As a soon-to-be-grad of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY (Yikes!), I can honestly say that the next few months will be very bittersweet. As I walk around campus for my last 30 days as a Marist student, I look at it through a retrospective lens. I’ve accomplished so much here, and I’m ready to conquer the field of public relations. I have truly learned so much about myself academically, socially, and professionally through achievements at Marist, and I’m happy that I can celebrate them online with readabout.me. As a member of the class of 2012, I know we’re only at the infancy of learning more about the importance of building a positive online reputation, and the ability to display college achievements are the perfect way to begin.
When I first returned to Marist’s campus after a semester abroad in January 2011, I was encouraged by professors, classmates, and advisors to explore new social media networks, a dynamic that I was isolated from while in Europe. During this time, I considered myself “technologically incompetent,” as I was not knowledgeable about digital or online media. However, once I began discovering social media’s potential and its relevance to the positive career opportunities, I became so intrigued that I could not stop exploring.
When I develop a passion for something, I desire to share its benefits with others. This excitement prompted me to host and coordinate Marist’s first TweetUp. As I began to discuss the TweetUp through tweets to Marist social media users, I was stunned by their enthusiasm towards the event that would assist the community in effectively utilizing social media, and introduce them to the benefits of a strong online presence.
The TweetUp was not only a break through for me, but also for the Marist online community. Social media helped me to arrive at my first moment where I felt that I had something important to contribute, and I could make a difference. I was overwhelmed by support I received from classmates and Twitter followers. When Marist’s former chief public affairs officer approached me to become the Marist’s readMedia Student Ambassador, I jumped on the opportunity to help students celebrate their achievements and share accomplishments with future employers.
readMedia’s achievement platform gives me this same good feeling. I’m happy to know that my achievements are still recognized by Marist College, even after I’m gone. The badges are like an “I was here” stamp, and a chance to show perspective students what they can do too. I’m so proud to be a member of the Marist College community, and adding the readabout.me link to my other social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, is a great way to share my pride with family, friends, and perspective employers.
Every story you send out on the readMedia platform automatically creates a personalized achievement online for your students – this achievement is created from the single format template you create in your account. The personalized achievements live on readabout.me [see example]. At readabout.me students can share their achievements on Facebook and Twitter [see example]. Students can even claim their achievement and attach a photo [see example].
The students’ individual achievements are then rolled up into a professional, powerful online profile on readabout.me that shows the great things their involved in on campus. Each time you send out an achievement for a particular student, it will automatically attach to their readabout.me profile [See example].
All achievements on readabout.me are awarded a unique “badge of approval” by readMedia to show that they’ve been verified by your institution. The badges are a visual representation of the achievement.
Students can’t find their achievements online if you don’t notify them!
Student emails: the most important piece of the puzzle
To notify students that you’re acknowledging their achievement, you must include their email addresses in the spreadsheet you upload to the readMedia platform. Your students will automatically receive an email that directs them to their achievement on readabout.me.
The notification comes from your email address and it contains a list of the newspapers the achievement was sent to [see example]. You can even notify mom and dad by simply putting each email address in a separate column.
All you have to do is press send and readMedia takes care of the rest!
Why is readabout.me important for my college or university?
readabout.me is a powerful strategic marketing tool for your institution and your brand. It unites social media, earned media and reputation management to create meaningful results in brand awareness, engagement and key institutional outcomes.
See how colleges and universities are promoting readabout.me on campus.
Why is readabout.me important for students?
readabout.me creates a positive online identity for students. It helps people who make decisions about internships, grad school, and jobs find the “good stuff” about them.
Your readMedia subscription is not just a media relations tool. Contact us to learn how other colleges and universities are positioning readMedia and readabout.me in their overall communication plan and how your subscription supports marketing and branding objectives, enrollment, and student outcomes.
This is the third post in a series aimed at showing you how our best clients are using readMedia for maximum results.
Strategic Tip #3: Turn recurring student achievements into automatic hometowners each semester.
While each college or university has their own unique student activities and achievements happening on campus, there are certain activities that will occur every semester, year after year.
Mapping out a content strategy of student activities and achievements to the school year will help you identify the hometowners you should be sending every semester. To get started, take a look what goes on during every month of the semester and pick out the recurring events.
Here are a few examples of activities that you should acknowledge every semester:
After you’ve mapped out your content strategy, you should reach out to the activity coordinators to inform them of readabout.me. The goal is to create a procedure so you can quickly obtain your information every semester. All you need is a list of the students involved and generic content about the activity.
Now a quick email to the coordinators at the beginning of each semester will serve as a reminder. And since your templates are saved in your Hometown Newsmaker Account, you can simply reuse your templates every semester.
To help you get started, we’ve created a calendar of recurring student achievements.
Facebook is getting a facelift, and the implications for colleges who rely on fan pages as their primary method of outreach on the social network are grim.
The two most dramatic changes are the introduction of Timeline and an overhaul of the news feed. The Timeline reimagines the traditional Facebook profile and will give users a way to highlight significant life events.
Changes to the news feed are significant. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm will now determine which stories are “Top News” and place those prominently in a user’s news feed, while relegating “unimportant” news to the fast-moving “Ticker” in the upper right corner. EdgeRank emphasizes relationships and prioritizes content from close friends over that from brands or fan pages.
What does this mean for colleges? Well, if you rely on your fan page, your content may not even reach your fans anymore. That’s right — it may never show up in their news feeds! Early results show a significant drop in impressions since the changes to news feed rolled out.
Chasing after fans is no longer relevant — and even before the changes, most brands were only reaching between 3% – 7.5% of fans. What’s now key is getting your stakeholders to share your branded content in their own news feeds. This gets your messaging in front of their “social graph” and builds awareness of your institution, without relying on a fan page at all. More than 80% of high school students find out about colleges from someone they know — and the people that they know are on Facebook. Imagine if your students were constantly posting to Facebook about the opportunities and activities they’re participating in at your college — all in a way that included your branding and messaging — and their younger friends still in high school were seeing this content, just as they’re deciding where to apply?
Getting Ahead of the Changes
The 400 colleges using readMedia’s platform are doing exactly that, and they’re ahead of the game when it comes to Facebook. Our clients are recognizing the achievements of their students with visual badges that are easily shared to Facebook and that link back to stories on readabout.me. These stories contain content and messaging from their universities.
This type of content is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the revamped EdgeRank algorithm — the stories are personalized about each student, so they’re relevant and more likely to be shared (versus generic stories, like breaking ground on a new campus building). EdgeRank is driven by people engaging with content — and student achievements get lots of attention, engagement, and comments.
These achievements and badges become the digital equivalent of a student affixing a college window sticker to the back of their car, or walking around wearing a college sweatshirt — students are affiliating themselves with their university in a positive way, so that all their (Facebook) friends can see.
And, with the Timeline’s focus on life events, what are the most significant events for college students that are likely to make it onto their timeline? Enrolling in college, studying abroad, being inducted to Phi Beta Kappa, graduating — student achievements are key life events and memorializing those with badges and stories increases your college’s chance of a student including the event on their Timeline.
We’re continuing to compile research and best practices from our clients and beyond as to how these new Facebook changes will impact higher ed communications and marketing. (If you’d like to receive a free briefing on what we’ve discovered so far, sign up here: http://bit.ly/FBbriefing). But one thing is clear: if fan pages are your institution’s only foothold on Facebook, it’s time to rethink your strategy.
Welcome back! This is the second post in a series on Strategic Tips for Hometown Newsmaker.
Strategic Tip #2: Inform your students
You should inform your students that you’ll be promoting their college accomplishments in their local newspapers and online at readabout.me. Not only will your students (and their family) be excited that you’re recognizing their achievements, it will also increase social sharing rates of their stories to Facebook and help you create positive impressions about your brand among their communities and connections.
You should start off by sending out an email to all of your students telling them to expect emails from you with links to their personalized achievement stories through the year. You can support the email by posting an article in your newsletter, blog or using social sites.
Here’s a comment that was left on our site from a student that just found out her school will be promoting her achievements:
“I can’t wait until my schools starts to post all of my achievements.
It’ll be nice to be noticed for working so hard!”
— Kim, Northwest Mississippi Community College
Sample email to help get you started:
[NAME OF COLLEGE] wants to make sure that you’re recognized for your achievements. The university has started using a platform called readabout.me to publicize your accomplishments, like making the dean’s list, completing a study abroad program, or winning a scholarship. This platform allows us to send news items about your achievements back to your hometown newspapers, and also publishes them on the web.
Your online reputation is important – 75% of employers Google an applicant’s name at some point in the hiring process. By using readabout.me, [NAME OF COLLEGE] will help ensure that you have a positive online profile and that employers can easily discover your achievements.
When [NAME OF COLLEGE] issues news stories about your accomplishments, you’ll receive an email with a link to view your story online. You can connect with Facebook and add your photo and share your achievement with friends and family.
You always have the option to “opt-out” of publicity about your success by following the university’s opt-out process. Click here to opt-out. [Insert a link to direct students to your institution’s opt-out process]
We look forward to celebrating your achievements with your local hometown media and online at readabout.me. Keep up the good work and be on the lookout for emails about your accomplishments!
Things to keep in mind:
Students do not have to “opt-in” for you to write stories about their accomplishments. The information that is used to create hometown news stories is considered “directory information” and is covered under FERPA.
You’ll want to review your institution’s policy for students who choose to “opt-out” of directory information freshman year. You should always ask the registrar to filter your spreadsheet so it doesn’t include students that have opted-out.
Do your students already know that you’re recognizing their achievements?
Hometown Newsmaker started as a product to make it easy for colleges to send group announcements like dean’s list to local newspapers. But over the past few years, it’s eclipsed this tactical purpose and is becoming a strategic grassroots marketing tool and a way to build the online reputation of your students — on the web at readabout.me, via social networks like Facebook, and in local, hometown media.
Working with readMedia clients over the past few months, I’ve realized that those who are most successful are the colleges who have made a conscious switch from using Hometown Newsmaker as a tactical tool to embracing it as a strategic one.
In the next series of blog posts, I’ll share how some of our best clients are using the platform for maximum results.
Strategic tip #1: You Need to Re-think the Concept of Hometown News
Hometown news is moving away from press releases. Sure, the traditional function of hometown news is still important, but what it has really turned into is a content strategy with the opportunity to create a grassroots marketing cycle.
Hometown News is all about recognizing all kinds of achievements in a personalized way, and providing each student with a link to their achievement online at readabout.me (where your students’ personalized online achievements live) to share via Facebook, Twitter or email — this gets positive stories about your institution into the social graphs of your students.
Beyond Dean’s List and Graduation
Using Hometown Newsmaker to only publish achievements like dean’s list and graduation is a missed opportunity. Our most successful clients are those who treat all kinds of student accomplishments and activities as a chance to recognize and promote their students and the opportunities available at their institution.
Today’s millennial-generation students are used to receiving praise and recognition for everything they do — any many of their college activities are indeed praise-worthy.
Stories that in the aggregate seem trivial to include in your online newsroom or pitch to national reporters (like 300 students being inducted into an honor society) are all important achievements to individual students and their family. When these stories become personalized, they’re more meaningful and more likely to be shared.
If you’re a student or a parent, are you more like to share a story from the university newsroom about a groundbreaking on a new wing of the science building, or a story about you or your daughter winning a scholarship?
Colleges who make the most out of Hometown Newsmaker are constantly taking stories about large groups of students and their activities or achievements and creating personalized, hometown news stories from them. You can probably take a look at your current newsroom and find you have dozens of stories you already write in the aggregate that could easily be broken down into personalized hometowners. Here are some great examples:
- UNL students making Cornhusker Marching Band (260 individual stories)
- Washington College welcoming all incoming Freshmen (534 individual stories)
- Georgia Tech students earn Faculty Honors (451 individual stories)
- Malone University students spend summer abroad (77 individual stories)
Hometown News 2.0
Hometown news is classic refrigerator journalism. Local newspapers still love and value this type of content from colleges about local residents. People clip out these stories, pass them around, stick them up on the refrigerator. But today, Facebook is the online refrigerator door. Make sure that your hometown news strategy involves lots of opportunities for students and parents to post their achievements to their wall and share their success with their friends and family.
What type of content can you give students and parents that they will want to share and brag about?