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.
(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.
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.
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..….
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.
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!
As I noted on Twitter at the beginning of the week, Butler University has come forth with a lawsuit against an anonymous blogger for making libelous and defamatory statements about administrators on his blog, The True BU. This post is intended to be a glimpse at how The True BU got started, as well as provide additional insight regarding my previous communications with the defendant. Everything posted here is factual to my knowledge.
Several things about this story (more at Inside Higher Ed) are interesting to me, being a former employee of Butler and one who had several conversations with the student being sued (while under his moniker).
A year ago to the day I posted the lawsuit link on Twitter, this student got his start as an anonymous commenter in our BUForums, an area that I was in charge of and the community manager for.
This student had previously applied to be a Butler Blogger, and I had several email correspondences with him regarding it.
We correctly guessed who the anonymous commenter was about 2 weeks after he began commenting in our forums, due to several pieces of ‘evidence’ that matched what he said with who we thought it was.
There is also a huge difference between how we handled the anonymous blogger in the Admissions area, and how the higher level university employees handled it.
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:
Widener University School of Law
University of the Arts
University of Pennsylvania
Millersville University of PA
St. Andrew’s University
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?
Another week, another blog post about the continuing debate of the question “Are Teens on Twitter?”
We first heard from Mashable, who reported in early August that the “Stats Confirm It“. Then, the phrase ‘Teens Don’t Tweet’ was a trending topic all day long. Not because of the usual Mashable RT crowd, but because of teens coming out of the woodwork. At any given moment, search.twitter.com results would resemble something like this that day:
So the latest ‘research’ comes from a TechCrunch post, and it’s again spreading like wildfire. Don’t miss the first line of the article: “This guest post is written by Geoff Cook, cofounder and CEO of social networking site myYearbook.”
This research (or is it just a well-positioned promotion for MyYearbook??) is now causing people in higher ed to exclaim on Twitter that “More teens tweet than Facebook“. False. Absolutely False. According to the post, a higher percentage of twitter users are teens than the percentage of Facebook users who are teenagers. But when it comes to straight numbers, teens on Twitter don’t even compare to teens on Facebook. Not yet, anyways.
Looking at Quantcast.com data, 22% of Facebook’s 98.7 million monthly US viewers are 17 or younger. That’s 20,614,000 teens. On the Twitter side? 9% of Twitter’s 28.0 million monthly US viewers are 17 or younger. That’s 2,520,000 teens. According to that count, there are 818% more teens on Facebook each month vs. Twitter. More teens tweet than Facebook? Hardly.
Are they on Twitter? Are they not? What should we do?
Here’s the thing. Twitter should not be at the core of your marketing strategy. Yet. But should you have a presence? Absolutely. Do you need to know how to use the site? Yes. Are you building your presence and community as the site grows? I hope so.
If you use Twitter, remember the last time you complained about a bad experience with a company or site and they weren’t there to listen online? What about your favorite brands that you desire to interact with online and receive valuable information from? What do you think of them when they aren’t on Twitter, ready to listen? It’s a huge customer service opportunity. Conversations about your institution are happening all the time online, and in increasing frequency on Twitter.
Apply the same thought to your institution or office. Twitter is not going to solve all of your goals and objectives. But there are teens out there ready to engage and interact with you. They want to connect with you, and if you are not there, you’ve missed an opportunity. (Or worse, someone else takes over your brand/identity and runs with it like many universities we see in our research.)
The research is nice. But how much weight should you actually put into it? My challenge do you is this: do your own research. Throw a quick survey together and integrate it into first week activities.
IU East did, and found out that 67% of incoming students are on MySpace, while only 60% are on Facebook. (Twitter? 6%.) If IU East had just ‘followed the research’, they’d be listening to everyone who says MySpace is dead and missing out on reaching a large percentage of their student and alumni base.
Almost a year ago I reminded everyone to do their homework after a conference. The same thing goes for any research online. If you’re changing your entire marketing strategy based on what Mashable or TechCrunch posts on their site, you’re going to have some issues. And if you’re retweeting and spreading this information without even reading or confirming it… please stop.
What do you think?
Do you agree with the research that’s out there? Disagree? Indifferent? Let me know below in the comments!
As we approach this week’s Blog Indiana conference, the voting ballot for the BLINDYs has been released, and I am a finalist for the Social Media Superstar of Indiana!
There are a lot of great people and blogs on this list, so check them all out and you might find a new blog or two to subscribe to!
Here’s my only request: If you have ever gotten anything out of what I’ve shared on this blog, if any of these posts have helped you with your social media presence and your SM efforts, if you have ever had a takeaway from one of my presentations or webinars that has helped you do something better or try something new…. then would you mind voting for me?
A few weeks ago, while preparing for a webinar on Twitter (Missed it? Here’s your 2nd chance.) With nearly 75 schools in attendance, I thought it would be cool to actually show off the power of Twitter. Little did I know it would become a trending topic and travel all the way around the world in 24 hours!
The Anatomy of the Tweet
As simple as the update seems, there is quite a bit of strategy built into it. First is the core of the message on Twitter, “What are you doing?” Well, I am showing a webinar audience how quickly a message can spread on Twitter. Sounds fun, right? Next is the call to action: Would you please RT? According to Dan Zarrella’s The Science of the ReTweets, the four most common words in a retweet are: You, Twitter, Please, and ReTweet. (Check, Check, Check and Check! Was not planned, but interesting to know.) By asking someone (You) to RT (Retweet), I was asking for a simple moment of their time, and nothing more.
Finishing the tweet is the #watchitspread hashtag. Any viral effort on Twitter should include a hashtag, because people know what it means and it helps organize the results/answers. Finally, the length of the update. By leaving enough room for RT @bradjward I made it easier for people to RT the information without having to cut/shorten words to make it happen. Easier = better. And a final thought on retweets. You’ve surely seen people (maybe even me!) send an update “I’m showing twitter to my boss/friend/wife/dog, say hi!”. Effective, but nowhere nearly as viral. Why? Because if I send that message, it stays rather limited to my network. On Twitter, if I @reply to someone and you don’t follow that person, you won’t see my update in the message. So after the initial people say hi to me, it does not spread past me into their network. Very limiting.
Sending the Tweet Out
During the webinar, I shared my screen, let them watch me type the message in to Twitter to show how easy it is to update, clicked Update and resumed the webinar. I planned to come back to a live screen share at the end of the webinar to show the spread of the message on Twitter. I figured anywhere from 30-60 retweets would be cool enough for the audience to see
About 30 minutes later, I paused to ask if there were any questions. One school replied ” I want to see how our experiment is going.” Excited that they were into it (webinars = talking to yourself for 90 minutes and wondering what the 200 people on the other end are thinking/saying/doing), I decided to pull it up then. To my surprise and excitement, there were nearly 750 retweets in the first 30 minutes. Wow! I think the audience was sold on the power of Twitter at that point.
The Tweet Spreads
By the end of the webinar, Search.Twitter.com was showing around 1,500 updates in the first hour. (I incorrectly said 1,500 in 90 minutes in a twitter update after the webinar because I subtracted from the time the webinar began (1pm), not the time I sent the tweet (1:21pm). From there, it continued to spread. Quickly
Mistake #1: For this social experiment I should have put a timestamp on it. (Before 2:30pm EST, etc.) Then again, that would have limited the viral spread of the tweet. But for the next 2-3 hours, my @mentions was rendered useless due to the volume of tweets coming through with @bradjward in them.
From there, the tweet evolved. I eventually got dropped off of the tweet as people retweeted people who retweeted people, other @names because the original @RT.
Tweets containing #watchitspreadstarted taking on social issues such as AIDS and Swine Flu, Urban Etiquette and ‘underage girls having too many babies’. Another great point: You don’t control the message. You just share it.
By the end of it all, the total numbers of #watchitspread tweets totally nearly 10,000. It bounced across the US, down to Australia, up to Southeast Asia, across Europe, and hit back on the east coast the next morning. As a result, I was ranked #2 on ReTweetRank.com, above everyone on Twitter except @TweetMeme. With RT’s definitely playing a role in the algorithm on twitter.grader.com, I bumped up to #796 of 2,844,018 ranked people on Twitter. (I’m usually in the top 1,500. Interestingly, I went on vacation the day after #watchitspread, and was silent on Twitter for a week. It affected my rank greatly, going all the way back to nearly 40,000. I’ve since bounced back to around 1,500.) I also picked up about 200 followers in the 24 hours, a nearly 10% increase in followers.
I’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.
Yesterday was quite a day. I drove down to Louisville, KY to meet with the good people of AIKCU and do a 3 hour workshop on the social web for higher ed. For the first 30 minutes of our time together, we connected in to the Social Media Summit, presented by Mark Greenfield from the PSUWEB09 conference. I ‘took the stage’ for 15 minutes to share a few Twitter and Facebook research tidbits from our extensive 60 day data. It was really neat to be able to do this, and present at a conference from a conference. The AIKCU members got to watch the participation of over 300 other higher ed professionals in real-time, and we had a great time. (Yes, that was our laughter you heard… ) From there we moved into a lively discussion on a wide range of topics and had a great discussion.
But the coolest thing I saw all day was at Campbellsville University. When I walked in to the building, I met Katie. Her title — Director of First Impressions.
How awesome is that? How would your front desk person think differently about each visitor if they had a title like that? Kudos to Campbellsville and Katie for making a great first impression on me, and for having BlueFuego in town for the day!