Friday, February 26, 2010

Are your headlines #Twitter-friendly?

News-style writing values brevity and clarity, and no where is that more important than on Twitter. With its 140-character limit and heavy concentration of journalist users, effective headline writing is critical for getting the biggest bang for news releases or blog posts on Twitter.
  • Be concise. VERY concise. Yes, you may have 140 characters on Twitter, but that doesn't mean you should use all of them. First, you'll need to include a shortened URL to the full news release (minimum length: 20 characters if you use bit.ly). Second, you'll want Twitterers to "retweet" your release, so subtract another 20 characters "RT @username" and a brief comment. In other words, headlines should be shorter than 100 characters.

  • Be clear. If you're lucky enough for your blog post or news release to go viral, you'll want your headline to be clear without additional context. Tweets that are serially retweeted will often lose the original Twitter handle, so the source may not be identifiable before users click on your link.

  • Be relevant. If you're wanting your message to reach an audience outside of your normal followers, use hashtags (or "#" pound-signs) to reach those groups. Of course, that means that the topic needs to be a part of your headline and match the appropriate hashtag. For example, if I want to reach bankruptcy lawyers on Twitter about a new seminar, I should add #bankruptcy #law hashtags to the tweet.
Happy tweeting!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Need another reason to take Facebook seriously?

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Facebook is now beginning to direct more Web traffic than Google in several categories. Likewise, our law school Web stats have seen a dramatic increase in traffic from Facebook in the 12 months. We didn't release of our official Facebook fan page until April 2009, but still, the change is fascinating.

A few details:
  • Facebook has become the #1 referral source to our site, after organic searches on Google, Bing and Yahoo.
  • Our main university's .edu site is the #2 referral source (after Facebook).
  • From Jan. 15–Feb. 15, 2010, we received nearly 27 times the number of Facebook visits than the same timeframe in 2009.
  • Our Facebook page has just over 1,050 fans. Not too shabby when compared to most law schools.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Protect Your Brand From Yourself

Google. Apple. Toyota. These strong brands have suffered some powerful blows in the past few months. Business and marketing pundits much smarter than I have offered explanations of what went wrong, but here are a few thoughts I've taken away:
  • Don't forget who brought you to the party (aka don't forget the strengths that differentiate you). Google grew into the giant it is by creating powerful tools with simple, user-friendly interfaces. Then came the confusing Wave, and the jury's still out on Buzz. Both applications seemed to have great potential in Google's introductory presentations. However once you start using these tools, filling them with content and conversation, they become cluttered and complicated. Simplicity is what differentiated Google from its competitors in the beginning, and I can't help but be disappointed that this trait hasn't carried over into its newer products.
    Higher ed takeaway: Don't get so caught up in new trends and ideas that you forget your core strengths.
  • Don't forget the power of a name. The hype over Apple's newest device included speculation over names: iTablet, iSlate, etc. So what were they thinking when they developed the unfortunate name, iPad? No one needed to be reminded of that bad MadTV sketch. (You would think that Apple's research could have at least caught that tidbit, even if their focus groups were too embarrassed to say so.)
    Higher ed takeaway: Try to find fault with advertising taglines and brand messages before someone else does. Take them out of context, and don't be afraid to look them up in the Urban Dictionary.
  • Don't get caught up in your own press. Toyota's reputation for reliable cars was a hallmark of its brand, but two major recalls have required them to shut down production to address the problem. Did Toyota get complacent? No one is immune from mistakes, no matter how good they are.
    Higher ed takeaway: Be humble, and like Toyota, don't be afraid to apologize when necessary.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Social Media in Higher Ed: Questions?

Later this month, I will be moderating a panel discussion on social media for the CASE III regional conference in Tampa, Florida. Here is the program description:
Community, Conversation and Control: A Panel Discussion on Social Media
It’s no secret that sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are changing the landscape of higher education communications at a rapid pace. What are the best (and worst) practices for building and engaging online communities? How can communications professionals help bridge the gap in educating colleagues and university leaders who aren’t using these tools yet? (Yes, there are a few of those out there.) This panel of proven social media practitioners will feature various perspectives on these questions and more.
What questions would you recommend (or like to see answered)?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Embracing the early majority

This is my phone. It is not smart. It does not come with a data plan. I cannot buy apps, use Foursquare, or listen to music on it. There is nothing cool about it, but it suits my lifestyle (and budget) just fine.

I realize that mobile marketing is predicted to become the next big thing. I know that one day, I will need to have a better phone to keep up with my target audiences. But not just yet.

I am a proud member of the early majority. Diffusion of innovations theory, which examines the acceptance of new ideas and technology in a population, describes five major categories of consumers: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards.

In a world where devices are getting smaller and social media channels are getting bigger, it's easy to get caught up in the desire to innovate. To focus more on the tools, and less on how they can help achieve specific goals. At the same time, most everyone in higher ed is being asked to do more with less.

The key is to find the intersection where technology and effectiveness meet.

Take the cell phone example. My school's Web stats indicate that less than 2 percent of our visits come from mobile devices. Should we ignore this growing group of users? No. At bare minimum, we should watch these numbers and examine our sites on mobile devices. But does that mean that we should also develop a parallel mobile Web site, iPhone apps, and mobile fundraising campaigns?

With with limited resources, a smart PR office must set priorities. It's easy to get caught up in the hype of new tools, or to feel like you're behind the curve if you're not using them. Yes, many can improve your communications toolbox at an individual or institutional level, but only if you know what you're doing and why. Too often, people talk about creating social media accounts or building applications because everyone else is.

It's wise to watch trends in higher ed marketing, to know your audiences, and to modestly invest time into experimenting with new tools. Follow the innovators and early adopters, and learn from their successes and mistakes. Do your homework, think strategically, and adopt new technologies when they will best address your institution's needs.
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