Time to diss engage?

How engaged is this user?

A few months ago, one of my co-workers suggested that a term much in vogue among social media marketing types — the word engage — be included in one of those lists of banned or banished words, like the one produced by Lake Superior State University. (Two cousins of engage — “engagement” and “engaging users” — have been on a UK list since 2007.)

At first, I wasn’t so sure I agreed with my colleague. The term “engage” seems to have a nice, um, ring to it. And it’s been useful to describe one aspect of social media marketing — the act of making connections with customers, audiences, those people we want to enga– er, interact with. Brian Solis added an exclamation point to the word and turned it into the title of a book, which I understand has done quite well. Then there’s Chris Syme‘s new ebook about crisis communication. Syme’s book includes the word in its title, and the placement there seems appropriate.

But I must admit that, since my colleague brought the overuse of engage to my attention, I’ve noticed the word being misused and abused widely and repeatedly. Here are a few of the many, many examples I could cite — these from a Twitter search:

  • “3 takeaways 1 identify + engage your customers 2 take advantage of your biz data 3 look at crowdsourcing models”
  • “Join us tomorrow with [redacted] for a Twitter chat on how to engage distributors and retailers to stock you product.”
  • “Lots of companies are using video to spread the word on their products and engage their customers”
  • “5 Killer Strategies for Brands to Engage on Pinterest and LinkedIn”
  • “Content is the new way of old marketing. Engage an audience and have them become social w/interesting content. “
  • “How to spot your best customers online and engage

Do we really need all this marketing mumbo-jumbo?

It turns out that my colleague and I are not the only ones to diss engage. It tops one list of 5 most overused social media jargons and another list of 150 overused social media buzzwords. It “has now been officially over-used on Google Plus” and is the subject of a brilliant work of art by Hugh Macleod/Gapingvoid.

Is there anything we can do to rescue engage from its descent into meaninglessness? Perhaps so, if we start thinking about the meaning behind our words. When we talk about “engage” or “engaging” or “engagement,” what do we really mean to say? Are we talking about holding a conversation? Are we talking about getting someone interested in what we’re trying to promote or sell? Are we talking about getting people to interact with our advertising? Fill out a form? What is it, exactly, that we’re trying to communicate?

I hope you’ll think a bit more critically about the use of this word — and any other overworked, misused buzzterms listed in the links above — and if you feel so inclined, to share your thoughts about it in the comments box below.

I’m not sure I’m ready to completely disengage my use of this term. But I will try to think a little bit more about whether it’s the right word for the situation.

Flickr photo by Matty Turner (www.flickr.com/photos/mattyturner/312572345/) Feature image from a blog post on social media engagement by Greta Poskute.

Friday Five: #psuweb12, the Slideshare edition

If Twitter is my go-to learning network (see previous post), then Slideshare is my research library. What I love about both platforms is that they make so much great information accessible, so easily. Slideshare gives me quick and easy access to conference presentations by many of the great higher ed, marketing, PR and leadership experts I follow there. And when I can’t experience a conference presentation in person, I have Slideshare as a tool for viewing some great slide decks, at my convenience. It’s the next best thing to being there.

Earlier this week, a lot of higher ed web marketing folks gathered for #psuweb12, the annual web conference held at Penn State. Many of the presenters used Slideshare to kindly share their slide decks with the online world. Here are five that I found worth clicking through.

1. Producing a Mobile Online Presence: Timeline: Yesterday, by Nick Denardis

Terrific overview of where mobile is heading, and why you should get on board. Plus, imperial stormtroopers.

2. We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat: Web Communication Before, During and After a Crisis, by Tonya Oaks Smith

Doot-doot. Doot-doot. Doot-doot. Doot-doot. What potential crises lurk beneath the surface?

3. These Kids Today: Usability Testing With Current and Prospective Students, by Lori Packer

Tips for quick testing of your website.

4. Game On: How Games Are Changing Life, the Web and Everything, by Colleen Brennan-Barry

We are all gamers. (Words With Friends, anyone?)

5. Editorial Style: Your Guide to Clear Communication on the Web, by Rick Allen

Words matter. Even on the web.

Friday Five: Summer reading edition

Inspired by this list of 11 marketing books for summer reading, I thought I’d share what’s on my marketing-related reading list for the summer:

A few of the books on my summer reading list.

Likeonomics: The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior, and Inspiring Action, by Rohit Bhargava. I’m about two-thirds through this book about the importance of building trust in our marketing. Look for my review of this book soon.

Happy Customers Everywhere: How Your Business Can Profit from the Insights of Positive Psychology, by Bernd Schmitt, a business prof at Columbia University. I’ve been getting more interested in positive psychology movement since watching Shawn Achor’s TED talk, The Happy Secret to Better Work (highly recommended). In Happy Customers Everywhere, Schmitt talks about the latest positive psychology research and how it can help organizations build stronger connections with their constituents.

What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and China’s Modern Consumer, by Tom Doctoroff. Now that the campus where I work has started building a new university in China, I thought it was high time for me to start learning more about this powerful player on the global scene. This book looks like a promising introduction to modern China and its marketplace.

Empathetic Marketing: How to Satisfy the 6 Core Emotional Needs of Your Customers, by Mark Ingwer. More psychological insight for marketing.

18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, by Peter Bregman. This one comes highly recommended by Karine Joly, one of the most productive bloggers I know. Read her 1-1-1 review of this book.

I hope I get through all of these over the summer. Maybe I should read that productivity book, 18 Minutes, first.

What’s on your list? What are your recommend summer reads for marketers? (Or if you’re tired of marketing books, you might want to take a cue from Dave Van de Walle and take a break from marketing books this summer.)

Flickr photo: Beach Reading by aafromaa.

#CASECMT conference preview (liveblogging from DIA)

Updated Wednesday morning, April 9, with a continuation of Tuesday’s posts with more complete agenda info. (If you like, you can go straight to the update.)

Killing time at Denver International Airport, awaiting my connecting flight to San Diego and the CASE conference on Communications, Marketing and Technology — or #CASECMT for short. That’s the hashtag I’ll be using to identify Twitter comments from the conference as well as in the blogpost title and categories. I plan to update both here and on Twitter (go to twitter.com/andrewcareaga to follow along).

So while I’m waiting to board, here’s some background on the meeting, what my role is, and some thoughts on what to expect in the coming days.

The crowd. We should have a pretty decent crowd for this conference — 140-something at last count. A quick glance at the attendees list shows a nice mix of public and private institutions from across the country, as well as some independent schools and some representation from Canada. (I just took a quick scan of the list; there may be participants from other countries.) I’m hoping the group is participative and involved. I’ll do what I can to keep the program interactive, and I know all the other presenters will too.

My role. I’m taking part in three sessions on two closely related topics. The first has to do with benchmarking and assessing web strategies. I’m co-presenting with Paul Redfern, director of web communications and electronic media at Gettysburg College, and we’re doing the session twice — once tomorrow afternoon and again on Friday morning. Paul and I have had a few conversations about the subject, and I think we’ll tag-team pretty well on it. (Paul’s going to approach the topic more from an institutionwide perspective, using analytics and other techno-tools, and I’m going to talk more about the reputational and strategy aspects.)

My other session is titled “Monitoring Your Online Reputation,” and I’m flying solo on that one. It’s the first session of the day on Friday. I’m looking forward to talking about this subject, as it’s one I hold dear to my heart. There are many, many resources online that can help us monitor (if not manage) our online reputations and impressions. We just need to know where to find them, how to use them, and be aware of the limitations of these resources.

I kind of feel like a fish out of water here. I think I’m the only presenter with a PR background. Most of the other folks presenting are from web/electronic marketing. But that’s cool. I always like mixing it up with people who may bring a different slant to the subjects.

The rest of the conference:

Day 1 – Wednesday, April 9

The conference begins at noon with a keynote address by Fritz McDonald, creative director at Stamats, called “What You Need to Know About College-Bound Teens.” Description:

Explore the fascinating world of today’s college-bound teens. Learn how they spend their time; choose their media; and who influences them. Session includes a careful review of how they choose a college; what factors they weigh in that decision; and an analysis of the college-choice characteristics most important to them.

Following the keynote, Tom O’Keeffe, director of web content at Colgate University (and the guy who roped me into this gig), will present a session on building online communities. I’m looking forward to this one. Tim and the folks at Colgate are doing some good stuff with new media, including putting their news site completely into a blog format (Movable Type) to foster more interaction, and just to make it easier to manage (I suspect). Next up is a session on the uses — and misuses — of flash, presented by Casey Paquet, web manager at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla. Yet another subject I’m looking forward to delving into. Then at 4:15 comes our breakout session, along with two others I wish I could attend: “Planning, and Implementing, a Successful Redesign” and “You’ve Bought a CMS, now how do you make it work?”

Ack. Boarding call. No time to talk about the other two days. Check the CASE website referenced above for more info. Let me just add that I’m really looking forward to the presentation from the guy from Six Apart (creators of Movable Type and Typepad) on Thursday. There’s also a panel session with some real live students that I’m looking forward to.

OK. I’m off. See you in San Diego, or on the innerweb.

April 9 update:

Interlude: While I was waiting for my connection in Denver, I got an email from Paul Redfern that he was grounded in Dallas due to the American Airlines inspection snafu. So we weren’t able to meet over dinner last night. I hope he made it in OK. All of the presenters are scheduled to meet later this morning.

Day 2 – Thursday, April 10

This is my “sponge” day. I have no presentations, no obligations (until the faculty panel at the end of the day). I can sit in on the presentations without distraction, absorb the discussions, and maybe even learn something. And it looks like a great day to do that.

Here’s what the day looks like:

Paul Redfern of Gettysburg kicks it off with a session called “Personalizing the Web: How do Portals and Web Sites Connect?”
Judging from the description and my conversations with Paul earlier, I think he’s going to be talking about options for those who don’t use portals — how colleges and universities can have some sort of website/portal hybrid. “How do schools create an integrated approach to the Web and utilize both Web 2.0 and Customer Relationship Management functionality to create a Google-and Amazon-like experience? Find out at this session.”

Next up is “Connecting with Alumni Using Online Communities,” a session I’ll absorb and bring back to our alumni director. The presenter is Elizabeth Allen, assistant director for communications for the Cal Tech Alumni Association. Cal Tech is one of the few elite technological universities we at Missouri S&T look to for ideas and inspiration. I’m looking forward to this presentation for many reasons.

After lunch, a moderated panel with college students is scheduled. It’s always good to hear from the students. It reminds us why we do what we do. Or it should, anyway.

The final session of the day is the one by Michael Sippey of Six Apart: “Always On, Connected, and Available: Social Media and Emerging Trends.” I’m expecting great things from this session, which promises that we will “tour tomorrow’s social media landscape and discuss how state-of-the-art tools are being used today. Learn how the ideas of connectedness, pervasiveness, and speed will drive how we create content, consume content, and connect with others online.”

Day 3 – Friday, April 11

The day begins with my presentation on monitoring online reputations, followed by a re-do of the three breakout sessions. And then it’s over. That sounds so final. Kind of sad, actually. And the meeting hasn’t even started yet. But it will soon, and I need to get my act together quickly for today’s event.

Monday musings: social network economics, free and legal news pics, the future of marketing, etc.

Decided to take the day off to decompress from a couple of stressful weeks (while campus is quiet for spring break). And also, to try to get some writing done, because it seems I get more writing done at home than at the office. But guess what? Not a bit of writing yet. Too busy trying to keep the RSS feeds pruned, and straightening up the blogroll. (Thanks, debunkd., for the motivation.) Now, if I could just get motivated to finish off my story for the summer issue of Missouri S&T Magazine.

Anyway, on to the musings. And these may have to keep you for a while, as I’m going afk from Wednesday afternoon until the weekend. So, if you don’t hear from me until next week, that’s why.

  • Social networks: a business model? Not so much. Lots of bloggers are talking about this Economist article about the business value of social networks. (Hat tip to Buzz Canuck, who breaks down the main points of the Economist article — namely, that the social network is a bad business model.) Conversation Agent also offers commentary, and a clip from Jerry Maguire.

    The Economist argues that “it is entirely conceivable that social networking, like web-mail, will never make oodles of money,” but says social networking’s true value because may lie in “its enormous utility.”

    Social networking has made explicit the connections between people, so that a thriving ecosystem of small programs can exploit this “social graph” to enable friends to interact via games, greetings, video clips and so on.

    If only the myriad networks would tear down their “walled gardens” and open up to the rest of the interconnected world.

    The problem with today’s social networks is that they are often closed to the outside web. … [T]hey are reluctant to become equally open towards their users, because the networks’ lofty valuations depend on maximising their page views—so they maintain a tight grip on their users’ information, to ensure that they keep coming back. As a result, avid internet users often maintain separate accounts on several social networks, instant-messaging services, photo-sharing and blogging sites, and usually cannot even send simple messages from one to the other. They must invite the same friends to each service separately. It is a drag.

    Surely some enterprising entrepreneur will find a solution. SocialThing, perhaps?

  • Free and legal news photos for bloggers. GigaOM reports that San Francisco-based PicApp is making copyright news photos available free of charge to bloggers.

    The photos are displayed in a flash media file and can be embedded on any web page, just like YouTube. PicApp makes money off contextual advertising it embeds in the photos, and in turn shares it with the photo agencies. The new service is a sign of how tough things are in the stock photography business, where new and low cost competitors are emerging thick and fast, and challenging the old dogs like Getty Images.

  • The United States of Google. BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis examines how an open-source mindset, a philosophy of transparency, and a better understanding of empowerment and interconnectedness could improve government. For example:

    Government officials and agencies should blog. This ethic of openness should go beyond official documents and files. Openness should be part of the work habit of government officials and conversation with constituents should be an ethic of government. The open blog is merely a tool and a symbol for this — and a more efficient tool, I’ll add, than individual letters and phone calls.

  • The future of marketing and advertising — a good (and funny) slide presentation by Paul Isakson, via the Marketing and Strategy Innovation Blog.
  • Simplicity. Via Eliacin Rosario-Cruz via Twitter.
  • Moving toward two-way marketing. This piece in The Buzz Bin talks about how listening, customer feedback, etc., have become more important in traditional marketing.
  • State of the news media: gloomy. Still. PRWeek summarizes the Project for Excellence in Journalism‘s 2008 report on the news business.
  • Be like the Internet (Slideshare). Slides from a SXSW presentation by Lane Becker and Thor Muller of Get Satisfaction, all about business success in the Internet age. Via Communication Nation.
  • Three Internet careers that soon won’t exist. Interesting thought piece from Steve Rubel.
  • Of course, now it’s only 29 years and 50 weeks before the Internet ends. Because I’m two weeks late in posting this.

Now playing: Michael Franti & Spearhead (Yell Fire!) – I Know I’m Not Alone
via FoxyTunes

Validated by Seth Godin

sethgodinhead.gifIt’s always encouraging to find out that people I admire share some of my tastes in music, books, movies, etc. Especially when they’re famous people whose names I can drop in this blog.

So I was especially happy to read a recent blog post by Seth Godin, in which he quotes a passage from Rock On, a book I’ve mentioned here (scroll to item 2) and on Twitter.

The book, by Dan Kennedy (who also contributes to McSweeneys), chronicles Kennedy’s time working in marketing for a major record label at a time when the record business is struggling to maintain its power position in an era of peer-to-peer file sharing. It’s about how Kennedy was finally going to realize his childhood dream of being a part of the big rock’n’roll machine, how he was going to be in the heart of it all, and the ultimate disillusion of the dream that occurs after an Iggy Pop concert. But I’ve probably told you too much. You should purchase this book and read it, not only for entertainment, but for the cautionary tales it offers all of us in marketing, management and leadership.

rockon-cover.jpgI agree with Seth’s view (may I call you Seth, Seth?) that Rock On is a very funny book. It isn’t laugh-out-loud Chuck Klosterman funny, but it’s funny enough, tinged with the kind of hipster irony and aloofness that anyone who’s ever droned their days away in a cubicle wondering what it all means can appreciate. But beyond the humor, Seth and I both appreciate the cautionary tale the book brings to marketers. Go read Seth’s entry about it and you’ll see what I mean. But then come back here and leave me a comment so I’ll feel even more validated about my blogging existence.

While I’m here, I should also say that I’ve been a pretty big Seth Godin fan since Purple Cow came out. In fact, we used the concept of the purple cow with our student design teams, and that helped to build our name recognition among engineering-oriented universities. (Of course, that was before we changed our name from UMR to Missouri S&T. Now we’ve got to do some different things. But our design teams are still our purple cow.) The dude is prolific, insightful, knows how to market, and even when he stumbles (with a book or idea that doesn’t quite wow us like Purple Cow did, knows how to get back up, get out in front of us again and stay there.

I hope Seth feels validated now, too.

P.S. – No Friday Five this week. Unless I decide to do one later. But it’s St. Pat’s Week here on campus, and we’re busy blogging about it and having all sorts of mischievous Irish-inspired fun. Play the Dropkick Murphys link below for some Irish-inspired punk.

Now playing: Dropkick Murphys – Your Spirit’s Alive
via FoxyTunes

Question of the day: Should universities tweet?

Last November, we set up a Twitter account for our university and mildly publicized the fact on our Name Change Conversations blog. But we haven’t done much with it.

twitter.pngAt this point, we have 11 followers, including myself and a couple other communications staffers, and we’ve updated eight times. I haven’t yet worked with our enrollment management team to inform prospective students of the site, and we haven’t notified our alumni through our traditional communications vehicles (email and the alumni magazine).

So, it’s been a very low-key campaign — if you could call it that.

I haven’t found any examples of other universities using Twitter for marketing, pr or external communications purposes.

This morning, I asked the Twittersphere how university comms/PR/marketing folks might be able to use this tool, and have gotten some interesting responses. Here are a few of them:

fcmartin3rd suggests that campuses use Twitter for “inspirational messages; connection with high schoolers; following thought leaders; reminders; pedagoguery!”

amandachapel says, “there’s very little value here. Besides, why would any org want to hold an open meeting on a lawless freeway?”

toster tweets: “I can see universities Twittering for comms, but little else. Even then, I would expect it to be only partially adopted.”

vargasl suggests: “What about twittering events at school? Gaining prospective student interest… ” (That’s how she handled the Oscars on Sunday night, live-twittering while watching E!)

You can keep track of the conversation on my Twitter page. But I’d also like to hear from you readers, too. I know some of you see little value in this tool, and I know others of you who use it regularly as a personal/semi-professional tool but not necessarily as an official representation of your school.

So, let’s hear all sides on the matter.

How could Twitter be incorporated in a college/university communications strategy?

Also, if you know of any universities currently using Twitter, please let me know so I can see how they’re doing.

Leave your comments below or, if you’re on Twitter and want to keep it to 140 characters or fewer, drop a Tweet to http://twitter.com/andrewcareaga.

Now playing: Johnny Thunders – You Can’t Put Your Arms Round a Memory
via FoxyTunes