Getting out of your social media rut

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As the guy who essentially runs all of the content for my institution’s social media, I come across this hole… this abyss… this cavernous breach that I want to call the capital-O Office. It’s the physical form: your actual office space where you sit on your computer looking for content. But it’s also the theoretical form: meetings, division politics, planning, etc.

When you’re in higher-ed, it is so easy to lose sight of the fact that you work at a school where students live and breathe. And it’s not your fault, because getting caught up in the behind-the-scenes of your job is very easy to fall into, especially in the social media field, where lots of planning and boss meetings happen. But you need to be in front of the scene, alongside your audience.

So when you’re feeling like content isn’t coming to you as easily, or you’re not feeling at one with the spirit of your audience, I try to do these things. Some are simple, some require lots of strategy/planning (and as resources, they might not be easily attainable yet).

1. Work remotely from somewhere else on campus

The beauty of social media is that it can done from wherever, as long as there is wi-fi. And if you’re on campus, you’ll most likely find wi-fi anywhere. Find a seat at your campus coffee shop and work from there the whole day. Or set up shop at a table in the student union. A lot of times working from where all the action happens inspires new ideas and possibilities for content. Depending how large the university/college is, there’s probably be so much untapped content that you can fill up an entire content calendar for the month with. Try doing this 2-3 times a week.

2. Walk around campus

This is closely tied to working remotely, but spending 30 minutes of your day walking around campus might yield some really interesting results. It’ll get you out of the office darkness (I have no windows in mine) and get you in the mix of campus life. Maybe there’s a student-run farmer’s market happening and you didn’t even know about it. Or carry your phone with you and take photos of peculiar parts of campus.

3. Student Interns

This is a do-able feat, but it does require some legroom, and enough reasons needed to present to higher-ups. The benefit of having student interns is that they’re your audience, and they’re on the ground. They’re living campus life, so having one or two interns who attend events, and are savvy about social media, will definitely benefit you content-wise. You might not be able to pay them with money, but maybe reward them in other ways. Read Rob Engelsman’s post on creating a student social media army for Ithaca college, where he rewards students with pizza. Who doesn’t want pizza?

4. Student Affairs liaison

This can be a tricky position as far as where it falls, HR-wise. This person can either be working in Student Affairs already, and is almost like an informant for you on all-things students. Whether it’s events, initiatives, etc. Problem with this model is that since they don’t technically work in your division, communication with you is second priority next to their work queue. The other model has a PR/Marketing manager handling all Student Affairs-related initiatives under your division. This requires lots of flex and convincing with higher-ups on whether they think it’s a good investment, resource-wise. Strike a close relationship with them so you’re on top of everything student-related.

5. Go to an event

Don’t get caught up in 9-5 work life. Being a social media manager isn’t that. It’s usually a 24/7 job, so with that said, attend sports games, pep rallies, orientation. These are huge student spirit events that will get you in the thick of student life. Talk to students, introduce yourself… you might end up finding a possible intern.

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Questions: If you move to another city and come back to visit Miami, whats the first place you’d go eat?

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I’m really bad with starting things up and keepin it going… more the latter part than the former. Like this blog… I wish I could post everyday but I’m just, either not in the writing mood, or I’m just too busy!

So this is a QUESTIONS series where I will ask a question on Twitter, and compile the answers and write about what I found.

Today I went and asked a question that inspired, I think, a really nice answer thread. My friend Ramon, who moved to New York almost a year ago, is back in town and he visited a Miami food staple: Mary’s Coin Laundry… a place that is seriously a part-time laundry joint, and part-time Cuban cafeteria. One of those places you’ll only ever see in Miami.

I love this idea, though, of moving away from home, and coming back to visit and having to absolutely positively go to a specific food spot. A spot that is essential to your being, and home wouldn’t be home without eating a meal from this place. It’s probably how you would identify your favorite place to eat in a city, right? It has the comfort food element, as well as the significance/context.

So I asked on Twitter: If you move to another city and come back to visit Miami, whats the first place you’d go eat at?

Here are some answers (by the way, my joints would probably be Sports Grill-Hammocks and/or El Mago de las Fritas… and La Carreta)

stephen

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aileen

armando

jon

yannick

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Natalie

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Obviously, I’m from Miami, so most of these answers are Cuban places. Islas Canarias and Palacio de los Jugos are pivotal Cuban joints. Sports Grill, of course, is a must for me at least. Sports bars are pretty basic, but the food is what makes it stand apart from others– Sports Grill has amazing wings.

But then there are some answers that are very basic… places like Samurai and The Local. Places you can find anywhere in the U.S. The Local is great, but it’s also a gastropub, so you can find tons like it. Samurai is hibachi-style Japanese food. Not hard to come by at all.

Turns out that all of these places aren’t necessarily chosen for how good the food is, but because of the significance it has. My friend Armando said he’d go to Kon Chau because of what it reminds him of. So, yeah the food itself is important, but also what exactly the food means.

El Mago, to me, reminds me of my grandad and the type of pots he’d use to fry pork up. That’s why I’d go… it’s nostalgic. So, yeah, the meal I look most forward to the most is the one I’d eat when I come back to visit Miami.

Places listed:
Kon Chau Restaurant
Pincho Factory
Versailles Restaurant
Shorty’s BBQ
The Local
La Carreta
Fujiya
Islas Canarias
Sports Grill-Hammocks
El Palacio de los Jugos
Samurai
Fritanga

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What does having a journalism degree mean for social media?

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Man, I gotta say I was a little frustrated with Hamilton Nolan’s post on Gawker titled: “J-Schools Release Updated Bullshit Justifications for Own Existence

It was frustrating for a couple of reasons… 1) being that I sometimes-proudly wave my journalism degree around 2) I never got that newspaper gig I thought I’d land after school and 3) I’m using my degree for journalism’s weird frienemy: Marketing/Media/PR.

Frustrating, too, because some of the things this writer said were, unfortunately, kinda true. Sadly, you really don’t need a journalism degree to be a journalist. Sure, you’ll learn best practices, ethics and the context of print… but what’s really revered in real-world journalism is experience. Most of the journalists I’ve met over the years were Political Science majors, and sometimes very left-field degrees like Chemistry. I have a very odd outlook on the importance of a college degree… and that might change over time, but I guess for a lot of professions, it really doesn’t matter what you get a degree in. You just need to have the flex and experience to do the job– if you can’t prove that then go somewhere else. Very cutthroat, I’d say… and that’s why at some point I kinda lost interest in journalism as a profession.

In general, I think journalism school should really be called story-telling school. But you say, well get a creative writing degree… but J-school allows you to deal with real life the way CW probably can’t. J-school teaches you not only grammar, writing practices and format… but it also teaches you to get up and talk to people, to listen and truly consume your environment as a writer. Writing headlines and by-lines… that’s valuable information you can’t get with a political science degree, y’know?

How do you apply J-school standards to something like Social Media?

So over the past couple of months, I’ve slowly realized how close of a relationship my job is to someone like a beat editor at a newspaper.

Yet, the type of journalism I do is very different from the jou theories they’re teaching you at J-School. Journalism school has it that we present the truth in an objective, non-biased way… and what I do is present a truth in the most presentable way possible. I guess PR/marketing/social media really is about packaging and presenting facts. It’s weird… but I’m not in the business of non-bias.

So getting down to just the many ways what I do is J-School-esque:

-Scheduling posts on Hootsuite reminds me a lot of the way an editor decides when a story should go out. “This is good for the front-page, morning edition since it’ll be the first thing people see” feels a lot like, “this would be really good at 8:30 a.m. because this is really good content and most students are waking up and checking their phones at that time.”

-Writing tweets (and sometimes Facebook posts) has me re-editing myself constantly. That’s a huge j-school practice: re-edit yourself always.

-Tweets are essentially headlines… so write your tweet like you’re trying to grab someone from the page. What are you gonna say to make people click that link?

-At times, you’ll have to immerse yourself and actually go out and talk to students. Well that’s something I learned from J-school: going out, and gathering up the courage to talk to strangers. One of my old professors said it’s a fear that haunted him even after 30 years in the business.

-Grammar: it might seem ridiculous to pay a college tuition to learn how to write/speak properly… but there’s a shit-ton of people in this country that just don’t know how to write/communicate. It’s why there’s such a demand for communicators.

Which digs into my point that, yeah, j-school might seem completely void of value… but it’s usually housed within a school of communication. And that’s really what J-School is– it’s a school that teaches you how to communicate stories and ideas properly… so much so that it becomes naturally short-hand.

P.S. My blog is filled with grammar mistakes and that’s because it’s my blog.

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Pacific damn Rim

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Some spoilers ahead

Almost a year ago I’d heard small talk about Guillermo Del Toro’s next movie and how it was gonna be about “kaiju” (Godzilla-type) monsters and immediately fanboy’d the hell out. Not because I’m into those kaiju monster movies… but because GDT is so good at creating and designing monsters (See: both Hellboys, Blade 2 [best movie ever, by the way] and Pan’s Labyrinth). And then to add, there’d by giant man-controlled robots to battle said kaiju monsters, Gundam Wing/Neon Genesis Evangelion-style. Stop… just stop it, dude.

The first batch of trailers came out, though, and it had me worried. The robot sounds, the dubsteppy-type music and the overall look of the robots had me thinking this joint was gonna be another wack Transformers movie. But, inside I knew that I shouldn’t judge it too harshly because GDT always has the human element tucked under it.

I’ll just say that most sci-fi/action films get it wrong… they worry too much about action and looking awesome (which is an important element of these movies, I’ll say that… nothing like masculine, gunned-up soldiers shooting the shit out of aliens/monsters/etc.), but they often neglect the mythology of the sci-fi, and also the emotional characters. But sometimes you get gems that know what the hell they’re doing when they take on a project of this scope/disbelief. Stuff like Aliens and District 9… smart, badass and emotional films that bring the whole package. Starting to realize that this might be my favorite genre… yet so few do it right.

Del Toro is a total geek and made this into not only a monster movie, but essentially a live-action anime with mechs, monsters, a Hong Kong backdrop, emotional stakes and even some self-aware corniness that you can only get from the best of mangas (“This is for my family”; *Initiate jaeger sword feature and cut that motherfucker kaiju in half*)

It also has my favorite aspect of sci-fi action films: disgruntled, “kill-em-all”, Marine/soldier types. Badass warriors who get down to business and kick ass when necessary (also sometimes when it’s unnecessary as well -“let’s check if it still has a pulse”- that usually provides the best scenes).

One thing I really loved about the film, too, was that certain elements of either the kaiju or the jaegers (robots) were not shown from the get-go. Like say there’s a specific feature on the jaeger you didn’t know about… they won’t show it to you, or even tell you it’s there until shit goes down. For instance, one of the kaiju that gave Raleigh and Mako a hard time all of a sudden flapped its wings (which you didn’t even know they had) towards the end of a long fight– I almost freaked out when I saw this. Moments like that are scattered throughout the film and are there for the purpose of storytelling and filmmaking.

Because at some point in the beginning of the film, you realize how unnecessary it is for soldiers to be inside the jaeger, when they could just be managing it, drone-style. But then the nerd part of me slaps my face and says “Who cares?”. This is a universe where ridiculous stuff happens… and that’s why I think it’s important to understand the universe… and understand that this is pretty much an anime we’re watching. Most of these decisions are made to add an emotional element to it, or just a really surprising film-making element to it. The “drift” feature seems very unnecessary, but it’s there to connect emotionally with the characters.

Man I have like nothing bad to say about this movie. I honestly can’t wait to watch it again.

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Expedia and how higher-ed can learn from their ads

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Last night I was watching TV with my girlfriend and the commercials came on, and I saw this awesome Expedia ad. It was so simple: it was in a video POV from a smartphone and it was shooting a girl snorkeling underwater alongside a giant turtle. Something you’d probably record if you were on vacation (and hopefully you have a waterproof case or something), or either share on Vine/Instagram.

The ad was about the Expedia mobile app.

Now, Expedia is smart, creative and overall brilliant when it comes to their vacation ad campaigns. But let’s be real… Expedia (and the others, too) are pre-vacation services. The actual act of going on Expedia is not technically part of the vacation… realistically, you’re still at work when you log onto Expedia to plan your trip. They understand that, I think… and strategically skip that part of the vacation process.

They’re looking at the larger picture… the 40,000-foot-view… that Charmander-to-Charizard shit. Expedia offers you a full vacation, essentially, and instead of showing you the process of setting your trip up, they jump to giving you a glimpse of it.

I mentioned in my earlier post about tactics vs. strategy, and how we have to treat it like a story and not a product (the way a business would). Well, Expedia (a business) flipped the script and treated their brand like a story, and not a product. The story being “setting up your vacation is so easy, you won’t even have to think about that… just think about the vacation”. Don’t boggle your mind with the logistics… skip that and go to your fantasy,

Last October, they created a “controversial” ad campaign that revolved around a father taking a trip to see his daughter get married to another woman. Beautifully-shot and emotional… the commercial was more about the story than Expedia. The trip-planning process was pretty much an after-thought, and essentially just a mechanism for the father to get to his daughter’s wedding.

Expedia put the story at the fore-front and did what most brands aren’t willing to do… make their brand secondary to the user experience. Instead of revolving around the actual product, they made it about the external factors revolving around it.

So how does this apply to higher ed? Well today’s prospect is tomorrow’s donor. I read that somewhere… forgot where, but it can be taken two ways:
1) Today’s potential buyer will be tomorrow’s potential giver.
2) Today’s potential student will be tomorrow’s potential alum.

I’m obviously referring to the latter, and it’s in reference to how you view the future student as not only a potential applicant, but also an active student, successful graduate and finally: an active alumni/community member… someone who will take that trip to Homecoming (maybe using Expedia).

The philosophy is to tell the higher-ed story. Which is to show students going apeshit at the football game, or a post-grad alum running their own company. Giving glimpses of the story, and making the brand secondary when telling it.

It’s a risky strategy/philosphy, and not all higher-ups will be down for that. Understandably so, too, since logos and brands are part of the institution’s identity… and so much money is spent on marketing strategy to make the logo the forefront of the story. But, honestly, Expedia is a good reference and, I think, shows the possibility of reward from the risk… especially for a huge company like Expedia.

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