The Social Web is a Horse Race

Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts | Posted on 11-11-2009

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What better way to get back on the blogging horse** than a quick blog post about Horse Racing? (And more importantly, betting.)

The Social Web is a Horse Race

Think about the Kentucky Derby, the premier race for three-year old thoroughbred horses.  These three-year old horses are bet on, talked about, and speculated about who is favored to win. A known statistic in the horse betting world is that the favored horse will only win about 33% of the time. This is the horse that SUPPOSED to win, yet it only does one in three times.

Who are you betting on?

As you develop platforms, strategy, community, conversation and more around these social web tools, are you betting on one to take you to the finish line (your goal)? Do you put your chips on one horse, maybe the favorite? Just crossing your fingers and hoping to win big? Do you accept the fact that if you’re wrong, you lose it all? Doesn’t it seem a little safer to spread your chips out a bit?
This all stems from a thought I offered during the AACRAO Panel in Dallas yesterday. The main point was this: we’ve narrowed the field down from all of the tools available (for this point in time), and everyone’s placing their bets on which tool is going to win.  Instead of betting on one site to win for you, here’s an alternate perspective:

The social web is like a horse race.  If you’re on every single horse, you’ll win.

I’m not telling you to be on every tool and site available.  That’s absurd. And besides, not every horse is in the Kentucky Derby… just the best, the ones that made the cut.  I am telling you to focus on the big players. If you’re ignoring MySpace because Mashable or another blogger said to, and you haven’t done your own primary research, you’re potentially missing an opportunity.

And as I mentioned at the beginning, the Kentucky Derby is only for 3 year old horses.  Know what that means?  There will occasionally be a new field to bet on. Lucky for us, it’s not a one year cycle (more like 2 or 3).  Tools you used last year and tools you are using this year might not be used in the coming years.

Be flexible.  Be adaptable.  Win the race.

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**My apologies for the lack of content of the past few months.  Things have been excitedly hectic at BlueFuego (you can read about recent company developments later this week on the BlueFuego Blog. Subscribe here). I’ve always been of the mindset that “If you don’t have anything good to blog, don’t blog anything at all.”  I want to respect your time and your inbox/reader with the content I push out, and bring you relevant information. I appreciate when you stop by and comment on the occasional post, and I pledge to do better for you in the coming months!

Butler University sues Anonymous Blogger

Brad J. Ward | Posted in Blogging, Community, Ethics, Higher Education, Management, Thoughts | Posted on 10-16-2009

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As I noted on Twitter at the beginning of the week, Butler University has come forth with a lawsuit against an anonymous blogger for making libelous and defamatory statements about administrators on his blog, The True BU. This post is intended to be a glimpse at how The True BU got started, as well as provide additional insight regarding my previous communications with the defendant. Everything posted here is factual to my knowledge.

Several things about this story (more at Inside Higher Ed) are interesting to me, being a former employee of Butler and one who had several conversations with the student being sued (while under his moniker).

  1. A year ago to the day I posted the lawsuit link on Twitter, this student got his start as an anonymous commenter in our BUForums, an area that I was in charge of and the community manager for.
  2. This student had previously applied to be a Butler Blogger, and I had several email correspondences with him regarding it.
  3. We correctly guessed who the anonymous commenter was about 2 weeks after he began commenting in our forums, due to several pieces of ‘evidence’ that matched what he said with who we thought it was.

There is also a huge difference between how we handled the anonymous blogger in the Admissions area, and how the higher level university employees handled it.

Read the rest of this entry »

FacebookGate, Take 2?

Brad J. Ward | Posted in Ethics, Facebook, Strategy, Thoughts | Posted on 10-12-2009

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Hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since ‘FacebookGate‘ took place, but here we go again! I received an email on October 8th about the squatting that’s already occurred, and saw a recent tweet from Rachel on Twitter about the issue.  The email notes:

Groups with the same few members exist for at least the following colleges and universities:

Swarthmore College
Widener University School of Law
University of the Arts
University of Pennsylvania
Ohio University
Millersville University of PA
St. Andrew’s University
Muhlenberg College
In addition, there are numerous other “2014″ groups that do not share the same small set of members.  However, they all have group descriptions that are strikingly similar. The description for each of these groups is something along the lines of the following, with the appropriate school name and location filled in for each respective school:
“This is THE best place for all the incoming freshmen/transfers of the Class of 2014. Just for those heading to ______ in 2010, this will be the group where we can talk about what’s going on and around campus.”
The fact that all these groups share similar descriptions suggests that these groups are all run by the same organization. I had hoped you would share your thoughts on the matter.
My thoughts on the matter: While I admittedly haven’t checked these groups for myself to see what’s going on, my initial thought is …. don’t miss out on this again.  It’s time to begin implementing your strategy of utilizing Facebook for customer service, retention and yieldin your incoming Class of 2014.  It’s ok to start the group and still let it run organically from there. Don’t view it as controlling the content, you just have the keys to it.
Also, consider a Page over a Group this year.  Both have their pros and cons, which I might outline in a future post, but the changes to Facebook Pages last April make it a very attractive platform over Groups.
What are you doing to get ahead of the game this recruitment cycle? How can you/we stop another FacebookGate from happening?

NACAC ’09 has arrived!

Brad J. Ward | Posted in Conferences, Higher Education | Posted on 09-23-2009

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I’ve arrived in Baltimore, MD for NACAC 09! In my wrapup post of NACAC ’08 last year, I talked about the difference between this conference audience and the crowd at a conference such as EduWeb or HighEdWeb. It looks like this year there will be two or three presentations regarding the web in admissions, which is good progress.   NACAC has done a great job integrating the usage of Twitter, Facebook and blogs into the pre-conference experience (both on the attendee side and the vendor side) and I’m excited to see how this continues through the conference.  It’s been pretty apparent so far that there won’t be much activity from non-vendors on the Twitter side, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Thoughts on Conference Communication

The more conferences I attend and present at, the more of a shift I see in audiences.  It was very interesting a few weeks ago when I was in Sydney, Australia to deliver the international keynote at the Marketing Higher Ed Symposium.  I asked how many in the room were on Twitter.  Over half of the 150 in attendance raised their hand.  Then, throughout the conference, I caught about 5-10 tweets through search.twitter.com relating to the conference.  Most of those were from the same handful of people.  Instead, this audience was using good ol’ pad and pen.  And during the morning and afternoon tea breaks, conversation flowed on each topic. (By the way, I love tea breaks at international conferences!!)

Which one is better?  The non-stop Twitter backstream that almost overwhelms you with a mix of great content and meaningless updates, or the conference of non-tweeters where the interaction happens face-to-face, over a cup of tea or a drink at the end of the day?

For every person who prefers the ‘EduWeb’ style, there is another who prefers the ‘NACAC’ style.  Who’s right? Who’s wrong?  It doesn’t really matter, and that’s not what I’m really here to debate.   I just have found the differences very interesting, and I’m leaning towards one of the two as my preferred type of conference. :)

Final Thoughts

I posted another blog during NACAC ’08 that I am constantly revisiting (and a thought that is a large part of the foundation of BlueFuego). It’s on the thought of resistance, relating to a quote from Seth Godin. And really, that’s what NACAC is all about for me.  Educate and inform. What can you do to help with this in your office?

——

Are you at NACAC????? Let me know! Would love to meet you.  Stop by Booth #1234.

Want to learn more about the Social Web for Admissions?  Join me at 8:30am in Room 314 on Friday!

Are Teens on Twitter? My 2 Cents.

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

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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

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

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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

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

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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 BLINDYs are here!

Brad J. Ward | Posted in Conferences, Speaking, Thoughts | Posted on 08-10-2009

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As we approach this week’s Blog Indiana conference, the voting ballot for the BLINDYs has been released, and I am a finalist for the Social Media Superstar of Indiana!

There are a lot of great people and blogs on this list, so check them all out and you might find a new blog or two to subscribe to!

Here’s my only request:  If you have ever gotten anything out of what I’ve shared on this blog, if any of these posts have helped you with your social media presence and your SM efforts, if you have ever had a takeaway from one of my presentations or webinars that has helped you do something better or try something new…. then would you mind voting for me? :)

Click here to vote in the BLINDYs!

Thanks for reading SquaredPeg.  I appreciate you all. :)

The Anatomy of #WatchItSpread

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

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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.

Robots are invading your web presence.

Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Research, Social Media, Strategy, Technology, Thoughts | Posted on 08-05-2009

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Robots by Dan CoulterI’ve noticed a disturbing trend recently across many campuses.  Social web presences for colleges and universities are being operated by robots… or so it seems.

As schools grapple with more, more, more and even more places on the social web to interact/update/moderate/maintain/upgrade, they are quickly losing the personal touch with their audience.  Tools are available to make it easy to spread information out to multiple platforms, but every website is different. Every community is different.  And, with a few exceptions, every update you post should be different.

Your audience on Facebook is different than LinkedIn. And that crowd is different than Twitter. 1 message does not fit all. A ‘Social Media Marketing Checklist‘ is not going to make you do things better, but it is going to inundate you with endless tasks that make you lose sight of what’s important in your marketing strategy.

Keep it simple: Be human, interact with others, and keep your institution on their mind. Don’t get stuck in the rut of ‘I have to do this on Monday, this on Wednesday, this twice on Thursday….” Be flexible and be a part of the community.  Our research is proving it, being human wins every time.

Start by taking an honest look at your audience and how they want to get your information, and serve that audience first. (Alumni, Young Alumni, Current and Prospective students might all differ.) Ask them, like the FGCU Alumni Office did.  Take a look at this response. And the same with University of Miami when they asked “Facebook or Twitter?” Then build your presence from there, adding in what you can manage.