Using Mobile to Share Content en Route to Social Media Metrics & Privacy
In writing about key trends for 2011, I realized that I could jam many of the keywords for this post into its headline. So you wont be surprised when you learn that Im paying attention to mobile, content strategy, social media, metrics, and privacy.
I believe these issues have the potential to stir up a lot of discussion in education this year—at very least, among those of us who focus on marketing, branding, and online experience.
The economy isnt on my list. Its a huge issue for everyone—a constant reality of life these days that factors into every decision everyone is making. I dont expect things to get better soon, given whats happening in states like Texas. The economy is all the more reason to be clear and careful about how your institution approaches the important issues of the day.
1. The mobile web
OK, I know: some early adopters (@markgr and @dmolsen, I’m thinking of you here) will probably say that mobile was SO last year. I’ll agree, to the extent that there was a lot of buzz about mobile, especially apps, in 2010.
But an app is a niche strategy. You build an app to allow people who’ve already invested in you in some way (alumni, students, prospects) to do something that’s cool. But why would someone who doesn’t have a relationship with you download and install an app to use features on your website? And why would someone who has a relationship with you continue to use an app that doesn’t make their life easier in some way?
No, building an app isn’t the same as turning your attention to building a mobile website that really works. That’s not an easy thing to do, which is why it hasn’t happened to any large extent in education. It requires a website that’s already functioning well, not to mention vision, strategy, and budget to realize a highly functional mobile site.
I think that 2011 is the year when institutions will begin to take mobile sites seriously—and start to do something about them. [And, apparently, so does the Chronicle.]
2. Content is king, but won’t reign without strategy
I’ve always been proud of the fact that since our earliest days, mStoner has advocated (and practiced) strong web content embedded in an IA that makes it findable and with a backend that makes it easy to manage. Here’s one example of what I mean, from a blog post by my partner Voltaire Santos Miran from June 2003. Entitled “A different approach to content,” Voltaire wrote:
During a project evaluation meeting, one of our clients commented that the most significant benefit of our engagement was not so much the new site—with its clean interface and fresh content—but the process and workflow that we enabled them to put in place.
As early advocates of developing strong content, were gratified to see the “content strategy” meme developing in .edu. Is it too early to proclaim 2011 the year of content strategy in .edu? Maybe.
But I do believe we’ll see institutions focus on developing and sharing great content as never before. Which means that they’re going to have to take content strategy, information architecture, and content management seriously: that means planning for it, funding it, and developing processes that enable staff members to sustain it.
3. Social media, meet reality
Is it just me, or are you already sick of social spam—being asked to “like” this or that by your friends, not to mention being targeted by brands you care about only marginally to accept their crappy content in your Facebook stream? I wonder if this isn’t the year that consumers generally will start to get tired of all that friending, sharing, and (especially) liking, because they’re going to see a whole lot more of it as marketers jump on the social media bandwagon. [Read this post to see what teens think about being asked to like everything. And its only starting to happen!]
This is weirdly reminiscent of the days after everyone (finally) had email. And everyone tired of getting emails with earnest warnings about fake computer viruses. Now, maybe we’ll see consumers—regular users—start to exhibit engagement fatigue as social spam becomes as annoying and as easy to ignore as an email funds appeal is now.
A change in consumer perception and/or behavior will mean changes in the way that institutions engage constituents through social media. Many of a colleges constituents already have an emotional connection to their institution. Therefore, because they feel closer, connecting on Facebook may seem more comfortable than liking a brand like PriceChopper or Walmart.
Still, it’s time for institutions to take their friends and followers seriously and nurture them. That means focus, relevant content, and more staff attention. In this context, the approach that the Emory Alumni Association is taking to social media makes so much sense: they’re training staff to weave social channels into alumni outreach broadly and making sure that the content they offer alumni is something they really want.
And social media advocates: I’m a huge fan of SM (especially Twitter: you are following @mstonerblog, aren’t you????) but it’s time to be advocates for real, measurable outcomes for social media. It’s quality, not quantity, that should matter. And that’s a general theme anyway because in 2011:
4. Outcomes become really important. Really.
Why are we doing all the stuff we’re doing? Building websites, redeploying content, implementing content management systems, paying attention to Facebook pages, tweeting about the chancellor’s speech? Because we expect our efforts to contribute to some kind of outcome.
Well, it’s (past) time to be clear about the outcomes we’re working toward and then to focus our tactics and everything else we’re doing on making them reality. Maybe during a time of relative affluence, clear goals aren’t important. Maybe at one time it was acceptable not to develop success metrics and analytics programs to track them. That’s all changed. While I don’t buy into (all) the hype about edupocalypse, there isn’t an institution I know of that isn’t looking at cost cutting and saving money. So every initiative should have goals and measurable outcomes.
5. Real people start paying attention to privacy
Last year we witnessed a number of privacy gaffes widely covered by the tech press and blogged about by privacy nerds. And just last week, Facebook announced its decision to share phone numbers & home addresses of members with third-party app developers. And then rescinded it until it can be “better communicated.”
It’s not a question of whether Zuck & crew will ever learn. They’ve shown themselves to be extremely smart businesspeople who continually push members as far as they possibly can in pursuit of profits. The question is whether Facebook’s members are willing to accept this continuing abuse of their trust.
More and more people I know have stopped accepting “friend” requests from people they know only vaguely, have tinkered with their privacy settings to restrict access to their content and profiles, and, even then, still carefully consider what they share. Let’s see if this becomes a trend; I’m betting (make that: hoping) that it will.
And in case youre wondering what Facebooks reputed power users—teens and young adults—are doing, danah boyd speaks and writes about the ways in which teens manage their privacy on social sites like Facebook. Check out this blog post in which she describes innovative strategies that teens use to game Facebook’s (lack of) privacy controls. Lets hope that more and more adults follow that lead.