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Time to shut it down

March 8, 2014

Hi everyone, 

Seven years ago, I started this blog as a place to add my thoughts about people sharing. At one point, this blog had 4,000 readers a month, and last year, it went over 100K total views. 

That said, it is time to end this experiment. LinkedIn has invited me to post on their platform. My first post already has 6 comments and 43 likes. While this blog was never about numbers, LinkedIn offers an audience. I believe in LinkedIn more than I believe in blogging, for now. 

So this is it. I’m not going to shut it down, but I am going to stop caring about the blog spam. Eventually no one will read this blog, so the blog spam will be worthless. 

See you over on LinkedIn. 

Your friend, 


The higher ed manifesto

March 6, 2014

Marketing in in the talk to business. From a 30-second TV spot, to a viewbook, brochure, website or a tour – marketing was about talking to people. For a brand, especially a university brand, we told people about our selling proposition, often next to a photo of a chapel. Small class sizes, world-renowned faculty, students going on to be CEO’s. Students publishing papers. These are all outcomes of the brand. Which is good, because it is arguably one of the most important purchase decisions people will make in their lives.

The things we tell people are carefully thought out to be the things the people want to hear. Historically though, the messages aren’t designed to get them to talk back. Marketing has always told, instructed. At their best, marketing messages with eye-catching visuals generate emotion and involvement. Marketing can compel behavioral change.

And then, along came digital media, and we’re still working through the change.

A subset of digital media, social media platforms surprised people by not just creating behavioral change, but also helping to create revolution. We marveled at the power of network to organize, and brands decided they wanted in. They wanted engagement.

The problem is: digital and social media operate on a fundamentally different level than marketing has operated for the last 50 or so years.

All of a sudden, so-called “social media marketing” is about conversations and engagement. but that doesn’t feel right. The terms “conversation” and “engagement” are loaded words: all marketing is designed to engage and generate some kind of behavior. Conversations? What are those, and why are they valuable?

So even though all the above is true, it is still new to send a prospective student an e-mail and have them go on Twitter and make a toothpaste joke @ the seal.

Change we still don’t fully understand.

The system has changed. Now the recipients of our a well thought out messages are getting their data from platforms we don’t control, and tinkling about the brand in a way that we don’t own. (As each department joins Twitter and Facebook, it further convolutes the perceived brand. Each new feed is a chink in the brand’s armor. One can reasonably argue this is a good or a bad thing, but it is a thing we don’t understand.)

The image creation industry (advertising) is almost 50 years old, whereas the higher ed institution where I work is going on 200. It didn’t need an image for the first three quarters of operation, but it needs one now because more people can and will talk about it. We aren’t in control, so it is arguably more important to be consistent, more important to put out viewbooks and brochures and e-mails, but make them all sing the same tune.

This is a think different kind of moment in higher ed. One of those transcending convergence marketing moments – like the printing press or TV. As we all get used to high-speed access in our pockets, and the ubiquitous immediacy it brings, it will demand executing in a different manner.

We need to bring more people into the “room” at the beginning regardless of the project.

We need to ask our students to help with the message. We need digital natives on our side. We need to enlist digitally savvy alumni. We need to mobilize the people who were accepted ED to become mavericks of our story.

We need to include people in the creation of more simple stories because that is how we’ll still be tellers of the message. We’ll do this through Mel Gibsonesque “are you with me speeches,” which will be tough, because faculty need to be with us.

I’m not sure what the future will bring, but I know this: the era of telling isn’t over. We still need to tell. But we have to be much more strategic about it, it must align with the mission, and it must be sharable.

In your school or brand, identify, then rally the troops.

Top five reasons why people like to share top ten lists

March 3, 2014

Top ten lists have died off. I think they disappeared because blogs did. Top ten lists don’t work on Twitter.

People like to share

The Social Media SudokuImage by Lukadium via Flickr

Take a quick look at Digg. At almost anytime, you will see a list of things on there. The top ten things to see before you die. The top ten airports in the world. (Personal plug for Charlotte Airport: free internet which is a really nice touch).

We did a Top Ten List of the Greatest Sports call of all time for a client to great success. On this blog, the post that got the most traffic by a factor of almost 20 is called “Ten Things to do with a Facebook page“.

Top ten lists work get shared. Here, in my opinion, is why.

5.Headlineis simple: There’s a reason that newspapers have people to write the headlines of the articles. When the headline is about a top ten list, it’s a perfectly relevant headline. If people are…

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The class of 2023 will expect mass customization

March 2, 2014

Picture a phone.

Depending on your age, you might have pictured:

  • A home phone with a cord.
  • A cordless home phone.
  • A mobile phone.
  • An iPod touch (Facetime)
  • A computer (Skype)

To my seven-year old daughter, all of the above are a phone. She can customize her experience with communication depending on how she wants to experience the conversation. If it needs pictures, she’ll adapt. If it is just words, she won’t adapt.

However, her grandparents mostly use the phone. They rarely call on the computer because when they picture a phone, they default to the phone.

We live in a time where audiences are customizing their experience. I listen to podcasts from the UK, watch Netflix and read The Globe and Mail. My daughter is currently watching Charlie and Lola on YouTube.

My daughter lives in a world where mass personalization is the norm. She will organize via playlists – not have playlists dictated to her as prime time lineups. She will organize the internet her way, not a newspaper’s way. She will organize her entertainment in the manner that works best for her, not his it is set up on a dial.

Colgate chapel photo by Andy Daddio

Colgate chapel photo by Andy Daddio

She will look at the world, and interact with brands differently than you and I. And she is coming. To her, customization will be the cost of business not an option we can throw out there to position our products.

So what does that mean for higher ed?

First of all, I think higher ed is already mass customized. By definition, a liberal arts  education isn’t mass produced. One can major in biochemistry and minor in theater.

A place with more options offers a chance to mass customize for students. The school where I work has 53 majors. That’s almost 3000 major/minor options – that is mass customization.

For someone who grows up with a playlist, getting one in college won’t be a change. The change, I think, is how we communicate something we already offer. The coming struggle will be that people who are getting used to mass customization will need to communicate to people who have already lived it.

We’ll need to change. Because the change is coming.

What do you think? Where does customization fit into the message of higher ed? Should it?

Why all marketing, including social media marketing needs a goal

February 25, 2014

Goal original

Goal original (Photo credit: Peter Fuchs)

Imagine a soccer game without nets. We would never know when the game ended, the lads would be randomly running around the pitch, bumping into each other. The refs wouldn’t even know when to blow the whistle.

It would be a mess.

To me, that is the state of social media marketing – we’re doing it without nets, without a goal.

Without a goal, one doesn’t even reliably know when to start or end.

“Hey, lets start a Facebook page!!!”


“Because people are doing it, it’s where the kids are, it’s the new thing.”

As digital media grows up and begins to be thought of as proper marketing, one interesting question will be asked.

Why are you doing this?

Over on her blog, a colleague wonders about Doing Social Media ‘Well.’ The finger quotes are hers, and her argument is that this is proper marketing and we should have goals, and not be running around on the ice all willy-nilly hoping for things to happen.

For almost seven years I’ve been spouting on this blog that social media is many things. It is powerful. But then, so is TV. So is a really effective radio spot, or a print ad. Done well, social media can work – but like all other tools in the marketers tool box, it needs to have the term “work” defined.

Caution: that said, a large part of traditional marketing doesn’t really have measurable goals. The stated goal of a TV spot is to generate awareness of the product so that when someone is in a position to buy that product, the brand floats into consciousness.

Try measuring that shit.

So on the fringes, building a community, creating awareness in certain areas – these are perfectly valid. You can measure them by listing out the tactics, and seeing if they made an impact. In soccer, they measure how far a player ran in the game. Not a stat that impacts the score, but one that can inform the overall goal.

So then you’ll need actual proper measurable goals. One of the goals of digital media I work on is to drive traffic to the .edu. I’ve outlined numbers, and at the end of the year, I’ll look at those numbers and see if I achieve my goal. To deliver on that goal, I’ve had to shut down Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. I’ve had to add links to YouTube videos, and Flickr sets. I’ve realized I should think about the various platforms as orbiting the sun in a galaxy. I’ve learned what Freebase is, and how it will manage data. I’ve done all this because to achieve my goal, I need to be on top of these platforms.

I also have so-called vanity metric goals, a certain number of likes and follows. However, those vanity metric goals are for specific people. So I needed to understand how I will measure that.

I don’t have all the answers, but I have a lot of questions. The first one should be “why are you this?”. The answer should be something that is measurable.

That’s doing social media well.

Related: What you can learn from a College student.

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The difference between online and offline

February 24, 2014

The internet offers the ability to order things in just about any conceivable manner.
Real life doesn’t. Take your typical grocery story. The “order” is dictated by physics. Produce is over here. Can food there. Cereal in this aisle. There’s a science in the order of things, and milk is in the back left because people make right turns, so the store wants to pull you to the right, even if you want to just get milk. That said, milk can’t appear in more than one place.

Online however, things aren’t constrained by physics.

July's Tomato Haul

July’s Tomato Haul (Photo credit: statelyenglishmanor)

Online, there isn’t a need for order. We don’t need “files” or “folders”. Those are real world things demanded by the requirement to put things in places. Online, things are merely 0’s and 1’s and computers don’t need an elaborate hierarchy to find them.

That’s why at (a made up place), canned tomatoes can be tagged with ‘tomatoes, canned, vegetable, canned food, camping, staples, pasta, crock pot,  etc. In fact, there’s no limitation on how to tag the tomatoes – and since a tag is the offline equivalent of a place (ie, where you go to find it), the more things you tag the tomatoes with, the better chance people will find them in a search.

In the real world, the grocery store guesses and uses shopping carts to strategically placed to get you walking around (and some, like Wegmans, I think purposefully crate alleys that get you lost).

On the internet, things are way more miscellaneous. Don’t think of your content as being one thing for one person in one place (as one would a can of tomatoes). Online, the can be the beginning of a killer crock pot recipe, the start of a great pasta, or just a can of tomatoes.

When putting together a marketing plan, perhaps it’s time to consider ‘how will our target market find this information?”

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What you can learn from a college student’s Twitter feed

February 22, 2014

There’s a student at Colgate with almost 11,000 followers on Twitter. She’s currently a social media intern in my department. I hired her because she’s demonstrably good at social media.

Screen shot 2014-02-22 at 11.48.07 AM

11,000 followers with less than 5,000 tweets. She has no built-in celebrity – Brian Williams has over 187,000 followers, but he has zero tweets. He has celebrity. Jackie doesn’t.

So how did she get that many followers? Here are my thoughts:

1. She’s well branded. Her feed is called Jackie O Problems and it is the very real problems of a college student. It involves classes, boys, food, housing, etc.

2. She’s focused. Jackie doesn’t talk about her fandom, politics, or the specific school she goes to. She talks about the problems associated with being a college student.

3. She isn’t niche. While this might seem counter to the above, it isn’t. She could post about specific Colgate problems, but she doesn’t. Look at her feed and unless she’s taking over the Colgate Twitter feed, her problems are broad.

4. She’s consistent. In the same way that she’s consistent, that makes her predictable. Follow Jackie and you’ll get funny, witty posts about being a college student. You can count in it.

5. She uses pictures. Her platform is full of images. They work. How many ads do you see without a picture? How many magazine articles don’t have images? Images work. Use them.

6. She understands her audience. I’ve heard her say: “That won’t really work for my audience.” She’s thinking about who is watching and what they want. Her content is for them.

7. She doesn’t post all the time. There isn’t a rule about how often to post. Post when you have something to say that fits all the above.

So what can you learn from Jackie? First of all, Twitter is a marketing tool, but it doesn’t work if you don’t have a strategy. Without a strategy, you’ll lack focus. If you aren’t something, on Twitter you’ll be nothing (unless you’re a celebrity, then you’ll be something for a bit.)

Be consistent: your audience should have an idea what is coming. They don’t have to know, but they should never be surprised. If Jackie live tweeted a hockey game, it would confuse her followers. If she live tweeted the Emmy’s, it would more-likely fit her brand.

Finally: she’s graduating this spring. She gets social media. You really should think about hiring her. 

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