16 tweets that defined my 2016

Twitter's analytics dashboard offers a month-by-month view of activity.
Twitter’s analytics dashboard offers a month-by-month view of activity.

Thanks to Twitter’s analytics tools, users can take a look at their top tweets, top mentions, top followers and other vanityesque metrics (which, we’re told, can be dangerous if misused or misinterpreted). It’s a fun stroll down a virtual memory lane. It’s also instructive, as it provides some indication of what got traction in the ephemeral social mediasphere, and perhaps offers some clues as to why. Continue reading “16 tweets that defined my 2016”

Twitter at 10: I still #LoveTwitter

I #LoveTwitter so much, I even love the #failwhale
I #LoveTwitter so much, I even love the #failwhale (my 2009 Halloween costume)

Happy birthday, Twitter! The social media platform is 10 years old today, but Twitter kicked off the celebration early with this tweet and video on Sunday.

Over the past 24 hours, the love for Twitter has been pouring in from all across the globe in the form of tweets, articles and blog posts. I’m happy to see this, because Twitter has taken more than its fair share of grief over the past few months. Some people aren’t crazy about how Twitter has tweaked its timeline. Investors want to see more growth. And Twitter’s toying with the idea of expanding the character count from 140 to 10,000 has irked many users, including me.

I haven’t been with Twitter since the get-go. (Few people have.) But I signed up in September 2007 — so I’ve been on the platform for eight-plus of its 10 years. I’ve remained fairly active as a Twitter user, mainly because it remains my go-to learning network. It’s also been a way of connecting with many people I’ve never met in real life but feel like I know. Sometimes, those online connections lead to offline meetups, which is always great because I feel like I know some people — or something about those people — before I ever really meet them.

I think Lance Ulanoff best describes how I feel about Twitter in his Mashable article on the platform’s 10th anniversary:

My relationship with Twitter is best summarized as the kind you have with a sibling. I love it, deeply, but also question its choices. I can be vocal in both my admiration and my dissatisfaction. Yet, at the end of the day, we’re tied together.


On meeting some friends for the first time

The end of September marked my seven-year anniversary on Twitter. Perhaps not coincidentally, the anniversary occurred on the first day of the 2014 Aggregate Conference, which I was fortunate enough to attend at the invitation of a long-time social networking pal, Ron Bronson, who curated this wonderful little conference.

Ron and I go way back, in Internet years.

Not long after I started this blog in 2005, our digital paths crossed somewhere and we started sharing ideas online about higher ed, digital culture, books and our mutual love of music. (The higher ed blogging community was pretty small back then.) We shared ideas via comments on each other’s blogs. I’d read something on Ron’s blog that would spark my interest, and occasionally I would riff on his idea, if not outright pilfer it.

Eventually more of the discussion moved to Twitter and Facebook.  A few years ago, I had an idea to pull together a group of fellow music lovers from the higher ed sphere (there are many of us out there) to create a collaborative group for online music discussion. Ron was one of the first I contacted, even though we don’t always agree on what constitutes good music. But that’s part of the fun of it. I get to learn about new music from Ron, and maybe he even learns something from me in return.

Through the years and the digital ether, Ron and I became friends. But I’d never met Ron, person-to-person, until the Aggregate Conference last Sunday. I met a lot of other longtime social media friends that night and throughout the conference, too.

I’ve written before in this space about how Twitter is my go-to learning network. The people and organizations that I follow are founts of knowledge. We have some great discussions on that network and exchange ideas about all sorts of topics. I think Twitter has made me smarter, thanks to the people I’ve learned from there.

It’s also expanded my network of friends, many of whom I’ve never met in the flesh. That was the case with Ron and several others at the conference — too many to list here.

But there are still many more friends I haven’t yet met in the flesh whom I’ve gotten to know through Twitter. It’s a very cool thing. It’s also kind of weird. But sometimes, cool and weird work out.

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.


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.


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.

What’s the frequency, Twitter?

Tweet-birds-muralI guess by now we’re all aware that with Twitter, the more frequently we post, the greater the opportunity that our posts will be seen and acted upon.

But how much is too much?

This is something I’ve thought about since Guy Kawasaki brought it to my attention back in 2009. (See my post, To drive traffic, tweet and repeat, about Kawasaki’s test of tweet frequency.)

I’ve also worried about this idea of frequent and repeat tweeting. Like every other blogger with a PR or marketing background, I want to drive traffic to this blog. One way I do this is by sharing links to my blog posts on Twitter. I usually repeat the post a couple or three times, and generally I tweak the wording a bit in an effort to appear somewhat less lazy than a guy who automates tweets to churn them out at regular intervals. I don’t think I tweet too much. But I can’t help but wonder whether others see my approach to repeat tweets as obnoxious or spammy. I wonder whether followers ever notice those repeat tweets, and whether they think I’m posting too much about my own content.

When Kawasaki ran his experiment in 2009, he put eight hours of time between each repeat tweet. (He scheduled four identical tweets over 24 hours, then reported his results.) But a new experiment by Jade Furubayashi of SimplyMeasured makes Kawasaki’s test appear to be a model of restraint.

Furubayashi tweeted for one week in 15-minute increments, and another week in 30-minute increments. Her results showed that the more frequent the tweets, the greater the traffic from Twitter to her website.

So, frequent tweeting seems to drive web traffic.

But one item not addressed in Furubayashi’s experiment (and an issue raised in the comments to her post) has to do with the content of the tweet. Which also has to do with the headline or description used. (More about that in a previous post.)

What do you think? What’s the sweet spot for tweet frequency?

Image: Twittering Tweets Mural by cobalt123 on Flickr.

Heading to #CASEVI? Follow these live-tweeting tips

TEDx-tweetsI’m looking forward to getting together with many of my higher ed colleagues at the upcoming 2014 CASE District VI Conference. And I hope many of the conference-goers will use social media to document and share what they learn during the conference. (By the way, the official hashtag for the conference is #CASEVI.)

But as anyone who’s followed a conference from afar knows, the noise-to-signal ratio from conference attendees’s social accounts can be overwhelming. Sometimes, there’s a lot of non-valuable information floating along in the tweetstream from those events. The deluge of exhibition-hall selfies, name tag photos or humblebrags about schmoozing with a big-name speaker can become a turnoff to those watching back home. (I’ve been guilty of contributing to this tweetstream flotsam. Sometimes you just get caught up in the moment, as I did here.)

So for those tempted to regurgitate onto social media a conference’s every moment, higher ed writer Menachem Wecker (@mwecker) offers some advice on tweeting the right way. (Hat tip to John Lawlor for directing me to Wecker’s post.) Wecker talked to several in-the-know higher ed social media types to put together a good list of tips to cover a conference via social media. Here are a few of the main takeaways for me.

  • Follow influentials, not just hashtags. Whether you’re tweeting from the conference or following along back at the office, find out who the main presenters are and follow the conversations that arise around their names and presentations. There are several ways to do this. Harvard’s Mike Petroff (@mikepetroff) suggests that conference-goers use HootSuite, TweetDeck or some similar app to set up a list around those names and Twitter handles. (To help navigate this year’s conference, I’ve created a list of presenters’ Twitter accounts to follow during #CASEVI. This doesn’t include every presenter; only those whose accounts I could readily find on Twitter.) While I like this approach, I think it’s still worth following a conference hashtag, because you could miss out on some great conversation or information otherwise.
  • Share what you learn, not just where you are. Too often, conference-goers merely report or photograph where they are or what they’re doing, rather than what they are learning. Spend more time sharing what you’re getting out of the conference. And do your part to keep the conference hashtag as relevant as possible. Resist the temptation to append that hashtag to every photo or status update.
  • Add value — and conversation. If a presenter references a study, a book or another resource that you think would be of value to your audience, take a minute to dig up the link and share it with your followers. Passing along advice from Michael Stoner (@mStonerblog), Wecker suggests “tweeting links to resources that the speaker mentions” or even “expressing disagreement with something the speaker says by offering links or other evidence.” In other words, get a conversation going, or contribute to one.
  • Don’t just live-tweet — live-blog. If you’re a blogger, why not go beyond the live-tweeting and prepare some blog posts about your favorite sessions? Stoner recommends this, and I agree. The great thing about blog posts is that they persist long after the ephemeral cloud of conference tweets dissipates. One challenge with conference blogging, however, has to do with managing your time. If you’re involved in the planning and arrangements of a conference, as I am with this upcoming CASE event, your obligations often leave little time for consistent blogging. A better approach is to enlist a group of volunteers to divide and conquer by blogging specific topics or sessions on a site dedicated to the conference. This is the approach the HighEdWeb Association takes with its online journal Link. Check out the collection of session posts from the HighEdWeb 2013 conference for an example of how it works.
Get the #CASEVI mobile app

What other advice would you give to conference-goers who want to live-tweet a conference?

P.S. – If you plan to attend the conference, let us know! Mention the district’s official Twitter account, @CASEVI, in a tweet to let them know you’re on your way. (And don’t forget to include the #CASEVI hashtag.) You can also connect with others in the district through the CASE District VI LinkedIn group, and keep track of everything during the conference through a mobile app provided courtesy of Guidebook.

Top photo: TEDxWaterloo Tower of Tweets, by Patrick Dinnen (Flickr).