Blog Indiana: Top 12 Things I Learned

Blog Indiana BIN2010I’ve had a week to digest all of the great information that was shared at the Blog Indiana 2010 conference last weekend here in Indianapolis. And I’m still digesting. It’s not that all of the info was overwhelming; it’s just that I’m still in awe at the sheer genius and knowledge of the presenters. I can honestly say that this conference was the most valuable one I have ever attended.

The Blog Indiana conference offered 35 sessions over 2 days. I attended a total of 12 – 2 keynotes and 4 sessions per day. My brain (as well as my laptop battery) was drained, and yet supercharged, at the end of it all.

For the sake of keeping this post to an acceptable length, I’m going to narrow down to the top 12 most awesome things I learned at BIN2010.

Top 12 Things I Learned at BIN2010:

12. Companies are acting more like people, and people are acting more like companies. People want to talk to people like themselves. Be human in your conversations online. The Internet is just a tool of communication; talk to people the same way you would over coffee.

11. There’s still a trust deficit among consumers in the digital age. Years ago, people were cautious about what they posted online and the transactions they conducted online. As digital and social become a part of everyday life, people are letting go of that caution and trusting more and more. However, people still don’t trust companies online. People trust people like themselves, but very few trust mass marketing.

10. (Almost) anyone can be a publisher, writer, photographer, video producer or critic. Blogging and social media have lowered the barriers of entry to the publishing world to anyone with “a pulse and scant brain waves” (via @JasonFalls). You, as a marketer, have to compete with millions of other voices online. Some of those voices are saying bad things about you, but on the flipside, some people are saying good things about you, and you can leverage that.

9. Integrate to innovate. This idea comes from @jodaltoniue and @robzinkan from @iueast, and it’s part of their overall communications strategy. Print and online communications are not separate silos. Promote your online accounts – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. – in your print communications and reach a wider audience who may not know that you are engaging online.

8. Millennials (think prospective students) are attracted to social media engagement. The guys from @iueast shared a staggering statistic from a survey of new students — 91% said that no other college in their search had engaged with them through social media. If you want to attract millennials, peak their interest by engaging with them online.

7. It is possible to measure engagement. BlueFuego, a company that specializes in higher ed and social media, has come up with their own formula for measuring engagement on their client’s Facebook pages. I won’t give it away completely, but I will tell you that it is centralized on the idea of measuring the number of comments or likes, rather than the number of fans or followers.

6. Share your knowledge and ask others to share. Blogging and social media thrive on reciprocity. Retweet others’ content. Share links to other blogs. Comment on other blogs. Ask others to comment on your blog or share the link to your blog. Ask other bloggers to guest blog for you.

5. Internet marketing guys (and gals) know about tons of great online tools. In @DouglasKarr‘s presentation alone, I learned at least 6 new tools for websites that I wouldn’t have even thought to look for: Adobe KulerWibiyaWhereisthefold.comSeo-browser.com, IUI, and Facebox. Many other presenters shared free and inexpensive tools for social analytics.

4. A simple website with the right information can be the most effective. Your website or blog doesn’t have to be complex or cost a lot of money to be effective. Make sure your site or blog has useful information and a call to action. Provide basic information that will peak a visitor’s interest and encourage them to keep coming back for new content or contact you for more detailed information.

3. Know what people are seeing when they search for you. Jeremy Dearringer (@Slingshot_SEO) presented one of the most talked-about sessions at BIN2010. (Of course people are going to talk about you when you encourage them to blog about your session with the possibility of winning a shiny new iPad.) I didn’t even attend Jeremy’s session, but the #bin2010 hashtag was on fire with revelations from his presentation. When people type your name (or your domain name) into Google, do you know what else Google suggests? Be proactive about the content that you can control and optimize it so that your content is what people see when they search for you.

2. Backlinks are Queen. Chad Pollitt presented “Social Media Infrastructures.” This was the session that floored me. Now I know about using social media to build a network of links to your content and raise your ranking in the search engines. However, I have never seen it used to this extent. In a Google search for “Internet marketing expert” (a widely used term with 13.3 million results), Chad Pollitt not only shows up on the first page, he not only shows up in the top 5; he shows up as #2 AND #7 – two visible spots on the first page of Google! He achieved this by using backlinks on various social networks to drive traffic and increase visibility to his website. By creating a network of direct links among all of your online content, you can basically tell Google that you are important. Also, Chad’s company DigitalHill is the brains behind Facebook TabSite – Check it out now, I’ll blog about it later.

1. A social media strategy can be as simple as Share Good S**t. (@JasonFalls)

Check out edSocialMedia!

edSocialMediaI’ve recently joined the ranks of a great set of contributors to the edSocialMedia blog! edSocialMedia is the best place to find great content about using social media in education – whether it’s for marketing, communicating, networking or teaching purposes. The bloggers truly are the best of the best; they are all forward-thinking and passionate about social media and education, and they love to share their ideas.

Check out my first post on edSocialMedia – One Tool to Tell a Dynamic Story. It’s about how I used nothing but my iPhone to capture a once-in-a-lifetime experience aboard a KC-135 aerial refueling flight mission (read about the flight on my personal blog).

I encourage you to check out the other great posts on edSocialMedia and join the community by sharing your thoughts in the comments.

5 Problems that Community Pages Have Caused

Facebook Community PageWhether your school or brand has an official Facebook page or not, you’ve undoubtedly become familiar with the dreaded phrase “Community Pages.”

Facebook introduced Community Pages at the F8 Conference, where they also introduced the transition from “Become a Fan” to “Like.” These unofficial pages aggregate information from Wikipedia and related posts from Facebook users, i.e. posts that mention the school/brand.

Unfortunately, there was little communication or education for Page Admins to gain an understanding of what these Community Pages are and how they affect the Facebook user experience. I’ve heard from many people that they just don’t understand where these pages are popping up from, or how they can be linked to existing, branded Facebook pages, or how the content can be managed.

First, let me perhaps clear up the source of the confusion. When Facebook released its latest updates, users were asked to update their profiles by changing plain text in their Personal Info section into links to Facebook Pages, whether they’re official, unofficial or community pages.

When your alumni, students or employees make this change, “XX School” in their education or employer info now becomes a link to a Facebook-created Community Page for “XX School” as opposed to the official page that already has a COMMUNITY! Users can’t control which page they’re linking to by listing your school in their info.

Facebook Education LogoIf you run a Facebook search for your school or if you’ve already run across some of these duplicate Community Pages under your school’s name, you may have seen this logo with the graduation cap (if your school’s logo wasn’t already aggregated). This is Facebook’s general logo for “Education,” meaning that people have listed your school in their Education info. Also, you may have seen the briefcase logo, meaning that employees have listed it as their employer. Separate pages for separate meanings.

5 big problems that Community Pages have caused for Page Admins

1. Users can’t control which page they’re linking to by listing your school in their info section. Currently, it seems that Facebook is directing Work & Education information only to Community Pages, ignoring the fact that many schools and companies already have pages on Facebook.

2. The aggregated information is worthless. Community Pages are just a dumping ground, a jumbled, unorganized mess. If I wanted to read a Wikipedia article, I’d go to Wikipedia. And the related posts are mostly worthless and sometimes unrelated. Actually, it has caused some amount of stress for some schools and brands simply because the aggregated posts include some jibing and distasteful remarks. This is a risk of social media, though.

3. More pages equal more confusion for users. I did a search for our school and came up with 76 pages — 1 being our official page. (Most of these were the name of the school and a class year.) Our official page is easily identifiable from the rest, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the ongoing list of Community Pages would be confusing to the average Facebook user.

4. No one has editing control over the content of a Community Page. Branded pages have Page Admins who have authority to post content to the wall, reply to wall posts and update information. Community Pages are literally run by the community, which is a good thing and a bad thing. I strongly believe in two-way communication with social media; therefore, contributions from the community are important. But when it’s just being aggregated without any type of conversation, it’s useless.

5. Privacy, privacy, privacy. A few months back, Facebook gave the option to users to share content with EVERYONE, which means that users who choose this option are making their status updates/pictures/links/notes/etc. available to the entire world wide web, Community Pages included. (I’m not sure why anyone would put their settings on “Everyone,” considering the original lure of Facebook is that you limit your information to a select group of friends or networks.) Anyway, if you’re wondering how those related posts get onto a Community Page, it is because that user is basically allowing Facebook to aggregate “Nothing like a little Bob Dylan to get the day started!” onto the Bob Dylan page.

What you can do

If you haven’t already, go to www.facebook.com/username and grab the username for your official page. Then, in all of your communication, you should direct people to that URL instead of saying “Find us on Facebook.”

Check your own privacy settings. If you don’t want that post about your stupid boss showing up in the public feed, don’t set any of your settings to “Everyone.”

When you land on a Community Page duplicating your organization, you’ll see some options laid out in a highlighted box at the top of the page. You can sign up to help out when Facebook wants your help (yeah, right), or you can provide links to the correct Wikipedia article, official site, or official Facebook page. A word of warning, though: Don’t expect immediate results from these actions. I’ve heard from many people that have entered the URL for the official page weeks ago with no results yet.

Community Page: Suggest a relevant Wikipedia article or the Official Site
Community Page: Suggest the Official Facebook Page

Related Articles:
Facebook Hates Your Brand by Michael Fienen on .eduGuru
Why Facebook Community Pages Could Be Bad News For Brands on eModeration Blog

Contribute to your community

Online CommunitiesA school can be a very important component to a community. Even private, independent schools play a large role in their local communities. Schools themselves are communities, made up of current families, faculty and staff, alumni, prospective families and donors. But schools also are part of a larger community – the local neighborhood, town or city, state, region, etc. So how can your school get involved with the outside community?

Your school is already involved with the outside community just by being a member. It’s the people in your school community that make up a part of the larger community. They shop, eat, watch movies, attend games, go to the park, coach and volunteer. They are also online – on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, Foursquare, Gowalla, etc.

If you’re online and they’re online – are you connecting? Who are the people that are following you online? Have you attracted people in your community who have no direct relationship to your school? The largest portion of my school’s Twitter followers are just people and businesses in the local community – 38% of our followers have no relationship to our school other than proximity. But they follow us. They’re interested in what we contribute to the community.

Here are three ways that I use our Twitter account to be valuable to the community:

  • Don’t be self-serving. Mix up your content with news or thoughts that have something to do with what’s going on in the community. For example, when neighboring Butler University’s men’s basketball team made it to the Final Four last week, I sent out words of good luck for the team on the school’s Twitter account. It didn’t have anything to do with our school, but it was something that people in our community cared about passionately. Your primary content should be about your school; that’s why people started following you in the first place, but nobody likes people (or brands) who talk about themselves constantly.
  • Follow back. You don’t have to follow everyone who comes knocking on your Twitter door, but when people in your community show an interest in your school, at least take the time to look at their Twitter profile and timeline and decide whether you want to follow back and hear what they have to say. Who knows? Something as simple as clicking the follow button could lead to a new prospective family or prospective donor.
  • Interact with others. Social media is about listening, right? So what are people in the community talking about? Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with someone, even if it has nothing to do with your school. People want to talk to other people, not brands. Use replies and retweets to interact with your followers in the community.