What should @edgehill do on Twitter?

Following on from my post about growing usage of Twiter, today I’ll look at how we might use Twitter at Edge Hill.

We set up an account for Edge Hill back in May and since then we’ve used it mainly to publish links to news stories (using Twitter Feed), and occasionally interacting with people.

The number of followers has crept up – 174 at the time of writing – but many of them are other universities and colleges or possible spammers. Admittedly numbers aren’t everything but I think that’s indicative of us not using Twitter as well as we can.

So what are other universities up to? In the UK it seems largely similar to us. Some are purely automated, others have teams managing tweets and responding to replies. Two that are fairly typical are Keele University and the University of Bath. The latter has, however, experienced an unexpected boost – UniofBath tripled their followers in under a week. How – because a load of snow dumped down on the city last week! As Alison Wildish explains:

[…] The bus and train services ground to a halt and as a result the University closed. During the morning the Communications team posted messages and updates on our internal homepage AND on Twitter. Alongside this the Customer Services team at Bath Bus Station updated their own Twitter account with the latest news on the buses. Both streams of information proved invaluable and as the day went on the number of ‘followers’ increased.

So what Edge Hill needs is 2′ of snow? Maybe it would help, but while that might be an initial draw, as Alison acknowledges, it’s not going to keep people coming back. What if the snow doesn’t come? How should we promote usage of Twiter?

  • Announce that we’re on Twitter: it’s only just dawned on me, but we’ve never made a formal announcement. Bath did this on Thursday mid way through the “crisis”.
  • Connect Twitter with our systems: we have the GO portal which could easily have a panel for our Twitter feed (it can already using RSS but let’s make it more accessible).
  • Diversify our messages: not every news story will interest everyone (sorry Paul, Angie and Mary!) so we should feature a broader range of the things going on at Edge Hill – events, conferences, open days, sports results, alumni – the list is endless.
  • Create a network of Twitter accounts: it’s quite likely that not everything will fit neatly into the main edgehill account – how about an account for the Students’ Union? SOLSTICE Conference have an account too, so let’s get them working together.

The likes of Chris Moyles (who’s added 40,000 followers in a week) are appealing to Edge Hill’s core demographic so we can infer that there must be some more students out there using Twitter. Let’s go find them!

CASE Europe Annual Conference: Day 3

Day three of CEAC 2008 in Brighton…

Breakfast Roundtable: Web + Marketing = FutureAlison Wildish (University of Bath)

Alison guilted me into getting up at silly O’clock for her roundtable session. So I once again dragged myself across the city for breakfast and interesting conversation. Also at the session were Pamela Michael (Imperial College), David Poteet (New City Media), “Mister” Roy Bayfield (Edge Hill University) and someone whose name I didn’t catch from the University of Amsterdam. Trying to eat and think before 8am left no capacity to take notes but it was interesting to get alternative input into the kinds of discussions we have on a regular basis with a more tech-focused community. One thing to look up is Hyves, the most popular social networking site in the Netherlands.

Internet Search – the journey has only just started – Richard Jones (Yucca)

If search engines were at a school disco… Google would be the cool kid, Yahoo would be having a breakdown in the bathroom and MSN would still be trying to pick an outfit.

How users are using search:

  1. Wireless has released the computer from the study
  2. Many search instead of navigate (even for obvious things
  3. Users are using human phrasing more often (so write an FAQ section to get direct matches)
  4. Search length is increasing – from 2.4 words inn 2006 to 4.1 words in 2007
  5. Google search (with personalisation and history) is replacing bookmarks

Number four is pleasing to see and important for better targeting the “long tail” of organic search results.

Brain dump time:

  • Google are expanding – do you have a Google Earth stretegy?
  • Google Trends – add regional keywords
  • XML Sitemap – “shows Google there’s a strategy behind your site”
  • Paid search
    • Very technical but great for improving your English skills!
    • New to brand
    • No delay
    • Ad copy can be tailored
  • Google Quality Score: Keywords | Landing Page | Ad copy
  • Costs can fall over time with improving Quality Score
  • Run a test campaign to establish keywords
  • What keywords are competitors using (view HTML source)
  • Look for untapped slang/media terminology
  • Page titles
    • Include your own name
    • Tailor to individual titles
    • Not too long
    • Learn from PPC ad copy
  • Love the spider – consider a mega footer
  • Site architecture – ensure everything is 3-4 clicks away
  • Avoid multiple web addresses – 301 redirect
  • Resources
    • Google Alerts
    • Google Trends
    • Google Insights for Search
    • Wordtracker.com
    • SEO for Firefox and rank checker
    • Yucca Blog – blatant self promotion 😉
  • The Future
    • Historical Search
    • Mobile / location
    • Question based
    • Long tail gets longer
    • Google product deep linking

Creating and delivering award-winning projects and campaignsRoy Bayfield (Edge Hill University), Amanda Gregory (Heist), Emma Leech (MMU)

I picked this session out because I was interested to know more about the process that goes on for awards like the CASE Circle of Excellence award that Hi recently won.

Roy started our with talking about some of the reasons for and against applying for awards:

  • Why not?
    • Time
    • Giving away your best ideas
    • Awards process is flawed?
  • Why do?
    • Good for business
    • Good for morale
    • Build team spirit, confidence, internal credibility
    • Sharpen practices
    • Create good habits – metrics, ROI, planning, process
  • What makes award winning project
    • Statistics and supporting evidence
    • Detailed planning
    • Brilliant creative
    • A great idea or a new slant
    • Good write up
    • Solid budgets with ROI evidence
    • An integrated approach

Amanda was clear about her input into the process:

Brown paper bags with cash in them are welcome

And on Heist submissions:

  • Based on SMART objectives
  • “If you follow the instructions you will be short-listed” – apparently this is a very important point
  • Give details of budget – not simply ” the project was within budget”
  • Strangest things affect judges – one prospectus smelt funny

The second half of the session was more practical – looking at some of the things MMU had done.  Emma also went through some of her experiences and the benefits applying for awards had brought her and her team.

My thoughts?  Seeing the results from winning the CASE Circle of Excellence award has highlighted some of the benefits and it was really interesting to see the process involved.  I wonder, however, whether the way web projects develop doesn’t necessarily fit in with what the judges are looking for.  How does “release early, release often” relate to budgets, ROI and an integrated approach?  I think it can, but maybe I won’t understand how until I’ve been through the process myself!

Harnessing technology to enhance your marketing and recruitment processes – Maggie Frantz (Hobsons)

After attending Rebecca Avery’s breakfast round table session I was in two minds about going to another session about the web by someone from Hobsons!  After deciding last minute to come to this one I joined just as Maggie was reeling off a load of statistics.  I asked for a copy of the slides so I may blog them in full, but for now, here’s some of them.  They’re about what applicants would do:

  • Would download a customised online prospectus
  • ~60% would customise a page
  • 63% would ccommunicate with a current student
  • 63% would read a student blog
  • 83% would read a faculty member blogs
  • 45% would subscribe to RSS feed (I’m really surprised this is so high)
  • 71% send instant message to college site
  • 82% respond to instant message inside a website (i.e. popup message inviting to chat)
  • 59% take a mobile call
  • 49% would like to receive an SMS mesage

The next page of my notes is frankly not particularly interesting… similar to much that I’d heard before during the week.

Skipping through them, we get onto how CRM can be used to help:

  • Enabling platform
  • Tailoring communications
  • Web portal
  • Interactive, customised experience
  • Underpin Web 2.0 activities
  • Address ROI concerns

This was backed up with a couple of examples from Liverpool and Aberdeen Universities.  Interesting to see how they’ve used Hobsons products.

Maggie’s final thoughts…

  1. Start with communications objectives and assess which tools appropriate
  2. Experiment with Web 2.0 tools
  3. Empower student ambassadors
  4. Fullscale CRM or at least a communications plan
  5. Address ROI question for Web 2.0

Is the brand-driven culture of the commercial sector appropriate to HE?
Sue Cunningham (University of Oxford), Paul Drake (University of Gloucestershire), Tracey Lancaster (University of Birmingham), Peter Slee (Northumbria University), Chaired by Martin Bojam (JWT Education)

Final session before the closing plenary was a panel debate on the level to which brand should be applied in HE.  I was impressed with Peter Slee’s arguments and two points about brand:

  • Have a clear brand proposition
  • How do you follow this up and deliver?

This to me seems to encompass the important aspects of what we can learn from the best of the commercial sector – being clear about what we offer that is different to others, and ensuring the best possible student experience, matching the expectations that we set.

To be honest, much of the discussion was too heavy for me after a few very long days and it was far too hot in the room.  The “brand is good” argument won the popular vote but I’m sure it’s not the last we’ll hear about the matter.

Closing Plenary: Leadership and team-building in a transcultural marketplace – J. Frank Brown (INSEAD)

Drawing the conference to a close was frankly one of the most obscure talks I’ve ever heard (and I watch TED!)  There were some interesting anecdotes, but even after listening to it and reading the abstract I’m not entirely sure what the final point was!

And that was that!  Well, not quite – there was the gala dinner to come and Mister Roy dutily collected the Gold award for Hi to much whooping and hollering…. but you don’t want to hear about that!

I’m hoping to write one more post summarising some of my thoughts and linking to other people’s comments about the conference, so if you’ve blogged, or tweeted (and not used #ceac08) or otherwised published, leave a comment and I’ll include you in the roundup.

Bath Get Creative

Flat OutAt last month’s IWMW in Aberdeen, Alison Wildish announced Get Creative Week – an idea inspired by Carsonified to spend a week doing something different to their normal day to day jobs, and work in different ways on different types of project.

Bath Web Services set aside 18th – 22nd August to run the week so now that it’s all over, how did it go, what can we learn from them?

I’m sure work has been going on in the background for some time, but from the outsiders view, the process began a few weeks ago when the team delivered pitches for their ideas.

The winning pitch brought up wider issues involving institutional systems so Alison picked another project to work on.

The result was Flat Out, a Facebook-only application designed to allow students to find a flat to live in. You can read a whole load of information about the project on their blog and wiki, but here’s some of the things that caught my eye:

  • A project manager was picked at the start of the first day. Notably it wasn’t Alison or the Web Applications Team Leader – they both took their place as part of the team.
  • Regular standup meetings were held to keep track of progress and set half day targets.
  • Regular hours were kept – everyone worked on Get Creative between 9am and 4pm. A rota was set to ensure that essential support was still provided for web services.
  • Enforced downtime through Fika (a Swedish verb meaning to coffee and cake – sounds like my kind of thing!)
  • Communicate progress through Twitter, blog posts and video.

The final application itself is quite basic, but benefits from being so, and shows exactly what’s possible in such a short amount of time. It takes data from the University noticeboard and external sources and aggregates them into a browsable view within Facebook. The interesting part which shows the potential power of Facebook is the social aspects of the application – how it spreads amongst friends. The use of Facebook also allowed development to focus on the useful functionality because FB takes care of the core requirements:

Finding that writing a Facebook app means you don’t have to be concerned with user management and connecting people, it sounds obvious but it’s amazing how much time we spend on this in our other apps

Alison and the rest of the team have shown quite clearly through their blog the benefits Get Creative Week has brought to the team. Some have questioned how they are able to dedicate everyone’s time for a full week to “non-University work” but this is missing the point. All departments support their staff through professional development, away days and in learning new skills. Get Creative Week has all these benefits, in a more condensed form, plus develops the team as a whole as well as individuals.

There has already been interest from web teams across the country, and I’ll be grilling Alison further about her experiences this week while we’re at the CASE conference. Could it work at Edge Hill? Yes, I’m certain it would, but we shouldn’t just copy Bath, we need to be clear what we wish to get out of the project and that will determine the form it could take.

Granite, seagulls and a surprisingly warm Aberdeen

IWMWIt’s a week since myself, Andy, Sam and Steve Daniels were up in Aberdeen for IWMW 2008. I’ve already blogged about my parallel workshop session, the BarCamp-style sessions and my thoughts about the lack of blogging web teams while Andy has posted his top five lists (#4 worst thing: listening to Alison’s talk).

Everything I’ve written so far is – how can I put this – all about Edge Hill, so I figured it was time to post something that people might actually be interested in!

IMG_3271Unleashing the Tribe

The last plenary talk of the conference was by Ewan McIntosh, a former teacher who now advises on social media in the public and eduction sectors. A video of the talk is available online and a here’s a slidecast for a similar presentation delivered a couple of months ago:

If you’ve got time, go watch one of the presentations, and keep an eye out for the quote from our very own Tanya Byron:

The technology itself is not transformative. It’s school, the pedagogy that is transformative.

Sorry, I’ve brought it back to talking about Edge Hill again!

Ewan’s insight into how students use social networks is really interesting. He says this of how universities attempting to get into Bebo/MySpace/Facebook:

it’s like a creepy treehouse […] one where adults try to get youngsters to come in […] learn with my on my Bebo page.

He questioned the need to a Phd when you can demonstrate your experience so easily, citing a video by Johnny Lee demonstrating a really cool way of creating 3D images on a TV using a Wii remote.

Bath Web Services have run a session on managing your professional identity in the past – Ewan referred to persistence on the web – showing someone’s public Facebook profile which is critical of their employer and reminding us that students are probably saying the same sort of thing about universities, lecturers, tutors, even web services! I think we have a role to play in raising the profile of these issues with staff and students and I’d hope we can look into offering something similar to Bath in the not-to-distant future.

Mobile phones are popular. Really popular. Are we doing enough to cater for users accessing our sites in this way? Probably not yet, but we’ll have to offer something to mobile users (and I’ve got some thoughts about what we should be doing… we just need to find some time to do it!). Another cool video clip, this time showing a flashmob in Grand Central Station.

There’s a few other nuggets of information along the way, but I’ll let you find them yourself. Ewan’s talk was definitely one of the highlights of the conference for me and well worth watching.

IMG_3250Look Who’s Talking Now…

It would be amiss of me not to mention Alison Wildish’s plenary session. Once again, the video is online so you can see the presentation in full if you wish. At last year’s IWMW, Alison’s talk developed quite a lot of buzz around the work we’d done at Edge Hill (sorry, all about us again!) so the pressure was on to deliver again.

Instead of following up with more about her views on web services (personalisation, web 2.0, user generated content, blah, blah!), Alison spoke about the move to Bath and the differences to Edge Hill. There seemed to be some feedback last year that Edge Hill had it “easy” and that big/old/research universities have a whole different set of challenges that we simply didn’t have to face. Would she be eating her words now?

It was very interesting to see the comparisons and in many ways we do have it easy! The links between IT Services and Marketing, the focus on the student, and the freedom that we have to develop across web services is great! In other institutions where web services are far more decentralised it can be difficult to ensure high quality and consistency across the site.

The overall impression I got was more positive than you might otherwise assume. Once the commitment is there to manage web services more effectively it becomes possible to start developing all the cool stuff that the web has been promising for the last couple of years. We, I believe, are in that position so the task it to keep delivering!

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