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.

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

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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

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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. :)

Presentations: Who do you design for?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Conferences, Speaking, Technology, Thoughts, Viral | Posted on 21-05-2009-05-2008

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As I prepare for a 4-hour social web workshop at OACUHO in Toronto this weekend, I find myself asking this question….

Should I be designing my slides more for the people who are there, or for the people who aren’t there?

Here’s where the thought came from.  I was browsing through my old presentations on SlideShare and realized that I’m reaching a much wider audience post-presentation. We’ve all been in this stage of ‘Presentation Zen’  and ‘Slideology‘ for many months as everyone tries to make their slides more simplistic, but are they still able to tell the story to the casual viewer online, and do they still reflect the message enough?  In other words, is there enough meat on the bones of your slides to transcend into the online world effectively?

See what I mean?

How to Recruit Students using New Media Outlets – MACAC 2009
Presentation: 40 people
Online: 930 views in 2 weeks

FacebookGate – Online Webinar
Presentation: 2 webinars, 20 people each
Online: 1,085 views in 4 months

Rock Enroll: Integrating Social Media into your Recruitment Strategy – MPSEOC
Presentation: 60 people
Online: 1,636 views in 9 months

The Recruitment Long Tail – Stamats 08  (Slidecast – Audio + Slides to tell the story)
Presentation: 150 people
Online: 1020 views in 6 months

After these presentations happened in real life, they reached an audience on average 15 x’s larger on the web.  Surely not all visitors viewed the whole thing, not all of them stayed after the first 5 slides, but they all came across the content. And if was easier to follow, would they stick around longer?

Which leads me to think: How can I create engaging presentation slides that capture the needs of both my live audience and my online audience? The live audience ALWAYS comes first. Bottom line. But would a little more clarification on a slide hurt for when you post it online later? Will it ruin your presentation? If you’re engaging, lively and captivating, does it even matter?

I’ll talk for several minutes this weekend on this slide:

picture-8

But I wouldn’t expect someone on Slideshare to spend more than several seconds on it. On the other hand, you don’t want your slides to end up on the other extreme:

Just something to think about as you prepare for your next presentation. Be remarkable, be rememberable, and be aware of your post-presentation audience.  See you on the stage!

There’s something going down on Facebook. Pay attention.

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Alumni, Blogging, Community, Concepts, Ethics, Facebook, Higher Education, Marketing, Research, Social Media, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts, Viral, Web | Posted on 18-12-2008-05-2008

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I really need you to listen up for this post.  Please.

Something is going down on Facebook, and it has implications for your school.

Several weeks ago I was contacted by my friend and colleague Michelle at Winthrop about some questions pertaining to her Class of 2013 Facebook Group. The email read:

Since we are on rolling admissions I’ve been watching to see when a 2013 group would spring up.  Interestingly we have no info on 18 of the 23 members.  In fact, even though they are all out of state they all (include two 08 alum of Miami) seem to be connected.  My only thought is that they could be a group of squatters?  Would that even be beneficial to them?  Have you see anything like this or have any thoughts?

I did some research for her, and looked through the friends of Patrick Kelly, the creator of the group. At first, I saw nothing out of the ordinary other than the two ’08 alumni and the fact that this small group of 16-18 students were all interconnected with each other, like she said.

Yesterday, we sent out our admit packets.  Today, I got on Facebook to see if a Class of 2013 group had popped up yet.  I found 2.  One has the exact logo that was used for last year’s group, a non-Butler bulldog image, so I click on that one.  And I look at the Creator of the group.  Patrick Kelly, Plano Senior High School. I check our system. No Patrick Kelly that has applied and been admitted to Butler.

I dig deeper into Facebook, searching for ‘Class of 2013′ groups. And here’s a list of what I find.

University of Michigan.
Cornell.
Indiana University.
George Washington University.
Duke (?).
University of Alabama.
Tulane
.
Brown.
Northwestern.
Vanderbilt
.
Pittsburgh
.
University of Illinois.
Auburn.
West Virginia University
.
Michigan State University.
Boston University.
Penn State.
University of Wisconsin
.
Washington University in St. Louis
.
Temple University
.
University of Georgia
.
University of Chicago.
University of Iowa.
University of Vermont
.
Georgetown.
Dartmouth
.
Virginia Tech
.

And guess what?  This is only from the first 7 pages of a search that returns more than 500 results.   Start looking at the names of the group creators and admins.

Justin Gaither.
Patrick Kelly.
Jasmine White.
James Gaither.
Josh Egan.
Ashley Thomas.
And more.

See how many times those names appear in admin for these groups, and look at their friends and see how many times those names pop up.  A LOT. This isn’t just the Common App Effect, where students apply to every school under the sun. These people aren’t interested in going to every school they have started a group for. No, this is an inside ring with a common purpose.  They don’t always create the group, but they do always get in, friend someone, and get control rights.

You might have the same thought I had at first.  I responded to Megan, “That is very interesting. I don’t really see where squatting could be beneficial. After all, the students who join and participate will steer the group in whatever direction they take it.  I’ve never heard of anything like that.”

Sure, not for one school. Not for tiny little Butler, with 900 incoming students.

But for 500+ schools? Owning the admin rights to groups equaling easily 1,000,000+ freshman college students?

That’s huge.

Think of it: Sitting back for 8-10 months, (even a few years), maybe friending everyone and posing as an incoming student.  Think of the data collection. The opportunities down the road to push affiliate links.  The opportunity to appear to be an ‘Admin’ of Your School Class of 2013. The chance to message alumni down the road.  The list of possibilities goes on and on and on.

I’ve said many times, step back and let the student group start on its own.   Today, I change that position.  It seems that we have been gamed, and we need to at least own the admin rights to the group in an effort to protect our incoming students. To end the possibility of them being pushed ads and “buy these sheets for college” stuff this summer.  You know there is a motive behind all of this. And you know it has to do with money.  And you KNOW you’re going to get calls about it when it happens.

Tomorrow I will set up the OFFICIAL Butler Class of 2013 group. Tomorrow we will promote it to our students, and explain to them why the other groups are potential spam.  Tomorrow I will let them know we are not there to moderate them, but merely to provide the safe platform for them to interact and get to know each other.  I encourage you to consider the same.

For most of us, tomorrow is too late already. Luckily my group has 2 students in it.  Most schools are at 300+ students and growing every day.  Make an effort now.

I can’t wrap my head around this all the way yet.  I’ll be back around 9pm to write more.   Please, join me and comment with your thoughts. What I have said above might not be the right solution.  Maybe it involves Facebook’s help to take the ring down.  For the first time, I truly believe we can’t sit back on this one.  If you see more schools, add them to the list.  Together we can figure out a solution for our incoming students.

And please, blog/tweet/email this out to others and link to this so we can have a common place to figure out the best steps.


*added 5:47pm

*added 10:28pm

I have created a Google Doc to start trying to tie the schools all together. Collab with me! http://bit.ly/W1Cg
It’s pretty neat to see everyone working together! Check it out. Thanks for your help!

*added 11:37pm

About 15 people have joined me on the Google Doc (THANK YOU!!) and we are approaching a list of 150 schools now. Click here to see the progress.

To keep an eye on the twitter backstream as well, click here.

*added 12:25am

We have over 200 schools and are starting to notice some patterns.  Certain names are affiliated with bigger schools, and others are with smaller schools.  Some people are usually ‘creator’ and others are always ‘admin’.

*added 1:03am

A lot of the names are linking back to College Prowler. More updates after we do some research. *HUGE SHOUTOUT to the 15+ people helping out in the Google Document and on Twitter. You’re all awesome.  Be sure to leave a comment so I can recognize you properly.

*added 1:26am

We feel we can reasonably confirm that College Prowler is behind the mass creation of ‘Class of 2013′ groups on Facebook. More to come.

*added 1:40am

Out of the 243 ‘Class of 2013′ groups we listed on the Google Doc, these are the most frequent names (n=493) listed as Creator or Admin of the group:

  • Ron Tressler – 58
  • Justin Gaither – 55
  • Josh Egan – 42
  • Jasmine Smith – 20
  • Ashley Thomas – 20
  • Mark Tressler – 10
  • James Gaither  – 10

Searching these names on Google, my colleagues found several direct connections to College Prowler via LinkedIn, ZoomInfo, and more. Perhaps the most disheartening tidbit we found was a post spread across the US on Craiglist.  Here is an example of a local ad put out for a ‘Facebook Marketing Internship‘.

“Viral Marketing Internship (Spring Semester)
An internship that combines the addicting glory of facebook with viral marketing? It’s true. College Prowler Inc., the Pittsburgh-based publisher of the only complete series of college insiders’ guides written by students, is actively seeking an unpaid viral marketing intern who has a solid understanding of the web, social networking, and interactive marketing.
Responsibilities
- Implement Facebook marketing campaigns that will engage high school and college students
[...]
Hours: 15 hours per week
Salary: Unpaid, internship credit

UNPAID to do the dirty work. What a shame.

I am not here to say that College Prowler is a bad company. There was obviously a business motive behind the decision to create 250+ Class of 2013 groups.  Unfortunately, we may never know that decision now that this has been brought into the light by the higher ed community.  Stories can quickly be changed.  An incentive can be a service with one PR release.   Truthfully, I hope we don’t find out what future plans were down the road for this massive infrastructure that has been laid across Facebook to unsuspecting high school seniors.

I do need some sleep. I’ll revisit this again in the morning.  Please add your thoughts and reflections and ramifications as a comment below.  And again, thanks for your help everyone.

(View screenshots here)

*added 5:50am, Friday

One thing that concerns me, after sitting back and looking at this.  Most (75+%) of the students who are joining these groups list themselves as ’09 high school students. The position is for a college internship. I don’t know too many high school seniors looking to pick up an internship in the spring of their junior year.  It reeks of inauthenticity.  I also noticed several high school names popping up throughout as the networks that these people were a part of.  Last I knew, to be a high school student and join a network you just had to have 3 people confirm you went there. Join a school, add random people as friends to confirm you (you’d be surprised at how many students would probably do this for someone they have never met or heard of), and you’re in.  Also, I have noticed that the friend list of these ‘students’ are often alphabetical.  Start with an A search and friend students until you get what you need.

*added 9:45am, Friday

With recent talk on Twitter about what a school’s role should be on a Facebook group, I thought this research would be timely.   (To see all of my Class of 2012 Facebook Group research from last year, please visit this page.) I surveyed our incoming class of 915 students, and about 315 responded.  These questions relate to the Class of 2012 Facebook Group:

16. Did other universities and colleges use these type of sites to contact you?
Yes:    70    22.44%
No:    242    77.56%

17. Were you ever helped with a question about Butler through a social media site?
For example: Facebook, Butler Bloggers/Forums, Zinch, etc.
Yes:    195    62.50%
No:    117    37.50%

18. How helpful is it to ask questions about Butler on sites like the BUForums or Facebook?
1 being ‘Not helpful. I would rather call.’
5 being ‘Very helpful. I like using the internet to get info.’

1 – 23
2 – 17
3  – 80
4 – 93
5 –   94
Average:    3.71

21. Butler Admissions’ involvement in the Class of ’12 Facebook group was:
1 being ‘Too much. Let us have our own area.’    1    4
5 being ‘Perfect. Got questions answered when I needed help.’    2    13
1 – 4
2 – 13
3  – 114
4 – 110
5 –   52
Average:    3.66

My research shows that it’s ok for us to be involved in a ‘Class of xxxx’ group.

*added 10:19am, Friday

Breaking News: @hollyrae may have found our list of intern students behind the creation.  http://www.collegejolt.com

*added 12:03pm, Friday

Update: Luke Skurman, CEO of College Prowler, has left a comment.

*added 4:15pm, Friday

I have chatted with reporters at both The Chronicle of Higher Ed and Inside Higher Ed.  Serious interest from them.  Also emailed my contacts at Chicago Tribune and Campus Technology.  Thanks to Sarah Evans at http://www.prsarahevans.com for her PR help.  Might have a lead for a CNN story next week.

*added 7:51pm, Friday

I’m planning a small, free web-based roundtable next week for anyone who is completely lost and needs some help or clarification.  More details to come. Thanks again for all your content creation and collaboration.

I’ve started Butler’s official group and drafted the email to all admitted students to notify them of the group and the tiny role we will play in it. I have asked in the email for students who wish to be the moderators/admins of the groups.  That’s where we are at right now. :)

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Making a Viral Video

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Alumni, Analytics, Athletics, Blogging, Embedding, Facebook, Free, Higher Education, Marketing, Mascot, Recruitment, Research, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts, Video, Viral, Web, YouTube | Posted on 10-10-2008-05-2008

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It’s been nearly one month since I created and released the Butler Blue II video during our missing mascot fiasco (no, they were never found).

I’ve refrained from posting on this until now because I wanted to allow enough time to look at stats and analytics on the video to say if it was a success or not. Conclusion?  Success.

I’ve never been one to throw the word ‘viral‘ around.  [Example] You can’t make a video ‘viral’, it’s up to the people who watch it if they want to pass it along.   But you CAN help the video become viral by choosing your key influencers and letting it go from there.

Read the rest of this entry »