I want to be a rockstar

So despite spending a significant amount of time bitching about this headcold I have, I’m having a great time at the 40th CASE/NAIS conference here in NYC.

One thing that has struck me is the lack of social media presence here. Granted this isn’t a tech conference. They have been advertising the #casenais hashtag, but I’m guessing that there are only a half dozen twitter users using it- a number not helped by the fact that there isn’t wireless in the conference rooms thus why I’m writing this on my iPhone.

I think that scenario sums up the over all situation with these tools and how independent schools use them. They understand it’s important and that it’s where their young alumni (and I would argue that their not so young alumni and current parents) are. They understand it’s where they need to be but they’re not serious in their approach to how they use these marketing tools.

Ignorance is an ugly word, but I see it in the use of social media here. I sat in on one session where the presenters encouraged the audience to make up a fake personal profile for their schools. Thankfully someone in the crowd stood up and pointed out that to do so is against Facebook’s TOS and could result in the profile getting nuked.

I’m not pointing this out to be critical, but rather I see a huge opportunity for rockstars. These schools are just diving into these media, and there are only a handful that do it well.

This gets me so pumped! I feel like this is the new frontier and we’re pushing west baby! More challenges to be sure. We’re working with minors, and in my case, an elite (can’t pretend it’s not) school with a lot of old school New England prep school history. That beast is not one that loves change and openness that the Web 2.0 world requires. That being said, we’ve got resources. We got talented students, alumni, and parents. There’s no reason we can’t be rockstars.

Groton had and maybe still has a reputation for being old school and behind the times when it comes to this stuff. I want to change that. I want to be at the top. I want people to think of us when the think of schools who are doing this social media thing right. I know we can get there.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

I’m Tired

I’m feeling a bit fatigued at the start of this New Year. No, it’s not the teething five month old. That’s not the kind of fatigue I mean. I’m getting tired of the staleness that I see in the Web 2.0 world, and I’m wondering what’s next.

Thinking all the way back to 2007 when Facebook (as we know it to be) was a mere three years old, Oprah and that idiot Ashton Kutcher weren’t on Twitter, and MySpace was still relevant, it all seemed so new, fresh and exciting. We were all trying to figure out just what these new communication tools could do and how we could apply them to our trade.

But that was a lifetime ago. Now, the Boomers have invaded Facebook, and @BlueFuego is reporting that Facebook FanPage interaction is way down. I’ve got to imagine that’s a symptom of teens and tweens not wanting to hang out in the same social space as their parents. Twitter, well, someone still needs to explain to my why I care about following celebrities and brands that spend more time talking about the love they get from fans and clients then what they’ll do for me.

I’ve unsubsribed to most of the blogs I used to read. Those websites with multiple authors have really just gotten old. The content just isn’t as fresh as it was 2 years ago. They seem to focus no on analytics and number crunching and that’s fine, but something seems to be missing from the conversation – like we’ve all gotten tired of playing and now are just jogging down the first base path.

Where’s the fresh content? Where’s the innovation? Where’s the next big shift? Why are we doing this?

Sadly, I can’t claim it’s coming from me. I’ve completely neglected this blog the last 6 – 8 months. And to quote our president, “That’s my responsibility.” Saying it is one thing, but acting on it is completely different. I’m not great a finishing projects and I often find the last ten percent truly dull and drab. I’d much rather frame a building than do any type of finish carpentry. Perhaps my dis-allusion with the current state of this new media is that it’s no longer new. It’s evolved and become more sophisticated.

One place where I am finding a chance to frame a building is here at Groton School. I’ve only been working for an independent boarding school since August, but my sense is that there is a movement towards more sophisticated marketing strategies. Certainly there are schools out there like Andover and Exeter with $1 billion plus endowments that run a pretty sophisticated show, but for the most part, these independent schools seem a few years behind higher ed. This makes sense in a lot of ways because studies showed that higher ed was quick to adapt those new social media (there I said it) tools into there marketing campaigns. At SMC, we had been blogging since ’03 for example. Not the case here.

The difference between these schools and higher ed is these schools are doing it with much smaller shops, and they’re doing it with unique restrictions (i.e. a campus full of minors). That is what’s getting me going and lighting a fire under me.

I think this stuff still works. You just have to keep your eyes on what’s important, and guess what, it’s not about you. It’s about me.

It’s always been about me and what you can do for me. As a skier, I’ve really been impressed how ski areas have been using social media. Check out @jaypeakresort and Okemo on Facebook. They’re using those two tools to offer their followers deals. One recent deal from @jaypeakresort included room, meals, daycare and lift ticket for $140ish. A great deal and a great use of marketing. Yeah they talk about their snowfall and their new buildings but in a way that entices the follower to want to take advantage of their deals. I have no idea if these deals are exclusive to Twitter followers but they sure make it seem like it and that makes me, as a follower, feel special. And I think that’s what has me fatigued. All they talk has moved from the emotion that these powerful networking tools can spark in people, to raw numbers and data and how a seller (because we’re all selling something) can get his message out to the potential user.

I’m not a data guy. I have tried to be but I just hate it. I’m emotional and irrational and I love to create positive emotional experiences for people. To do so I have to constantly realign my perspective so that it’s not focused on what I want, or what I want audience to want, but rather it’s about creating that space for the audience to interact and create and share emotional experiences together. (I have shamelessly ripped that off of Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae p110)(rest assured I just threw up a little in my mouth after paraphrasing him.)

Wow. That was a massive brain dump and at times raging venting exercise. Whew! Great way to kick off the New year with that off my chest. I know I’m going in a couple of different directions with this post, but this really was more of an exercise for me. Remember it’s always about me.