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. :)

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.

Robots are invading your web presence.

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Research, Social Media, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts | Posted on 05-08-2009-05-2008

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Robots by Dan CoulterI’ve noticed a disturbing trend recently across many campuses.  Social web presences for colleges and universities are being operated by robots… or so it seems.

As schools grapple with more, more, more and even more places on the social web to interact/update/moderate/maintain/upgrade, they are quickly losing the personal touch with their audience.  Tools are available to make it easy to spread information out to multiple platforms, but every website is different. Every community is different.  And, with a few exceptions, every update you post should be different.

Your audience on Facebook is different than LinkedIn. And that crowd is different than Twitter. 1 message does not fit all. A ‘Social Media Marketing Checklist‘ is not going to make you do things better, but it is going to inundate you with endless tasks that make you lose sight of what’s important in your marketing strategy.

Keep it simple: Be human, interact with others, and keep your institution on their mind. Don’t get stuck in the rut of ‘I have to do this on Monday, this on Wednesday, this twice on Thursday….” Be flexible and be a part of the community.  Our research is proving it, being human wins every time.

Start by taking an honest look at your audience and how they want to get your information, and serve that audience first. (Alumni, Young Alumni, Current and Prospective students might all differ.) Ask them, like the FGCU Alumni Office did.  Take a look at this response. And the same with University of Miami when they asked “Facebook or Twitter?” Then build your presence from there, adding in what you can manage.

Social Web Callouts: Research from BlueFuego!

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Alumni, Callouts, Facebook, Flickr, Higher Education, Research, Social Media, Strategy, Technology, YouTube | Posted on 03-08-2009-05-2008

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SquaredPeg is back with a new design and ready for another academic year! After a few months off from blogging I’ve had some time to get re-energized about this site and am looking forward to the coming months!

We released our initial BlueFuego research on Social Web Callouts on SquaredPeg 6 months ago and figured that the numbers were going to quickly grow. Now that we’ve compiled and crunched the numbers again, we’re excited to share some of our findings with you. Please feel free to pass this along to your co-workers and colleagues, especially if you are trying to make the case for your institution!

Social Web Callouts in Higher Ed

Of the 1,387 four year schools researched on August 1, 2009:
562 schools (40.5%) had one or more Social Web Callouts (SWC’s) within the criteria.
54 schools (3.9%) had SWC’s on all three criteria (Main, Admission, Alumni).
161 schools (11.6%) had SWC’s on 2 of the 3 criteria.

Of the 1,387 schools, 247 (17.8%) had SWC’s or links on the main .edu homepage. Of these 247 schools:
78.1% linked to Facebook
64.4% linked to Twitter
44.5% linked to YouTube
21.0% linked to Flickr
12.2% linked to MySpace
9.3% linked to LinkedIn
6.1% linked to YouTube (Embed)

Of the 1,387 schools, 235 (16.9%) had SWC’s or links on the main Admissions site. Of these 235 schools:
80.9% linked to Facebook
45.6% linked to Twitter
29.8% linked to YouTube
12.3% linked to Flickr
10.2% linked to MySpace
9.9% linked to YouTube (Embed)
3.4% linked to LinkedIn

Of the 1,387 schools, 282 (20.3%) had SWC’s or links from main Alumni site. Of these 282 schools:
87.23% linked to Facebook
42.20% linked to LinkedIn
40.78% linked to Twitter
18.44% linked to YouTube
12.06% linked to Flickr
11.77% linked to MySpace
5.32% linked to YouTube (Embed)

Simple Tip: Find and Follow

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Facebook, Higher Education, Recruitment, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter, Web | Posted on 18-05-2009-05-2008

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We’re heavy in commencement season, which means hundreds and thousands of people are sitting uncomfortably close to strangers and relatives for what seems like eternity to watch someone walk across the stage for 15 seconds.

So what’s a person to do when boredom sets in and they’ve read the pamphlet 3 times?  For some people, it’s time to update Twitter.

Bored Commencement

So what’s an institution to do?  Find and Follow.

Get on http://search.twitter.com, search for your institution and try several variations.  Abbreviations of the name, acronyms of the school, and the words commencement, graduation, etc.   You might be surprised at how many people you find.  And isn’t that what Twitter is all about?  Expanding your network to be able to interact with and share information with people who have an interest or connection to your institution.

Define your Efforts: Social Web Recruitment Funnel

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Facebook, Flickr, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Research, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter, Web, YouTube, Zinch | Posted on 13-05-2009-05-2008

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I’ve had this thought bouncing around in my head that came out of a client visit/strategy session… a visualization of the traditional recruitment funnel in terms of the social web.  This is what I came up with.

(Click Photo to Enlarge)

*NOTE* –   This chart is by no means inclusive of all sites or tools available. This chart is meant as a visualization of strategy to help you think about a framework for your recruitment efforts.  This chart is meant to be thought about, modified to fit, and executed as resources are available.

The Social Web Recruitment Funnel

The Funnel resembles a traditional recruitment funnel (suspects -> prospects -> applicants -> admits -> enrolled), and is designed to dissect 3 areas of recruitment:  Seek, Engage and Retain.

Seek.

The students are not always going to look for you.  Traditional methods such as name buys, print and email still hold a place in your marketing/recruitment arsenal.  But take a good look at web-based tools and sites, for example: Zinch, CollegeBoard and Cappex. Facebook might also be a method of seeking potential applicants and this platform can be leveraged as a great place for prospective student Q&A.  Use email and print to reinforce your message and to drive students to your social web efforts. Your .edu website is still important and things such as ‘Get more info’ need to be prominent and easy to find/fill out.

Engage.

This is where it gets fun.  Build your social web presence to start engaging and interacting with these prospective students.  Think outside of the box. Never before have we had access to so many opportunities to connect and utilize free tools, but approach with caution and don’t overwhelm your audience.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  It’s easier to make your web presence bigger. It’s much harder to shrink your web presence and cut connections and friendships with others on a platform you decide to no longer utilize or maintain. Allow them the opportunity to engage with you from the moment they show interest to the moment they step on campus.

Retain.

After the applications come in, your pool has decreased significantly in size.  Take the opportunity to create community with these students and allow them to interact with each other.  Host the conversation or set up a Facebook group for them to interact.  Promote it heavily through traditional methods such as email and print, but drive them to the conversation. If possible, scale back your efforts to a smaller collection of tools for this select group and focus on community management and getting them excited about your school and brand. Outside of the social web, continue interactions via yielding events and personal phone calls.  Use the web to enhance these connections and to network the students together.

Final Thoughts

These thoughts are from the 30,000 ft. view and hundreds of other decisions and ideas would go into each effort. A well-defined strategy would incorporate many, but not all, of these social web tools.  The most important thing is to know where your audience is and cater to them.

If you have any thoughts or comments, leave a message below or shoot me a message on Twitter (@bradjward).


Are you ready to Ignite the Fuego and work with BlueFuego on your strategy? Contact us today.
Twitter for Higher Ed Webinar: Back by popular demand!  June 10th, only $99.  Click to Register.

Celebrate! 200 posts at SquaredPeg.com.

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Blogging, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts, Web | Posted on 16-03-2009-05-2008

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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!

Top 6 Posts (# of Views)

  1. FacebookGate (December 18, 2008)
  2. 10 Reasons to Monitor Twitter (September 23, 2008)
  3. Flickr, Your Electronic Photo Database? (April 24, 2008)
  4. Want $100 in free Facebook Ads? (June 30, 2008)
  5. Try this one on your Boss (February 12, 2008)
  6. Class of 2012 Facebook Research (January 3 – July 31, 2008)

Top 5 Posts (Comments)

  1. FacebookGate (December 18, 2008 – 262 comments)
  2. Implementing Social Media on your Campus (December 9, 2008 – 43 comments)
  3. Let’s Kick it up a Notch (August 8, 2008 – 30 comments)
  4. Transitioning out of a Job (January 26, 2009 – 21 comments)
  5. What’s the ROI of Social Media? (October 29, 2008 – 21 comments)

Top 4 Favorite Ideas or Thoughts

  1. Lifecasters: Second Try (January 29, 2008)
  2. Twitter with Student Bloggers (May 15, 2008)
  3. Taking Chats to a New Level (October 30, 2008)
  4. Good Project Graveyard [Part 2] (November 25, 2008)

Top 3 posts that never got a comment:

  1. The Way Users Do Things (December 14, 2007)
  2. Good Project Graveyard [Part 3] (December 1, 2008)
  3. Blue II is Live (March 3, 2008)

Top 2 posts I wish I hadn’t written:

  1. Keep an eye on Twingr (November 14, 2008)
  2. SocioTown: A 3D Social MMOG (November 21, 2007)

1 post that changed my life:

  1. The Value of Face Time (September 13, 2007) – The beginning of the path towards BlueFuego.  Good stuff. :)

Thanks again to all of you who read or subscribe (RSS or EMAIL!). I really appreciate it. :)

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Make your email work harder.

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Integration Week, Marketing, Recruitment, Social Media, Web | Posted on 12-03-2009-05-2008

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This 4th installment of the impromptu ‘Integration Week’ follows 2 examples of integrating social media into your current tactics and a brief discussion on Monday about the topic.

Today I want to share a simple, effective way that you can drive traffic to social media efforts on the web.

Yesterday I received an email from Nancy (@nancypricer on Twitter, as you may know!) about her registration for the upcoming Twitter for Higher Ed webinar. What I love about the email is how she has linked several social media sites of her University in the signature!

(click photo to enlarge)

webinar

We all send email.  A lot of it, actually.  So why not make it work harder for you?  This struck me as an extremely easy example of a way to drive traffic and get some eyeballs on your hard work.  If you’re an admission counselor, think of how many students/families you email with in a typical recruitment cycle.  You’re bound to get some clicks and some new fans/followers.

Tomorrow, to finish up Integration Week, I’m excited to share some research that Joe has been working on for over a week, dealing with social media integration.  It’ll be a great end to the week, and you won’t want to miss it.


Want to join @nancypricer and @tarletonstate and learn more about Twitter for Higher Education? Sign up for the upcoming webinar on April 9th or 10th!  Only $99 to attend. Learn more and register at http://twitter-higher-ed.eventbrite.com.

Integrating Twitter into the Application Process

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Integration Week, Recruitment, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts | Posted on 11-03-2009-05-2008

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Maybe this week should just become Integration Week at SquaredPeg?  Monday we talked about some theory of integrating social media and yesterday I showed an example of using text + traditional media to reach an audience.

Today I want to chat about an example that I found while doing some client research for BlueFuego.  Davidson College has put a twist on using Twitter in Admissions. They pull 140 characters from student applications and tweet them, then mark the student on a  Google Map to show how far their app pool reaches across the states. The project is nearing completion, with 3 weeks to go.

From their site:

Twice daily throughout January, February, and March we’ll update our Davidson Admission Twitter feed with a quotation, shared anonymously, from an actual applicant to Davidson College.  We’ll also plot that applicant on a Google Map of the world — to show you just how far-reaching these student perspectives actually are.

We hope this project — at the very least – will help showcase the power of the Davidson applicant pool.

Google Map

@DCAdmission

Here are my 3 suggestions to make this work better:

  • Since you have some international applications, share tidbits from them too! Currently the map only shows students in the States. Truly be ‘far-reaching’.
  • Since Davidson isn’t too interested in conversation on Twitter (following zero people), embed both the Twitter updates and the Google Map on the Davidson site. This provides the Twitter and Google Map experience directly on the page and doesn’t require click-throughs.
    • Note: Twitter started providing new embed badges several months ago.  You can see one in action on the BlueFuego Blog. There’s even a red one that would fit Davidson’s branding VERY well!
  • If you are going to require visitors to click to Twitter or Google from your site, use target=”_blank” links to pop up a new window.  Otherwise, your site is gone in their browser and you’ve lost your visitor.

Overall, an innovative way to use the Twitter platform to demystify the app process and show the breadth of applicants!  Well done, Davidson.


Want to learn more about using Twitter for Higher Education? Sign up for the upcoming webinar on April 9th or 10th!  Only $99 to attend. Learn more and register at http://twitter-higher-ed.eventbrite.com.