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


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 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 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:
Fan Pages

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.


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 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.


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 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 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,


Live Streaming Revisited and Improved

You’ll remember (or perhaps not) that I had some surprising success last year live streaming an event here know as Lessons and Carols.  Last year, it was a simple one camera in the back of the Chapel hooked into my MacBook Pro.  I had a wireless network that I patched into and streamed the event using

I was shocked when hundreds tuned in to watch the event live and another 1,600 or so have watched the video.  In the spring I increased the degree of difficulty by adding a second camera, and basically jerry-rigging a way to combine the two streams using two MacBook Pros and Skype.

I didn’t want to go through that again, so I consulted with my now real world (formerly just Twitter) friend Hans Mundahl at New Hampton School.  Here’s the set-up I came up with.  Of course, I did this all the week before the event.  Why do things in August when you can do them under the gun.


2 cameras (one decent, one not)

1 Digital Recorder (I use this as an external Mic.  You could just use the camera mic)

2 8-pin to 4-pin FireWire cables

2 8-pin FireWire cables

2 100 ft Cat 5 (ethernet) cables

4 Cat 5 to 8-pin FireWire converter boxes

1 iMac connected to the Intertubes

3 extension cords

3 power strips

The Boxes

These little babies were the key to having two cameras (that and the iMac with two FireWire inputs).  I’m not going to mention that it took me an entire day to figure out why they weren’t working only to realize that the iMac’s software hadn’t been updated since the Bush administration.

Video over cat-5 has a range of 300m (330ft for us Americans).  This allowed me to set up the cameras at opposite side of the Chapel, and run the cables underneath the floor, along the wall, and into the sacristy in the back of the Chapel where I was set up with my iMac.  I simply set the camera up, plugged in the FireWire to the camera and then to the converter box, plugged the cat-5 into the box and turned on the power.  That cat-5 ran into another converter box and from there I ran an 8-pin FireWire from the box directly into the iMac.

Feeding the stream directly into the iMac meant that I didn’t need to deal with a video mixer or any other equipment.  I did end up having to purchase Ustream’s Producer Pro which I think was maybe $100 or $200, but way cheaper and easier than a mixer.  Here’s what my screen looked like:

The one problem I ran into (which resulted in F bombs in the sacristy) was a bandwidth issue.  The system kept freezing and crashing for the first 30 minutes until I turned down the quality of the stream.  It turns out that we don’t have very fast upload speeds here and even though I was hardwired in, I was trying to push water from a fire hose through a soda straw.  Once I turned it down to the lowest setting, everything started working just fine.  We had 300 watch it live, and the recording has been seen over 1,000 times as well.  The video is up on Vimeo.  Pro Tip: With Ustream you can sign up to suppress ads for one month, and then cancel.  If you download your video before you cancel, it doesn’t have ads.  You can then upload it to Vimeo where you will have a video of your event without annoying David Hasselhoff ads.  

The Bill

This year wasn’t cheap.  I probably spent close to $1,500 to get everything set up and we did pay to suppress ads.  $1,000 of that was a one-time cost though, and I should have to spend any more on the tech stuff unless I want to upgrade my cameras (which I do).

Thanks again to @hansmundahl for all of the help!

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.

Linking Facebook to Twitter

This somehow started out as a simple comment to Rachel Reuben’s recent blog post this morning and somehow ballooned into a 568 word blog post of my own.

Rachel’s post essentially said that linking Facebook and Twitter updates is something to be avoided. Now, I think Rachel’s broader point is valid, original content on each channel is best, but I don’t agree with you that linking the Facebook and Twitter pages is bad idea. In fact, if we’re talking about fanpages for schools (personal pages, absolutely agree with Rachel. There’s already too much noise on both media, no need to increase it), I think it’s a great idea.

I have the Groton School fanpage linked to the Twitter page so that Facebook updates (photos, events, wall posts by me, etc) are published to the Twitter account NOT vice versa. The Facebook page is updated once a day.

Groton’s got 1,000 Facebook fans and 145 followers on Twitter (if you take out folks like jenna5443 who wants me to check out her naughty photos, probably more like 100).

Let’s say I’m doing an alumni event in NYC. I create the event in Facebook and it posts to the wall. It also posts to the Twitter account. Now I could go ahead and create an event in Twivite, but my audience is only about 100 legitimate followers. In an NYC event, we may get 300 – 400 people. When I do an event, I want my audience to see that there a ton of people going to this event. They’re not going to see that if I create separate events on Twitter and on Facebook.

I also contend that while it is the same content and I’m willing to bet that those 100 legit Twitter followers are also fans of Groton School on Facebook, how those two audiences access that content is completely different. I’m guessing that the Twitter user has Twitter open either on their laptop, BB or iPhone all day. I doubt that’s true with Facebook as many employers block it. I post damn good (it’s at least good, well maybe just okay) content to our Fanpage at least occasionally. That’s content that Twitter users might miss out on if I only posted it to Facebook.

Somehow my linkage is one-way. I don’t know how I set it up that way, if I did it consciously, or if I just got lucky, but I thin that’s important to note. I do agree with you that Twitter is a more active medium and it’s a place where it’s okay for me to send updates of the score of the football game. Facebook is not an appropriate medium for that. That’s annoying.

Now, the key is to be on both in order to respond. Yes, I may just be using Facebook to push content to Twitter, but I also have Tweetdeck open and I’m at the ready should anyone respond.

To me, this really is just another tool, and like any other tool, you need to understand how to use it. I’m not willing to say that you absolutely should or shouldn’t, but, rather, it depends.

*One other throw in here, people have been commenting that one major reason is the 140 character limit in Twitter.  Are you publishing novels to your Facebook status?  If you can’t say it in 140 or less, then don’t – Twitter, Facebook, doesn’t matter.  Huge FB updates are obnoxious and difficult to read on my iPhone.

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.

#eduweb2008 New Media

Nicely done. Quick intro into what Datamark does, and then onto the presentation.

I’m liking this!

Rule #1 Ask for forgiveness after the fact!
I’m right on with this. Do it an deal with the consequences after the fact.

I continue to hate Blogger’s Italics issues in Firefox.

The admission staff should be on Facebook. I have mixed feelings about this and whether or not we should be totally on there. I think it depends on age. It would freak me out to see my director and/or my VP on there. I don’t think it’s worthwhile to have them on there. Just more work and no value. Young admission officers, yes. They definitely should be there.

I also feel strongly that people who are making marketing decisions regarding new media and Facebook should be on there and embedded into the culture. Otherwise they’re making decisions on a technology that they don’t understand. Blind leading the blind sort of situation. If you don’t have a Facebook profile, you don’t get a vote. There I go getting all worked up again.

I really need to blow up that useless Office of Admission Facebook page. I need to talk with ACP about creating a general page.

Yup! You can’t market on these things! I wonder how he recommends directing traffic to these things?

Pannel discussion #eduweb2008

Good morning!

Well….This is a very we developer heavy. Might be over my head.

Holy Sh**! Eric just responded to a question about video, and I thin I passed out after the first 3 words. Waaaayyyyy over my head.

Section 508. Had no idea what it was. According to Mark G. There hasn’t bee a lot case law re: this issue. This might be something to keep an eye on…..

The commercialization of higher education and higher ed marketing. Good or bad? Both I think. Not all marketing is evil.

Aggregate and filter! There are a ton of tools out there but which ones are valuable?

Totally agree. In order to understand the tech, you have to be on it playing with it. I find this hard to do sometimes when people walk by my office and see me on Facebook and Twitter, etc. they don’t get that it’s part of the job.