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How to own and monitor your personal brand

May 8, 2019

Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Online, it is what Google says about you when you’re not in the room.

We are more and more likely to get googled for every life choice. New jobs, internships, dating, landlords, admissions to schools. You name it, and people will Google you.

The Google search is the second point of contact, coming after someone makes the first point of contact (with a resume, an application, a request for a date.)

A young person should come to their school using Facebook (or FB owned Instagram) 95% of the time and use LinkedIn 5% (get a profile.)

By senior year, flip the percentages.

Facebook can cost someone a job, LinkedIn can get someone a job.

So students, Google yourself.


Understand why you’re winning or not winning a search. Protip: if you can get your name in the URL you are more-likely to win a Google search for yourself.

On my resume, which is still important, I would tell people how to search for me. For example, somewhere in my cover letter (or link to my cover video) I would say Google “Goals of Matt Hames” and drive those people to a video called “Goals of Matt Hames,” on YouTube that is called “Goals of Matt Hames” and has a description that says “these are the goals for Matt Hames to see my work history visit my LinkedIn profile (link).” That is called search engine optimizing the Goals of Matt Hames — which I’ve made up here to show you what can be done.

Think about what you want to be, then talk or write about it. Read blog posts about the topics you care about and post comments on those posts to LinkedIn.

Recently a student came into my office. He told me reads the business press every morning. I suggested he post to LinkedIn the links of what he was reading and occasionally comment on it. That will increase the visibility of his profile.

So do that.

Write down three words

Think about what you want people to say when you’re not in the room. See if you can get it down to 3-5 words.

Now, post when your content reflects one or more of those words.

I write about the intersection of higher ed and digital media. I mostly use Twitter, occasionally edit Wikipedia articles on Marketing and Higher Education. write this blog, and post on LinkedIn.  I don’t post on Snapchat or Instagram because they don’t index on Google.

My daughter has three words. We talk about them all the time. We talk about the posts she’s doing, as a 12-year-old, finding her voice.

We’re all finding our voices. That’s called our brand.

What do you think? What are your three words?

Video, video, video, video

May 3, 2019

We all watch movie Trailers before the movie starts. The trailers are sometimes the most fun, we get to see what is coming next thanks to the trailer, which comes BEFORE the movie.

The first trailers actually came after the movie. Movies were so interesting that theaters needed something really boring after the movie to get people to leave the theater. So the trailer was born, and it was made as boring as possible.

Video was so new and so interesting that it took making something boring to get people to stop watching.

Why video is the best advertising feature.

As a former copywriter, current English major, and lover of words, it pains me to say this but moving pictures can and do generate emotion in a way that is harder with just words and just pictures. Obviously words can be moving. And pictures can be moving. However, in marketing, a genre that is partly about generating an emotion bond with a brand, moving pictures are the best.

Video, video, video.

As of this writing, there are 12 days of video uploaded every minute on YouTube. For the people who hate math, that’s almost 2 years of content every hour. That’s a staggering amount of gamer streaming, cat videos, vlogs, music videos, concerts, first words, first walks, and brand created content.

It can almost seem overwhelming to think about the scale of the content people need to wade through to find your content. However, there is good news.

The world’s foremost search engine purchased a company with crappy urls

Google owns YouTube. Google’s magic starts with a URL. On Google, the URL is one of the key predictors for winning a search. Schools win a search for their name because most schools are, which tells Google that the school website is their website.

But YouTube’s URL structuring system is a hot mess of characters that mean nothing. Thus, all of the search engine weight is handed the metadata of the video.  The metadata includes:

  • Title. This is the most important thing. Make the title an answer to a search question.
  • Description. Add a lot of it.
  • Tags. You can add 4 million of these. IT would take a lot of time, and after about 10 would probably not help, so add 10.
  • Member of playlist. All videos should be a member of at least 2 playlists.
  • Location. YouTube lets you locate the video, which is probably good if you have a location.

This data is as important as the video because without it, you’ll be making a video that no one will see. Here’s an example of a gorgeous video with no metadata attached to it that has 4 views.

Ask yourself two questions.

I’m for video. As I said, I think it can generate an emotional attachment to a brand. I still remember the Coke spot, wherein people want to buy the world a coke. Video works to generate positive emotional attachments to brands.

So make video. And when you do, ask yourself these questions.

  1. Why will people care.
  2. How will people find it?

Why will people care isn’t a video question, it is a marketing question, but ask it.

Second question is how will you tell people about it? That is where YouTube can help. YouTube says that 70% of all views come from suggested videos. That is people on YouTube who see your content next. To get those views, one needs good metadata.

None of this is complicated. It is about answering two simple questions, and then executing.

If you have questions, or want ideas, DM on Twitter.

Why Twitter should add a “blocked” data set to profiles

May 1, 2019

Twitter has a white nationalist problem. The Verge has a decent article on the problem, and the difficulty of solving it. Hint, it centers around accidentally blocking prominent members of the GOP.

Twitter has a hateful content policy which states:

Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.

Wade into the replies of most political posts, and one can see many instances of people walking the line of hateful content.

When I see hate or abuse on Twitter, I report it and block the person. That’s what Twitter has asked of me, to block content.

Adding blocks to Twitter profiles

Twitter has the number of people who have blocked me. I don’t know the number, but I assume it is more than 0 and less than a really large number. I try not to be an ass to anyone but LinkedIn on Twitter. (I kid LinkedIn a lot.)

I think adding the blocks will help in the following ways:

  • Give us us context if we decide to wade into replies. If some of my friends have blocked an account on Twitter, there’s a good chance I should not get into that argument with said user
  • The number of blocks might make people think about being less of an ass.

The number of blocks is just meta data, and alone doesn’t mean much. And yes, blocks can be gamed, just like follower numbers can and have been gamed.

If an online cohort of people who all follow and engage with each other all go and block a politician, you can sort that out. Or leave it.

I personally block somewhere between 100 and 200 accounts. I do this because this is the only mechanism I see to changing the tone of Twitter.

What do you think Twitter? Can we do this? What am I missing?

Matt is on Twitter, he probably doesn’t block you, you’re awesome.

A content strategy is not a marketing strategy

April 19, 2019

Content is not marketing. Your content strategy is not a marketing strategy. 

It isn’t your fault. We’re still not sure what the deal is with the internet. We’re all growing. This blog has posts from years ago talking about “content marketing strategies” and how you can fill channels. I once did a Facebook post for Bojangles’ Restaurants where I wrote: “Basketball or Football?”

The engagement was off the charts. It had hundreds of comments and and likes. It “worked” because Bojangles’ had built a strong brand using TV, outdoor, and print. That strong brand resulted in “fans” flocking to social channels to “engage with their favorite brands.” Social media celebrities were doing keynotes explaining that everyone should be on social media and “get in the conversation.”

We were running from the .com. 

The website is where this all started, this desire to fill the internet with content. The website was the first marketing tactic a brand HAD TO HAVE.

Marketers started websites — and sold them to companies — as tactics that showed progress. It was said that the problem with websites is that it was a one-way conversation. That critique is never said about a 30-second TV spot, but it was labelled one a website, which was called an online brochure with no physical constraints on length.

When the bubble burst, so did the bubble around the website. Even though it didn’t disappear. Thus, brands have 5-7 years with a website that needs to be “refreshed” because people “hate it.”

It isn’t that. People don’t hate their website as much as they have no idea what the purpose is.

The “about us” section of the website is the foreshadowing for content plans that have no idea what the consumer wants.

The problem was content that engages. 

The Basketball or Football post on Facebook was new, and interesting, and experimental. When hundreds of people commented on a piece of content, it was interesting. The page had close to 100K fans, and the post earned thousands of “engagements.” For a brand like Bojangles’, the overriding goal of marketing is to own the corner of the consumer’s mind at the point of purchase. Stay in their heads so when they are hungry, they think about fried chicken.

That’s the goal of a TV spot, or outdoor. The goal isn’t to create a shopper right there, the goal is to create a shopper when they are shopping. A TV spot or outdoor didn’t pretend it was in a conversation with consumers. It was mass media. Ad content took the brand, and celebrated it. A 30-second spot was a celebration of the brand, done in a carefully crafted tone, purchased on a flight of TV space that was carefully considered.

Traditional marketing was none of those things. The problem is, Facebook was.

Facebook is like having a send to friend key on the Internet. 

The power of Facebook was simple. Brands could post on it, and if someone liked, commented, or shared the post, other people would see it. It was akin to talking about an ad at the coffee machine, but magnified by 1000.

Ad copy that was automatically sent to friends? It sounds like something David Ogilvy would be for, since the idea of marketing is to get copy in front of people. Plus, Facebook was a two-way conversation, not a one-way conversation like a website or those old general marketing tactics.

“You have to get in the conversation,” people said, echoing the people who, just a decade ago, had told brands they had to get a website.

From this talk of “conversations” emerged the metric of engagement. Yes, Facebook offered reach and impression, but the game was fixed. Engagements resulted in more reach. The Bojangles post, with a question mark at the end, went “viral” because it earned engagements and thus, it earned reach.

The problem is the actual model. 

The thing is, people don’t really want to have a conversation with a brand. We think they do, but they don’t. Back when Facebook was new, and the notion of having a conversation with a brand was new, it was probably true that people wanted to have conversations with brands.

People would engage with the things they liked on Facebook.

Likes were earned by brands who already had done the work of building a brand. The brands who hadn’t done the work (because they were smaller, more local outfits) started Facebook pages and began posting content.

There wasn’t a strategy. Companies just had to be there, and social platforms had an even bigger benefit. Making one didn’t demand hiring a programmer. Making a Facebook Page was a click away, and now you too could be making great content.

As you know, great content wasn’t made. 

Plot twist: just because a company can make their own Facebook content, does not mean said Facebook content is good. Many local brands began struggling to know what to do. The world had sold them a dream, get on Facebook and go viral. But the dream was a crock of shit in the same way that a website would “open up your business to the world” was a crock of shit.

Coca Cola doesn’t have 107m likes on Facebook because they are good on Facebook. They have those likes because they were, and still are, good at making a brand. Also, even with 107m “likes” their last post was March 8th. The one before that was Feb 25th. Their pinned post is from January 24th.

What should you do? 

First, stop saying the words content and social media. The first one is something you sell, like a book or a movie, and the second one is a channel.

You’re not making content, you’re advertising a product or a service. All the rules of marketing apply to it. You can’t Basketball or Football your way into people’s minds anymore with “content.”

It should be marketing content. And it doesn’t have to happen all the time.

People used to always ask me how often they should post on social media. I would answer with something like when you have something to say.

That was wrong.

You should post marketing messages on social media platforms when you can answer two questions:

  1. Why will they care?
  2. What should they do?

If we honestly answered the first questions with digital media strategies, we’d flat out eliminate the about us section of the website. Gone. We’d stop so many posts on social media that hundreds of social media people would be out of a job.

Why will people care? There should be a reason people care about your thing. It might even be complicated. Write down the reasons, all of them. All the reasons people care. Then prioritize them.

What do you want people to do? 

This is when it becomes proper marketing. You don’t want them to engage. That isn’t a marketing thing, that’s a thing you need when sending out wedding invites. You want them to buy your product or service. At certain times of the year, they might be more able to buy your product. Focus on those times.

If your products sales cycle is October, don’t post in January. If sales usually drop in the summer, quit posting. You look desperate and the post probably didn’t answer the first or second question.

Social media gurus, social media marketers, social media anythings are often the ones marketing the platforms with talk to content. There’s an inventive to talk about it. Heck, I’ve talked about it a lot. Look back on this blog. I’ve said to do all the things I’m now saying don’t do.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know. We all didn’t. There was a time when Basketball or Football was right. Or it wasn’t wrong, because we just didn’t know.

We now know.

What do you think? Let me know in comments.

The un-bundling of cable, the last bundle

October 20, 2018

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Photo by brotiN biswaS on

For most of my life, content was bundled. This created a bundle subsidy.

The record album, something mostly lost to the confines of history, was the first to unravel. “Record stores” used to be the place to buy bundled music, if people wanted the song, they either had to buy the single, or they had to buy the record. Some records were transendent, othersw were a hit song surrounded by never-to-be-hit songs.

Napster un-bundled the record. iTunes perfected the un-bundle.

Bundling is a wet dream for advertisers and content creators because people have to buy the bundle to get what they want. Think of the traditional newspaper — if I wanted to see the sports scores, I bought the bundle. Inside that bundle were hundreds of ads that underwrote the reporting.

Now though, I get sports scores, on my phone, for free. The un-bundling of the newspaper means that we win, but at a cost.

Content was subsidized by the bundle. As it un-bundles, the money lost will never be returned. The Washington Post wants $1 a month from me. That is millions of dollars less than the older model wherein people paid 50 cents for an issue, and each home delivered issue counted as an ad served.

Think about the above math: if I pay $1 a month to read WAPO, and read 20 articles, that is about 100 ads served (assume 5 ads per article, also assume no ad blocker.) There might have been 100 ads in the Saturday Washington Post.

But that isn’t even the bigger problem. Newspapers bundled sports scores with city council meetings and sell ads around it. WAPO could write a feature on Lebron James, sell ads around the entire paper, and fund the intrepid journalist on the city desk.

This arrangement worked for newspapers, who got the bundle subsidy. It also worked sort of worked for the advertisers who got their impression numbers, but it didn’t really work for the consumer. People who got the Saturday paper for the sports didn’t read the intrepid reporters city desk story.

The result is that 3 out of 4 people in America get their news from a social platform. It is siloed and biased to their desires. Facebook and Twitter want to give consumer s what they want — thus, the algorithm delivers news that fits their worldview. While it is true that the city desk news in the old WAPO probably wasn’t getting read, at least it was getting written and served. Now it isn’t getting written or served.

On the Internet, content wants to be free and un-bundled. Podcasts, articles, shows from all over the world. Netflix is responsible for 15% of worldwide internet traffic. It is literally eating the cable bundle, the last of the bundles.

Local news, something always subsidized by the bundle, is no longer getting subsidized. We’re all the poorer for it.

What do you think? What bundled content do you still get?

About that pivot to “video, video, video”

October 18, 2018

April, 2016. As a yield strategy, I launched a video a day for the entire month on Colgate’s Facebook page. It was all evergreen content, many of it from the Colgate in 13 seconds series I created, and it was all native. During the week the content was academic, during the weekend it was athletics/spirit/fun video content.

Everything was tagged and scheduled for 3:13pm. Same time each week. I sat back, expecting awesomeness.

April is a big time for a school. It is yield time, but also a time to get in front of high school juniors making their short list. They will apply to a school in less than 10 months, so they are in it. I wanted to get our content out to them. (You can steal this idea, it is easy.)

Then the numbers began popping it. The first video got 90,000 impressions before 5:00pm that day. It was April Fools, a Friday, and it was a 13 second video of the mascot shoveling a well=loved retired professor. I was surprised, but I thought the content was strong, and Facebook was rewarding native video. 90K was a lot, so I looked again all weekend.

By the end of the weekend, that video had 900K impressions. Saturday and Sunday’s video were on track for 100K views, too.

On Monday, I created a report and sent it around to some of our HiPPos. This plan was killing it. The few thousand adnits would surely have seen these, as would high school juniors, every alum on Facebook, and most of their friends.

What is an impression?

As you might have read, Facebook wasn’t being honest about impressions. After that month, I spent some time digging into the numbers. This included autoplays on mobile. So you’re scrolling through the feed and there’s a video that plays — at a time this was newish — so you watch for three seconds — view.

Each time that happens is a view. Times 90K.

I remember looking at another video that summer. It was of Ryan Seacrest talking to the camera from a back lot in Hollywood. He told the camera that people should attend Colgate’s reunion. The video was seen 27K times in 48 hours. When I looked into the numbers, I found two things:

1. 87% of the people had watched with the sound off.

We. Didn’t. Have. Captions.

So around 23K people watched a video of a man talking into a camera with no sound.

2. This was true of many of the other views from that April. People watched a few seconds of an academic video — with no sound — and Facebook gave us a hit.

A Facebook view is still at least 3 seconds.

YouTube is better. A view is 30 seconds, and you can’t watch a video to 30 seconds, hit refresh, and watch again.

You can on Facebook.

Look, we marketers put our marketing content on these platforms to generate awareness and then generate behavior. This is often refereed to as having a goal. The goal should never be an impression, but the impressions are needed to generate the behavior. If I want you to do something, I need you to see my ask.

Video is okay. It isn’t magic. It will get impressions, though they won’t be inflated by 900%, they are still made up. It shouldn’t be a view if the sound is off, or it is less than 30 seconds, or maybe even to the end.

Video for the sake of video is like a post on Twitter about your lunch: sure its content, but it serves no purpose.

Matt thinks digital and loves Curling. In that order. 

Updated business of higher education

October 2, 2018

Note: this update involves feedback from Patricia Maben. You should follow her on Twitter. I’m always interested in feedback to make the ideas better. 

It is a dense idea. And yes, I have no idea about non-private school admissions. Though I would imagine that in-state people are different from out of state. 

Higher Education is knee-deep in an admissions cycle, trying to fill the Class of 2023. America is in a booming economy, and the richest Americans are still bathing in the Trump tax cut, which was big for people with a lot of money. More rich people can pay for the looming $70K per year fee for a school.

While many in higher ed have difficulty admitting it, a school is a business. Private or Public, it needs revenue to pay the expenses of educating people. Salaries, lights, IT staff, deans, dining halls, speakers, these all cost money.

Though it makes no money, and most are non-profits, there is a rising cost to the run the business that needs funding. Since schools don’t make anything to sell, they rely on fixed revenue sources. In the private category, if you are one of the few schools with an endowment of around one billion, the numbers are something like this: around 25% of the budget is from the endowment, 10% from annual giving, and the remaining 65% from “full-pay” applicants.  average privates, 5% endowment, 5% annual giving, 90% tuition revenue from all of students. Public schools have different math, but still use gifts, tax money, and full-pay applicants. The math depends on many factors, and full-pay includes many people getting private and public loans, but this is the business.

This Inside higher Education article talks about issues with the business:

“College admissions directors, as in recent years, continue to report a great deal of concern about meeting their enrollment goals.”

There are a number of reasons for this: some are rising costs, the decline of high school graduates,  change in the college going demographics, increased competition, – then there is the lack of a marketing strategy, both with social media, and an overall marketing strategy. Having worked in a school, I can attest to the lack of an overall strategy. When I joined Higher Ed, I was struck by the one-size-fits-all aspect of marketing.

For elite privates, a school needs a certain percentage of full-pay students, so the admissions staff makes private school visits throughout the process. This is the marketing strategy — go into a private school, especially one that has drawn students in the past, and hand out a viewbook and talk to the school counselor. The students will get viewbooks from all the schools, and they will all be about the same. Each one will focus on the school visit, all believing that getting someone on campus means they will be converted. In reality, a friend or family member went there, so the student will too. For the rest of the privates, it is a little more complex, as they focus on all high schools – public and private – and likely have no budget for viewbooks – rather they hand out “travel pieces” – a mini version booklet.

The rest of the applications will come from marketing – or what higher ed often calls – the comm plan, recruitment plan – or making people aware of the school and sharing information. This is where social can impact the decisions process. Sadly though, most social is either advancement-related, or via the dean of the college. Higher education isn’t awesome at thinking about this as a decisions cycle. Schools should be planning the 2024 class right now, using social marketing to generate awareness of the school to current juniors.

Some are. Though most wait until the spring, when they are also trying to yield the current class, to get attention about the next class.

Right now, in high schools across the world, juniors and even sophomores are thinking about college. Some students are even ruling out higher ed as an option even when it is actually feasible for them. Students who know they can go to college, know the deadline to apply. They are planning summer trips, around summer camps, to some of the schools on their list. They are probably Google searching your school, and probably not clicking on your website, because, lets face it, your website is a hot mess of confusion for a junior. They don’t know who you are talking to, or why your website features a lecture right now.

Plus, as I’ve noted on this blog, Google has taken over the differentiating part of digital, and offered stats and stories to help (if you fancy, you can read about it a few posts ago.)

What should marketing be?

Since we know there are different people coming to the school, maybe there should be separate marketing to students based on their ability to afford college as an example – likely to be full pay or full need.

Speaking of full-pays, there’s also a good take on legacies in the piece.

Generally, college leaders defend these preferences as a way to keep alumni engaged (and giving money), and to create a multigenerational spirit about an institution, while critics decry what they see as “silver spoon” admissions. While college leaders regularly defend affirmative action in public statements, relatively few speak out about legacy admissions.

The author is right, legacies are more about donations. From a business perspective, a recent graduate of a donor alum is more likely to start out life as a consistent donor. A full-pay graduate with wealthy parents starts off in a better financial situation than a student who needs to take out loans. That reality turns them into a higher giving donor faster.

That previous paragraph might be frustrating, but it is true. Rich people are the people who give to schools. Their kids are more likely to grow into the kind of person who gives to schools because they started with an advantage.

This is about the business of higher education. It isn’t about the lofty goals or mission statements.

At any school, there will be a certain percentage of full-pays. Within that population will be the people who need loans to be full pays, and the ones who don’t need loans.

Then there will be the percentage of people who are not full-pays. In this population will be some people who get aid, but need a loan to close the gap, and people who get a full ride. This ride doesn’t include incidental costs like textbooks and spending money, so some of these people will also get a loan. In short, the only ones not getting a loan will be the real full-pays, the ones who received a 2.6 tax break on income. If they made 100 million, that is about 2.5 million, more than enough to give to a school on top of the tuition.

(There are some people who pay more each year than the sticker price — they get front row seats at events, first choice in housing, and dinners with the President.)

What is the point?

The point is, higher education doesn’t talk about their target markets that well. They go in talking about the school in the same way to all people. Even though all people come for different reasons. They also start too late. So they are under increased pressure, with decreased help.

As the price tag at private schools hit 70K, it is more and more time to start thinking about admissions marketing as a business. With proper marketing tactics tied to business objectives.

What do you think? Are there any schools that are doing it well?

Matt Hames is on Twitter. You should yell at him there. Matt is also on LinkedIn, connect and agree.