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.


#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.

Friday Five: Spring cleaning edition

Ah, spring. When a young blogger’s fancy turns to uncluttering his Google Reader, or at least his starred items.

  1. The conversation has left the blogosphere and moved into a wide array of other online venues. Tips on how to keep up.
  2. But if you’re still reading blogs (and I sure hope you are), here’s one to follow: HighEdWebTech. Found via Brad Ward.
  3. How to find the best online information sources.
  4. Do you like free stuff? Do you like social media? Do you like to read? Here’s a great deal for you.
  5. Add “watch this video” to your to-do list, and then do it. If you accomplish nothing else today, then you’ll at least have watched a funny video.

Now playing: Warren Zevon – Play It All Night Long
via FoxyTunes

PR Changes examines social media and PR

Three journalism and communications faculty members at Auburn University (academic home of social media guy Robert French) have launched PR Changes, a blog designed to explore how social media is affecting the PR business. In their inaugural post, the profs pose two questions for PR practitioners:

Do social media relationships really have an impact on an organization’s image and reputation?

Do these relationship impact the bottom line?

Why not drop by PR Changes and share your thoughts? I’m sure they’d appreciate hearing from you.

Thanks to Robert for the Tweet.

Now playing: The Whigs – Right Hand on My Heart
via FoxyTunes

With Bhutto assassination, Twitter comes of age

With the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Twitter has gained some credibility as a useful medium, says ZDNet. Dennis Howlett commented on Dec. 27, the day of Bhutto’s assassination, that “If anyone needed convincing of Twitter’s business utility, today is that day.”

Microblogging a la Twitter could be a credible way to share breaking news and information quickly, globally and telegraphically.

Now playing: Angelique Kidjo – Gimme Shelter ft. Joss Stone
via FoxyTunes

Creating a Missouri S&T outpost on Twitter

As part of the University of Missouri-Rolla’s fast-approaching name change to Missouri University of Science and Technology, we’ve been trying to get the new name out into the social mediasphere. We’ve done this in a couple of ways:

We’ve created a Missouri S&T outpost on Twitter just to see if any alumni or students who use Twitter will join us. We plan to offer news updates from time to time on Twitter, if there is a demand for the service.

Also, we’ve created a Missouri S&T photo-sharing site on Flickr. There, people may view and download images from campus. That isn’t anything new, as several colleges and universities do the same thing.

After Jan. 1, we’ll probably be doing more with social media. Any ideas? I’d love to hear from you. Just don’t ask me to create an island in Second Life.

Now playing: Talking Heads – Warning Sign
via FoxyTunes

Scratching the surface of social network news

Lots of social networking stuff in the news these days — more than I can keep up with. Here are a few items that have caught my attention recently. More flotsam, as always, in my shared items.

Now playing: The National – Mistaken For Strangers
via FoxyTunes