This week's #casesmc chat was co-moderated by Chandra Towler of Big Fish, a marketing firm located in Memphis,Tenn.
We've seen infographics show up in increasing numbers and as frequent topics of discussion on Twitter and in the blogosphere. Our goal when creating this collection was to highlight the possibility of infographic use specifically in advancement.
The collection has three sections:
I've never had as much fun building a CASE sample collection as I did with this one. There's a lot of content here that I hope will inspire. Infographics can be a powerful tool to present data in a compelling fashion and help institutions engage in visual storytelling.
The range of the sample collection can be seen in:
Just a few years ago, the idea of alumni around the world attending the same on-campus event in real-time was a pipe dream. Actually, it probably wasn’t even a dream because such a notion would have seemed ludicrous at the time. Now, we find ourselves smack in the middle of a technological great awakening that has advancement professionals stirring like prospectors during the gold rush.
As prospectors of this new frontier, we’re frequently tempted to try anything and everything in hopes of engaging our thousands of alumni who have staked their own claim in social media. However, as we sift through the waters of technology looking for a great discovery, we have to guard against selfish acts that threaten to sour our audience during the early stages of experimentation.
Moving beyond the unintentionally lengthy gold rush analogy, I turn your focus to livestreaming. At Cornell, we have streamed around 40 events in the past year and a half. We continue to learn something new about the process with each broadcast. Recently, it dawned on us that we’re not always considerate of the virtual audience. As I’m sure many of you know, it’s not uncommon for an event to start late because the speakers and audience members are in the lobby enjoying snacks and spirits, while reconnecting with old classmates. Events slated for 7 .pm., frequently kick off around 7:10 or 7:15 p.m. For those people who are physically present, this is of no consequence, but for the virtual audience, it’s kryptonite. While the in-person guest enjoys the splendors of food and conversation, the virtual viewers sit alone in their house or office, anxiously awaiting the start of your program. These people are busy professionals with families, rich with the responsibilities that didn't exist during their undergrad years. What they do NOT have is an abundance of time. If you make them wait, there are plenty of other things online vying for their attention.
Cornell recently livestreamed an event that started 15 minutes late, and during that delay, we saw roughly a quarter of our viewers drop-off before the event started. The lesson here is clear: Treat the virtual audience like it doesn't matter, and audience members will make sure YOU don’t matter the next time you promote a livestream event. We can’t SAY we want an engaged online audience then treat them as if they need us more than we need them…they don’t.
If you’re going to embark on the journey of streaming LIVE events, make sure you have a production plan that provides the virtual audience with the same high-quality experience you would expect to give the in-person attendees. If there’s a chance the event might not start on time, have filler material ready that you can roll out to keep them from logging off.
The evolution of technology is fun and exciting, but regardless of how revolutionary the tools are, a poor user experience will render them irrelevant. Technology is only as good as the content, and the content is only as good as its accessibility. After all, the virtual audience isn’t interested in the event JUST for the open bar…
My colleague, Debra Lukehart, and I recently presented a webinar on drafting and rolling out institutional social media policies. The question-and-answer session at the conclusion of the presentation included a query about how prescriptive a policy can be before it turns off a campus community to its intended purpose. Conversely, I recently had an email conversation with a peer who isn’t sure policies or guidelines are necessary for his campus.
These two extreme approaches have made me question my belief that a practical approach is warranted. Instead, a Goldilocks solution is best. Your policy shouldn’t be too hard or too soft—it should have a “just right” fit occuring between the two extremes.
Social media exists along the thin line between our public and personal discourse. For this reason, policies or guidelines are necessary to remind members of our communities that they serve as brand ambassadors. What they say and post can have long-term consequences for an institution and for themselves.
Make it too prescriptive, though, and you eliminate the transparency and openness that are the hallmarks of social media. Focusing solely on thou shalls and thou shall nots suggest you don’t trust your faculty, staff or students to represent your institution well.
Two campuses recently banned student-athletes from using specific words in their social media posts. The words included offensive terms, drug and alcohol-related terminology and the names of sports agents. Reactions to the bans ran the gamut of supportive to thinking the practice was silly. But, what may seem draconian could save students and coaches from posts that might tarnish their futures.
However, I’m not sure that a common sense approach to presenting information to our community wouldn’t accomplish the same goals. A bit of honey could make the “just right” porridge that much easier to swallow.
So, what does a Goldilocks approach to social media policies or guidelines prescribe overall?
Feel free to share your experiences drafting or implementing your social media policies or guidelines below or your thoughts on the practice of banning specific words or content. After all, this is meant to be social!
There comes a point in the summer when the incoming first-year class reaches a fever pitch of excitement. And with the student-created "Class of 2016" Facebook group right at their fingertips, this pitch is constantly humming with every single question, thought and link that shows up in the group.
I have taken it upon myself to create constructive distractions. Any time there's general anxiety or nervous energy, I introduce something new and creative to our students. First, it was Mad Libs (it was fun but a lot of work without lasting gratification), then a collaborative Spotify playlist and then it was a collective playlist of Youtube videos to send the class of 2016 to their happy place.
I consider turntable.fm the biggest win so far this year in every possible respect. I was introduced to it last year by several class of 2015 students while it was still in beta. I quickly fell in love with the ability to create a virtual space to listen to music together with friends working across the country or next door. In the communication department's new open office environment at Oberlin, turntable is even more fabulous. Each one of us sits down (in order) at our turntable DJ spot and we switch out music while piping it through one set of speakers. It's collaborative, cooperative and really awesome when we leave the virtual space for a Paul Simon sing-a-long at our desks.
My most recent gift to our class group is the "Spinning with '16!" turntable room. I launched the room one evening, posted a link to the room on the class of 2016 Facebook group and during the next four hours, I introduced turntable to at least 15 new users. More than half of them tried their hands at DJing during the course of the evening. Each person who visited got a quick introduction to the features via turntable's chat and information on how one could listen in or more actively participate.
When I headed to bed, I left the room in the capable hands of four dedicated students who continued working for about an hour. The next morning I found that we had around 50 clicks on the link posted to the Facebook group the previous evening. But since turntable requires users to create an account and login (using a Facebook or Twitter account), I think that some folks gave up before getting inside the room.
The next day, I was completely floored when the link popped up at the top of the Facebook group and when I stopped into the room to listen before an afternoon meeting, I was pleased to see three virtual heads bopping around and talking about how they had discovered their favorite ska bands. After my meeting, I came back to the room to find one of the now-veterans of the "Spinning with '16" room explaining the features of turntable to a new visitor and talking about how this was just the right exercise to prelude hosting a future radio show on the college station.
Enabling excitement and education is truly the greatest wish I could have as Oberlin's social media coordinator, and I'm pleased to say that with the fabulous class of 2016 group, it has been fulfilled.
Qualman has aided several companies in building leading digital strategies, focusing heavily on the use of social media.
His latest book is Digital Leader. In it, Qualman provides an easily digestible (if not necessarily easily launchable) strategy for individuals to maximize their leadership potential in the social media/digital space.
Digital Leader breaks down into five main parts, each set around what Qualman sees as a truth that will help you develop your own digital STAMP. They are: Simple, True, Act, Map and People.
I personally enjoyed reading Digital Leader. Qualman writes with a style that is both conversational and motivational. Professionals who have spent time trying to articulate a vision for social media to supervisors and colleagues will find several "a-ha" moments in the ways that Qualman distills transformative technology into parallels with the non-digital world.
Qualman uses the book to challenge the reader to assess who they are currently in the digital world and to recognize the potential of who they could be in that same space. His suggestions are also quite realistic. Although Qualman wants people to take full advantage of the full spectrum of social media possibilities, he does recognize the need to power down and go offline. In fact, he recommends committing to checking email only twice a day. This is welcome advice for those of us who check our email with the fervor of Pavlovian dogs.
I have only two criticisms of the book. The first is that Qualman appears to implore people to use the digital space for only “big” moments. In parts of the book, he shows impatience for using time to talk about the TV show you watched as opposed to spending it creating content for a blog about changing the world. He does this because he feels that every step we take in the digital universe leaves a lasting footprint—with the theory that we would want our footprints to stand out. I agree with this to a point. However, if our digital persona and our "IRL" (in real life) persona are indeed one and the same, authenticity only comes when we share all of ourselves. I think Qualman underestimates the long-term value of future generations knowing some of the day-to-day things that we found interesting in the present day. For purposes of future research, we are all now primary sources.
My second quibble is that at times he tends to remind the reader about some of the famous people he has shared the stage with or worked with. His ideas are strong enough to stand on their own without him needing to seek an imprimatur from a well-known CEO or world leader.
This book is full of great ideas without being dense. It is the perfect read for an airplane trip (although I recommend the hard copy so you do not have to power down below 10,000 feet).
Qualman is on Twitter @equalman, and he interacts often with readers and answers questions.
If anyone else has read Digital Leader, I would be curious to know what your own assessment of this book is in the comments.
After spending the better part of a year observing the wonders of Tumblr from a close range, I decided that Oberlin should try and cultivate a following on our college Tumblr. Summer was the perfect time to do this: Most students are away from Oberlin (and missing it desperately); recent graduates are only realizing how much they miss the place they called home for four years; and rising high school seniors are gearing up in their college searches.
Tumblr's simple microblogging setup is reminiscent of Twitter. Both microblogging platforms offer users the ability to appreciate posts (on Twitter, you can “favorite” tweets by clicking a star icon; on Tumblr, you can “like” posts using a heart icon) and repost or “reblog” them quickly to a personal account.
In three months, we gained almost 200 followers—more than one a day. Better yet, these new followers were interacting with us with “likes” and reblogs galore. It's likely that someone who saw one of these liked posts or reposts would trace back to the original poster (us!) and start following us, too. Win-win.
So, how do you build an audience on Tumblr?
So, you've got a Tumblr. You're figuring out your audience. How do you keep them tuned in?
Are your students on Tumblr? What are they sharing?
Matthew Herek (@mherek) currently serves as the associate director of young alumni engagement in the office of alumni relations and development at Northwestern University. He works to integrate social media in ways that increase engagement and participation in the alumni community.
OK, perhaps that title is a little dramatic. I suppose it would be something if the plot of Contagion 2 centered on the one Twitter holdout who could retweet the cure for an awful disease, but instead destroys the world.
Now that it’s 2012, and five years since Twitter came on the scene, it’s safe to say the platform is way beyond the "early adopter" stage and has grown past its awkward "what everyone had for lunch" years. Twitter has become a national treasure. It can be used to topple political regimes, gauge reaction to major events and force telephone service providers to reverse course on fees. Many companies employ people to monitor Twitter and respond to questions and complaints.
With all of these functions, surely there must be a way for alumni and development professionals to use it. I offer the following observations:
1. You don’t have to be on Twitter to use Twitter: Twitter is a very open resource and the search functionality alone makes it worth a visit. Go there and search for hashtags, like #casesmc or #higheredlive. Perhaps you’re a prospect manager heading into a huge meeting with a big shot from United Airlines—use Twitter search to see what people are saying about his/her company (if nothing else, you might know what kind of mood they’ll be in). This has potential for career services shops as well. Using Twitter search, you could teach job-seeking alumni how to research potential employers.
2. Growing Your Network: Would you ever think that following a presenter from a conference would lead to great restaurant recommendations? Is that even useful? Sure it is! As an alumni professional, you would be amazed at how connecting with professionals on Twitter can help you when you need a personal recommendation for the perfect place in a far-off city to take a prospect for dinner. Remember: Research shows we are far more likely to listen to recommendations from our friends than from strangers. This makes Twitter more useful than Yelp.
3. I sense much anger in this one: Do we even need Jedi knights anymore? Telepathy is not necessary to gauge the mood of your alumni base after big news hits. Just check in on Twitter after any major news event for your institution and there will likely be a dedicated base of promoters who are making statements about it. My feeling is that these raw 140-character primal screams are more of a mood indicator than one alum’s well-thought-out email sent five days later. You have to be on top of this.
4. Filters are so 1990: Remember when institutions relied on press releases and university communications were carefully crafted to “control the message”? Those days are dwindling. Arizona’s athletic director tweeted the announcement of the institution’s new football coach. Popular student athletes like Kirk Cousins at Michigan State and Alexander Netter at Northwestern are offering opinions on the events of the day without going through sports information directors. University presidents are developing dedicated fan clubs on Twitter talking about everything but the university.
As an alumni professional, you need to decide if you want your alumni to be more informed about the university than you are. If you want to wait until news is properly disseminated through your communications office, you may have to spend extra time addressing the rumors, false information and unconfirmed reports that have already piled up online.
If you have not used Twitter before, try it now. If you have some other ways professionals can use it, share them in the comments section.