Before taking on that new project in 2010

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Marketing, Research, Technology, Thoughts, Web | Posted on 11-01-2010-05-2008

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Some questions you might ask before that you start that new project in 2010.

It’s always good to ask questions, both of yourself and others involved. It’ll likely make the project a little easier for you to implement and manage.

  1. Is it realistic?
  2. Do we have the staffing to manage it for long-term?
  3. What is our goal for this? Are we chasing tools instead of goals? (hat tip to @howardkang)
  4. Is this the right tool to make it happen?
  5. What other projects and initiatives will have to sacrifice from the time I need to invest into the new project?
  6. How many other schools/competitors are already doing this?
  7. Can we do it better or differently from them?
  8. Will I have the support I need to get it to a finished project?
  9. How can I document the success of this for my boss?
  10. Who could help me look at this with fresh eyes and give an alternative perspective?

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

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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.

2009 Digital Readiness Report

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Marketing, Research, Strategy, Web | Posted on 10-08-2009-05-2008

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Here’s a recent report that’s sure to ruffle a few feathers in the higher ed arena.

The 2009 Digital Readiness Report, a study conducted by Eric Schwartzman with the support of online newsroom provider iPressroom, Korn/Ferry International, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and Trendstream, also identifies which new media and social media communications skills are most important to today’s hiring decision makers.

(Don’t want to give your contact info? Here’s the direct link.)

The Digital Skills Rank, in order, for Academic Institutions is:

1. Blogging/Podcasting
1. Social Networking
2. Media Relations
3. Microblogging
4. SEO
5. Content Management
6. Email Marketing
7. Social Bookmarking

How would you rank these 8 items within your office?  Keep in mind this is from a PR perspective, but I certainly didn’t expect email marketing to fall slightly above Del.icio.us.

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.

MiFi… WiFi for me.

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Flickr, Higher Education, Lifecasting, Marketing, Photos, Recruitment, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts, Web, YouTube | Posted on 03-06-2009-05-2008

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If you haven’t heard yet about the awesomeness of the MiFi and how it’s going to change the way you think about media, allow me to explain.

The MiFi (available through Verizon and Sprint) calls itself the ‘intelligent mobile hotspot’.

Thinner and shorter than an iPhone, and as simple to use as pressing an on/off button, the MiFi is essentially a router in your pocket.  You’re able to connect up to 5 devices to it and use the signal.  On Verizon, I typically am on a 3G network and have averaged a 2.0mpbs download speed.  I rarely notice a lag in page loads.

At last check, the price of the MiFi was $99 with a $50 rebate. A $40/month subscription gets you a measly 250mb of data.  Upgrade to the $60/month package and get 5GB of data.

So how does this affect my job?

Two words: Streamlined Media.

With a MiFi, you have internet whereever you go, for whatever device you need (as long as Verizon really is everywhere they say they are!) To explain streamlined media and how you can take advantage of it, let me offer a few examples.

1) Event Photos live to the web

Go pick up an Eye Fi 4GB Explore Video SD Card for $99 and put it in your camera.  The Eye Fi allows you to upload photos as soon as you hit a pre-registered wi-fi network.  With the MiFi, you no longer need to wait to get back to the office to send photos. Do it on the fly, right from the event!!

Here’s what you can do with the Eye Fi:

1) Set the card to instantly upload photos to Flickr with a tag for the event.  We’ll pretend it’s Commencement. So we set up the Eye Fi to upload each photo taken to Flickr with the tag commencement2009.

2) Set up a page on your .edu website that will show all of the photos taken.  Link to it from your social web efforts, the home page, the commencement page, the live video streaming page, and more.

3) Put some simple code on it that will pull in photos from Flickr. (Put your username where the red is.  Find it here.) Use the API to create something like:

<iframe align="center" src="http://www.flickr.com/slideShow/
index.gne?user_id=XXXXXXXX@N00&tags=commencement2009" 
frameBorder="0" width="750" scrolling="no" height="750"></iframe>

4) Go wild!  Take photos and they’ll automatically be put on your .edu website.  No need to get back to a computer and get them uploaded, have someone resizing images and putting them on the web.  Streamlined.

2) Live Video anywhere on campus

If you haven’t realized that it’s time to get serious about video, wake up.  Video is becoming increasingly important and with the MiFi you can provide it.  Whether it’s using the same steps above to do YouTube videos on the fly or have a uStream feed from anywhere you have a signal.

And remember this that I talked about last January?? Next week, it will be 2 years to the day since I put together the plan for it at Butler.  With the MiFi, it just became that much easier. And yes, it’s coming to a campus near you very soon.

3) Campus Tour Enhancement!

This one comes from Adam Epstein at WPI (@epsteada on Twitter, blogs at http://epsteada.com/), and some discussion we had while I was at NEACAC last week. (If you want to see the slidecast of my presentation, it’s over here.) Adam talked about the possibilities of photos during the campus tour, and when the students arrive back to the Admissions office…. BOOM!  They’re already on the screen as they walk back in.  For a tech-savvy campus like WPI, that’s pretty cool stuff to show off.

So what can you think of?

There are probably 101 other ways to use this new technology, what do you have in mind? Where are we going from here as we get one step closer to an internet chip in our skin? :)   Leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Oh, and next time you’re at a conference, look for the BlueFuego connection.  And if you need an internet fix, come find me for the password. :)

mifi

Simple Tip: Find and Follow

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Facebook, Higher Education, Recruitment, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter, Web | Posted on 18-05-2009-05-2008

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We’re heavy in commencement season, which means hundreds and thousands of people are sitting uncomfortably close to strangers and relatives for what seems like eternity to watch someone walk across the stage for 15 seconds.

So what’s a person to do when boredom sets in and they’ve read the pamphlet 3 times?  For some people, it’s time to update Twitter.

Bored Commencement

So what’s an institution to do?  Find and Follow.

Get on http://search.twitter.com, search for your institution and try several variations.  Abbreviations of the name, acronyms of the school, and the words commencement, graduation, etc.   You might be surprised at how many people you find.  And isn’t that what Twitter is all about?  Expanding your network to be able to interact with and share information with people who have an interest or connection to your institution.

Define your Efforts: Social Web Recruitment Funnel

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Facebook, Flickr, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Research, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts, Twitter, Web, YouTube, Zinch | Posted on 13-05-2009-05-2008

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I’ve had this thought bouncing around in my head that came out of a client visit/strategy session… a visualization of the traditional recruitment funnel in terms of the social web.  This is what I came up with.

(Click Photo to Enlarge)

*NOTE* –   This chart is by no means inclusive of all sites or tools available. This chart is meant as a visualization of strategy to help you think about a framework for your recruitment efforts.  This chart is meant to be thought about, modified to fit, and executed as resources are available.

The Social Web Recruitment Funnel

The Funnel resembles a traditional recruitment funnel (suspects -> prospects -> applicants -> admits -> enrolled), and is designed to dissect 3 areas of recruitment:  Seek, Engage and Retain.

Seek.

The students are not always going to look for you.  Traditional methods such as name buys, print and email still hold a place in your marketing/recruitment arsenal.  But take a good look at web-based tools and sites, for example: Zinch, CollegeBoard and Cappex. Facebook might also be a method of seeking potential applicants and this platform can be leveraged as a great place for prospective student Q&A.  Use email and print to reinforce your message and to drive students to your social web efforts. Your .edu website is still important and things such as ‘Get more info’ need to be prominent and easy to find/fill out.

Engage.

This is where it gets fun.  Build your social web presence to start engaging and interacting with these prospective students.  Think outside of the box. Never before have we had access to so many opportunities to connect and utilize free tools, but approach with caution and don’t overwhelm your audience.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  It’s easier to make your web presence bigger. It’s much harder to shrink your web presence and cut connections and friendships with others on a platform you decide to no longer utilize or maintain. Allow them the opportunity to engage with you from the moment they show interest to the moment they step on campus.

Retain.

After the applications come in, your pool has decreased significantly in size.  Take the opportunity to create community with these students and allow them to interact with each other.  Host the conversation or set up a Facebook group for them to interact.  Promote it heavily through traditional methods such as email and print, but drive them to the conversation. If possible, scale back your efforts to a smaller collection of tools for this select group and focus on community management and getting them excited about your school and brand. Outside of the social web, continue interactions via yielding events and personal phone calls.  Use the web to enhance these connections and to network the students together.

Final Thoughts

These thoughts are from the 30,000 ft. view and hundreds of other decisions and ideas would go into each effort. A well-defined strategy would incorporate many, but not all, of these social web tools.  The most important thing is to know where your audience is and cater to them.

If you have any thoughts or comments, leave a message below or shoot me a message on Twitter (@bradjward).


Are you ready to Ignite the Fuego and work with BlueFuego on your strategy? Contact us today.
Twitter for Higher Ed Webinar: Back by popular demand!  June 10th, only $99.  Click to Register.

A View from the ‘Customer’

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Technology, Thoughts, Web | Posted on 24-04-2009-05-2008

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Darryl from Plaid has recently posted his thoughts on the college visit process after a whirlwind trip in the northeast.  The post, titled how many $150K products do you buy from 20 year olds?, talks about many points of the college visit and selection process.  Here are some gems from the blog post:

————

+ What about having an admissions/marketing person on tour with a student guide? Co-presenting, for the win? Sales teams present to clients selling $150K products every day. Why not higher ed?

+ Everyone has a meal plan, quad style dorms, blue light security systems and lecture halls. Hand out a fact sheet to cover the obvious stuff that everyone asks (but must be covered.)

+ How could your tour be interactive? Is there a way to get the student/parent to participate?

+ Anywhere else in the consumersphere, you’re treated like a rockstar if you’ve got over $100K to spend. How could you treat potential students (and parents) like rock stars?

+ Every higher ed admissions/marketing person should book a trip to Vegas today and take the Zappos tour. Seriously. This is a tour of AN OFFICE, and it’s exciting, engaging, and you’ll want to work there. What could your university be doing to make your tour more Zappos-like?

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Go read the blog post today, and keep an eye out for future posts by Darryl on higher ed marketing!

Twitter for Higher Ed

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Research, Technology, Thoughts, Web | Posted on 27-03-2009-05-2008

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I’ve been pretty deep in the research of 400 college and university Twitter accounts, and I’ve been impressed with both the adoption and the growth of this niche on Twitter in the past month.

We are looking at all types of accounts: Admissions, Athletics, Alumni, Departments and Colleges, PR, News, general institution accounts and more. Just wanted to share a few very brief stats and notes from the in-depth research.

  • Of the 400 accounts we are tracking, 26% did not follow anyone new in the past month.
  • The 400 accounts averaged a 93.3% growth in # of followers over the past month.
  • Harvard, always known for its brand monitoring (no logos on shot glasses, etc.) was late to the @HarvardU boat. Take control of your brand, or deal with updates such as this one.
  • Conversation is everything…………… or is it???
  • A small handful of schools are in the top 10% of # of followers, # of following, and # of updates.
  • Admission offices usually have the lowest # of followers out of all types of accounts.

One trend I’ve noticed is that higher education accounts just go out and follow EVERYONE, typically scanning lists of other institutions to build their following/follower numbers.

For a history lesson, here’s where I think it started.  Way back, nearly 18 months ago, a few of us who had become regulars with our personal accounts started branching out into institutional accounts. I consider @andrewcareaga the Nostradamus of Higher Ed Twitter with the tweet below. (Yeah… I was the only one who responded.)Missouri S&T Twitter

So what does this have to do with the trend of ‘follow everyone!’ Back then, we were lone rangers on uncharted territories.  We stuck together. Our follower lists were tributes to other brave souls giving this new tool a try at their college or university.  And somewhere along the way, it became standard. But also… back then, we didn’t really know what we were going to use the tool for. # of Followers, # of Following, it didn’t really matter.  There was no one else to talk to because you didn’t know who else was around. (Unless you were using Tweetscan, which is sooooo 2007.)

So is it good or bad to follow and everyone? We’ll talk more about that at the webinar. :)

With Twitter’s phenomenal growth (1392% from Feb ’08 to Feb ’09), it’s time to get serious.  Time to make Twitter work for you, and make it accomplish something.  Chris Brogan recently said that we are now in the ‘prove it’ stage of social media. And it’s the truth. It’s time for practitioners to step up to the plate and make something happen. And it starts with a strategy and knowing what you want to accomplish.  It’s more than following 500 random people and more than waiting for people to come follow you.

And that’s exactly what we’ll be talking about in the Twitter for Higher Ed webinar in 2 weeks.  Hope you’ll consider joining the rest of the schools who are ready to get serious about Twitter and who want to work smarter, not harder. :)

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Twitter for Higher Ed Webinar – 2 dates!  April 9th or 10th.
Only $99 to attend.  More information here.
Bring your pen and pad.

Celebrate! 200 posts at SquaredPeg.com.

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Blogging, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Social Media, Technology, Thoughts, Web | Posted on 16-03-2009-05-2008

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Last Friday’s post was the 200th post published to SquaredPeg.com.  It’s been a great ride so far, thanks to all of you who read and share this blog with your coworkers, boss, colleagues and others.

The subscriber #’s for this blog have really grown in the past 6-8 months, which means you might have missed a lot of the early content.  Some of it was pretty bad, but some is worth mentioning again. Here is a list of the ‘top 10%’ of SquaredPeg…. 20 posts to take a first look at, or revisit if you’ve been around since the beginning.  Enjoy!

Top 6 Posts (# of Views)

  1. FacebookGate (December 18, 2008)
  2. 10 Reasons to Monitor Twitter (September 23, 2008)
  3. Flickr, Your Electronic Photo Database? (April 24, 2008)
  4. Want $100 in free Facebook Ads? (June 30, 2008)
  5. Try this one on your Boss (February 12, 2008)
  6. Class of 2012 Facebook Research (January 3 – July 31, 2008)

Top 5 Posts (Comments)

  1. FacebookGate (December 18, 2008 – 262 comments)
  2. Implementing Social Media on your Campus (December 9, 2008 – 43 comments)
  3. Let’s Kick it up a Notch (August 8, 2008 – 30 comments)
  4. Transitioning out of a Job (January 26, 2009 – 21 comments)
  5. What’s the ROI of Social Media? (October 29, 2008 – 21 comments)

Top 4 Favorite Ideas or Thoughts

  1. Lifecasters: Second Try (January 29, 2008)
  2. Twitter with Student Bloggers (May 15, 2008)
  3. Taking Chats to a New Level (October 30, 2008)
  4. Good Project Graveyard [Part 2] (November 25, 2008)

Top 3 posts that never got a comment:

  1. The Way Users Do Things (December 14, 2007)
  2. Good Project Graveyard [Part 3] (December 1, 2008)
  3. Blue II is Live (March 3, 2008)

Top 2 posts I wish I hadn’t written:

  1. Keep an eye on Twingr (November 14, 2008)
  2. SocioTown: A 3D Social MMOG (November 21, 2007)

1 post that changed my life:

  1. The Value of Face Time (September 13, 2007) – The beginning of the path towards BlueFuego.  Good stuff. :)

Thanks again to all of you who read or subscribe (RSS or EMAIL!). I really appreciate it. :)