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.
readMedia had the opportunity to sit down and chat with designer and illustrator, Philip Pascuzzo about his inspiration behind the readabout.me badge designs. Philip is the designer of the original Twitter bird logo and has created more than 300 book covers.
What were some of your inspirations for the readabout.me badge design
I wanted the badges to be immediately readable and iconic. My research lead me to Otl Aicher’s smart and elegant pictograms for the 1972 Olympics in Munich. The simplicity of these are very attractive and stand out among other Olympic pictogram designs. I was inspired by the colorful work of Lance Wyman’s pictograms for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. So the problem was making the read about.me badges colorful, fun and still very simple.
What is your favorite readabout.me badge and why?
The visual and performance arts badge has a sort of mid-century charm that I love. It was difficult at first to solve the problem of visually representing both of these activities on one badge. I’m glad I thought of an eye icon because it says a lot without being complicated at all. Adding human elements, emotion, and a sense of humor to these badges is what makes them work.
What was the most challenging badge topic to come up with a design for?
I think that the “Who’s Who” badge was the most challenging for me. I
presented some options that included a question mark at first. That approach
wasn’t working making it even more difficult. The final design is the
cleanest one out of the batch and I feel works great. Often the simplest
solution is the best, you just may need to get complicated before finding
How do you think you would react If you were still a student and your
school published one of your achievements online using a readabout.me badge,
considering your perspective as an artist/designer?
I would love it! I could probably convince my mom to buy me skateboard
equipment for every badge I receive. This almost game-like incentive is very
attractive and fun. Seeing the badges together is like a pretty mosaic of
your achievements. This sure beats the black and white piece of paper stuck
to the fridge with a magnet.
In your opinion, do you think there will be more of a demand for badges
in the graphic design world?
I really do since users love customizing and interacting with the internet
now more and more. People have always collected rewards for their
achievements. So a badge with a strong design should be a great little
readMedia customers who’ve watched our platform evolve over the last 18 months know that publicizing student achievements in social media is an authentic, powerful way to reach audiences online with positive brand messaging. Turning students (and parents!) into advocates by getting them to share stories of their own accomplishments at an institution is an engaging content strategy that gets results. These personalized stories, and the visual badges that accompany them, are a way to create “micro-virality” about the success of your students and expose all of their connections to the great opportunities available at your institution.
We love the standard set of readabout.me badges that accompany student achievement stories. Designed by Pepco Studios’ Phil Pascuzzo, designer of the original Twitter bird logo, these badges are colorful, engaging and look great in the Facebook newsfeed (plus they generate a ton of likes and comments — four times the average!). But, we also know that many institutions have worked hard to develop strict visual identity systems that incorporate elements of their brand — school colors, mascots, taglines. As a result, we’ve rolled out a new product: readMedia clients now have the opportunity to brand the achievement badges, and even design completely custom badges!
Dozens of our current clients — like Clemson University, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Marist College, Clarkson University, Union College in Kentucky, and Hudson Valley Community College — have all upgraded their readMedia subscriptions to include custom branding on readabout.me. By adding their institution’s name and colors to the existing readabout.me badges, or by having their internal graphics team design custom badges, these institutions and many more are ensuring that when students and parents share achievements online, the badges and the achievement are instantly recognizable and affiliated with the college.
In addition to badges that more closely match an institution’s visual identity, branding packages on readabout.me also include a landing page that aggregates and highlights achievements from that institution’s students. Colleges can design this landing page and link to its other social media properties and its web site.
When students don a college sweatshirt or affix a university window sticker to the back of their car, they’re showcasing their pride and affiliation with an institution. Customized branding on readabout.me allows institutions to ensure that type of affiliation is happening online, too. When a Clemson student shares an achievement that proudly bears a purple-and-orange Clemson badge, complete with the tiger paw, all of his or her Facebook friends connect that student and his or her achievement — be it making the president’s list, studying abroad, or earning a scholarship — with the institution where it occurred. And since the average achievement shared to Facebook generates 7 click-throughs back to the original story on readabout.me, colleges have an even stronger opportunity to drive prospects to their other social properties and web site via the readabout.me story.
If you’re interested in learning about how to add branding and custom badges to your institution’s readabout.me presence, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last summer, readMedia supercharged your subscription with an exciting new product: readabout.me, an application that’s the foundation of a powerful new strategic marketing tool for your institution and your brand. readabout.me unites social media, earned media and reputation management to create meaningful results in brand awareness, engagement and key institutional outcomes.
readabout.me has been a smashing success so far. Hundreds of thousands of people read the stories you’re creating about enrollment, dean’s list and graduation, and literally millions are exposed to them in social media—all as part of your readMedia subscription. Many colleges and universities are incorporating readabout.me into senior-level strategic planning to highlight the key programs and student outcomes that they want to promote.
The numbers have been staggering. Let me share one of the most surprising ones with you: despite the much-heralded “death of e-mail,” and the scuttlebutt we hear about how hard it is to get students to read messages from schools, 98% of students who open the email notification click through to view their achievement. That’s on top of more than 65% open rates, which are even higher for those of you who are actively marketing the readabout.me experience to students.
Not only do the students read the stories, they actively engage with them in their social networks. We’ll be rolling out more and better metrics this year to help you measure that engagement, but you should know that for every 1,000 achievements you create (e.g., a single Dean’s List with 1,000 students on it), more than 87,000 friends and family see that story and mesage on Facebook. These are just like Facebook’s new Sponored Stories, but you’re getting them for free!
We here at readMedia want you to get the most from your subscription and have created resources to help you do that. We have conducted dozens of senior level briefings over the past six months and encourage you to schedule one soon. Include your brand marketing leaders, your social media expert and even those charged with student success. The most productive briefings include participants from all departments charged with connecting your brand with outcomes. You will all find it worthwhile as a way to get the most from your subscription and benchmark your readMedia usage against your peers.
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.
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?
I’ve been working in higher education for nearly seven years, all at Tufts University. Before that, I worked in the online newsroom for The Boston Globe / Boston.com for three years right out of college at Boston University, where I studied journalism. One of the reasons I sought a job in higher ed communications was because of my experience as a student employee in the Alumni Publications office at BU. It seemed like such a smart, collegial work environment. I also sought the opportunity to feel that a closer connection to the mission and purpose behind the work I did everyday, and working in higher ed has provided that in spades. It’s a great feeling.
I’m still a bit of a newshound, and I confess to missing the high-adrenaline atmosphere of a newsroom, but I have really embraced the challenge of bringing a mainstream media mindset to higher ed web communications.
Can you tell me a little bit about your blog, Meet Content, and what motivated you to start it?
I co-founded Meet Content with Rick Allen in March of this year, but the idea formed at the end of last October. We had both presented on content-related topics at HighEdWeb and Stamats SIMTech, and we were energized by all the great conversations we had about content development and strategy at those conferences. It seemed to us that people in higher ed wanted to talk and learn about content-specific topics, and while we saw these topics get covered occasionally in other higher ed blogs, we felt there was a niche that we could fill.
Rick and I live in the same town outside of Boston, so literally on the cab ride home from the airport on the way back from SIMTech, we began cooking up the idea of what eventually became Meet Content. The response has been tremendous. From the feedback we’re getting, it seems like people have been hungry for a chance to focus on how to make better content in higher ed.
What would you recommend to someone in Higher Education that is just developing his or her content marketing and/or social media marketing strategy?
Listen, listen, listen. That includes listening to your constituents, your stakeholders, your colleagues, your industry peers. Listen and learn to find out what works, what doesn’t, what’s necessary, what’s possible, what’s not possible. Relatedly, make it a big tent. Find the other social media and/or content practitioners at your institution and creating a learning community. Help each other out, share resources and information, create efficiencies, learn from each other’s successes and failures.
My other bit of advice would be to think holistically. Don’t flesh out your big Twitter/Facebook/Foursquare strategy without thinking about how it impacts your website, how you promote it via your newsletter, and so on. We can’t think about these things in separate buckets anymore. Every channel, whether it’s a magazine or a Twitter account, is a spoke off of the common hub of getting out message out there. They’ve all got to work together to get the wheel turning.
What is the one misconception about content marketing and/or social media marketing in Higher Education that you would like people to understand?
This stuff is harder than it looks! It may not take long to actually craft a 140-character tweet (or 120-character if you want to leave room for retweeting :-)) but what does take time is thinking about how social media fits into your broader online communications strategy, how Twitter specifically helps execute those goals, building your editorial calendar, determining what resources are committed to maintaining that presence, monitoring and engaging and all the accordant responsibilities of community management… the list goes on!
It also takes a while for our efforts to pay dividends. A community isn’t built overnight. We can’t measure the effectiveness of our engagement on Twitter after a few weeks (and the whole question of measurement is another sticky wicket — my Reader’s Digest answer is that we need to identify the key stats we want to track, have a sense of why they’re important, track them over time and contextualize the numbers with exemplary anecdotes). We need to be patient, and implore our superiors to be patient. It’s not magic, despite what some may believe. But you know what? When it all comes together, it does add up to something pretty darned special.
Karlyn Morissette is the Director of Social Media at Southern New Hampshire University and staff writer for .eduGuru
DV: What was your biggest social media challenge at SNU this year?
KM: Live streaming. The challenge for us was that we had been doing all of our live streaming on an internal server; there were no social features. Politics on campus also made it difficult to change.
Jon Huntsman was our commencement speaker this year, and we really wanted to take advantage of this. It was his first big speech in New Hampshire, so we needed to make sure that we could live stream everything. We also had a lot of international and online students who couldn’t make it to commencement, so we wanted to live stream for them.
Basically, we ended up working some magic on internal politics and switched over to USTREAM. We brought in Seth Odell to handle live streaming for us. We took over the homepage and built a splash page with live photo uploads and a Twitter stream.
It was a lot of leg-work and politics, but it got done.
DV: Where do you think higher ed will be in 10 years?
KM: I really like the idea of taking customized classes and creating your own program. I think that online education is just taking off. It’s an effective medium that makes sense as a delivery method, and It’s really not all that much different from being in class. They’re also a lot cheaper for schools and have a much longer shelf life. I think for-profit colleges are going to have a really hard time, we’re going to see them take a back seat to what traditional colleges are going to put forward.
DV: What is your social media strategy?
KM: The first thing you have to do is listen to what students are saying — they’re all out there. Take the time to personally respond to students, it’s important to them and creates a relationship.
What I’m trying to do at SNU is to build one-on-one relationships with influential bloggers in different industries. Old school PR is sending out a press release and hoping as many papers pick it up as possible. When we have a news item, I’m not just going to send them a press release. I’m going to pick up the phone or send a personal email to pitch my story.