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Year of the Communicator Conference | The Benefits

You already know the advantages of attending the Year of the Communicator conference on June 25, 2013, but you may need some help convincing your supervisor.

Here are some tangible benefits of attending this year's UMCF conference:

1. It is affordable!
With airfare consistently on the rise, attending the conference means you won't only save on airfare, but hotel and food costs as well. Plus if you register before May 30, you receive the early bird discount.

2. Expand your professional network.
Because the conference is for communicators at the University, you expand your professional network across campuses. We rarely get a break to talk with our fellow colleagues and this is an excellent opportunity.

3. Keep up with the trends in the communications field and be inspired by inspiring people.
This year's conference has two keynote speakers that are industry leaders. Krista Neher is an expert on social media and will be addressing how higher education institutions can make social media work for us. Debra Frasier, author and illustrator, will help guide you on your path of creativity, something every communicator needs.

4. Attend together as a teambuilding activity.
Attending the conference as a team means you can talk about which sessions will provide you with the most skills and choose your tracks together. Creating a report for your supervisor about the sessions you attend also helps outline what you learned. Then you can discuss your day at the reception, surrounded by inspiring art at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery.

5. Gain topic-specific experience.
The strategies, tools, and skills that you learn can be taken back to your department and applied immediately. The conference offers you two keynote speakers and three breakout sessions geared to give you the tools that you need to be the best at what you do.

Don't delay and register today!

Thanks Google

Say that everyone has been talking about that television show. Your friends. Your coworkers. That friendly neighbor lady. You want to know more about it. Correction: You need to know more. So, you go to your desktop computer. You go to your laptop. You go to your iPad. You go to your phone. Wherever you are you get to the Internet and get to that Google.

This looks interesting. Thanks Google.

The Internet of Things

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By now, you may have heard rumblings about the "Internet of Things" and depending on the context, it can be defined in many different ways. Everyone, however, agrees that the emerging "Internet of Things" (IoT) will link everyday physical products to each other via the web. This will be (and currently) is done by embedding technology in an object in order for it to communicate with other connected devices. This will essentially create a giant digital information system. The experts at Harbor Research suggest that the Internet of Things will have a bigger impact on our daily lives than either the internet or social media combined, radically shifting the way that we think, act, and connect with each other.

"We are creating a connected world with entirely different touch points," said Glen Allmendinger, president of technology and business development consulting firm Harbor Research. "In the past, a company would sell a product, and it would disappear into a black hole. There was no way to know what anyone did with it or what other marketing opportunities existed. Today, it's possible to see how a customer uses a device and discover all sorts of opportunities."

Recent articles point to the IoT as the interaction and exchange of data between machines and objects, and now there are product definitions reflecting the same concept. Nike has been utilizing this technology for a few years now, with their Nike Fuel band that tracks and monitors your fitness levels, suggests ways to conserve energy, and connects you with a community of Fuel Band users.

There is almost no limit to the possibilities that the IoT will bring and it's no secret that marketing will be at the center of that universe. The Blake Project's Derrick Daye believes that the IoT will change branding in a monumental way. "It can deliver the brand promise at every point of customer contact and deliver a more meaningful relationship. It can help a company create a greater brand alignment across devices, screens and experiences."

Needless to say, the Internet of Things is here to stay. I'm anxious to see how the University of Minnesota will start integrating this technology into the different experiences that they offer. What will this mean in terms of recruitment, retention or giving? Marketing and branding? Only time will tell.

Social media: More work or play?

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Naming Winter Storms

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As a native Minnesotan, I was irked beyond reason when The Weather Channel started naming winter storms. The practice came to my attention when the so-called Winter Storm Caesar was approaching Minnesota in December.

What the what?!! Remember the Halloween Blizzard of '91? The Armistice Day Blizzard of '40-something? (OK, we weren't there, but we've heard of it, over and over.) The thing is, Minnesotans know that winter storms must EARN their names, not be assigned them in some marketing scheme by East Coast weather elites.

Which leads me to this blog post's real topic, the idea that social media can save lives. Well, that's what The Weather Company (parent of The Weather Channel) is claiming. In an Adweek article, Weather CEO David Kenny claims that they named storms so that people would start tweeting and posting about them on social media, thus raising awareness and saving lives.

Kenny cited the nearly 800 million photos and tweets that "Nemo" generated over 5 day period as proof positive that the naming system worked to raise awareness and served to consolidate the torrent of storm-related social media data. - See more at:
Kenny claimed the almost 800 million photos and tweets that "Nemo" (good lord) generated over five days when it slammed the east coast was proof of his claim.

What do you think? Does naming something encourage social engagement about it? What could we name here at the U to encourage social engagement? Please share your thoughts! And heaven help us if Winter Storm Yogi should approach the northern plains.
Kenny cited the nearly 800 million photos and tweets that "Nemo" generated over 5 day period as proof positive that the naming system worked to raise awareness and served to consolidate the torrent of storm-related social media data. - See more at:

Papal Tweets

Only the Pope could start a Twitter account, not post a single tweet, and still have 116,859 followers (as of this posting). He's barely begun his social media journey, but could it be that he's already having trouble "feeding the beast"?

What suggestions do you have for the Pope, or anyone else who is considering starting a Twitter account? How should they keep it fresh, on message, interesting? I'd love to see your comments.

U Relations | Here to Help

Today I went to the UMCF program, Beginner's Circle: Working with University Relations, and discovered a pocket of resources for us as communicators. I am fairly new (one and half years at the U) and have had veterans tell me that you are not a real U employee until you have been here for ten. It was nice to hear that for some people that were closer to the ten-year mark, this was good information all around. So, whether you are new to the University or have been here for years, there was a little something for everyone.

The panelists were: Ann Aronson, responsible for marketing and branding; Laura Johnson, responsible for creative services; Chuck Tombarge, responsible for the news service; and Jay Weiner, the presidents speechwriter.

Here are some of the resources they provide:

New Service: ( Will work with you on a press release or connecting you to local reporters. Provide media training for faculty and staff. Provide council on social media strategy. Write a column from the president in your department/units newsletter.

There are four staff members, broken into beats that they cover:

  • Julie Christensen covers public affairs, access, engagement, philanthropy and diversity.
  • Steve Henneberry covers liberal arts, humanities, and video.
  • Matt Hodson covers STEM, research, science to industry, business, and agriculture.
  • Patty Mattern covers administration, athletics, crisis, and efficiency.

Creative Services and Marketing Communications: ( Provides consulting in collaboration with marketing and branding for marketing strategies, electronic communications, shared media, design, writing, editing, multimedia, and photography. The U Story on the homepage is also handled through creative services and ideas can be submitted to

The overall focus for University Relations this year is President Kaler's priorities that can be found here:

Do you have other resources that would be helpful for navigating communications at the U?

I am also looking forward to the next program, Expert Insights: Dave Pyle, Former bureau chief of the MN/WI Associated Press on December 5.

The evolution of social media: We don't even bother to read anymore

It's all about images now, as this article from Fast Company notes. How do you show, rather than tell, what your unit does?

Best Times to Post to Social Media

I should be posting this to Facebook or Twitter right now instead of a blog. Why?

The Poynter Institute has just released this report showing the highest click-through days/times for Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.  Peak time for Facebook and Twitter are right now: 2:30 p.m. on a Wednesday.

This will change how we schedule our postings. Have you seen anything different in your campaigns? Click through for neato graphs.

Bitly data shows the best times to post links to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr

Finding Your Niche in a Social Media Explosion

It seems I can't do anything in the communications world without bumping elbows with yet another one of the billion social media tools popping up these days. In the crowded room of businesses, college departments, and organizations all screaming for your attention through their various social media, it can be hard to decide what tools are best or applicable to you and your place of work. Here's a quick article on some of the newer buzz-tools out there: the new Facebook Timeline for businesses, Pinterest, and Instagram.

What's your take on these new platforms? Do you see an opportunity to use them in your workplace?

Go for the Maroon and Gold: Training Tip

Email marketing. It's a quick and direct way to communicate with your audience. But, when should it be used and what's the messaging like? Integrating email marketing with a broader communications plan (probably including both traditional and new media) is often key to its success. Also, writing engaging and relevant messages is a must for standing out in the flurry of emails.

Check out ten best practices for email marketing.  And, plan to attend the UMCF conference session on email marketing, "Having a Blast: Making Mass Email Work for You," with U of M University Relations' electronic communications specialist Pete Wiringa.

Learn about the conference agenda and session topics. Register by April 23 for the discounted rate.

Go for the Maroon and Gold: Training Tip

Social media is a constantly changing suite of tools. While each platform offers communicators valuable ways to engage with their audience and deliver key messages, managing all of them can be a challenge. That's why developing a social media strategy is crucial to posting successful updates.

Learn how to build a social media strategy in three steps and plan to attend the UMCF conference session on developing social media strategy. Rita Greenberg, interactive media specialist at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, will present.

To register for the conference, click here. If you register by April 23, you'll pay the discounted rate of $120. Go for the Maroon and Gold!

A Beginner's Twitter Guide to Domination in Five Steps

As the new Marketing & Promotions Chair for the Communicators Forum, I've been having fun diving into the depths of Communicators Forum social media, especially Twitter. Social media has become an unexpected passion of mine over the last year or so, with daily use of it for my day job at Northrop Concerts and Lectures, and my side project, the literary website Hazel & Wren.

I've learned mostly by trial and error, and by watching and learning from expert tweeps as they grow with their following and gain momentum for their business or organization. But perhaps the most helpful for me are simple guidelines from other users that pop up in blog posts, articles, and more all over the internet, such as this one, which I stumbled upon last week, and passed on through the UMCF Twitter channel. And, as a bonus, here's a quick look at some things I've learned over the last year or so in my own guide: A Beginner's Twitter Guide to Domination in Five Steps. (Brace yourselves for the power of this knowledge.)

A Beginner's Twitter Guide to Domination in Five Steps:

1.) Follow like-minded people. This is the number one step to exponentially increase your number of followers. Search hashtags and topics to see who is talking about them, and follow them. Or, even better yet, find another organization similar in cause to you, and start following who they follow. Not everyone will follow you back, but the surprising majority do. (This means your description and recent tweets better be stellar, so these people are intrigued at first glance.)

2.) Curate lists.
This has been the most helpful for me to not only more easily find quality content, but also for organizing my approach and to make sure that I'm diversifying my tweets. If you're unfamiliar with lists, what this means is that you create segmented categories of Twitter accounts that you follow, based on their content and/or area of interest. For example, I have a list for the Communicators Forum called "University Departments." Another could be called "Communications Publications." That way, you can just view the feed from that list's sources specifically, to narrow down and focus the constant stream of information coming in. You can make these lists public or private, and can call them whatever makes the most sense to you. These take time to curate, but are so worth it.

3.) Be smart with your retweets
. Don't get overly click-happy with that retweet button. Yes, it's just so easy, but doing that too often can make it seem like you don't have any original content or thought, or, that you're just plain lazy. If you're going to retweet something, switch it up more often than not. Copy and paste the tweet into your own post, tag the owner with RT, and preface it with some your own commentary. This could be something as simple as "Especially agree with rule #3 RT @umcf: The Official Rules of Twitter Domination http://LINK_HERE". You can also start over completely with your own original tweet, and just tag whoever originally posted the link by ending your post with: "(via @umcf)." Just remember: your followers want to know what YOU (whether you are an individual, or the voice of an organization) think, not how many posts you can retweet in a minute.

4.) Use short links for original content. Here at the University, we have a fantastic link shortener, Why use short links for original content (i.e. your organization's blog posts, events, etc) specifically? Stats, my friends, stats. Through short links (and others) you can then track who is clicking that specific link, and where those paths to your original content are starting from (Twitter, Facebook, emails, etc). This can be incredibly helpful when figuring out where your audience is getting their information. There are other link shortening services outside of the University, but many of them you have to pay for, especially if you want to customize your short links.

5.) Tweet at least 3-5 times a day. From what I've heard, tweeting about five times a day  (and not all at once) yields the most effective results. At that rate, you're not pushing people off the edge with endless tweets about your oh-so-amazing breakfast sandwich, and you're also making following you worthwhile with daily updates and insights. For some organizations, it can be tough to get up to five tweets per day, but just work in that direction. This doesn't have to be (and shouldn't be) solely original content. The main purpose of Twitter is to embrace and engage with your community, whatever it is. Retweet insightful posts from fellow professionals, engage with your followers by asking questions and starting conversations, seek out articles and sources related to your field or area of interest, and share it all with your community.

That's all for now, folks. Happy tweeting, and may the force be with you.

Throwing your work into the ether: measuring value

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Everyone likes validation. Validation is tangible evidence that what you do is valuable. For those in a creative field it's essential, if only because for most of us the money isn't validation enough (because it's not enough money). Social media is a shining example of the power of validation. The Facebook "like" button is founded on the principle. Twitter's retweet is the same. Digg is a popularity contest. Everyone wants to go viral on YouTube. Measurement tools, metrics, and analytics are just another way to ask, 'Do people like us (me)?" In a way, it feels very much like an extension of high school. The hormones of it all are quite frankly making me breakout.

Let's assume for a second that when, for example, I write a story, it's not about me getting any sort of personal feedback--that it's about who or what I'm writing about. Now get rid of that notion. It is about me, dammit. How long would any of us keep doing something without once-in-awhile hearing an "attaboy?" Say what you will about writers having low self-esteem (it's true), but sometimes you gotta hear "good job" to believe it.

I asked a friend in a similar field about this, and, like me, he wasn't afraid to admit his deepest insecurity about self/work-efficacy. He said, "Sure, you're promoting events people might attend, making someone aware of research. They might or might not take action. But that's just too far removed...too hypothetical." His despair is my aggravation. And so, as in every situation, I first ask myself, "who can I blame?"

Assigning blame
First, I blame inadequate metrics. Metrics for online media simply aren't yet where they need to be unless you're selling something (and someone is buying). If your video of an intoxicated squirrel gets 7 million views, what does it really mean (other than being absolutely friggin' hilarious)? Who does it touch? What difference did it make in a life?

For this conversation, I reference a fantastic article on ClickZ about measuring marketing success (related), which says all I might hope to say. Suffice to say, metrics are and will continue to evolve until one day we all have high self-esteem.

Second, I blame you. And I blame me. Because it's not enough anymore to drop your work into the series of tubes (minute 2:12) that make up the internet, hearing only a "whoosh" and then...nothing...into the ether.

Solution: "Good job!"
When is the last time any of us read something wonderful and sent a note to the writer, or photographer? Why doesn't this happen? If someone sat down and told you a story in person, or showed you a slideshow, and you just sat there and didn't say anything afterwards, it would be...a very weird and awkward silence. Direct feedback can't be beat. Most of us, I'd wager, would trade 1,000 "impressions" for a direct comment any day. So next time you read something you like, send a note to say so*.

So, what are some solutions here, and how are you getting your fix? Do comments on Facebook do it for you (certainly more meaningful than "likes")? Is a retweet enough? Should the author always include a byline with an email address? Let us know in the poll.

*The irony here is that most of the time, if someone takes time to send a comment, it's negative. Nothing motivates quite like displeasure. Let's try to change the tone.

P.S. The Comm Forum does a nice job of filling this void with its yearly conference and Maroon & Gold awards program. And members are known to give the occasional shout out. But no one should need to fill out an application in order to receive positive feedback.

Venue change for Nov 30 event! Maximizing Your Social Media Influence


Expert Insights: Maximizing Your Social Media Influence
November 30, 3 p.m
Akerman Hall, Room 319 McNamara Alumni Center, Room 235
Presenters are Jennifer Kane and Kary Delaria of Kane Consulting

Jen and Kary are social media consultants with an impressive client list. They will talk about how to set goals and measure success in social media beyond return on investment. For those of you who haven't heard them speak -- they are insightful and entertaining. Heavy appetizers will be served.

Link Roundup: Photography

Mastering photography is an elusive art. But, practice makes perfect and building photographic skills is an enjoyable hobby.

Here's an edition of link roundup on getting good at taking pictures.

-- 14 Ways to Improve Your Photography in a Few Days
-- 90+ Online Photography Tools and Resources
-- How to Stay Up Late and Make an HDR Image
-- How To: Master Smartphone Photography 
-- iPhone Photography + Social Networking = Instagram
The Washington Post Wants Your Instagram Photos to Illustrate Health of U.S. Economy

Have you followed @PrezKaler?

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Guest blogger: Elizabeth Giorgi ( egiorgi at )

Elizabeth Giorgi (Liz), social and multimedia coordinator in University Relations, has some giorgi_lg.jpgwords of wisdom about the whimsical world of social media. Liz manages the U's Facebook page, YouTube channel, and the recently launched @PrezKaler Twitter account. In her free time, she also blogs about social media, Internet culture, and general geekiness at Her conclusion here may seem intuitive: ask yourself the most important question of all: Would I read this? But the road to a good Twitter post and indeed much social media is fraught with the perils of tedium.

Here's what Liz has to say:

You may have noticed that our 16th President has a beard. Did you know that he is the first since U president William Watts Folwell? It's these kind of quirky details that we hope to capture with the @PrezKaler Twitter account.

People are already starting to ask me what my goals for our social media accounts will be in 2012. The introduction of the @PrezKaler account is a huge part of what I see as the future of social media at the U. Here's why: we tend to pay attention to and share the things that we see from friendly faces. As a large entity, we're not always effective in doing that.

When you break down the walls of academia and focus on one voice, you can make the conversation more personal and more impactful. So, how does the beard come in? One of the ideas we're playing with for November is to have people tweet their pictures of their "Novembeards" to @PrezKaler as a sign of solidarity. Who would you be more likely to send a photo of yourself to? A nameless face acting as a large department? Or a guy you see on TV or in the halls? We're betting on the latter.

Getting Twitty with it
In a nutshell: We need to be sassier, more personal, more risky, and more ever-present.
As for the larger accounts that do represent us as a whole, aka the University of Minnesota page on Facebook, the U's page needs to find a way to more clearly distinguish ourselves from other information on your news feed. That's where sassiness comes into play. We recently posted a photo album on Facebook with some autumnal scenes. One caption reads: "The Lilly Plaza is a little-known study spot. Oops, did we just let out the secret?!"

When you look to establish your goals for social media this coming year, think about what you can do to distinguish yourself and use a more personal voice. And ask yourself the most important question of all: Would I read this?

Review: Promoting Strategies on a Budget: Internal PR

*Note: This review will appear in next week's "Preview/Review" column in Brief.

Sometimes when we think about communications we believe them to be the sole job of professionals with focused job titles like "communications specialist." But communications--helping others understand the value and role of an organization--are most effective and persuasive in numbers.

Anna Kucera, director of marketing and public relations with the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, had a clear message for the several dozen attendees at the Oct. 20 UMCF event, "Promoting Strategies on a Budget: Internal PR."

Everyone in your department should be involved in communications, and ultimately, everyone in your organization is anyway, she said. A conversation is happening--online, in coffee shops, and in backyards--people talk about work. Providing the tools to enable employees to lead the conversation, and to advocate on behalf of [the U], is ultimately a communicator's job.

"The people who work for the University need to be able to speak about what they do for the U and why it matters," Kucera said.

At her own organization, Kucera said "A lot of times our employees are the people best connected to the communities we serve. We want to empower them to get the word out about upcoming events, and our agenda."

Her advice was to train everyone, in the key messages (the value) of the University, and in the use of social media (by holding social media brown bags)--an inexpensive way to amplify 20,000 faculty and staff (and 60,000 students) who make up the U.

"Social media policy should be not only a list of what not to do, but "to do's" and "how to's." Facilitate interactions among employees. Empower them to reach out to their own networks in a way that positively represents your organization," she said.

Certainly food for thought as the U approaches another important legislative session, with tens of millions of dollars on the line.
One way to get involved is to join the U's Legislative Network, get informed, and get ready for action at the U's 2012 Legislative Briefing, coming Feb. 1.

Follow the U's new legislative network on its new Facebook page, and continue the conversation online.
At this point in the social media game, there's a lot of pontification being pitched about and not whole lot of the Dragnet ethic. It's hard to say what's what about social media at this point, but this analysis gives a few great pointers. Try them out and see for yourself. A few I'm going to try to ride with:

  • Tweet a lot to accumulate as many followers as possible, but if your goal is to drive more traffic to your site, you should show a little more restraint; accounts that share two or more links an hour show a dramatically lower clickthrough rate than those who share no more than one.
  • Reach people when the noise of the crowd has died down. It turns out that time is often the afternoons, when blogs and news sites are slower, and the weekend, when they're all but asleep.
  • Retweet activity is highest late in the work day, between 2 and 5 p.m., and the sweet spot (tweet spot?) is 4 p.m. Late in the week is most retweetable, too.
Use TweetWhen to analyze your Twitter account to see what time days and times yield the most retweets.

Read the full story at Nieman Journalism Lab.

Wordle word cloud of Comm Forum blog posts

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So this is a word cloud (courtesy of Wordle) of all the blog posts on the Comm Forum blog since Jan. 2011. If you're unfamiliar with word clouds, this weights words according to appearence frequency, presenting them within an image.

It seems "communicators" has been a big topic this year so far. Makes sense, since that is the topic of the May 12 conference. "Forum" is (quite literally) big, too. We like to toot our own horn, it seems. Social media mentions include "social," "media," and a fat "Facebook," but I don't see Twitter...Hmmm... So maybe the question here is, "What don't you see?" Because Twitter is BIG. I do see a slightly smaller "Neil." That would be as in Neil Diamond. If you missed that post, you better go find it.

What else are you missing?

Social media: conversation, not directives

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The judges for last year's Maroon & Gold Awards were underwhelmed with how University communicators were using social media. Their comments could be summed up by saying that they feel we who are using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube need to start thinking of those formats as ways to communicate back and forth, not as one-way conversations with our audiences.

As I look at how my colleagues have been using these media during the past year, I would say we've made great strides in that direction. I'm not on the Awards Committee this year so haven't seen the entries, but my guess is the judges gave higher marks this year for all the great social media work that's been done.

Here's an article that I think makes some good, basic points about social media and how to best use it:

Friday (Random) Links Roundup

Remember Links Roundup? I am reviving it, if only for one post. Here are some of the places I'm getting my ideas and advice of late.

Brief is on Facebook!

FacebookBrieficon.jpgIt was inevitable. After 41 years as the U's internal news digest for faculty and staff U-wide, Brief has dipped a toe into the cool waters of social media via Facebook.

From the salmon colored paper of old delivered in a frenzy of envelope stuffing parties, to today's all electronic variety, Brief continues its evolution. We're just now getting our feet wet, but expect that this supplement to Brief proper will go swimmingly. Our content will very often highlight faculty and staff at the U, with a particular focus on community and culture--the manifestations of our aspirations, expectations, values, systems, and programs as embodied in our people that characterize the U.

So tell us about your people. Come post on our wall.

Befriend us at

Facebook at work

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I find out more about what's going on around the U through Facebook than anywhere else except The Brief. I regularly see news from four or five colleges, Coffman, and many other units when I check into FB every morning, as well as from U Relations' University posts. And those are just the ones I've friended or fanned.

It's an excellent place to post press releases, video, podcasts, and ephemera that feels like it needs more exposure but would never meet Adam's strict standards for The Brief. :-)

Best of all, it gives you a reliable way to track interest on various topics, to get feedback through "Likes" and comments.

What interests me is that I am a relatively unimportant audience for most of these posts (not a student, not an alum, not a U-student parent--any more, not a donor). Are these more important audiences on Facebook? i.e. Is Facebook a useful tool for all of you out there taking the time to use it so well?

What is your strategic purpose in using FB? Communicating with students? Alums? Do any of you have metrics that show the value of using FB for particular audiences? Do you see it as a potential conversation starter or just a way to push people to your website?

Social Media Blunders: We Know Better

I read with some relish this piece posted today from SmartBrief on Social Media:
The Suxorz pick the worst social media moves of 2010.

I can't help it, I love to see the bad. I learn so much from it.

Social media: Put a ring on it

Anyone who has managed a social media presence knows that you have to roll with the punches and accept that sometimes you will have no control over what happens. Oftentimes you can only control your response to issues that arise.

But committing to social media strategy can make inevitable challenges easier to deal with and give you the opportunity to have more strategic responses.

So, to quote Beyonce: Put a ring on it.

For example, sometimes a cranky "friend" will dis a professor on your department's Facebook page--this can present an opportunity to engage students on what the department can do better and hopefully cause others to chime in about what they like about the department now.

Or, let's say someone hacks into your account and spams everyone. While that can be embarrassing, it also provides you with an opportunity to show some humor with your audience when notifying them that you are not, in fact, a princess from a small foreign nation looking for help in managing your vast fortune.

This article gives a helpful snapshot of how to establish a successful social media strategy and plan for the unexpected:

"I am," I said: Social Media and me (and Neil Diamond)

A new me is rumored to be in the works, with public release to occur later this week. The new me, called "iMe," will feature a me that can be downloaded for various tasks and fun times, ranging from "work" to "friendship" to "party buddy," without actually needing the real me to be present. The new tool will save those who acknowledge my existence considerable time. Real me could not be reached for comment, and may not, in fact, actually exist at all.

I wrote that about a year ago as a status update on Facebook. It's ironic that I'm now using it as a lead for a post about the potential ills of social media and media tech in general.

I'm not going to harp on it too much here though, except to say that there will come a day when I run screaming into the woods leaving a trail of cell phones, laptops, and probably pants, behind. Besides, plenty of dire warnings are already cropping up; but with warnings come the potential for solutions and balance. Two in particular from this past week are worth a read:

The first regards Susan Maushart, who unplugged her teenagers for six months. No Internet, TV, iPods, cell phones, or video games. She calls her book The Winter of Our Disconnect. In my opinion, the best takeaway, in easy-to-digest sound bite (tweet?) format, of course, is this line: "Her girls had become mere 'accessories of their own social-networking profile, as if real life were simply a dress rehearsal for the next status update.'"

The second comes from MIT professor Sherry Turkle, who writes in her new book Alone, Together, that loneliness is failed solitude, explaining, "If you don't learn how to be alone, you'll always be lonely. We're raising a generation that has grown up with constant connection, and only knows how to be lonely when not connected...if you grow up thinking it's your right and due to be tweeted and retweeted, to have thumbs up on Facebook, we're losing a capacity for autonomy both intellectual and emotional."

My own greatest concern with social media--and remember, we're talking about me here--is with the development--or rather, overdevelopment--of the ego. So much of the focus of so much social media is on "me."

Before you denounce me, a disclaimer: I'm not going to even begin to contend that social media is a bad thing overall (just that it is an all-consuming monster that feeds on the flesh of humans and which can never be satiated). It has the capacity to do and has already done many wonderful things, particularly in the way of charity and disaster response.

But today, it seems more and more that the new American Dream is to go "viral;" a celebrity culture where everyone is a celebrity. In point of fact, no matter how much you tweet about yourself, or how awesome and interesting your status updates are, or whether 100 million people watch your YouTube video--the majority of the world will never have any idea who you are or were. It's true: of the nearly 7 billion people in the world, nearly 7 billion of them have no friggin' idea who you are, and they never will. Fact. In some ways then, you are already dead. Sorry. My point, I guess, is this: you better make sure your intentions for using social media are about more than you.

Neil Diamond: social media pioneer
In any case, take heart: the majority of the world also has no idea who Neil Diamond is, even though he's been pumping out hit after hit for more than 30 years, and looking awesome doing it, particularly during his sequined phase. But there's an important philosophical question about Neil here apropos to my point: Is Neil Diamond's sequined shirt an accessory to Neil Diamond, or is Neil Diamond an accessory to his sequined shirt?

Neil, of course, has already posted on this exact issue, in his hit, ""I am," I said.

I leave you with some of the lyrics:

"I am," I said
To no one there
An no one heard at all
Not even the chair

"I am," I cried
"I am," said I
And I am lost, and I can't even say why
Leavin' me lonely still

I am available for karaoke upon request.

Saying No: A Case Against Social Media

Sometimes the newest and greatest isn't always the best. It seems the world is looking to social media as the solution to marketing on a budget and as the vehicle to connect with Gen Y. As is often the case, one size does not fit all.

Are you in a situation where your client wants to jump on the social media band wagon, but you know it isn't a good fit for them? How do you say no to the enthusiasm your clients might have to social media marketing? You might have a great case against social media marketing (not audience appropriate, might open up privacy issues, etc.), but here are some interesting articles in case you need additional material for your arsenal!

The Many Challenges of the Social Media Industry

Listen & Learn (Simplified Social Media Process)

The Biggest Problem with Social Media Marketing

There's More to Marketing than Social Media

The Problem with Social Media Marketing

The Problem in Social Media Marketing (is word of mouth actually good for your org?)

Is Social Media the Same as Marketing?

Is Social Media an Impediment to Problem Solving?

Duluth Forum program hit the mark

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by Karen Kloser, program associate, Institute for New Media Studies.

After four years working for the Institute for New Media Studies research center in the U's School of Journalism, I have yet to meet someone who understands all the social media tools and is maximizing all the platforms and their potential.
Over the years I have looked to the Forum programs to expose me to the missing pieces.

The Forum's first program of the year, held in Duluth, did just that with guest speaker Marty Weintraub, the frenetic owner of AimClear. Weintraub, along with one of his bright, young staffers and blogger Manny Rivas for Search Engine Watch wowed attendees with their energy and command of social media and especially their work in search engine optimization (SEO).

My interest in attending this program was piqued when I read the words "reputation monitoring" in the promotion copy. Straight up, there was so much to cover in one hour that Weintraub didn't even touch upon this topic. However, I was not disappointed.

He opened the presentation with the apropos analogy comparing their agency's online marketing efforts to an ecosystem: Like nature, all social media is intertwined and interdependent, with Google as mother earth. Although Rivas was careful to remind us that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.

Weintraub also delineated online marketing into two types: free (or organic) and paid. It sounds simple enough. But as he dove deeper into their practice and strategy for search engine ranking, driving traffic, creating content, engaging communities, and harvesting high quality inbound links, I knew he was way over my head.

I didn't expect to come away from the program as a social media scholar; however, I did pick up a few tidbits to share:

  • Social media dovetails nicely with customer service
  • There is stunning micro-demographic diversity in FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube to be mined
  • Play with Facebook's amazing advertising reach-- add some off the wall likes and interests, or change your political or religious views, and watch what appears in that right hand column of ads on your page
  • Don't rule out B2B marketing, there are tons of Facebook social segments in it
  • Try Facebook advertising.

Finally, the best part of Forum programs is the networking. Afterwards, Weintraub and Rivas mingled with us during the reception. Weintraub may be a wiz at what he does, but he was very approachable and came across as just a regular Midwesterner.

Social media and alumni

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Last week I saw a great social media presentation by Amy Phenix with Macalester College. Her team is finding creative ways to target their alumni through Facebook ads and posts. Her presentation showed how they are reaping the benefits through increased alumni interactions, awareness-building, and fundraising.

Are you reaching out to alumni online? Post tactics that you have found effective.


U. of Kentucky Encourages Students to Check In via Facebook

Here's an idea about using Facebook's new Places location service on a college campus:

The University of Kentucky has planted giant, wooden pointer thingies -- like the tab that marks the map in the Facebook Places logo -- on its campus to encourage students to check in at school.

"We're encouraging students to check in, so when they do, it'll show up in their news feed and maybe their friends still in high school will see it over and over again," said Kelley Bozeman, Big Blue's marketing director, adding that the university's marketing efforts are focused on undergraduate recruitment.

Read more

Crisis Communication On the Fly

Some  crises are instant, some give you a heads up.  Either way, you'd better be prepared to manage it effectively! Like many world travelers, my international trip was put on hold during the Icelandic volcano eruption and closure of European air space. Airlines and governments were left trying to communicate about an event that had never happened before.  Below are some links to interesting articles critiquing how these agencies managed (or didn't) their message in the midst of a dynamic disaster.

Social Media as a Crisis Communication Tool during the Icelandic Volcano Eruption (Slide show)

Eileen Wallis talks about crisis communication in the light of unforeseen circumstances (podcast)

Social Media As Crisis Communication (blog, with airline case studies)

Volcanoes and Crisis Planning, BOTH can Burn You (article)

Is "official" crisis communication in a crisis of its own? (article)

As for me, I'm off to France today...barring any further acts of nature or government.

Follow UMCF conference presenters on Twitter

Back to Our Roots illustrationI'm getting very excited for this year's Communicators Forum conference, Back to our Roots. Those of you on Twitter may wish to follow the conference presenters. Here are the ones I found; if you see any I missed, let me know.

Check out conference break-out session descriptions, and don't forget to follow @umcf on Twitter as well.

The Conversation Prism--and bringing social media into our lives

I've had the pleasure of co-hosting two social media brown baggers for Forum members, and the events have been just like I thought they'd be. We have some stellar early adopters here at the U, and they are enormously generous in sharing what they know and how they did it. And we have a lot of people who are wondering where in the world to start. When I look at The Conversation Prism, I can understand why.

The Conversation Prism was designed by Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas in 2008 to "provide a visual representation of the true expansiveness of the Social Web and the conversations that define it." They've since updated their graphic, and one look at their beautiful, rainbow flower of possibilities can strike fear into the heart of the part-time communicator who has, like, five minutes a week to focus on social media for her program.

A repeating question at the brown bags has been, if you think you need social media, "what do you want to get out of it?" And the Conversation Prism does a nice job of ordering our communications methods and priorities, placing Brand at the center.

Social media can be intimidating, and as the Prism so clearly shows us, the possibilities are endless and astounding--blog? Facebook? Flickr? Why? And as long as new sites and services are created and old ones fall out of favor (Friendster, anyone?) this will continue to be a fluid subject. Luckily, with a little guidance from the Conversation Prism and a lot of advice from your fellow communicators, we have the means to wrestle social media to the ground and make it do our bidding.

The next social media brown bag will be on Friday, May 21 in 202 Johnston Hall.

Technophobia: Is ____ making us _____?

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022310b.pngWe tweeted an interesting Slate article yesterday titled Don't Touch That Dial! A history of media technology scares, from the printing press to Facebook.The article reminds us that condemnation of new technologies is not new:

In parallel with modern concerns about children's overuse of technology, Socrates famously warned against writing because it would "create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories." He also advised that children can't distinguish fantasy from reality, so parents should only allow them to hear wholesome allegories and not "improper" tales, lest their development go astray. The Socratic warning has been repeated many times since: The older generation warns against a new technology and bemoans that society is abandoning the "wholesome" media it grew up with, seemingly unaware that this same technology was considered to be harmful when first introduced.
In this and other instances of societal hand-wringing, the discourse often gets stripped of nuance and turned into a blunt question, like: Is technology good or bad? Not only is that dichotomy unhelpful in thinking through the deeper issues, but it pressures people to choose a side: Are you a technophile who dives blindly into each new digital development or a luddite who takes pride in not owning a cell phone?

I've seen this false duality play out over and over in higher ed communications. The technophobia discussion is unavoidably laden with generational and age factors already. When placed in a university setting where distinct groups of young(er) and old(er) people meet, people may cling more strongly to their chosen "side" in the discussion. And, no matter your age, it's often easier to fall back on a stance of "I'm just not a technology person" than to take on new duties at work, or conversely, to invest time in sending your message through every new media without stopping to assess its importance to your audience.

I think the reason so many of the articles' headlines written on this subject are framed as questions is that there is no simple answer. And, as the Slate article says, the research fueling the news story is almost always less shocking, and may even suggest that, say, video games are good for us.

Part of me thinks that Socrates had it easy: his choice was between saying something aloud or writing it on parchment.* Now, when I want to communicate something my department is working on, I have to consider magazines, research journals, Facebook (MySpace? LinkedIn?), speeches, videos (YouTube? Vimeo?), Twitter, Google Buzz, posters, brochures, Web sites, Web apps, photo galleries, direct mail, text messaging, phone calls, fact sheets, print ads, Web ads, billboards, sidewalk chalk, blogs, news releases, guerilla campaigns, e-mails, e-newsletters, letters, banners, give-aways, booklets, slideshows, radio interviews, TV commercials, and on and on. It's easy to see why some overwhelmed journalist might ask:

Is technology making us crazy?

Though I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg, here are some related articles that have made the rounds in the past few years:

EDIT: I overlooked these two important articles that add to the discussion:

*Would it have been parchment? History majors, correct me...

What makes a good Facebook fan page?

Ask Dave Taylor has a nice article on maintaining a good Facebook group or fan page. Author Patrick O'Keefe writes, "The point is this: offline makes online better. Online makes offline better, too."

My favorite Facebook fan pages foster mini-communities by posting regular, relevant content that is easy to engage with. (An aside about relevance: The day the Large Hadron Collider posted something about Glee, a little part of me died.)

A few examples of companies and organizations I always enjoy seeing come up in my news feed:

City Year

This AmeriCorps organization posts videos of corps members, news stories featuring alumni, and events. They also have a very active wall, where prospective members often ask questions about what to expect and about the details of applying. We in higher ed should take note of how they know when to step in during a discussion (for example, to answer a question about application deadlines if no one else has answered) and when to sit back and let other fans offer their advice.

Full disclosure: I am a City Year alumna.

City Year fan page screenshot

Hymie's Vintage Records

Hymie's posts what they are listening to in the store, which often draws fan comments, but most excellent are the fun sales of the week (15% off records with mustaches on the cover, 20% off any record with a guy named "Ralph" performing on it, etc.).

Hymie's fan page screen shot

Surly Brewing Company

The fans, or Surly Nation, post photos of themselves in Surly gear or drinking Surly in various environments. Fans especially love when Surly posts the dates and locations of special tappings of new beers or other events.

Surly fan page screen shot

What are your favorite fan pages or groups on Facebook?

Monday link roundup, new year edition


Ok fine, early January: you win. Here is the obligatory Best of 2009 post (with some decade wrapup thrown in).

What do you think of these lists? What would you change? Do you have other year-end lists to recommend? And was 2006 really the year of ironic mustaches?

Image / / enimal

Event Planning Online: 14 Essential Social Media Tools

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Here's a cool posting from Mashable about using social media for event planning--from managing the planning of your event to invitations, marketing to enhancing the guests' experience.

Event Planning Online: 14 Essential Social Media Tools

Link roundup

Every week we post a roundup of interesting articles, links, etc..., relating to communications-focused topics. What have you been reading, listening to, and watching? Add a comment or suggest a link for next week.


Here are a few ideas:

E-mail sign-up done right

Brain Traffic's blog talks a lot about content and the Web.

Check out slides from a Mima social media presentation:

Monday link roundup, 11.23.09

Every Monday we'll post a roundup of interesting communications news and articles from the past week. What have you been reading, listening to, and watching? Add a comment or suggest a link for next week.

U's social networking link page launched

112009.pngFrom Kathy Jensen in University Relations:

The U's social networking link page has launched! University units on all campuses are invited to submit their official social networking site links. Over 30 units responded to our initial invitation and we'd like to add more.

To be considered for inclusion on the link page, your social networking site:

A set of layered Photoshop files are now available from the Images Library (login required). These files can be customized for use as your profile image on many social networking sites.

Please send your link submissions to University Relations and consider adding a link to the Social Networking page on your Web sites.

Are you encouraging conference "tweckling"?

You know how every conference we attend these days has its own hashtag? So we can all tweet about what we're learning and how awesome the event is? Well, there is a dark side to the conference tweet: tweckling. Fair communicators, you can probably figure out what that means.

As event planners and programmers, what can we do to discourage tweckling? Should we? Check out this article from the Chronicle and post your thoughts on this. Oh, the humanity!

"Conference Humiliation: They're Tweeting Behind Your Back"

Send your social networking pages to U Relations

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110309.pngKathy Jensen from University Relations has the following request. A great opportunity to share your work!

Hello, social networkers,

University Relations is gathering links to official social networking pages developed by University colleges, departments, centers, and units. Our goal is to provide a single Web page, like a directory, that will allow our visitors to quickly find and link to all the great social networking pages that the U has to offer.

If your unit has developed an official social networking page, please send the name of the page and the link to We will publish this social networking directory page (we're working out just where) and link to it from the newly created social networking standards page on the eCommunication Standards site.

At last week's Web 2.0 presentation, Cari Hatcher offered lots of tips for getting started with social media. Here is her list of online resources.

Thanks, Cari!

ROI and social media

Check out these slides breaking down how to identify ROI for social media:

Good food for thought!

Monday link roundup 10-19-09

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Every Monday we post a roundup of interesting communications news and articles from the past week. Here are a few I was intrigued by.

  • This is an interesting article about e-mail usage:  
  • A friend posted a link to slides from an MIMA presentation on Web content:
  • Check out this article on social networking and gender. Interesting stats: 
  • Need a break -- check out music news, etc... at:

    What have you been reading, listening to, and watching? Add a comment or suggest a link for next week.

    Poll: How Networked Are You?

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    We've been discussing the importance of social networking related to work, but I'm curious how networked you are personally?  How important is your online social community to you?  Have you made friendships that started online, but now exist in "real life"?

    This week's poll

    Is your unit actively employing social media (Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.)?

    Monday link roundup, 9.21.09

    Every Monday we'll post a roundup of interesting communications news and articles from the past week. What have you been reading? Add a comment or suggest a link for next week.

    Now that students and faculty are back in action, do you feel overwhelmed and overburdened? Don't let the demands of your work day get the better of you. Use your time at work more efficiently.

    Does branding pay off for Colleges? Harvard thinks so.

    Do you think Kayne's outburst at the VMAs was a publicity stunt? This expert does.

    Social media

    Brands are strengthened (or damaged) based on the experiences they provide. And in an increasingly social world, those experiences are no longer created for people but with them. On this blog you will find articles and insights about the opportunities and challenges created by rapidly growing and evolving Social Media.

    Twin Cities Twitter (Shout out to Jessica Franken, our rockin' Blog editor) for sending this my way.)

    Graphic Design
    Looking for Photoshop and Illustrator Tips/Tricks? Check out Pixel Perfect on Revision 3. You can download episodes via ITunes or watch right on the Revision 3 Web site. Side note: Revision 3 is an amazing resource for all things technology. Check out Tekzilla if you are a geek like me!

    Fun stuff
    Myna is sort of like Garage Band in your web browser.

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