This time, for real though…

Now he’s gone, now he’s gone, Lord he’s gone, he’s gone
Like a steam locomotive, rollin’ down the track
He’s gone, he’s gone and nothin’s gonna bring him back, he’s gone

Jerome J. Garcia / Robert C. Hunter

I know. I know.

I’ve said it before. I’m out. Done with Facebook, and other social media. I’ve done it at least twice. Once in 2014 and again in 2016. I threatened to way back in 2011.

This time I’m doing it though—really.

What prompted this? Well, it was a number of things really. Facebook other social media has been getting a ton of bad press recently. A quick Google search will put you a click away from a number of articles and studies linking social media use to increased rates of depression, decreased productivity, and having it all on our mobiles seems to make it even worse.

I can’t recall where I heard this, but if you work in an office setting take a look at how your coworkers work. You’ll see that the millennials and younger gens have their hands on the keyboard, with their phones on their desk, in front of the keyboard, in between their arms. Trust me. It’s true.

Additionally, I’ve been writing a lot for our company blog about all of the privacy issues around Facebook and the sloppy, if not indifferent, and perhaps even malevolent manner in which they handle personal data from browsing history to passwords, and it started to feel like maybe Facebook isn’t the kind of neighborhood I want to hang out it.

The real kicker for me, though, was NPR coverage of the Super Bloom in California:

Mary Louise Kelly: Which has meant the fragile poppies are being crushed. People are lying down in the fields to get that perfect photo for social media. So Mayor Manos has issued a warning.

Mayor Setve Manos: Keep your dogs on leashes. Don’t pick the poppies. Don’t trample the poppies. Don’t wade into the poppies. Don’t roll around on the poppies. Don’t slide down the poppies.

Have we really fallen this far, that we are destroying flowers and risking rattlesnake bites for likes on Instagram and Facebook? Is this really what is driving our decision making? If so, it’s like we are heading towards (d)evolving to the script of a bad tv show episode.

With this, I started thinking about how I use social and why I was using it. And, the conclusion I came to was, it was often about the likes. And that, that didn’t feel good. Add to it, that Zuck was looking to merge it all together, and I was less inclined to stay.

So I stopped.

I had already deleted Facebook from my phone. I removed Instagram that morning. March 19, 2019. The fourth time is a charm.

But I did hesitate.

In truth, I had been growing tired of Facebook. Its feed was less relevant and was filled with nonsense from the “What’s happening in Townsend, MA” crap. The one thing that kept me coming back were the memories. I loved the little moments that I had forgotten about, mostly photos of the kids when they were younger. I didn’t want to lose those.

Then I discovered that you can download all of your data from Facebook. That solved the problem there.

The Instagram piece was relatively easy to quit, although I do feel as though the world is missing out on my remarkable wit and photos of my chickens.

Eight days in.

I catch myself in some random situation thinking, “I should grab a photo of this and post it with a witty line.”

I kept Facebook messenger. I kept WhatsApp. I still have Snapchat (although I barely know how to use it). I have Twitter, but haven’t paid much attention to it since @tsand stopped following me. Twitter kind of feels like a cesspool for me anyway. In short, if you know me, you know how to get ahold of me.

I wish that I had kept better track of my screen time on my phone so I could compare a before and after. I know I’m on it less though.

I don’t miss the drama of Facebook. of all, it’s Insta I miss the most, but again, I don’t miss the feeling of wanting to post something so it will get a ton of likes. I wasn’t a big selfie guy to begin with, but I almost certainly don’t have to worry about dying while trying to select the best filter for that selfie I just took in a rattlesnake infested field of poppies.

There are inconveniences.

I am totally annoyed with the town sports programs for my kids that, despite having my email address, prefer to make announcements over Facebook. I didn’t like your page when I was on Facebook and I’m not going to now.

There’s also the, “Hey did you hear about…Oh wait, no you’re not on Facebook” conversations. Not a big deal, really, and thus far each one has made me thankful that I was unaware of the drama unfolding in someone else’s third cousin’s friend’s life.

But so far it’s not that bad.

One conclusion that keeps coming into mind is that these social media tools aren’t free. While the currency may not be USD, I still do pay for Facebook, Instagram, etc. I pay for it with my data. My shopping history, my likes, interests, political views, hobbies, family members, friends, etc. I have simply decided that my data was worth more than the service I was getting.

Who knows how long it will last?

I the previous attempts to leave weren’t all that permanent, although, in my defense, I don’t think I entered them with the intention of those breaks being such.  I’m 100 percent sure I’m committed to it this time either, but I am more interested in trying than I was in the past. It is an option that is, at least, on the table.

A Couple of Presentations

I’ve done a couple of presentations around here in the last few weeks.  Below you’ll find the Slideshares to each.  I find Slideshares to be mostly useless, so if you have any questions, @drewmillikin.

This is a presentation I did for our admission office.  It’s basic overview of our four core social media tools: Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and now Instagram.

 

This is one that I just gave to a small group of trustees.   It’s a case study of how we used social media to share the announcement of our new headmaster.

 

The Way Back Machine

I was clearing out my Google Docs when I came across this  little gem.  It’s a document that I wrote to my then protegé, explaining our social media strategy which I helped develop.  It’s now four years old and they’ve gotten way more sophisticated, but I found it interesting to look back at some of the predictions I made, and also, how much of it is still relevant today.

My favorite part might be, ” At its best, a college education is an opportunity to grow intellectually and emotionally.  It is a chance to create long-lasting relationships and connections personally and professionally.  At its worse, it is a four-year summer camp with booze, sex and drugs. “

The Successful Electronic Marketing Campaign
Andrew M. Millikin

The successful electronic marketing campaign incorporates multiple media channels in a complimentary manner to an institution’s marketing efforts in print media.  There are four important points to remember throughout the campaign.   Actually that’s a bunch of B.S.  There are a ton of things to remember, but here are a few that came to mind:

  1. Keep the message on target.  A successful electronic campaign will seamlessly blend the focus of a print marketing campaign and vice versa – be truthful to the institution on both accounts.
  2. Be quick.  Be nimble.  Damn the committees!  Committees are where good ideas go to die.  Avoid them at all costs.  Embrace the mantra that it is easier to beg for forgiveness than ask permission of a committee.
  3. It’s not about what you want.  It’s about what they want.  It’s about creating a space and creating tools for people who care about a subject to share, collaborate and create (stolen from Brad J. Ward who stole it from the insufferable Seth Godin).  Keep the information accurate, but don’t try to control the message.
  4. You sell a cool product.  At its best, a college education is an opportunity to grow intellectually and emotionally.  It is a chance to create long-lasting relationships and connections personally and professionally.  At its worse, it is a four-year summer camp with booze, sex and drugs.  Either way, for the right audience, it is a cool product.

I.  Email Marketing

KnightLites

The KnightLites emails provide a branding for our email communication.  At its simplest, KnightLites is a monthly newsletter highlighting Saint Michael’s strongest programs including M.O.V.E., the Smuggs Pass, Fire & Rescue, PBK and also on campus signature events such as P-Day and Jibbfest.

The Knightlites brand is also used to send information to targeted groups as deemed fit.  For example, news may come out that an English major has received a grant to write a novel.  A KnightLites will then go out to prospects who have selected English as an interest of theirs.  This can be done for all academic interests and extra-curricular interests.  It’s best to stay away from NCAA sports interests as there are NCAA regulations that govern how athletic programs are marketed to high school athletes.

Quick Tips

  • K.I.S.S.  Live by it.  Keep It SHORT and SWEET.  I know not what you were expecting, but these are words to live my when it comes to email.  Think of the pyramid structure in journalistic writing – most important points first to catch the reader’s attentions and then bring in the less exciting, but often essential details. 200 words max.
  • Graphics and photos can add to a story, but because of the way SPAM filters and email services work, they should never be the sole content in an email.
  • Every email should have a purpose and each Email should always have an action message driving the recipient to take action.  This can be as simple as directing a student to the website for more information.
  • Don’t use “Click Here.”  It sounds lame.  At the same time don’t use url’s like http://www.smcvt.edu in the text.  The code that FER adds to track click-throughs makes it look ugly in the text.
  • Before you hit send ask yourself, “What is the goal of this email?”  Then proofread it 3 times.  Read it backwards and then read it forwards and then backwards again.  Check links.

The Next Level

The current campaign structure that we have is sufficient, but there is definitely more room to grow.  Raising awareness amongst faculty and getting them more involved in the recruiting process by using tools like email is certainly one way.

II. Social Media

It’s not what you want.  It’s what they want.  But you sell a cool product.  How do you get your message out?

A prospective student has three questions that they want answered.  Can I get in?  Will I fit in?  And now, perhaps more so than before, can I afford it?

Your task in is to not broadcast the marketing department’s message in relation to these questions, but rather to create a space where these questions can be asked and discussed, not with you, but with their peers.

Remember, it’s never about you.  It’s always about them and their needs.

Facebook

Facebook is the foundation of a social media marketing plan.  It’s the largest social networking site in the world, and we’ve only done an okay job using it.  To make it more successful, we’ve got to drive more traffic to the Fan Page.  Whether it is the Admission Fan Page or, hopefully, an overall Saint Michael’s College Fan Page getting the word out is key.

In the past, I was hesitant to use email to announce our presence on this social network because I thought it was their space.  That, in retrospect, was a mistake.  Again, we have a cool product.  It’s okay to let people know where they can find us.  Email,  blogs, what ever you can do to drive traffic to the site, and then you need to figure out what needs to be there for content.  That content has to be updated regularly and frequently.  A Fan Page without new and fresh content is a Fan Page without active fans.

The structure of Facebook is as follows:
Profiles
Fan Pages
Groups

Recent updates to Facebook have been in an effort to make Fan Pages more like profiles.  My sense is that Fan Pages are best suited for groups with broad interests i.e. the Saint Michael’s College Fan Page.  Groups are more suited for specific interests such as the Class of 2013.

I’ve found that the best content on a Facebook “Class of..”  is organic content.  Let the prospective students create their own.  They’re also a great place to advertise events like Blogger Chats.

Fan Pages are also great places for events. Ideally, we’d have a more proactive and technology friendly residence/student life staff and we’d have a better representation of what happens on campus here outside of classes.

The Next Level

The challenge is always, “How do we drive traffic to the Fan Page and how do we increase participation?”  Creating a Fan Page that isn’t focused on the admission process or just a rss feed for news from the marketing department, but rather is focused on current student activities, athletic events, special events on campus, will provide a service to current students and give prospective students a better idea of life at Saint Michael’s.

Getting multiple offices in line on campus will also be helpful as it will give them a glimpse into the task of recruiting perspective students and what they’re looking for in as far as student services, etc.

Ning

The Ning sites are customizable social networking sites.  We use two one for accepted students which is an invitation only site and another for prospective parents which has no restrictions.  Ning isn’t as user-friendly as Facebook.  It’s slightly harder to navigate.  I haven’t spent much time digging around in the guts of it (XXXX handles these), so I don’t know much about formatting options.  It seems like the simpler the better and like all of them, the more action the better.  Bloggers should be on both, and a reminder from time to time wouldn’t be a bad idea.  The key with these is to check it often and be able to respond to a post immediately.  If it’s allowed to sit, it will be forgotten.

The Next Level

The Parent Coordinator and you and XXXX need to work on whose responsibility this is.  To me its social media and therefore it makes much more sense for the social media expert in the office to oversee the page. I can also see the argument that the parent coordinator should be the one as they’re thinking about parents everyday as part of their job.  That being said I still think the social media coordinator is the one who should over see it.

Twitter

Twitter is the fastest growing social network in the world.  The challenge here lies in its users.  They’re older.  They’re more likely to be in there 30’s and 40’s than in high school.  It is growing though, and going after that older population isn’t a bad thing either.  It may mean that you’re connected with parents of prospective students rather than the prospective students.  Parents are of course major players in the decision process so again, this isn’t a bad thing.

Twitter can also serve as the blog post between the blog post.  The short 140 character updates provide another dimension and give a reader more insight into the lives of the Bloggers on the Saint Michael’s campus.

Once students get into this they begin to see it as their own.  It’s less formal than a blog and therefore, the content can get iffy.  I’m pretty anti-censorship and haven’t acted on anything, but there have been times….

The Next Level

I don’t know.  It’s a new medium.  Its growth was so steep that I don’t think that the real value in Twitter has been figured out.  As I’ve said many times though, it’s a great professional development tool.  Make as many connections as possible with social media professionals at other schools.  It’s a great networking tool.

Blogs

This is where the story really comes out.  I often tell the Bloggers that they just need to write about life.  It doesn’t’ have to be groundbreaking, Pulitzer quality stuff.  It just needs to be stuff and it needs to be updated frequently.   I think the team atmosphere that I created with the Saint Michael’s College Bloggers has helped aid in the frequent posts.  Meeting a couple of time s a month with them will help as well.  A blog that hasn’t been updated in 3 months is worse than no blog at all.  Again, I haven’t censored anything and I haven’t had to even think about it in these.  Typically they understand what to write and what not to write.

Quick tip

Never begin a post with “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while” or some manifestation of that phrase.  That’s an excuse and excuses are always lame.  Besides, it draws attention to the fact that you’re a slacker and are neglecting your blog.

The Next Level

This is a big one.  We have done a blogs pretty well in the last couple of years.  The key is finding good talent and getting them involved in the group to keep their enthusiasm going throughout the year.

III.  GO BIG OR GO HOME- The Big Picture Next level

The next step is simply to increase the media through which the conversation can continue.  While we have some presence on YouTube and Flickr, etc, it won’t take much to do a better job.

Flickr
Flickr has been very useful with students who are studying abroad.  XXXXX is very familiar with Flickr and he would be a great person to act as a photo blogger.

YouTube
YouTube is another area that would be an easy area to increase our presence.  Each time a Blogger makes a video, rather than import it directly into Blogger, they should upload it to the YouTube account.  The video quality will be better and it would mean more content on the account.  A quick ten minute sit down with the Bloggers would be sufficient to teach them how to do it.  It’s an easy process.

Ustream TV
This is a video/chat website.  We haven’t done much here and by not much I mean nothing.  It could be a useful tool though.  Maybe a simple, users post questions and someone answers them in the video.

Blogger Chats
What used to be called Virtual Open Houses.  Open House implies something more than just a chat room that’s why we’re changing the name.  There has got to be a better and probably cheaper chat program out there.  I would encourage you to find it.  In some ways, I think that Ustream TV might be that tool, but I’m not sure.

How did you learn all this, stuff?

By “stuff” do you mean useless crap or do you mean social media marketing expertise?

Different perspectives will value social media indifferent ways.  They will also value the research and the learning process in different ways.  To some it will seem ridiculous that you spend all day on social networking sites.  I spend a lot of time “listening.”  And by “listening,” I mean reading.  I read a ton of blogs and I am always keeping an eye on Twitter.  In fact, I’ve gotten more out of my peer group on Twitter than I have at any conference.   Develop a strong network there and listen.

The real challenge is implementation, and knowing when to stop listening and start gettin ‘er done.

Good luck,

Drew

Why they’re not going to leave Facebook

I saw this tweet from @markgr and had to write about it.  The reason being, I don’t believe Google +, Diaspora or any other new social media tool has a chance until the come up with something completely different.   I wish it wasn’t true, but all we have to do is look at recent history to see that it probably is.

All of these new ideas are just Facebook repackaged.  Google Wave, Google Buzz, Google +, and Diaspora when distilled down to their basic structure and interface are all Facebook.  There really isn’t anything different.  Unfortunately, the one thing that they don’t have is the crowd.  And they’re not going to get the crowd, until there’s a crowd there.  There won’t be a crowd there until the product is actually new.

I’ve been on all five of the above.  Here’s how my experience has gone:

1. Get hooked on the buzz that this is finally the revolutionary social network that is going to connect me with my friends without being evil.

2. Get the email saying that I’m part of an early beta testing group.

3. Log on, add my information and a photo.

4. Spend sometime skimming around the “news feed” equivalent.  Upload a photo or two.  Invite some friends.

5. Check in daily to see what’s new and who has joined up since he last time I checked an hour ago.

6. See that no one else is using it.  Well, not no one.  Lot’s of people in HighEd are writing about how this will change HighEd marketing because this will finally take down Zuck.

7.  Begin checking less frequently—still finding that no one I went to college, high school, randomly know is one.

8. Give up and update my Facebook status.

And that’s it.  Until something revolutionary happens, Facebook is it folks.   It’s just like changing banks because of some outrageous fee their charging.  Yeah, it sucks to pay the fee, but all my stuff is there.  My paycheck is automatically deposited there.  My bills come in through the online banking feature.  I’ve got everything set up.  It would be a pain to change.  Plus I might miss a bill or two in the switch over.

I don’t care how frustrated people are with Facebook.  The crowd is there.  My crowd is there.  I’m not moving without them.

 

 

Damn Facebook. You’re sketchy.

I needed help with that title, and reached out on Twitter land with this “Facebook is sketchier than__.  Fill in the blank.”  Below a few of the responses I got back.

@nickdenardis: Your mom at a high school party
@juliaalling: the guy in the next office who mumbles to himself. (this I believe is a reference to me)
and the required and always good for a chuckle “@tsand” from @epsteada

The response that was most apropos however came from Eric Bates on Google+ (which I love btw), “Eric Schmidt.”

I asked for help finishing that sentence because I was inspired once again to write about Facebook’s increasing creepiness.   You’ve probably seen a few messages in your news stream that Facebook has begun storing all of the contacts on your mobile device.

WHY?
That’s my biggest question.  Why would I need my cellphone contacts in Facebook?  If I need to call someone, I would do it from my cellphone.  If I didn’t have their number and I was friends with them, then chances are I can’t remember who that person actually is or how I know them.  It’s probably that random friend of a friend that I met at a party, had a cool conversation with, but don’t particularly care whether I see them again and thus will never need to call them.

And why do I feel violated?
I’m sure it says it somewhere in the lawyer speak, but did I really need to give Facebook access to information on my phone when I agreed to the Terms of Use for their mobile app?

I guess Google does this, but it’s because I’ve purposely clicked a box to allow my Google Contacts to sync with my phone.  Facebook you just did it.   Couldn’t you have just asked?

How much longer will I put up with this?
It seems like with every move Facebook makes, it gets sketchier.  I won’t say I’m ready to nuke my account or anything like that, but I do hope that something new comes along. 

I’m kinda feeling the same way.

More Google+ Love

I was reminded of another reason why I’m on the Google+ bandwagon–the ability to control the content I see.

Facebook controls what I see in my news feed.  I’m sure there’s some algorithm behind it, but it drives me nuts.  My news feed isn’t populated with news from the people who I most want to hear from.  Instead, it’s a bunch of one off’s that I’m not particularly interested in.

Facebook lists may be a solution to this, but frankly, I never took the time to go through my friends and sort them.  I’ve completely forgotten how to do that now, and so it’s a lost cause.

With Google+, I’m able to control  the content I see through Circles.  Annoying people in my stream?  Peace out.  You’re now in an annoying person Circle.

That being said, there still isn’t a lot going on there, so it’s pretty boring.  I find myself checking it multiple times a day without anything changing.  If this continues, it’s really just a matter of time before this goes the way of Buzz and Wave.  That would be too bad because Google+ works.

Circle me in

So far I’ve given a big +1 to Google+. Here are a few things that I really love about it, and I hope it catches on.

1. It’s clean. No real surprise here from the company that limits the words on their homepage to no more than 28 words. Google+ is clean. It looks sharp, and it looks crisp. I’m guessing that since Google has plenty of other areas to generate revenue, it won’t need to clutter the screen with ads either. That’s a total guess.

2. Circles. Where Facebook failed with its groups lists, Google succeeded with Circles. Perhaps it’s because it fits more naturally with the design and doesn’t feel forced, but I like the idea of separating contacts out into Circles. I especially like that people can be in more than one Circle.

3. It’s Google. I use GMail both personally and professionally. I use Google Reader as an RSS feeder. I use GChat all of the time. I use tons of Google products. An all-in-one that I’m sure will someday integrate all of those technologies, yes please.

4. Hangouts. You mean my brother in California and my parents in Illinois can video chat with my son all at the same time on a Saturday morning? Yes please.

5. “Don’t Be Evil” Google’s motto. Now am I wary of relying on one company for everything? Yes. Do I really believe that Google isn’t capable of evil and won’t try to dominate the word and turn us all into GSlaves? Almost 100% yes. Almost. But it’s still better than what I think of Zuck’s motives with Facebook.

So I’m ready. Open the gates and let the people in. I am ready to jump ship. I just need a critical mass of friends whom I’m actually interested in getting updates about to join up as well. Right now, it’s a bit dull, frankly. Until then, I’ll be hanging out in some Circle waiting to be +1’d.