Facebook Pages Admin: New Changes!

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Facebook, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts | Posted on 26-10-2010-05-2008

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There’s nothing like waking up on a Tuesday and having an email you sent yesterday about the Admin Panel of a Facebook Page be completely wrong now.

That’s right, Facebook has redesigned again.

If you’re the admin of a Facebook Page, just click edit page underneath your profile image to see the changes.  I just want to quickly highlight a few changes, as well as share some tips that we pass along to clients.

Initial Changes

The first changes you’ll notice are that Basic Information and Profile Picture can now be managed from the back end. The best change I see in this is that on the Profile Picture area you can edit your thumbnail.  Schools miss the mark on this all the time.  Your miniature avatar in the news feed is how people see/perceive you.  They see you there more than on the actual page, where your full logo is.  (You could previously (and still can) change this by hovering over the profile image on your page, clicking the pencil, then clicking edit thumbnail. Lots of people missed that area, so Facebook has brought it out front.)

Click Settings… Then Options…

It used to be a complicated multiple click manuever to get to the Page settings.  Now, these permissions are all hosted on the back panel as well. You can hide your page (which used to be in a dropdown titled ‘unpublished’, but is now a checkbox), country restrictions (very useful from an international standpoint), and decide what the wall tab shows (please choose All Posts and avoid ‘Just Others Syndrome’, a common higher ed mistake I’ll cover another day.)

Admins (HALLELUJAH!)

I used to answer this question at least twice a month, and actually just have a template email queued up for it.  You might have heard it before too.

I can make you an admin of the page, but we need to be friends on Facebook first.

Wrong.

There used to be a small area at the bottom where you could add an email (we called this the “Don’t want to be your boss’ friend on Facebook” option), but it was overlooked by many.

Now, adding by name (friends) or email is the standard option, and much more streamlined. Simply type in the friend’s name OR the email and you’ll get the same results.

Change your Page Name!

I honestly can’t tell you how many times we’ve had a client create a Facebook Page, have an internal discussion about the name of the Page, delete and re-create, then again, then again… then finally come up with the name they like best.

No more.

If you have fewer than 100 likes on Facebook, the admin panel will let you change the name of the Page! Just open your panel and click to edit under Basic Information.

What’s missing?

One thing is missing, and it’s the one thing I emailed a client to do yesterday. I hope they got to it in time. :-/

I currently don’t see a way to stop new events from going directly to your news feed, unfortunately.  This was useful for schools who were creating multiple events at once, or just created a lot of events in general.  Events is no longer listed in the Applications section, so I don’t see where this change can be made.  This was the old way:

Anything Else?

This new design is similar to the new admin panel of the redesigned Groups.  Do you see anything different or out of the ordinary? Leave a comment below!

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.

Bird on a Wire?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Research, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter | Posted on 13-05-2010-05-2008

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This is an article that I wrote for the May/June 2010 issue of CASE Currents, and it has been republished with their permission. Would love your thoughts and comments. Enjoy!

—-

Bird on a Wire: Twitter the next big thing or dead on arrival?

By Brad J. Ward

The baby bird has officially left the nest.

Since its launch in 2006, the social media tool Twitter has grown from a “wait-and-see” communications site to a mainstream media darling. Last year was the tipping point for this site, which is as easy to use as it is to confuse. As its popularity has grown, there has been a shift in the way Twitter is used. Early Twitter adopters would follow thousands of users they’d never met, but as the platform has become more mainstream, the norm has changed.

According to a recent report from media analysis firm Sysomos.com, 92.4 percent of Twitter users follow less than 100 people. New users are more reserved, tweet less, and follow a more select group of people that they know. This means that institutions need to provide value in their Twitter feeds, or they simply won’t be followed by the audience they want to reach.

While Twitter can be effective, its traffic still falls far behind other social Web platforms in the United States. According to Compete.com, Facebook’s traffic is 467 percent higher than Twitter’s, with YouTube seeing 314 percent more use, and even MySpace getting 115 percent more traffic.

Regardless of the hits that each site receives, many institutions are launching official Twitter accounts. According to a March 2009 study conducted by BlueFuego, only 9.4 percent of 1,387 alumni association home pages had social Web page links. In December 2009, the number had risen to 34.8 percent, with the presence of a Twitter callout on alumni home pages increasing 327.8 percent since the initial study. LinkedIn increased 12.5 percent, and Facebook increased 5.1 percent.

What type are you?

BlueFuego wanted to dig deeper, so in April 2009, we began classifying more than 2,000 higher education Twitter accounts to better understand how colleges and universities are using the tool to interact with their followers. All accounts were divided into five categories based on the type of updates that they publish. (See charts on page 34.)

Type 1 accounts (32 percent of higher education accounts) provide only news and do not engage in conversation with their followers. These accounts use tools like Twitterfeed.com to push an existing news feed of information to Twitter. Their accounts consistently tweet links that take followers back to their .edu site or an institutional Facebook page. Updates are typically about press releases and events.

Type 1 accounts regularly push out more updates than other accounts. This is due to the publishing of an RSS feed, which results in several updates daily. On average, these Twitter accounts push out 40-60 updates per month. (By comparison, our research of 1,300 Facebook pages in higher education shows an average of 22 updates per month, two to three times less content.)

Type 2 accounts (15 percent) are similar to Type 1 but interject occasional conversation into their tweet streams. If someone were to send an @reply, he or she would likely get a response. About 75 percent or more of the time, however, a Type 2 account is still just pushing news updates.

Type 3 accounts (22 percent) provide limited information but do not share links or attempt to engage with others who follow them. They may offer updates on the institution’s cafeteria menu or list the admissions counselors’ travel schedules, but little more. Type 3 accounts appear to have been created so that the institution has a presence on Twitter. On average, these accounts have fewer followers, follow less people, and have the least amount of updates.

Type 4 accounts (11 percent) are somewhat conversational–they occasionally interact with followers but generally just share 140-character updates about what’s happening on campus. Whereas Type 2 account updates consist primarily of links that send followers away from Twitter, Type 4 accounts do not link away from the site.

Type 5 accounts (20 percent) are very conversational. It’s obvious that staff members are actively monitoring the account and sharing a wide range of information through updates, including links, photos, and videos. They retweet information from other followers and provide varied information to their audience. Type 5 accounts average the most followers and follow back the most, a testament to having a person or team of people actively monitoring the account and engaging with followers.


The 50:25:25 rule

We recommend that our clients adopt a 50:25:25 model when communicating on social Web platforms. Try to make 50 percent of your tweets informational: deadlines, links to press releases and events, and other information that needs to be shared.

The next 25 percent of your tweets should focus on conversations about your brand. Engage your audience with questions or statements regarding your institution, such as: “Snow Day at State! How’s the weather where you are?”

For the remaining 25 percent of updates, engage your audience with conversations that are not about your brand. These updates can be about pop culture, world news, interesting events, and more. The goal is to get them to interact with your institution, but not necessarily about the institution.

The conversation myth?

“Social media gurus” have long argued that Twitter is about the conversation and that accounts that strictly share links aren’t effective. However, our research shows that these assumptions aren’t necessarily true.

Within the five types of Twitter accounts, we further segmented the groups according to who maintains them: admissions, alumni relations, athletics, PR/news, general institution accounts, and an individual college or department within an institution.

Athletics and PR/news have the highest percentage of Type 1 accounts–those only sharing links–at 58 percent and 55 percent, respectively. When looking at the accounts that average the highest number of followers, PR/news is at the top. Athletics averages the most updates per month and follows the most people.

These data show us that Type 1 accounts certainly have a place on Twitter. The audience doesn’t necessarily want to engage or interact with each of your accounts directly and might just be interested in receiving your content in their tweet stream.

However, accounts run by admissions and alumni relations, areas that tend to be more relationship-focused, average more followers and updates when they fall in the Type 5 category, as they are strengthening relationships through conversation and have more to talk about with more people.

Twitter for institutional advancement

Many institutions are now interacting with students in ways that would not have happened pre-Twitter. For example, Abilene Christian University in Texas (www.twitter.com/acuedu), which has a Type 5 account, was actively monitoring a situation in which an enrolled student would occasionally mention on Twitter that she was having a poor experience at ACU. The student’s updates escalated one day, and she exclaimed that she couldn’t wait to transfer.

Scott Kilmer, director of new media, had been monitoring these tweets and stepped in to reply to the student from the ACU Twitter account, saying, “Sorry you’re having a bad day. Send us an e-mail to feedback@acu.edu to let us know how we can help.”

By that afternoon, the student had e-mailed and was referred to student services to talk about how her experience could be better. Later that evening, her Twitter update read, “ACU has the best people. Beth and Haley are two of the most loving people ever.” She was referring to the student services manager and a retention officer that Kilmer put her in touch with after the initial contact.

“Using Twitter to listen to our constituency has been a great way to understand customer feedback,” Kilmer says. “With access to this kind of information, we can identify areas of need and act on them with a certain amount of validation from the average customer.”

Other successful Twitter accounts

Twitter can also help create stronger bonds with followers who have a pre-established affinity for the institution. It didn’t take long for Tim Cigelske, communication specialist at Wisconsin’s Marquette University, to see the value and take advantage of his institution’s Twitter presence.

Marquette (www.twitter.com/marquetteu) is a Type 5 and is one of a handful of accounts to fall in the top 10 percent of higher education institutions in the nation for number of followers, number of accounts followed, number of updates, and number of @mentions. The school recently launched the “Give Marquette” campaign, which was promoted through all institutional media, including Twitter.

One alumnus, who was one of the first and most active followers of @MarquetteU, stepped forward to donate after seeing a tweet about the campaign.

“He direct messaged Marquette via Twitter and asked how he could donate, so I connected him with someone who could work with him personally,” Cigelske explains. “In this case, he was looking to specifically support families and students [who] are ‘working their butts off to send their average-grade students to Marquette,’ since that was the case with him and his family. We gave him information on a fund that would do just that, and it worked out beautifully.”

Twitter can also be used to garner press, as Indiana University East has quickly learned through its @IUEast account. Nasser Paydar (www.twitter.com/paydar), IU East’s chancellor, was one of the first institutional leaders on Twitter, tweeting as early as January 2009. Sending out updates about topics such as campus events, student life and athletics, and the daily life of a chancellor, he is focused on making connections with the local community.

Shortly after Paydar started tweeting, the local newspaper’s education reporter wrote a story about it, and in the process created a Twitter profile for himself. The reporter now follows several official IU East Twitter accounts, which has led to an increase in coverage for the institution.

The future

Even though institutions are finding success with Twitter, the platform is not without its weaknesses. To put the site into perspective, there are more people playing the online game FarmVille on Facebook than using Twitter. Traffic has stalled in recent months (up only 2.5 percent in the past eight months), leaving many to wonder what is next for the site. It’s in an extremely volatile position, and 2010 will be a make-or-break year.

Furthermore, a January 2010 study of Twitter by Sysomos.com found that 50.88 percent of Twitter users and 56.59 percent of tweets are from people living in the United States. Compare this with Facebook, where 70 percent of traffic is outside the United States, and YouTube, where 76 percent of video views are from outside the United States, and it is clear that the international reach of Twitter is limited. An earlier 2009 study by Sysomos.com also revealed that 5 percent of Twitter users account for 75 percent of updates, which also shows that there is a limited audience engaging on Twitter.

Regardless of Twitter’s future, the shift in communication methods and preferences that the platform has created will last beyond Twitter itself. While Twitter is not, and will never be, a magical tool to solve all advancement communications issues, it can still be effective in communicating to your audience.

Shorter, asynchronous updates have become the norm across the Web, as people and brands share more frequent updates with their audiences. The one-to-many communication method allows institutions to reach a larger audience more quickly, but it also requires more time if an institution responds to each person and interaction.

Twitter should not be at the core of your university’s marketing strategy, but it is definitely a tool to be considered when developing your overall plan.

—-
Brad J. Ward is the CEO at BlueFuego Inc., an international higher education consulting firm specializing in new media marketing integration.

Copyright ©2010 by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education; reprinted with permission from the May/June 2010 issue of CASE CURRENTS. All rights reserved.

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.

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. :)

How I Use Twitter

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Community, Ethics, Higher Education, Interview, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter | Posted on 13-11-2009-05-2008

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If you don’t use Twitter, this post will be largely irrelevant for you.  For those who do tweet, I hope it provides insight to my perspective and is a learning opportunity for others.

If you have been unfollowed by me, please take the time to read this so you can better understand.


(Tweetdeck for iPhone = I hate it. And yeah, that guy creeping over my shoulder threw me off at the end…)

I thought it’d be helpful to explain how I use Twitter, so that you better understand how my usage of Twitter might differ from yours.  I owe it to you and I want you to better understand me as a person and the motives behind my decision to cut back.

I Cut Back on Twitter


Late this summer, I was following around 750 people on Twitter, with about 2,500 people following me. (Overall, I’m a small fish in the Twitter pond.)  If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know that I have never hoped or intended to follow back everyone who follows me.  For me, it’s not feasible or beneficial to use Twitter in this manner. (Everyone views Twitter differently, and you are welcome to disagree with my view, but that’s what it is for me.)

Twitter started to ruin my Facebook experience.  I would see updates from someone on Twitter,  then again on Facebook.  I view Facebook as a more intimate relationship, so it made sense to me at the time to cut the cord on the Twitter side. Also, I was receiving these updates through the @BlueFuego account, which I monitor and filter through each day.

At the same time, I have made a conscious decision to cut back on using Twitter, as it cuts into things that are more important to me, such as time with family and putting food on the table.

How I Cut Back


I started systematically removed people, using a mixture of TweetStats.com, TwitterCounter.com, and FollowCost.com.  Factors that weighed into my decisions were the volume of updates, the signal-to-noise ratio (your definition of this ratio will differ from mine), and the amount of conversations irrelevant to me or my interests.  Not a single person was removed from my following list without a combination of these tools to decide. I did my downsizing in two waves, from 750 to around 400, and then down to 200 a month later. Looking back, that number could likely have been at 250 or so, as cutting people got harder towards the end of this process. And many of those last few are the ones whose feelings I have hurt. I should have known when to stop, but, again, if you know me you know that when I set a goal I reach it.  200 was the finish line for me.

During the this time I closely monitored my follower #’s and the amount of interactions I was having with people. For every single person, I was having the same amount of @replies and interactions with them as before, but I was able to follow Twitter better by not receiving as much noise.

Methods to ‘Following Everyone’ and Information Overload

Yes, there are MANY tools to help someone follow 50,000+ people if they wish.  Tweetdeck, Seesmic, and other desktop-based tools allow a user to segment people into groups (not to be confused with Twitter Lists, which we’ll talk about in a bit.). I’m positive that every person reading this utilizes something like Tweetdeck.

For me, following hundreds of thousands of people is not valuable.  These people usually have alternate ways of *actually* following along. You just don’t see them.

Even one of the most prominent bloggers and tweeters in the Social Web space, who I respect and admire greatly, has a separate twitter account called @My100, a blank account that is used for following a small crowd of less than 30 people. This person has recently blogged about Twitter Lists, and said he refuses to use them because people will feel left out.  It’s the same for his personal account.  It’s no longer possible to NOT follow people without backlash, because the precedent has been set, so this is one way that he has been able to cut back. At face value, everyone gets followed back and all is well. *Most* people with 5-10,000+ just sit on @replies and DM’s to interact with people. They don’t read what you’re actually up to unless it relates to them.

What about Twitter Lists?

Twitter Lists have recently been added, and they provide a way to follow a group of people without “following” them.  After trying a few higher ed lists, I have found Anne Peterson’s Higher Ed Twitter List to be the best one out there, and the one that most closely resembles the way I used to use Twitter.  It’s the one I follow, and when I’m at a desk, track to see what’s going on in the community. For me, this is a great way to stay abreast of what’s happening, in addition to the @BlueFuego twitter account. I have enjoyed Twitter Lists so far, because they offer me the flexibility to “stick my head into the fire hose” at my leisure and consume tweets when I can, rather than being forced to see them. But as far as mobile goes, they are useless to me. So let’s talk about mobile usage for a second.

Why YOUR Twitter is not MY Twitter

Here’s the deal:  Your view and my view probably differ.  Why? Because the way we use Twitter is different.  More than likely, you have a desk job (right?). You are able to use tools l have mentioned above to track, target, segment and follow many more people than I can.

This month, I will be ‘in the office’, meaning physically sitting at a desk for extended periods of a day, for a total of 4 work days. Four.  If you work a desk job,  you’ll be at your desk for 19 days this month.   You already have a strong advantage over me, because you can use tools like Tweetdeck and Seesmic to stay up to date with everyone, and let them run in the background of your computer all day.

While this month is hectic for me, it’s not that out of line of most months. I’m in and out of 3 conferences in one day each (i.e. not staying to sit and listen to other presentations, which would be more like a ‘desk day’ to me). I’ll spend 6 full days on site visits for clients, and I’ll have 19 flights.

So please imagine being in my shoes for a moment. (They’re size 13) Not only am I consuming tweets in chunks, catching up between meetings and flights,  but I’m doing it while mobile (and usually, while driving….).

I’d estimate that this is how I use Twitter for over 80% of the time.  This leaves a lot… A LOT… of scrolling and filtering through my iPhone Twitter app to get through everything. And that’s not how I want to use Twitter.

The Final Straw

If you’re still with me, I hope you understand this one thing:  I don’t tell you all of this so that you will empathize and feel sorry for me.  I tell you this so that you will understand me.

Rule #1: Family comes first. It absolutely kills me to miss tweets from my wife, my mom, my brother and cousins, and other friends that I interact and see IRL weekly.  One week during September, while traveling, I heard the same question from my wife or another family member three nights in a row on the phone. “Hey, did you see what I tweeted today about work/what the dog did/your dad/etc.?”
..…silence..….
“No.”
It kills me to say that.  I value the communication and relationship with my family above all else, and the moment at which I was frequently missing their updates because they were squished in hundreds and hundreds of other updates was the moment i knew I needed to downsize.

I have never intended to hurt someone’s feelings by not following them, but my personal decision to downgrade was first and foremost about family, secondly because I was usually receiving the same message across multiple platforms, and thirdly because my personal work lifestyle (mobile) does not match with my previous work lifestyle (desk job). Yes, there are mobile people who can handle it (at least at face value), but that is not my style.

What could I do better?

A LOT.  I could manage my time better.  I could travel less.  I could do a lot of things.   But this is where I am right now. I signed up for it, and I love it, but it’s not where I was 12 months ago. I’m a different type of Twitter user than I was before. My time is limited, my attention is stretched, my family is now involved. It’s a new ballgame.

Applications like Boxcar, which provide me push messages from Twitter for @replies allow me to be aware of anyone who messages me during the day, even more quickly than a direct message, email or Facebook message.  (Like yesterday, when I was criticized for not following to someone or responding to them, yet I got back to her within 60 seconds. :) )

If you’ve been offended by my unfollowings, here’s what you could do better: Understand.  Understand there is more than one way to follow a conversation, there are multiple ways to track what’s happening, and understand that you and me are very different people at the end of the day. That’s the beauty of the social web.  You use it how you want to, and let me use it how I want to.

And you know what I could do better? Understand. Understand the value you put on a connection and relationship with me. I horribly underestimated it, and for that I apologize. My intent has never been to hurt someone’s feelings. My intent has been to align my usage of Twitter with my personal needs.

You’ll Get There One Day

The day is going to come for you as well.  You’ll hit the point where there’s just too much.  You’ll undoubtedly cut down your list one day after you define and realize how you want to use this tool.  And when you do, when that time comes, I certainly hope you’ll better understand both sides of the issue.

If you want to be proactive, look around the higher ed community. There are people who have work/personal accounts, so that they don’t have to filter through the community noise. There are other people in the community who have never followed more than double digits. One person DM’d me to say she/he used Twitter lists to create a private “NOISE” list and a private “People worth following” list, and only track one of the lists. I’ll let you guess which one is used most. :)

Give Me Your Thoughts!

I continuously review my actions. If you think there is a better way for me to manage my Twitter presence, I’m all ears.  Please leave a comment to let me know where I’m missing a tool or opportunity to do better with staying connected. If you somehow fell through the cracks and I’m truly not seeing your updates somewhere, please let me know so I can fix that as well.

Thanks for understanding! And if you got this far, I thank you for your time and attention!
Brad
@Bradjward
Bradjward on Facebook

**Update** When you’re done reading the comments, go check out this fantastic post by @robin2go: http://www.personal.psu.edu/rvs2/blogs/renegade/2009/11/connections.html

The Social Web is a Horse Race

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts | Posted on 11-11-2009-05-2008

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What better way to get back on the blogging horse** than a quick blog post about Horse Racing? (And more importantly, betting.)

The Social Web is a Horse Race

Think about the Kentucky Derby, the premier race for three-year old thoroughbred horses.  These three-year old horses are bet on, talked about, and speculated about who is favored to win. A known statistic in the horse betting world is that the favored horse will only win about 33% of the time. This is the horse that SUPPOSED to win, yet it only does one in three times.

Who are you betting on?

As you develop platforms, strategy, community, conversation and more around these social web tools, are you betting on one to take you to the finish line (your goal)? Do you put your chips on one horse, maybe the favorite? Just crossing your fingers and hoping to win big? Do you accept the fact that if you’re wrong, you lose it all? Doesn’t it seem a little safer to spread your chips out a bit?
This all stems from a thought I offered during the AACRAO Panel in Dallas yesterday. The main point was this: we’ve narrowed the field down from all of the tools available (for this point in time), and everyone’s placing their bets on which tool is going to win.  Instead of betting on one site to win for you, here’s an alternate perspective:

The social web is like a horse race.  If you’re on every single horse, you’ll win.

I’m not telling you to be on every tool and site available.  That’s absurd. And besides, not every horse is in the Kentucky Derby… just the best, the ones that made the cut.  I am telling you to focus on the big players. If you’re ignoring MySpace because Mashable or another blogger said to, and you haven’t done your own primary research, you’re potentially missing an opportunity.

And as I mentioned at the beginning, the Kentucky Derby is only for 3 year old horses.  Know what that means?  There will occasionally be a new field to bet on. Lucky for us, it’s not a one year cycle (more like 2 or 3).  Tools you used last year and tools you are using this year might not be used in the coming years.

Be flexible.  Be adaptable.  Win the race.

—–
**My apologies for the lack of content of the past few months.  Things have been excitedly hectic at BlueFuego (you can read about recent company developments later this week on the BlueFuego Blog. Subscribe here). I’ve always been of the mindset that “If you don’t have anything good to blog, don’t blog anything at all.”  I want to respect your time and your inbox/reader with the content I push out, and bring you relevant information. I appreciate when you stop by and comment on the occasional post, and I pledge to do better for you in the coming months!

FacebookGate, Take 2?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Ethics, Facebook, Strategy, Thoughts | Posted on 12-10-2009-05-2008

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Hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since ‘FacebookGate‘ took place, but here we go again! I received an email on October 8th about the squatting that’s already occurred, and saw a recent tweet from Rachel on Twitter about the issue.  The email notes:

Groups with the same few members exist for at least the following colleges and universities:

Swarthmore College
Widener University School of Law
University of the Arts
University of Pennsylvania
Ohio University
Millersville University of PA
St. Andrew’s University
Muhlenberg College
In addition, there are numerous other “2014″ groups that do not share the same small set of members.  However, they all have group descriptions that are strikingly similar. The description for each of these groups is something along the lines of the following, with the appropriate school name and location filled in for each respective school:
“This is THE best place for all the incoming freshmen/transfers of the Class of 2014. Just for those heading to ______ in 2010, this will be the group where we can talk about what’s going on and around campus.”
The fact that all these groups share similar descriptions suggests that these groups are all run by the same organization. I had hoped you would share your thoughts on the matter.
My thoughts on the matter: While I admittedly haven’t checked these groups for myself to see what’s going on, my initial thought is …. don’t miss out on this again.  It’s time to begin implementing your strategy of utilizing Facebook for customer service, retention and yieldin your incoming Class of 2014.  It’s ok to start the group and still let it run organically from there. Don’t view it as controlling the content, you just have the keys to it.
Also, consider a Page over a Group this year.  Both have their pros and cons, which I might outline in a future post, but the changes to Facebook Pages last April make it a very attractive platform over Groups.
What are you doing to get ahead of the game this recruitment cycle? How can you/we stop another FacebookGate from happening?