Monday, October 8, 2012

Stop looking through windows: social media in higher education

In discussing the roles of a new communications director for a College of Agriculture, a colleague said "We still have a need to do some of the traditional things like press releases, but we need to get into social media for marketing and branding."

My response was "That is all good, except social media is much more than that. A communications director for an educational institution should understand that social media should be used for education." Why is it that we always look for the marketing aspects? Every organization should consider the educational component and the ability to connect with others as integral parts of purpose and strategy of using social media.

Education institutions, in particular, need to look at social media as ways to further our educational mission. The big four--Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube--can be used but so can many other tools, like blogging, curation, and collaboration tools. Part of understanding how social media can be integrating into education is learning to how let go.

Improving the speed and quality of research via shared algorithm implementationsSharing educational resources and discussing in the open can enhance both education and research efforts. Students and serious amateurs* contributing to content, ideas, and research can confirm that we are on the right track and that more diverse ideas can spread faster, speeding innovation and research.

Communications units at educational institutions should be helping faculty learn how to effectively use open online tools and support them as they become involved in online social environments.

If social media and online tools are effectively used connecting with others, expanding education, enhancing our own learning and research, then the marketing and branding will be embedded within those efforts, making the formal marketing and branding campaigns easier.

Looking at social media as marketing tools only is like believing that looking through windows helps you understand what is in the trees.

Partial lyrics from Breakdown by Jack Jackson:

But you can’t stop nothing if you got no control 

Of the thoughts in your mind that you kept and you know 

That you don’t know nothing but you don’t need to know 

The wisdom’s in the trees not the glass windows 

You can’t stop wishing if you don’t let go 

Photo credit:

*Jerry Buchko uses this term to describe the value of inclusion of others in education, research, and outreach.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Something stinks (or is mediocre)

Kwality RoundupIn this post called Reality Management, common problems in practice in a  restaurant, and in business, are described.
  • Distracted Leader 
  • Ambiguity 
  • Aimless Direction 
  • Something Stinks
The last point stuck out to me as something we often overlook when we talk about marketing, online content, and our organization's work. If something stinks, or if we are mediocre and are so very general that we are like everyone else, flashing how good we are means nothing, or at least very little.

In the reality restaurant example, the offensive odor maybe spoiled fruit. Is our content is stale or so old and general it gives even a mild offensive odor? Is the odor the carpet? Is the writing and presentation just bad or boring?

We can create a fantastic meal but if the stale odor permeates the experience, then the meal is not enjoyed or or the customer just walks away.

Heaven forbid that the meal itself stinks.

I don't think everything, or even most of what we do, we do stinks--far from it. But, when our redundant and stale content gets seen over the good and excellent content, we create unpleasant environment, and we lessen our credibility.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Social media is not marketing

When I tell people my title, Social Media Strategiest, many react with similar responses. "So, you are in marketing?" or "You market programs (Extension programs) through Facebook?"

Marketing and communications departments have been ordained the keeper of social media in most organizations. This means in many cases, marketing has tackled social media like they approach any marketing project with campaigns and broadcast dissemination.

Social media is not marketing, as the telegraph is not marketing, television is not marketing, and the telephone is not marketing. Marketing can exploit these tools but the tools do not belong exclusively to marketing.

Wikipedia uses a definition of social media from Kaplan and Haenlein. To understand this definition you have to understand the definition of Web 2.0 and user-generated content.

Social media includes web-based and mobile based technologies which are used to turn communication into interactive dialogue between organizations, communities, and individuals. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein define social media as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content." Social media is ubiquitously accessible, and enabled by scalable communication techniques.
I rather like the definition that Kevin Gamble and his colleagues used in an internal survey.
Social media refers to the various networked technologies that enable people to easily connect with other people for the purpose of communication, collaboration, learning, and the sharing of resources.
Terms "social business" and "social learning" are springing up, suggesting that the social part--the engagement--is important to other functions, such as customer service, sales, human resources, professional development, research, and development, to name a few. THREE CHEERS to those using social media for purposes other than marketing. Though there have been indications that social media is more than marketing for a long time, it seems that social tools are now getting some traction (though not enough) of being recognized for their value of social engagement across the organizational functions.

What are the possibilities when organizations understand and embrace the power of listening, sharing, cooperating, collaborating, and co-creating inside and outside the walled gardens--permeating the walls?

What are the possibilities when organizations fail to understand and embrace the power of social media throughout the organizations? The risk of failing to see and respond is greater than the risk of trying and finding ways that make sense for the organization.

Social media can be anything that uses tools to share, cooperate, converse, collaborate, and co-create. Organizations and professionals still don't really have a clear direction in how to use social media. Unfortunately, most don't think beyond the big four--Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn. There are many tools that allow for public and private sharing (just as the big four have elements of some privacy options).

There are many tools that allow intra-organizational sharing and collaboration within their walled gardens. In Getting Beyond Simple Social, Thomas Vander Wal talks of five areas that he asks when organizations become stuck in using social business tools. Is getting stuck related to:
  • The person
  • How humans are social
  • Cultural influences - or cross cultural issues
  • Organizational constraints
  • Problems with the tools / service
Vander Wal's list tells us that technology is only one of the five reasons why plateaus happen in organizations' social systems. Through his experience, he sees that "getting stuck" in using social systems usually happens for more than one reason. We have to think beyond the tool, yet the tool is important.

In an IBM study "If You Don't Have a Social CEO, You're Going to be Less Competitive" (Forbes), it is predicted that in 5 years 57% of CEOs will be using social media. CEOs are beginning to understand that email and phone communications are no longer sufficient. Why? Because the knowledge and information shared on the phone and email are stopped within the tool. CEOs and others are beginning to understand that using social technologies help engage with customers, suppliers and employees which will enable organizations to be more adaptive and agile.
Those organizations that see social media as something that can reach across and bridge functions and find value in seeing their customers as part of their organizations are the ones that will find the quickest and greatest benefits. Organizations that see innovation as a two way street will reap the benefits.

The tools, the media, are the enabling pieces. To capitalize and to benefit from social media is to understand that being social means engaging. Social generally means working in small circles. Communicating in large circles becomes much more akin to broadcasting. In most cases, it is through small close circles in making information viral.

This post is not about being against marketing using social media. This post is that social media is a lot more than marketing. In the process of the engagement that occurs in social spaces, marketing is achieved. In a recent conversation with Karen Jeannette, she talked about sharing success stories on the Master Gardener blog is more like public relations and marketing than education. This is great example where the focus is education and most posts are educational. but success stories are mostly marketing and public relations that have an opportunity to be educational. Often with educational posts and sharing marketing can be achieved.

Social tools allow for integration and cutting through silos in ways we have never had before. While reducing the silo effect is exciting, achieving this goal will happen when there is a mindset that allows for social integration and diversity.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fighting and loving

On Monday, we will be attending funeral services for to my brother-in-law, Cliff Bishop.

Cliff was a hero and a fighter. He served as a Marine in the Vietnam War where received two Purple Hearts.

He fought for his health the entire time we have known him. Some of his health issues were related to the injuries that he endured during the war. Nancy and Cliff have had an incredible love and commitment to each other. They were perfect for each other. I don’t say that lightly—they were. I truly believe the love they had for each other is very rare. He adored her, supported her, listened to her, and cared for her. 

She was his constant and never yielding caregiver. The best adjective for Nancy is strong. My mother has said many times in the last few years, “I just don’t know how much a body can take” referring to Cliff’s struggles. In that sentiment, she was also making a statement of how much pressure, work, time, sacrifices, and emotions my sister was giving and the possible toll Cliff’s health was taking on my sister. Certainly their faith held them close and strong.

Cliff adored Nancy from the early dating days to his last moments. My extended family spent a few days of Christmas holidays at the beach this year. Cliff struggled with what he ate, his energy level, and his overall health, at Christmas, as he had for many years. But, though he was not well, he was always kind and gentle to Nancy in all of his conversations. He touched her lovingly and called her sweet names, including “Beautiful”. His eyes told everyone present he was still very much in love with Nancy. Nancy gives this advice to all her nieces, “Don’t marry anyone who does not adore you”--wonderful advice from someone who knows what it is like to be adored.

Though they would have made great parents, they never had children. Cliff told Nancy that he felt that her nieces and nephews were his own. He particularly enjoyed working with Owen and Ellen (the two who lives in the same town) and having them over at their house.  Always supportive thinking of our kids, he and Nancy would bake cookies and desserts, made especially for the kids.

Cliff was a wonderful carpenter—one who was not satisfied unless it was perfect. The results of his skills will last decades and decades in homes in Alabama, Georgia, and Texas. He was also a perfectionist in the kitchen. His chocolate chip recipe is example of his perfection, describing down to the number of seconds one should beat the batter before adding the next ingredient.

Cliff was a fighter. He fought for his country, for his health, and for every breath he made in his last few hours. Cliff modeled how to love a wife, to adore her, to fight, and to live when life throws you one difficulty after another. Their pastor, Randy Tucker, told Nancy an hour after Cliff passed away, “Cliff influenced many people, not only in his healthy years, but also when and how he struggled with his own health.”

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reflections of a Personal Learning Workshop

When I was contacted to do a workshop at the North Central Leadership Conference on personal learning. I was really excited about this workshop because it is not like ones I have done before and I have lived and experienced tremendous jumps in my own personal learning through my online work.

I was not prepared for my inability to link my own experiences and my own working online to the personal learning development of others. Some who attended the workshop said it was "good" but for me and watching the lack of participation, the workshop was lackluster.  I did not see a lot understanding or enthusiasm.

Throughout the workshop I emphasized you must do, Though I did not spend a lot of time on applications I did mention them as part of the "doing" and "being" in the online space. I talked about developing an ability to connect with others, unlike yourself, and using the knowledge and sharing of others to develop your own personal development. I talked about how sharing makes the connections stronger.

I also discussed personal learning is up to the individual. Personal learning is not developed or mapped from the professional and staff development department. I wanted people in the room to think and discuss. Evidently I was not motivating enough or did not draw a clear of enough path to lead to discussion.
Personal learning is a series of activities that is mostly a crooked path. No one's path is like any other. The personal learning path, through connections with others, is an accumulation of reading, connecting, discussing, and experiencing along the way that helps one makes sense of concepts, patterns, research, and overabundance of information.

Personal learning is entirely individualistic. Jane Hart discusses this in context of organized learning and she quotes Jay Cross in his description that the individual is in control.
“Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way most people learn to do their jobs. Informal learning is like riding a bicycle: the rider chooses the destination and the route. The cyclist can take a detour at a moment’s notice to admire the scenery or help a fellow rider.”
Thus the highly individualistic and emerging learning happens when the learner allows it to happen and creates opportunities to learn. There lies the problem in encouraging others who "don't get it" because they have never experienced an aha moment or a gradually realization or personal or informal learning.

It seems that not until one experiences the "lightbulb" moment through listening or through connecting (which involves listening) does one understand the power of personal learning, the power of being in control of their own learning. Sharon Boller wrote in a tweet about serendipitous opportunities, learning, and listening.

"It is a lightbulb moment when you realize the big gain in social is the listening. 

As I begin to rethink the workshop and as I have a few more on my plate, I am looking for better ways of inciting the understanding and responsibility of one's own learning.

Here are the articles that I used in a someway for preparing for the presentation.

And a final note, I encouraged folks in the workshop to join or follow the Network Literacy Community of Practice.

  • Network Literacy Community of Practice web site.
  • Follow fictional character Alex NetLit on Twitter as she learns about using networks online.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

My own serendipitous opportunities

His friend, the butterfly
Serendipity has helped me discover a world that I would have never known before.

It is through many accidental intentions that I have come to realize that when I put myself in places I am uncomfortable is when I learn and enjoy the most. My lessons are learned not only from my online activities but those are the ones that I will emphasis today.

In 2007 I started blogging with the intention of learning and trying to determine if blogging and other online tools could be useful for my organization.

I did not ask my organization, I just did it.  At that time it could have ended badly for me because I was blind of what was possible. Blogging and connecting led to Google Analytics, Delicious, Flickr, Slideshare, Twitter, and now Google Plus. There are many applications that have been useful for a short while and then either their usefulness to me (not to all) died or they died (Google Wave, Buzz, Friendfeed).  I quickly learned the value of open sharing which led me to Creative Commons, open source, open education, and open science.

Early in my blogging, I realized that writing what I was learning was important because others, particularly for colleagues across the country, were looking how social media (was more often called Web 2.0) worked and wanted demonstrations of how being online was useful. Since then, many of my colleagues are online, but not nearly enough. Some of those online are in there because of direct or indirect influence I have had. Ironically, when I began I did not really intend to lead people to online engagement because I was not even convinced myself.

It is not logical nor am I egotistical enough to think that all of my colleagues who are online today were directly or indirectly influenced by me. Our organization is full of smart people, and obviously, many are savvy enough to see the writing on the wall.

There are those who have told me recently that in 2008 they thought I was crazy (really they thought I was crazy). One local colleague told me that when I mentioned those weird titles (blog, tweet, Twitter, Flickr, Delicious), I was off my rocker. She also indicated that they thought I did not understand their local work. She then hit me with the "however". Today, she, her friends, her mother, and her colleagues are on Facebook. They now see "Like us on Facebook" and"'Follow us on Twitter" everywhere.

I was glad to hear when she said that her closest colleagues admitted that "Anne told us first". I guess I am more vain than I would admit.

Yet, the most important development of being online and placing myself in unlikely circles is where I have gained the most value.

If there is one mistake people and organizations (all organizations-not for profit, for big profit, government, and education) make in creating an online presence, it is the idea that one will begin talking and people will immediately listen and react. There is so much noise that to be heard is hard, and it is even harder to influence people to react (to buy, read further, be convinced of your message, and change their behavior.).

But, the biggest loss is the opportunity cost of listening and learning. The foreign places-foreign in the sense I have never been there--are where I have the greatest leaps in understanding and grasping of the potential. I cannot imagine not knowing what I have learned in serendipitous encounters.

Some of the biggest realizations of personal growth that I have learned by being in areas that were once outside of my comfort area are:
  • There is power in sharing the work of others. I don't have to be original. This realization was a relief because I am not very creative. 
  • There is potential of growth, innovation, and connections in open sharing, education, and research. I use Creative Commons work quite often. 
  • I never know when I have been or could have been influential.
  • I never know how the next person I meet online or face to face will give me idea or influence my thinking.
  • I can learn from those who are at the polarized ends, though they are adamant, pushy, and sometimes obnoxious, and they gripe on my nerves. 
  • Hearing diversity in thought can give clarity. Listening and conversing with people who are not like me and who think differently than I and who have many different experiences helps me grow in understanding. 
  • It is hard, yet valuable, to cut through the emotion and focus on context and content. 
  • I have learned and dugged little deeper into Cynefin (because of Kevin Gamble). This means with any problem I listen for elements of the problem, and how people react. We want too often to make a problem simple or complicated or we try to make it complex when it is simple or complicated. We often to give a rule or a best practice when the problem is really complex and there is no simple answer. I met some very impressive people who range from consultants, high ranking government, and doctors because of my attending Cynefin workshops. I continue to learn from those who are in this community. I am constantly listening to stories for hints of domains.
  • What I learned does not always apply.
  • There is a difference in the first ones on the curve and the mainstream. Thanks to Thomas Vander Wall who helped me understand social comfort and discomfort of the mainstream. There is a real social reluctance of an all open environment. Thus, the earlier point about open sharing does not always apply.
  • There is power in the ask. When asked, most people will respond to your questions and are willing to discuss their work. In December 2007 I was looking for music for an Aminoto Christmas card video. Danny Maher, a retired musician in the UK, who I never met and more than likely will never meet, gave me his own music to use. Several years later, I am still grateful.
  • We could all learn from those who are good as sales. I know I will get grief from my research and education friends over this thought. 
  • I have yet to find a extremely negative outcome to trying a new application. And, there seems to be no negative outcome in quitting applications. 
  • I find out about new applications through strangers.
  • I have learned more about agriculture, financial, legal, marketing, public relations, sales, and music industries, as well as startups and consulting through connecting with strangers.
  • The best approach to connecting to someone is to listen (to read) and observe their interactions before engaging in a conversation. This is my approach is helpful both in my online and face to face introductions. 
  • A too conservative approach limits the opportunity for learning, understanding, and growing. I am not naive to believe every person is kind and gives helpful information with their every breath. 
  • Question people's statements if you dont understand or think they are too assumptive. 
  • There are limits as to how much I can comprehend in one time period.
  • Over time I have evolved and that is okay.
  • I rely more heavily on the work of and links from people I know to be credible and sensible than information I find in search.
  • The kindness and appreciation of strangers, acquaintances, and closer connections are always uplifting.
  • For organizations to transition takes time and that the length of time is probably no reflection of my inability to influence. 
  • Email is misused; email is necessary; email is not dead though for some activities it should be; and I need to adjust the way I use email. 
  • My advice to getting involved online has been all of the following: go where the people are, experiment, be yourself, share personal thoughts to be real, optimize dead time, set goals, match online activities to goals, match online goals to organization's goals, prioritize your time online, set filters, and downtime leads to creative thoughts. All of this advice is appropriate, and not appropriate, and not easy nor clearly defined.
  • Serendipity can result in hearing stories from strangers. These strangers may stay strangers, or become acquaintances, professional resources or friends. The fun is never knowing which it will be.  
  • I learned to "be the ball" (thanks to Kevin Gamble).
  • Before becoming the "the ball",  I realized that I have to get on the golf course (be the ball is a Caddy Shack reference) which is may or may not lead to serendipity. Without putting myself in places that are new to me, I would never have understood the value and joy of serendipity. 
Putting myself into places (online and physical places) where serendipitous discoveries can happen is not efficient, and of course, cannot be planned. Serendipity helped me discover people, concepts,  and ideas that I would have never known before. Relationships--online, physical, mixed, new and old--and time and space are not easily planned. Serendipity does not map to set goals or plans. Instead serendipity has surprised me with energy, thoughts, knowledge, ideas, concepts, realizations, experiences, and relationships.

I don't usually write in first person, but I can't describe serendipity in any other way.