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 You can hide your page (which used to be in a dropdown titled ‘unpublished’, but is now a checkbox), country restrictions (very useful from an international standpoint), and decide what the wall tab shows (please choose All Posts and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!

Setting the Precedent

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Technology, Thoughts | Posted on 13-08-2010-05-2008

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I got my car serviced today. A 60,000 mile tune-up. I never did tune-ups before I owned this vehicle.

As I sat there for 3 hours, working from the lobby and making calls, my mind drifted to why I sat there. Why I do this, with this car. We’ve never done any tune-ups on my wife’s car. Or my last vehicle. Or any other car I’ve ever owned.  But this one… it’s at the dealer every 7,500 miles.

It’s because of the precedent that has been set.

Before I bought this vehicle, I rummaged through the service records in the glove box.  Immaculate.  Literally. Take a look below. The person before me not only hit every service interval, but often did it 1-3,000 miles before it was even due. Proactive maintenance.

As I sat there, I thought about precedent. The one that had been set before me on this car.  The fact that I knew what I was taking over from the person who owned this vehicle before me (perfection). And finally… the fact that, for the first time in my history of owning a vehicle, I felt compelled enough by seeing a page with stamps and signatures on it that I continue to follow the maintenance/service intervals. Again, it all came down to the precedent.

Your Job

You’re not going to be at your job forever. Agreed?

But the precedents you set, they’ll stick around.  Your work ethic. Your management and leadership.  The way you run meetings. How you handle conflict.  How much time you waste on Twitter. The small things, the big things, and everything in between.

What kind of framework are you laying down? When the person who steps into your place next takes over, what are you leaving them? Hopefully, something that’s exciting to be a part of.

Care. Care enough to want to do better than the person who had your job before you, and care enough to leave something worthwhile for the person after you.

Instead of an expectation of mediocrity in your workplace, what would a precedent of excellence look like? Where dragging out deadlines and pushing things to “phase 2″ was simply not good enough? And “work hours” actually meant “productive work hours”?

Create a precedent in everything you do that makes people want to continue it and take it further, even if they never met you, and regardless of the cost.

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.

Augmented Reality in Higher Ed

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Recruitment, Technology | Posted on 15-01-2010-05-2008

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I’ve been doing some research on Augmented Reality for higher ed, and ran across a great campaign utilizing it.   First, you might be thinking “What the heck is Augmented Reality?”  (If you already know, skip below for a great example of AR in Higher Ed).

Wikipedia’s definition states that AR is:

Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery – creating a mixed reality.

In a nutshell: when I open the UrbanSpoon app on my iPhone and point the camera around (live direct view of a physical real-world environment), it’s going to show me what restaurants are around me (merged elements based on GPS data and compass location) to give me a mixed reality that looks like the below image.  From there, I can click on it, get user-generated ratings of the restaurant, see a menu, check their open hours, and more. Another way AR works is by reading a “marker” on paper and doing something with it via webcam, as you’ll see in the video below. (Doritos did this awhile back too.)

Augmented Reality in Higher Ed

One university that’s pushing AR is Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Their partnership with an agency called BCM has created one of the better Augmented Reality applications I’ve seen for student recruitment.  Check out the below video to see what they’re doing with AR and leave your thoughts in a comment below!  (If the below video isn’t visible, click here).


Book Review: Linchpin

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Higher Education, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter | Posted on 13-01-2010-05-2008

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I just finished my advance copy of Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? It was certainly different than other Seth Godin books, focusing more on you as a person and what you can personally do to make yourself a necessity at your job or in the marketplace.

Oh, and I should mention before the review, I have a free copy of Linchpin to give away before it hits the shelves on January 26th.  After you read my review, answer the question at the end of the review as a comment and I’ll choose my favorite by the end of Friday and ship the book on Saturday AM! (If you win, look for me on the dust cover!)

Read the rest of this entry »

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. :)