Social Outreach -what can we learn from brand marketing/blogger relationships?

On the final day of Social Media Week, I’ve been at a couple of marketing and branding sessions hosted by Equator Agency a “digitally led marketing agency” based in Glasgow. Equator have totally embraced Social Media Week Glasgow. As well running several sessions, and sponsoring the event, they are the guys behind the geek glasses and badges which I shared earlier.

It’s always nice to get out of one’s comfort zone, and be at events with different faces and perspectives on things. And this was certainly true of the “social outreach – what’s in it for me?” session. Essentially this session was an overview of how brands and bloggers can work effectively together. The presentation was very much from a brand marketing point of view. However as the session progressed, it did start to raise some questions in my mind about my own approach to not only to blogging but wider questions of innovation support and the role of JISC and JISC innovation support centres such as CETIS in developing, supporting and encouraging our blogging networks so that ideas, good practice etc are shared more widely within the HE sector. Particularly as a large part of the presentation focused on the role of blogging networks and effective brand engagement with them.

Like many of my peers I have my own personal network of blogs which I follow. It’s built up over time, is very informal, but I suspect it is very similar to other personal networks of colleagues. In turn I suspect that I am also part of a larger, informal network of edubloggers – in fact I’m probably part of several. I comment and interact with them and vice versa. In general it’s a happy, informal, serendipitous space which is great but could it be more? There are some “star” bloggers in there who have a large following, and probably don’t need any support. But there are also some other blogs, particularly project blogs which maybe could benefit from being part of a more formalised network which could give guidance and support and encourage more participation and engagement. During the session BritMums was highlighted as an example of a really effective blogging network. It has over 4,000 active bloggers, provides support and guidance to newbies, runs events to share ideas etc.

I think that with some JISC funded programmes we have probably missed a trick with in terms of really supporting project blogs. Again with some programmes/projects there has been a lot of interaction, and with some not so much. Although blogging is being seen more and more as de-facto project practice, some projects are much better at it than others. In some ways having the blog set up is sometimes seen as a project outcome in itself, and not the updating and populating content regularly bit. In terms of project support, although I do try to comment and share project blog posts, I don’t diligently read every blog post from every project (but don’t tell anyone I said that).

Again being out of “JISC world” for a large part of this week, I’ve been struck again but the lack of knowledge of all the innovation in HE that is happening in the wider world. And I know even within HE itself, a lot of the work JISC funds isn’t known about. So, as JISC moves into its next phase, and with its new focus on customer enagement would the development and support of a trusted network (written by the community for the community) of bloggers not be ideal way to a) share innovation and new practice b) build on exisiting network connections c) help share knowledge of sustainability and embedding of outcomes/outputs of funded projects d) get feedback from the ground up on what the sector would like JISC to do?

One thing the session presenter Fiona Dow, mentioned was that Equator have an ever growing database of “trusted” bloggers who they are continually communicating with, and so have a number of people to approach for various campaigns. Is a similar edublogger database something that say an innovation support centre such as CETIS should develop and maintain? Time to develop relationships with “trusted networks and bloggers” was also highlighted. So, again, should we take more time to more formally develop and share our informal blogging networks? Currently the JISC comms team sends a daily email with related press cuttings to JISC staff – should we be producing a similar email highlighting interesting blog articles from within our community?

Does this sound like something you would like to be part of ? Or should we just continue with our own informal, self forming groups? I’d be really interested to hear any views on this or any other ideas this might have triggered.

What’s it all about, sentiment analysis, branded content and bookgroups #smwgla day 2

I’ve had a varied day at Social Media Week Glasgow today covering a broad spectrum of engagement and uses of social media. Starting this morning with the Social Media -What’s it all about session at Glasgow Caledonian University. David Edgar (Social Media Officer ) gave an introduction to social media which, for an old hand like me, was actually quite nice to hear. He also gave an brief overview into how Glasgow Caledonian are using and developing their use of social media. Twitter is increasingly important to them and he described it as being part helpline, part recruitment channel, part branding and part news feed.

Moving things up a notch the next session I went to was an Introduction to sentiment analysis. In someways I was probably being a bit optimistic about this session as I maybe thought I would find out some more answers on “how to do it” than I did. However, it did seem that most people in the session were, and I hesitate to use the word struggling, maybe feeling their way is more accurate, about what to do with their data and how to really understand and use techniques such as sentiment analysis. The examples the speakers gave (particularly around analysis of hotel reviews) highlighted the practical issues around this type of analysis. A number of software packages were highlighted including R and also a number of paid for services including GATE and Brandwatch. The latter are obviously on the ball in terms of montioring social networks – I got a tweet from them about 2 seconds after tweeting their url.

Branding was the name of the game in the Branded Content: Social Network Innovation session. Led by the Inner Ear agency this was a fascinating insight into how advertising and marketing strategies are evolving from traditional text based roots to becoming more engaged with social media in variety of ways to strengthen brand image and of course in many cases increase sales. It was pointed out that were are probably living in the midst of a transition phase in terms of the development of really effective use of social networks and customer engagement for all types of brands and communities. There’s a lot of trial and error just now – but maybe not too much of the latter particularly for larger brands, as there is still a fear of loss of control and things going “horribly wrong”. All the panel members were advocating for more courage from brands to try more “risky’ strategies. I was particularly amused by Boris Johnston being used as an example of how disasters don’t actually always ruin “the brand” and actually can strengthen it. I don’t think anyone was advocating getting stuck on zip wires as a core part of a marketing strategy! Links to lots of really interesting examples of new content strategies should now be available in the session information page all of which are worth checking out.

I couldn’t help thinking are we too conservative and risk averse in education too? I think there are many similarities. Some people are doing really great innovative things, some are more risk averse. The need for changing attitudes and expectations at all levels from the personal to the “big brand” was a consistent message throughout the day.

The evening social media book club session, was a much more social in all senses (including nibbles and wine). Using google hangouts we were joined by Heikki Hietala from Finland who read an extract from one of his short stories (more details and a pdf available here). We also had a live reading from Scottish author Alan Bissett who read an extract from his novel Packmen.

I’m sure lots of book groups already use things like facebook to share meeting times, ideas for books etc but extending participation through google+ for both book group members and authors is something that I certainly find exciting. Particularly as I never really manged to commit to a book club due to travel commitments at work

There was the usual #technologyfail with slightly dodgy wifi today at the main HQ – but never mind – we still managed to get online and how can you complain when you get these kind of badges :-)

social media geek badges

social media geek badges