The peril of being “social”

Welp, if you enjoyed using the social network Foursquare (like me), prepare to lose all of your mayorships and expect to contend with a ton of new traffic, as the NY Times has profiled the new service in today’s paper: (I’m mostly kidding, btw.)

Just seven months old with about 60,000 users so far, Foursquare is still getting off the ground — especially when compared with supersize services like Facebook and Twitter, which have millions of members. But that underground status is part of Foursquare’s appeal, its fans say. It is not yet cluttered with celebrities, nosy mothers-in-law or annoying co-workers.

“On Twitter, there are more than 3,000 people that follow me, and Facebook is more of a business community now,” said Annie Heckenberger, 36, who works at an advertising agency in Philadelphia. “Foursquare is more of the people that I actually hang out with and want to socialize with.”

That brings up a point that Michael Stoner touches on in his recent post, where he coins the term “engagement fatigue.” In short he says:

The disorder is engagement fatigue. Engagement fatigue will occur when mass numbers of people participating in social networking—everyone who is making marketers salivate because they’re swarming to Facebook, Twitter, etc.—get tired of brand engagement marketing and tune out.

What happens when you get tired of hearing from people? Don’t want to see their photos, don’t care what their kids are doing potty training and feel the need to create a nebulous profile blocks to ensure that certain people can’t see everything? What happens when the tools we use become too ubiquitous to be useful anymore? Well we know what happens, we move on to other things. But when those tools become a big part of our lives? I know my answers to this question, but it’s a bigger one I’m putting out there for the wider audience.

Is this some sort of permissive intrusiveness that we’re sanctioning through permissions on a web site? How far does it go and for what aims? I realize this is almost a backwards argument, given how far we’ve gone with most sites these days, but I wonder exactly what we expect to be doing with our Facebook profiles in five years.

A modern bobsleigh team, the 2006 United State...
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At least when I used AOL in the 90s, you knew when you deleted your account, your profile and screen name went away too. As it turns out, those profiles weren’t all that interesting anyway. But now? Facebook is better than any family photo album you can find. I guess this is just part of their longevity strategy, but I really am mulling (and no, there’s no real punchline to this post, sorry..I’m just musing) over where we’re really headed with all of this and how profound an effect it’ll have on our social interactions over the next half decade or so.

It’s already affecting us, but I think we’re just scratching the surface. So much of what we talk about in these contexts almost becomes solely focused on how we can profit from these intimate details that people give up freely and I’m really wondering about the ethics of this and whether we’re not riding a bobsleigh towards a place that none of us really want to go until it’s too late and we’re already at the bottom of the course.

Thoughts?

Looks like someone’s got a case of the Mondays (links)

A few things you should read intersecting around higher ed, social media, branding and yadda yadda. But first , your moment of zen:

Elizabeth Allen at Adaptivate talks about the final stages of the redesign process.

mStonerblog asks, “When You’re Hiring a Consultant, Does Education Experience Matter?”

Joe Favorito talks about the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils and their challenges branding themselves in a metropolitan area with a ton of entertainment competition. He also writes a great piece about the criticisms by those responding to the US Olympic Committee presentation for the 2016 Chicago Olympic bid. It starts with some extremely instructive advice for all of us:

Knowing how to effectively communicate messages internally, building consensus amongst key leadership, speaking with one voice, knowing your constituents and addressing their needs, or at least acknowledging their needs, and then making sure that media are communicated to in an effective and consistent manner are all hallmarks of effective internal and external communications, whether you are a large public corporation or a small business or not-for- profit.

Have a great week!

Fear, loathing and social media

SAN FRANCISCO - DECEMBER 29:  Cars drive by a ...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

It’s been a busy week for social media in places we’d never really expect to hear talking about it.

First, the US Marine Corps announced a one-year ban on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and the ilk, citing security concerns.

Then, the San Diego Chargers fined player Antonio Cromartie $2,500 after he tweeted about the poor chow at the team’s summer training camp. Teams fine players for speaking out all of the time, so this isn’t exactly a precedent, except that the speaking out in this case was using a digital media like Twitter.

So what does this all mean? Someone needs to do a bit of education.

Banning technology does little to stop the problem. I mean, it’s like slapping the hand of a kid. Even if you explain why they can’t do something, they’re just going to work that much harder to try to do it. This isn’t rocket science.

The real question is, how do organizations and institutions leverage social media and learn to control their message in a world where message control no longer exists? How do you reach audiences with the information you want them to have, while ensuring the negative stuff doesn’t run amok?

Women’s sports leagues in golf, soccer and basketball have embraced these social tools as a way to reach an audience that eludes them during the season — since their attendance tends to be lower for games — while established leagues are looking to clamp down.

Other than the somehow unpractical nature of having someone using their cell phone on the sidelines and the distraction it can be from the game and mixing it up with teammates, the real problem here — that the sports leagues and Marines share — is one word.

Fear.

If you don’t understand something, you shy away from it, rather than taking the time to understand it. You create redundant technology, because you don’t understand what people are really trying to do is reach out to people they’re closed off from. There are ample opportunities for teams and organizations to learn more about these social tools, how they work and how to create policies and strategies that help them thrive in a digital world.

Messages in a hypersocial world

A group of youth interacting
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These days, everyone thinks they’ve got a million friends. It’s not until you spend some time with people who spend little time using digital media that folks like me who are uber digital begin to recall a time when our social networks were much smaller and recall how much work goes into cultivating personal relationships and managing to sustain them amidst a barrage of information.

The bottom line: It sure takes a lot of work to build relationships and maintain them.

The social web gives us an uncanny opportunity to put a barrage of information out for the world to see and lets people decide how much (or little) they want to consume. We make the assumption that most people are able to sift through it successfully and thus, we’re offended when they’re not as responsive as we’d like to what we deem as important that either gets lost in the grand shuffle of noise.

It leads to people trying to develop new ways to “get their message out” when really, what’s needed is to:

1. Sharpen our focus
2. Distill the noise out
3. Narrow the audience

Making it easier for our audiences to really listen to what’s being said, I find it’s almost better to say less than to say more, even as the urge exists (as well as the mediums) to overshare.

Articles worth checking out

I’ve been on the road lately, so I’ve missed a lot of good articles. Time to get caught up on the feed reader:

College Tours are Broken: An article asking you how many 100k products you buy from 20-year olds. It’s an interesting piece that makes you really think about the college tour and how we could improve the process. That said, only the most elite schools are 100k. Most are far less than that, especially when you get down to the discount rate. So I’m not sure we need to do more to turn college into a sales and marketing experience, rather than an investment. Still it’s a thought provoking article. (HT @bradjward)

Telling Your Story and How So Many Miss It
Gary V talks about PR and “staying on message.”

Can you change everything?: Seth Godin gives you some ideas on how to get out of the business rut you’re in.

How To Win a CASE Gold: An instructive piece from Mark Sheehy @ mstonerblog. Judging CASE this year was a rewarding experience and I can tell you that a lot of what he says is oh-so-true.

Can Billions of Parents Be Wrong?: Perhaps parents’ intense efforts at influencing their children has some informational value about the parental profitability of such behavior.

In front of the classroom…

A university classroom. (Jones Hall at Princet...
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I taught my first college class on Saturday. I wasn’t worried too much when I agreed to teach ART 265 – The Business of Art (Web Design) because it’d never been taught before, as part of an entirely new program at the community college at which it’s being offered.

The course was envisioned for freelancers who are seeking ways to market themselves on the web. What I ended up with is a majority of the class who are interested in using the web to market existing businesses they own. We’re not talking web businesses, but bricks and mortar businesses that are have a presence on the web.

So the whole thing changed. I could’ve kept the course the way I’ve outlined it, but I’ve decided to adapt it a bit to make it more relevant to everyone. We’ll still cover everything the way it’s written in the syllabus, but the projects I developed will focus more heavily on web marketing concepts than I think I initially imagined.

Because the class meets primarily online (we only have 3 in-class sessions during the 10-week term) I really needed to figure out quickly what we’d do to ensure that no one left the class feeling like they got nothing out of it.

The front of the classroom wasn’t really that big a deal. I mean, I’ve been standing in front of classrooms for a long time now. The audiences are different and writing the syllabus was a new challenge for sure, but…once we got going I found that it wasn’t much different from giving a presentation, really.

It’ll be an interesting experience for sure, going forward. I think had I not had the experience of having taught lots of other things in the past, maybe I’d have been more daunted by all of it. But I’ve taught adult ESL, given tons of workshops and speeches and of course, taught tennis for about a decade now. So while the venue is different, it’s a lot of the same skills and about as fun as I expected it to be, too.

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Don’t be Foolish, use Twitter

As promised in my post about why Twitter isn’t any better than high school, here’s a gushing post about the sheer brilliance of Twitter.

To the person on the outside looking in, Twitter is akin to passing notes to your friends about the most inane matters possible. To the more cynical among us, it’s a reflection of the general “me first, me second” tendencies of millennials and Generation Y. When you tell them the majority of the users are over the age of 30, that it’s largely a tool for business and that Dell made a $1 million bucks last year in revenue JUST USING TWITTER they sit upright in their chairs and have more to tell you.

Look, social media is really about being social. You have to see it, hear it and engage it. And my friends, Twitter is all about engagement.

Here’s what’s great about Twitter:

1. Customers front and center People might not a Twitter from a Twiddler. In a world where sound bites can kill political campaigns and folks have seemingly infinite content possibilities, Twitter is network of audiences ready and engaged to hear what you have to say.

Tell them you’ll save them money or share some interesting news and they’ll keep following you. Unlike a blog, a newspaper or even a radio station, Twitter can pretty much go ANYWHERE I go. Through text updates, I can get notice of a major event almost instantly. So whether it’s a sale or something worse, Twitter usually breaks the story.

2. Let’s build our relationship… In the old days, how did mom and pop stores thrive? They build relationships with their customers. In the era of the big box retailer, shopping mall and Walmart behemoth, some might think that relationships have gone by the wayside. But it’s just not true. In the past, if you made a customer upset due to poor service or something else, they might tell a friend or a family member via the phone. The likelihood that you’d see a shift in business as a result of one angry customer was relatively small. Today? A customer who is upset with your brand could Twitter about it and word spreads instantly to legions of others who can air their similar grievances, causing harm to your brand that you knew nothing about. That is, unless you’re proactive.

3. Meet ‘n Greet 2.0: Those conversations with colleagues from around the globe have never been more dynamic. The water cooler now takes place across time zones and it’s happening in real time, without leaving your desk. It used to be, that after you met someone at a conference you had to fumble through cards to remember who they were. Or more recently, you’d add them on something like Facebook or LinkedIn, which was either too close or too distant for them to be useful. Now? Twitter is the new business card.

What do you think is great about Twitter?

“Be All You Can Be” marketing

The military is an marketing tour de force. I mean, at their core, they have the worst product to sell of any marketer outside of funeral directors. They sell war.

Kids these days sure like playing war games on their Playstation 3, but the vast majority aren’t interested in fighting in them.

With such an unsavory product, the services have to find other ways to convince people to serve. You know all of this. What you don’t know, is how much colleges and universities can learn from these marketing tactics.

1. You don’t need a million dollar marketing campaign to be an effective recruiter.
Military recruiters create personal relationships. You’d be amazed what recruiters will do, to get a kid to join the service. Help them get drivers licenses, bank accounts, buy them food and more. It’s not about lying to kids, as they do get a bad rap for that. (And for some, there’s a reason for that tag…) But the bottom line here is creating a connection and making them feel like they belong, well before they get a uniform and rank.

The recruiting commercials, video games and web site might bring them in to talk, the power of persuasion comes once they’re at the recruiting stage and the sale begins.

2. Your key influencers are the success stories you generate.
Even if someone has no one close to them who has ever served, having people say “I was in the military and then I had [insert success here]” is a powerful message. How many folks, especially these days are able to say that about their alma mater. The ones who have such stories are probably somewhere being successful and aren’t coming into contact with the people of whom would be influenced by these stories.

For every sad story of someone who dies in the horror of war, there are dozens more who are integrated into society, able to tell the story of how serving their country meant something to them.

These days, college kids graduate and lament their ballooning student loan debt and how they learned more outside of school than they did when they were attending classes. Military veterans talk about discipline, motivation, self-respect and personal growth.

I’m not saying that college should be like the military, but it’s clear that we’re failing at something.

3. The sale doesn’t end after they’ve matriculated.
For military folks, the hard part is the beginning. As you grow in your career, you’re given opportunities to prove yourself in real world environments and your newfound confidence is tested early and often. You feel like you’re good enough, because you’re basically tested to believe it.

For college kids? It’s a mixed bag. The “you get out of it what you make it,” adage applies here, but we can do a better job of providing students with support once they’ve reached campus. I know lots of schools are thinking about this more and more, but, there is still a great sense of alienation and loneliness that sets in from being in an environment that these days, resembles high school far more than a pre-professional growth opportunity.

4. Never be afraid to change it up.
People scoffed when the Army abandoned its longtime slogan “Be All You Can Be” and went for an Army of One. Folks thought this was heresy. The Air Force has gone through strange marketing conversions over the past few years and all the while, the Marines seemed to keep chugging away with their same campaign that’s worked well for them. (The Few. The Proud.)

But one thing that’s been consistent is not a failure to adapt to modern times. The services have bigger budgets than most colleges and universities and unparalleled access, sure. But they’re not afraid to use the resources at their disposal to change their approach, to reflect a change in the times.

Meanwhile, we have a lot of colleges and universities that are still doing the same things they did recruiting in the 1980s, that they’re doing now, only with better computers and printers that aren’t dot matrix.

So, are there any other ways we can truly change the way we market in higher ed? Or am I completely off my rocker?