Friday Five: Fiscal year faves

Blogger’s note: I know it’s only Thursday. But like many of my fellow Americans, I plan to put away the digital devices for much of the day in order to properly celebrate our nation’s independence.

An early Happy Independence Day to those of you in the U.S. A belated Happy Canada Day to our neighbors to the north. And a belated Happy Fiscal New Year to those of you in higher ed who live your lives by the July 1-June 30 fiscal cycle.

Today’s post is a round-up of my favorite blog posts from the past fiscal year. They may not necessarily be your favorites (judging from the site analytics, more of you visited my list of the best pop and rock albums of all time than you did some of the posts below; apparently you got wind of my exquisite taste in music) but I think they were pretty darn good pieces of writing that may be worth a second look. Plus, these sorts of retrospectives are an easy way to reuse existing content, and that’s what the content marketers and brand journalism experts tell us to do, right? So let’s get with it.

1. Boring old brand-building

I wrote this post nearly a year ago, based on an observation from an old book about branding. Both the book and the observation — that “Brand building is boring work” and “What works best is absolute consistency over an extended period of time” — remain relevant today. And should for as long as brands exist.

2. 3 branding game-changers and how #highered must adapt

This one was my interpretation of a September 2013 study by brand consultancies Wolff Olins and Flamingo (The New Mainstream: Creating a new relationship between people and brands). Here, I tried to show how these three branding game-changers apply to higher education. This post was also the most popular entry for FY14 in terms of visits.

3. Adventures in meme-jacking

Wow.

Very blog.

Much analytic.

Many April.

So Fools’.

Amaze.

My attempt to describe the short-lived but very fun social media sensation that was our university’s 2014 April Fools’ Day web joke.

4. Media relations in a disintermediated world

Heavy navel-gazing about the future of media relations. This led to a presentation delivered at a regional PRSA conference last month, and to a HigherEdLive.com conversation on the topic of disintermediation in university advancement the month before. I’ll probably be discussing disintermediation again in September at the Aggregate Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

5. 5 proven, mind-blowing ways to get people to read your blog

You won’t believe what happens next.

Bonus link: Friday Five: Marketing lessons from the Beatles

Hey. I can’t hide my love away from this post about what marketing lessons we can learn from the Fab Four. This was posted on the eve of the 50-year anniversary of the Beatles’ first Ed Sullivan Show appearance.

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Adventures in meme-jacking

Updated again on April 3 with links to Karine Joly’s and Brian Fanning’s roundups, and sample comments from the university’s news site.

Updated April 2 with Storify archive of random tweets, posts, etc. in reaction to our April Fools’ Day shenanigans.

Pulling pranks on April Fools’ Day can be a risky venture for higher ed organizations. I speak from experience. A couple of years ago, we tried to be clever by turning our university homepage into a giant QR code. The joke fell flat. We were a little too clever, I guess.

But sometimes, the stars align, the Internet gods smile upon you, and your joke works. That was the case for us yesterday.

Doge_Wired

Our decision to doge-ify our website for April Fools’ Day 2014 turned out to be a winner. In my opinion, it’s also a great example of successful meme-jacking.

Meme-jacking, as this Ragan.com post defines it, is “the practice of hijacking popular memes for the benefit of marketing your brand or product.” It’s related to the idea of “newsjacking,” a concept PR authority David Meerman Scott describes in his book by that name. The idea in both cases is to position your brand to ride the wave of popularity of a news story or meme before it crests and crashes. That’s what we tried to do with the Missouri S&T website yesterday.

Doge — the Shiba Inu dog you saw all over our home page on April 1 — is a pretty popular Internet meme. But going into our 24-hour web redesign, we had concerns about whether Doge had become passe. Or, as one Twitter commentator put it, had we boarded the dead joke train?

Judging from the responses, however, Doge is still — to put it in Doge-speak — many relevant and such popular. We saw a lot of discussion of our brand and sharing of our web URL on Twitter and Facebook. We garnered some decent media coverage, too. Ashley Jost from the Columbia (Mo.) Tribune contacted me first thing Tuesday morning and wrote a nice blog post about our site. We also got mentioned on WIRED (who declared us winners of April Fools’ Day), Buzzfeed, Gawker, the Guardian, and our hometown newspaper, the Rolla Daily News. Even MuckRack journos were applauding our efforts, and higher ed bloggers Brian Fanning and Karine Joly included our site in their respective roundups.

But Twitter and Reddit were where much of the conversation was taking place. Reddit’s Dogecoin subreddit (don’t ask me to explain) was hopping with chatter. And countless thousands were talking about us on Twitter. According to SumAll, the Twitter reach for our @MissouriSandT account approached 340,000 on April 1. It’s not Lady Gaga, but it’s pretty good for us.

https://twitter.com/gr33nazn/status/450991809909366785

And my personal favorite:

(More examples to come in a this Storify we’ll be posting soon.)

What about results?

So, the obvious question is: Did it work? And the obvious follow-up: Was it worth it?

I would have to answer yes to both questions.

We also saw a nearly 16-fold increase in traffic to our website over the typical weekday traffic. (The same trend held for our prospective students’ website but I don’t know if any of those visits turned into actual applications.) Nearly one-third of those visitors were coming from social networks (Facebook, Reddit, Twiter and Tumblr were the top four, in order), and a little more than 10 percent were coming from referrals, mainly from media sites. I haven’t dug into all the data yet, but it’s clear that social media helped fuel the interest in our website.

Our moment of Internet fame also elevated our visibility slightly, if even for a moment, as a few of the comments from our news story about the joke point out.

And some of us who never even heard of MST before have now because it’s making it’s way around the Internet.

i found your site through tumblr. gods bless the interwebs. much entertain.

This is beyond awesome! I knew about your university, but now I know that you “get it”…

Proceed with caution

I won’t say that meme-jacking will always work. Like anything, it could fall flat, especially if you try to force it. In our case, we let the Internet do the heavy lifting. We just put it out there, tweeted and posted a few times, and let the Doge run free.

I also wouldn’t consider investing a lot of time and energy into jacking with every meme that comes down the pike. Consider the broader environment. April Fools’ Day lends itself to this type of tomfoolery. Not every occasion does. It also pays to be sensitive to the broader conversations occurring in social media. Today, for instance, I am writing this in the wake of a major earthquake in Chile, and other unsettling world events. There’s a time to be a prankster, and a time to keep silent. Know when to move forward and when to refrain.

But the Ragan story referenced earlier has some good guidelines on creating your own meme-jacking project. If only we’d known about these tips before April 1.

Friday Five: Random Access Memery (Miley Cyrus edition)

At least it's not about Batman anymore. Via http://mashable.com/2013/08/26/miley-cyrus-memes/
At least it’s not about Batman anymore. Via http://mashable.com/2013/08/26/miley-cyrus-memes/

Welcome to the end of the twerking week.

I may be the only person on the planet who hasn’t yet watched the video clip of Miley Cyrus’ cringeworthy performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards this past Sunday. (And by “performance,” I mean what Mashable called Ms. Cyrus’s “teddy-bear twerking and foam-finger debauchery.”)

But just because I haven’t seen the video clip doesn’t mean I’ve been able to avoid Miley mania this week. Her VMA performance commandeered social and traditional media, and Miley has become the butt of many visual jokes, most of them too raunchy to show here. But here are five references to Miley memes and news that won’t burn your eyes (unless you decide to delve deeper into some of the links).

1. Miley’s derriere gets its own hashtag. Yes, when a newspaper as staid as the International Business Times reports on a Twitter hashtag about a celebrity’s body part, you know this is important news.

2. Will Smith and family watch the train wreck. But wait. It turns out they weren’t reacting to Miley’s getting jiggy with it after all. It was Lady Gaga’s opening performance that had the Smiths all aghast. Well, if there’s one thing we know about the Internet, it’s that the Internet doesn’t always get it right the first time.

3. This guy:

Leave Miley Alone

4. Seriously. Let’s leave Miley alone. Can we be adults about this, and put an end to the public stoning of a 20 year old girl? Well put.

5. But before we do, a parting shot: #ReplaceASongNameWithTwerk, in obvious reference to the VMA performance, became a hashtag thing on Twitter. This one was just too easy to join in:

Happy weekend!

Friday Five: Black Friday edition (timing social media posts, PR vs. marketing, lessons from Occupy)

A helping of leftovers from this past week’s cornucopia of Internet goodness:

1. When to post to social media. Good insights in this infographic. Most marketers post while they’re at work, but that isn’t when their audience is most likely to be engaged (during the off hours).

2. PR, marketing and the fight to control social media. This summary of a recent study from the PR-minded folks at Ragan Communications comes pre-loaded with the subhead, “A new study suggests PR pros need to fight harder for control of social media.” The actual study (PDF) is not quite as suggestive, but Ragan’s slant should help to keep those in the PR business in a tizzy about marketing’s involvement in social media. When will this PR vs. marketing power struggle end? Can’t marketing and PR just get along?

3. The PR lessons of the Occupy movement, by Bill Sledzik (@BillSledzik). Just one of many great, topical posts at Bill’s blog, Toughsledding.

4. The value of a liberal arts education is quantified (somewhat) by this recent study by the Annapolis Group. This InsideHigherEd.com story breaks it down. Hat tip to Elizabeth Scarborough for sharing the link via Twitter.

5. One video, 40 memes. Y U No click to see if you can find them all? Via @MarkClayson.

Friday Five: RIP, RSS?

RSS-2Maybe you heard the recent ballyhoo about the death of the RSS reader. And maybe you heard about it via your RSS reader, as I did. Ah, the irony.

The story took one news item — the announced shutdown of one RSS reader, Bloglines — and extrapolated that news into the entire RSS universe. And so the RSS reader, the humble workhorse behind the scenes of so much shared content, became the latest web tool to fall victim to the [InsertNameOfSocialMediaToolHere] is dead meme mill. (Remind you of anything?)

But the rumors of RSS’s death are greatly exaggerated. True, the use of traditional RSS readers is down (visits to Google Reader, which I use, are down 27 percent year-over-year), but that doesn’t mean people have given up on the service altogether.

Yes, with the advent of Twitter, I rely less on Google Reader. But it still holds value for me. Here are five reasons why:

1. News from trusted connections. With the crapflood of information coming at me via Twitter, Facebook, RSS and so many other sources, I rely on a cadre of “editors” (or curators, if you prefer) who share good information with their Google Reader connections. You know how I found out about this GigaOm article countering the RSS-is-dead meme? Via two of my trusted Google Reader connections: Georgy Cohen and Joe Bonner. I also subscribe to GigaOM’s feeds but I didn’t have to wade into that stream. Georgy and Joe shared an item of interest from that stream to me. Pretty neat.

2. Searchability. If I want to find out what my RSS sources are saying about a subject, the Google search engine does the work for me. Below is a screenshot of a search for the term “RSS is dead.” Click to enlarge.

A Google Reader search for "RSS Is Dead"

RSS-43. Customization. I love the fact that I can organize my subscriptions into different categories.

Here’s a peek at my RSS feeds folders. Everything is in its right place. All feeds are neatly tucked away into the right folder. Some single feeds are tucked away into multiple folders, which is another neat feature. So, blogs about higher ed marketing or higher ed PR show up in both “higher ed” and in “marketing” or “PR.”

(Click the image at right to enlarge.)

4. Sharing bonus content. Thanks to the Google Reader widget (the “Andrew’s Shared Items” box you see in the left sidebar of this blog), I can share selected, additional content from my Google feeds with readers of this blog. That way, in addition to seeing my posts, you have the opportunity to check out some of the other things I’m reading that I think may be of value to you. While most of the shared items are relevant to the general topic of this blog, I do post occasional diversions, such as this YouTube video of a talented acoustic guitarist/singer’s cover of a great song from the new Arcade Fire album. (I know that a few of you are fellow Arcade Fire fans, so I thought perhaps you might enjoy this discovery.)

5. Music. I used to try to follow a lot of music blogs. Now whenever I want to check out what’s new in the indie music scene, I just open my “Music” folder in Google Reader to get the latest from a dozen or so respected music blogs.

So, no, RSS is not dead yet. At least not for me.

What about you?

Happy Friday, and for readers in the U.S., Happy Constitution Day.

Friday Five: Twitter favorites edition

Five read- and/or view-worthy items plucked from this week’s Twitter stream:

  1. 4 tools for better Facebook marketing from HubSpot (via @cksyme). (P.S. – Check out Chris Syme’s wonderful blog, New Adventures of an Old SID.)
  2. Twitter usage in America, the results of a 3-year study by Edison Research and Arbitron presented on Vimeo in the form of a 44-minute webinar/slideshow. Some interesting tidbits here. (For instance, nearly 1/4 of Twitter users are African Americans.) If you want the full report, you can download it for free by signing up at this Edison site. (Via @ggrosseck.)
  3. Glenn Reynolds: the higher ed bubble is about to burst (via @EMGonline).
  4. ‘Sex between ideas is the source of creativity’ — a fascinating piece on the evolution of humans and creativity (via @gapingvoid).
  5. The Star Wars kid grows up, and is now a law student (via @NewsSocialMedia).

Have a good weekend.