Guest post: Georgy Cohen’s favorite things

The guest blogging continues today with a post from Georgiana Cohen, managing editor of web communications at Tufts University. Catch up with her on Twitter (@radiofreegeorgy) or check out her own blog, Safe Digression.

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Everyone always talks about how great it is to have rich photo and video content on your site. Better yet, how about user-generated rich photo and video content? Sounds good, right? But with everything else you have to do, how can you find time to shoot and edit your own multimedia content, much less run a contest or solicit content from the community?

The good news is, students are producing this content anyway, and there’s a relatively easy way to catch a lot of it, thanks to the ability to “favorite” selected content.

When users upload photos or video to Flickr and YouTube, they have the option or adding tags to their content. Some people do, some people don’t; some people may use the name of your institution, or some may use its unsightly nickname. But a lot of folks are tagging content properly. So, as long as your school has a relatively distinctive name (sorry, Brown and Temple), you stand a good chance of finding photo and video content from your community.

Instead of going to these pages all the time, I import the feeds for each tag (YouTube; Flickr) into my RSS reader. I created free Flickr and YouTube accounts (which also serves the purpose of reserving my institution’s name so an imposter doesn’t settle in), and I am always logged into these accounts when I peruse this content. When I see a photo or video I like, I favorite it. Just like that, I am reaching out into the content stratosphere and creating collections of user-created, institution-approved rich content.

Now what?

Now the challenge is, what do I do with them? Ideally, I don’t want to have to rely on people stumbling across the favorites page on my institution’s YouTube or Flickr account. Luckily, there are ways to bring that content onto your own website. Flickr makes it easy by providing an RSS feed of your favorite. With YouTube, it’s a little harder since all they offer is a page and not a feed, but there are some ways to pull that content. (Metafilter has some guidance.)

If you have a talented developer at your disposal, he or she can probably work with those feeds to whip up a nifty presentation of that content on your site. If you don’t, never fear. Many of the YouTube and Flickr apps that you can install on your Facebook page have options that enable you to pull your favorites. To highlight this content on your own site, Yahoo Pipes has some quick and dirty solutions for embedding your Flickr and YouTube favorites. They may not be pretty, but they’ll get the job done. (This is how we do it at Tufts.)

Is this ideal? No. Aside from being at the mercy of externally created content and third-party formatting, there are arguments about whether it is proper to highlight other people’s content on your own site. That is a question you will have to resolve within your own institution. But at the very least, nothing prevents you from aggregating your favorites and linking to them, so long as you don’t present the content as your own. And if you are hopeful of gaining the capacity to create your own media-rich content in the future, you can take away some lessons from the authentic, organic content you peruse on these sites, maybe even make contacts with some of the more compelling content creators. Those relationships could prove fruitful in the future.

People are talking about “listening” a lot nowadays with regard to brand and reputation management, particularly in the context of Twitter. But by extending your listening to media-rich services like Flickr and YouTube, you can not only see what media people are creating in relation to your institution, but use some of it to enhance your own web presence and maybe create a community in the process.

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

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