Routine Maintenance

Your online communications tools and protocols require continual upkeep. Just like your home or your car, you rely on these tools and use them regularly. Here are a few ideas for keeping your online communications engine running.

Get a Tuneup
Brush up on social media tools and online trends regularly, as well as the latest your CMS provider has to offer. Do you know about the latest platforms and tools? What are the newest features and changes on the platforms you use? Have you taken full advantage of them where applicable, or at least given them a try? You should be able to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of these tools, including the latest additions. On the flipside, take a hard look at the pieces you currently use and pay for. This sort of internal audit will help you determine what you might be spending time on, or paying for, that you don’t need.

Change the Oil
When is the last time you reviewed your privacy policies, terms of use, user agreements or other policies surrounding your social media and online presences?  Given the frequency of updates and changes in the online world, it is important to make sure your policies and procedures are up-to-date. Re-read these policy documents every 12 months and confirm that no changes or additions are necessary.

Check Your Spare
If your entire network went down, what would you do? If you store your policies and procedures on your servers, how would you get to them? Create a “low-tech” backup and print your policies and procedures, social media documentation, social media strategy and other important documentation (e.g., emergency contacts, crisis communications plan, contact information for vendors and other key players) —just in case. You don’t want to get caught without this key information if your systems fail.

This piece is cross-posted on the CASE Social Media Blog.

Program Notes: CASE Europe and Beyond Social Media

The recent CASE Europe seminar “Beyond Social Media,” developed by Ken Punter (@kenpunter), Ellie Lovell (@ellielovell) and me, was structured to give attendees the opportunity to go beyond the basics and learn how to develop strategic initiatives for social media.

Ellie’s vision for the seminar was to look past the day-to-day details of social tools. She describes the overall approach:

“We have been talking about social media for a long time now, and we’re all doing it in some way or another…but I wonder how many of us are doing it purposefully. We seem to talk more about the tools and the ‘how?’ rather than the principles and the ‘why?’ I was really keen to look at what we want to achieve and how social media can support those objectives. We need to demonstrate the value of using social media and online channels. It’s an area that will continue to need investment if we are going to do it purposefully.”

The Sessions

We heard from a variety of speakers representing higher ed, private industry, schools, communications, fundraising, alumni relations and marketing. Ken Punter kicked off the day’s talks by reminding us of the roots of basic human behavior. Ken believes that people should be at the center of everything we do with regards to social tools. “It’s an approach, not a technology,” he said. This reminded me of Andy Shaindlin’s “Ride the wave, not the board” concept as discussed on his blog, Alumni Futures. Both speak to the heart of the social web—it’s about people and behaviors, not software and platforms.

We also heard from staff at three institutions—Leeds, Open University, and York—who provided case studies about their efforts in social media. They included a bespoke solution (a custom platform built in-house), a “walled garden” hybrid (using a private alumni directory service alongside tools like Facebook and Twitter) and using solely third-party tools (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube). While the approach highlighted in each case study proved effective for the respective institution, the success of varied methods also speaks to the fact that there is no magic bullet for “solving” social media. Each institution has its own character, stakeholders, culture and community. Taking a hard look at an institution’s strategic initiatives is the key to selecting an approach for effectively engaging audiences with social technologies.

Measurement, return on investment and garnering support for initiatives is also key, as highlighted by the seminar’s two final presentations. First, a panel session on measuring and monitoring social media considered different approaches to both qualitative and quantitative measurement and stressed the need for benchmarking. I closed out the day featuring issues related to growing support for social media initiatives and reporting successes to peers, managers and high-level leadership.

In all, the day’s presentations provided a cohesive look at the issues that go well beyond starting a Facebook page or tweeting for the first time. Strategic thinking and being true to the voice of your institution are major components of a successful implementation of social tools.

In case you missed the program in person, learn more by following these links.

This piece is cross-posted on the CASE Social Media Blog.

THINK Global School and Social Media

My role at THINK Global School, previously blogged here, presents me with interesting challenges most every day – and I am loving every minute of it. TGS is brand new (our first class starts in September), which means that we the TGS staff will be learning and adapting right along with our students.

In the coming school year, I’ll share our progress, what we’ve learned, and what we’re working on in a series of blog posts for edSocialMedia, an online resource focused on the role of social media in education, particularly in independent schools and colleges. My first post, Traveling the World with Social Media, is there now – please check it out.

If you’d like to learn more about TGS, you’re in luck: my post at edSocialMedia is coordinated with an article by Andy Shaindlin of Alumni Futures. Click through to Alumni Futures to read Andy’s look at THINK Global School with insight from our Head of School, Aron Solomon.

Stay tuned as TGS students, staff and faculty embark on an amazing, educational journey. First stop: Stockholm!

Mobile Devices and Your Communications Strategy

Heading out the door? You’re probably not going too far without checking for your wallet, keys, and cell phone. According to Jan Chipchase, researcher for Nokia, it’s universal: people all over the world don’t leave home without money, keys, and their mobile telephone.

And now these three things are starting to become one thing: you can buy a cup of coffee, unlock your car, even check in for your flight…all with your phone. Who needs keys or cash when you’ve got your cellie (do people even call it that anymore?)?

Since mobile devices have clearly wormed their way into our daily lives, I pose the following question: how are you integrating mobile technology into your communications strategy?

I don’t bring this up because I expect you to run out, hire a programmer, and build a suite of mobile apps compatible with everything from the Blackberry to the iPad. Instead, I ask that you start to think critically about your audience and your goals. Use those goals as a framework for making smart decisions about mobile technology.

Do you have content that users will need and want to access while away from their computer? Your audience wants to use their phone for something useful, interesting, fun, or maybe even completely useless. The services they want to interact with may not be what you’d expect. Think beyond the content you want to deliver and instead, think of what your audience might actually want.

Can’t We All Just Get Along: Web & Print Communications

I’m delivering two seminars on social media at Castle Press in Pasadena, California. Yes: a printing company has asked me to talk to its clients about web communications and social technology.

This leads me to an important point: computer-based communications have captured a great deal of attention of late. This does not mean that printed communications are useless and irrelevant. Quite the contrary, in fact: I believe that bringing together print and pixels is key to creating a cohesive, comprehensive communications strategy. Don’t let trendy software determine your communications strategy. Instead, think about your goals, audiences, budget and messages. Then, use those as the basis for developing your strategy. Just because “everyone else” is using a particular tool doesn’t mean it’s the right tool for the goals you’re trying to reach.