Has Twitter Hit A Ceiling in Higher Ed?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Research, Thoughts, Twitter | Posted on 14-10-2010-05-2008

19

The other day, Evan Williams from Twitter commented that ‘Twitter will get to a billion members‘.

I’ll talk to that in a moment, but I want to give you some background on my thought process first. If you want to skip straight to the data, see the lower sections.

Why don’t you tweet anymore?

I get asked about Twitter a lot. Sometimes in regards to my personal (declining) use of the tool.  Often, it’s about Twitter for marketing or recruitment.  I used to be excited about the possibilities of this tool but as of late, it’s probably apparent that I’ve dramatically changed my thoughts on it.

There are a few simple reasons why I’ve cut back.  For one, I have thoughts longer than 140 characters that I want to share. Tweets can quickly get taken out of context at this character limit, so I find myself expressing thoughts and opinions on other platforms instead, where I have more room. I also think that ‘sharing’ can be beneficial, but in a large group it hampers innovation. And that’s what I often see on Twitter. (Which, ironically, was my last blog post here in August.) You can be “working” all day, and yet not accomplish anything at all.

I’ve also read a few books that have made me re-think a lot of my digital life. Here are a few quotes that resonate with me:

–” The more connected we are, the more we depend on the world outside ourselves to tell us how to think and live.”

– “We’re losing something of great value, a way of thinking and moving through time that can be summed up in a single word: depth.  Depth of thought and feeling, depth in our relationships, our work and everything we do.  Since depth is what makes life fulfilling and meaningful, it’s astounding that we’re allowing this to happen.”

– “The goal is not longer to be ‘in touch’ but to erase the possibility of ever being out of touch. [...] Although we think of our screens as productivity tools, they actually undermine the serial focus that’s the essence of true productivity. And the faster and more intense our connectedness becomes, the further we move away from that ideal.  Digital busyness is the enemy of depth.”

– “When a crowd adopts a point of view en masse, all critical thinking effectively stops.”

– “By virtue of its interactivity, the digital medium is a source of constant confirmation that yes, you do indeed exist and matter. Thus we’re forced to go back again and again for verification. Who dropped my name? Are there any comments on my comments? Who’s paying attention to me now?”

Quotes from Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers

There’s quite a bit to unpack here.  But it boils down to this for me: I’m in the knowledge industry. (You probably are too.)  My job to think and implement.  When I impede the process of thinking and learning, I become less valuable.  The opportunity cost of spending excessive amounts of time on Twitter is too great. It took me nearly a year to learn this. To paraphrase another great book, I want to go where my competitors don’t go and read what they don’t read.  That just doesn’t happen on Twitter. I no longer look there for verification either. I don’t care how many people follow me (although we will look at this data next). I also don’t care how many RSS subscribers I have.  I want deeper, more meaningful thoughts and interactions instead. I seek verification through a successful client project, not a single tweet.

Depth.

On a side note, I’d also encourage you to take a moment to read what Joel Goodman says about the state of higher ed web. There is great value in contrarian opinions.

Has Twitter Hit a Ceiling?

Now, to finally expand on the original topic of this post.  Twitter and 1 billion members. My response? Not Likely, and only if the growth is in international countries.  At a conference earlier this year I responded to a question about Twitter’s growth as follows:

You’re either on Twitter, or you’re so sick of hearing people talk about it that at this point, you’ll never join it.

This would not be the case in countries where Twitter has not taken off, leaving  potential growth there.

We know Twitter is great for one-to-many communication. And breaking news. And listening to your customers. I get all that.

Facebook sits at 500 million users, with approximately 70% of users outside of the USA. Twitter sits at 100 million users, and I honestly see no direct way for them to reach 1 billion members. Realistically, I think Twitter is approaching the end of its growth cycle.

That’s the world.  Let’s talk about Higher Ed.

My follower numbers on Twitter have essentially crawled to a halt. It might be because I don’t use it as much, or because I don’t seek validation there, but I think the biggest reason is that Twitter has hit a ceiling in higher ed.

[I'm talking about professional/personal usage by employees in the industry here, not our audience's usage. But on that side of things, BlueFuego tracked nearly 2,500 higher ed accounts in 2009 and many were seeing 50-100% growth month over month over month. We stopped research in early 2010 because growth was slowing very rapidly.]

2009 was a huge year for Twitter usage/adoption in the higher ed community. But, I think everyone who is hereis here. This is our community. There will be some people that filter in and out of the industry, but for the most part, we are our audience at this point. We’ll slowly grow, and may actually decline, but the cast has been set.

To confirm my thoughts, I started looking at data of other users in higher ed.  I pulled the 3 month growth rate of the 50 most influential people in higher ed (determined by WeFollow.com) using TwitterCounter. I also split the audience into 3 areas: Student Affairs, Marketing/PR, and Blog/News/Company.

You can see all of the data here

The list shows that higher ed blog/news/company accounts continue to see strong follower growth (an average of 17%).  There is the underlying incentive for them to grow an audience: more traffic, more ads, more business, etc.

The student affairs crowd in higher ed has seen an average of 11% growth since July 15th. And for good reason.  They are a very strong group.  #SAChat (article) is allowing student affairs professionals to find each other and connect.

Then, we have “the rest of us”.   The marketers, the bloggers, etc. Average growth for us: 5%.  We’re a bit different than student affairs.  SA already has their students and wants to help each other communicate with them better.  We… well, we’re competing for students and might not want to share quite as much to everyone. :)

If we haven’t hit the ceiling yet, we’re approaching it.  Either fewer people are joining, or we’re less likely to follow others.  I acknowledge that there are a wide range of variables that come in to play, but I think it’s quite clear that we’re at the top of the rollercoaster ride, and it’s only a matter of time until it heads back down the slope.

I’ll never have 4,000 followers on Twitter. I might never even reach 3,500. And you know what? I’m fine with that.

Because I need to do a better job at connecting with the 3,300 that are already there.

Which makes me think about my (your) job.

At what point do we stop investing all our time and resources in growing these new online communities and focus more on who’s already listening?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

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

5

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.

Book Review: Linchpin

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

31

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 »

When Chancellors Tweet

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

0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—-
Not a subscriber? Subscribe via RSS or Email today!
Follow me on Twitter:: @bradjward

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

30

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

Are Teens on Twitter? My 2 Cents.

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

21

Another week, another blog post about the continuing debate of the question “Are Teens on Twitter?”

We first heard from Mashable, who reported in early August that the “Stats Confirm It“.  Then, the phrase ‘Teens Don’t Tweet’ was a trending topic all day long. Not because of the usual Mashable RT crowd, but because of teens coming out of the woodwork. At any given moment, search.twitter.com results would resemble something like this that day:

So the latest ‘research’ comes from a TechCrunch post, and it’s again spreading like wildfire. Don’t miss the first line of the article: “This guest post is written by Geoff Cook, cofounder and CEO of social networking site myYearbook.”

This research (or is it just a well-positioned promotion for MyYearbook??) is now causing people in higher ed to exclaim on Twitter that “More teens tweet than Facebook“.  False. Absolutely False. According to the post, a higher percentage of twitter users are teens than the percentage of Facebook users who are teenagers. But when it comes to straight numbers, teens on Twitter don’t even compare to teens on Facebook. Not yet, anyways.

Looking at Quantcast.com data, 22% of Facebook’s 98.7 million monthly US viewers are 17 or younger.  That’s 20,614,000 teens.  On the Twitter side? 9% of Twitter’s 28.0 million monthly US viewers are 17 or younger. That’s 2,520,000 teens. According to that count, there are 818% more teens on Facebook each month vs. Twitter. More teens tweet than Facebook? Hardly.

Are they on Twitter? Are they not? What should we do?

Here’s the thing.  Twitter should not be at the core of your marketing strategy. Yet. But should you have a presence? Absolutely. Do you need to know how to use the site? Yes.  Are you building your presence and community as the site grows? I hope so.

If you use Twitter, remember the last time you complained about a bad experience with a company or site and they weren’t there to listen online?  What about your favorite brands that you desire to interact with online and receive valuable information from?  What do you think of them when they aren’t on Twitter, ready to listen? It’s a huge customer service opportunity. Conversations about your institution are happening all the time online, and in increasing frequency on Twitter.

Apply the same thought to your institution or office.  Twitter is not going to solve all of your goals and objectives.  But there are teens out there ready to engage and interact with you.  They want to connect with you, and if you are not there, you’ve missed an opportunity.  (Or worse, someone else takes over your brand/identity and runs with it like many universities we see in our research.)

Final Thoughts

The research is nice. But how much weight should you actually put into it? My challenge do you is this: do your own research.  Throw a quick survey together and integrate it into first week activities.

IU East did, and found out that 67% of incoming students are on MySpace, while only 60% are on Facebook. (Twitter? 6%.) If IU East had just ‘followed the research’, they’d be listening to everyone who says MySpace is dead and missing out on reaching a large percentage of their student and alumni base.

Almost a year ago I reminded everyone to do their homework after a conference.  The same thing goes for any research online.  If you’re changing your entire marketing strategy based on what Mashable or TechCrunch posts on their site, you’re going to have some issues. And if you’re retweeting and spreading this information without even reading or confirming it… please stop.

What do you think?

Do you agree with the research that’s out there? Disagree? Indifferent?  Let me know below in the comments!

ACU Live! Building Community around the Globe

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

5

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

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

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

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

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

The Anatomy of #WatchItSpread

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Research, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter, Viral, Web, Webinars | Posted on 06-08-2009-05-2008

9

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. :)

The Results

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.

The best part: @RainnWilson later that night posted a simple update: “DO NOT RETWEET THIS.” It instantly shot to #1 on the Trending Topics list. Why? Because everyone retweeted it.  Irony, gets me every time.

And no, I won’t be doing this for future Twitter webinars.  Instead, I’ll point back to #watchitspread as the example of how something can spread so quickly across Twitter.

AlumTweet – Your Alumni on Twitter

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Alumni, Twitter, Viral | Posted on 18-06-2009-05-2008

4

I’ve always had an idea in my mind of a hashtag that everyone on Twitter uses to post their alma mater and graduation year, which would help colleges and universities find their Alumni on Twitter (outside of the mandatory search.twitter.com and other searches).  Afraid of ‘creating more noise’, I was always hesitant to start a hashtag and try to promote it endlessly to success.

Well, now there’s a way to do it.

Head to http://www.alumtweet.com and fill out your information, and post it to your Twitter account.  People are doing it all across Twitter this morning. As more do it, more people will click and be interested in the site and ultimately end up filling it out themselves.

As an institution, you no longer have an excuse for not being able to find Alumni on Twitter.  Get to work, just like @DrakeBlake. :)

AIKCU and SMSummit

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Branding, Facebook, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Research, Thoughts, Twitter | Posted on 10-06-2009-05-2008

6

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.

(You can see some of the backchannel from yesterday here.)
(You can see the slides from SMSummit embedded below, or click here.)

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!


First time to SquaredPeg?  Subscribe today!
Follow @bradjward on Twitter