouldn’t think it would matter. (Feel free to tell me I’m wrong in the comments below, I’ve never dealt with a furlough.)

One of my favorite examples of universities using Twitter comes from a Chancellor and President. Chancellor Nasser Paydar (@Paydar) from IU East and President Christopher Maples (@PresidentMaples) from Oregon Institute of Technology. Click the right arrow to go through the tweets.

Twitpic of your chancellor dunking a basketball on Twitter = Awesome.

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Are Teens on Twitter? My 2 Cents.

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Blogging, Concepts, Facebook, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Research, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter | Posted on 31-08-2009-05-2008

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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.)

Final Thoughts

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!

ACU Live! Building Community around the Globe

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Alumni, Community, Concepts, Embedding, Facebook, Higher Education, Marketing, Social Media, Strategy, Technology, Twitter, Video, Web | Posted on 26-08-2009-05-2008

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As many open their campus doors this week to new students, Abilene Christian University decided to open its doors to the entire globe.  And when the Opening Chapel kicked off at 11am on Monday, there were hundreds of alumni, parents and campus friends watching and praising along with the students.

BlueFuego and ACU paired up to create a virtual Opening Chapel, complete with uStream, Facebook and Twitter embeds at http://www.acu.edu/live.  In total, over 1500 people visited the stream within the hour, and a consistent 300-375 people watching at any moment. In total, there were 367 viewer hours on uStream for the hour of broadcasting! Alumni from around the US and as far as the Netherlands, Switzerland, Brazil, Germany, and even a village of 400 people in Ukraine tuned in to participate in the opening festivities.  For many, it was the first time seeing a Chapel since graduating from ACU.  From others, it was a way to participate when they couldn’t make the annual drive this year.  But for all, it was an experience that built affinity and pride in their alma mater, ACU.

And ACU is back at it again tomorrow night, for the season opening Football game.   Pictures on the scoreboard from the 1,000+ students with iPhones in their hands (take THAT, SEC!!), live viewing parties from around the US being pulled into the scoreboard via Skype, and much, much more.  All a part of the continued initiative to increase affinity and school spirit and utilize the available technology.  I can’t wait to get down to Texas tonight to prepare for tomorrow’s event, it’s going to be a blast.

Take a look below at the ACU Live page, complete with uStream Watershed, Facebook Fan Page and Live Stream embeds, as well as Twitter hashtag updates. Below that, read some of the updates from everyone watching the event. I’ll be honest, I got goosebumps seeing the community interact with each other and participate in this event.

You want to see a school who’s doing some of the most cutting-edge stuff in higher education?  Keep an eye on ACU.

2009 Digital Readiness Report

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Marketing, Research, Strategy, Web | Posted on 10-08-2009-05-2008

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Here’s a recent report that’s sure to ruffle a few feathers in the higher ed arena.

The 2009 Digital Readiness Report, a study conducted by Eric Schwartzman with the support of online newsroom provider iPressroom, Korn/Ferry International, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and Trendstream, also identifies which new media and social media communications skills are most important to today’s hiring decision makers.

(Don’t want to give your contact info? Here’s the direct link.)

The Digital Skills Rank, in order, for Academic Institutions is:

1. Blogging/Podcasting
1. Social Networking
2. Media Relations
3. Microblogging
4. SEO
5. Content Management
6. Email Marketing
7. Social Bookmarking

How would you rank these 8 items within your office?  Keep in mind this is from a PR perspective, but I certainly didn’t expect email marketing to fall slightly above Del.icio.us.