In “The Sign of Three,” one of my favorite Sherlock episodes, Mycroft chastises: “Oh Sherlock. What do we say about coincidence?”
Frustrated by Mycroft’s meddling, Sherlock replies, “The universe is rarely so lazy.”
While attending standing-room-only session after session at this year’s National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (NCMPR) conference, I found myself deducing the same as our most famous detective: one packed breakout may be a coincidence, but Watson, three packed breakouts just might be a pattern. (Or, you might call eating one of each of the three Ted Drewes flavors a problem, but I digress.)
Think you know which sessions we’re referring to? Whether you’re in higher education or Fortune 500, here are three themes we discovered at NCMPR that everyone can apply to their digital marketing strategy.
Process vs. project
From crafting a communications strategy, enforcing updated brand standards, or launching a website redesign, Mark Greenfield’s reminder proved true – it’s all a process, not a project. In the rebranding breakout session I attended with Midlands Tech, they explained that even after a successful rebranding launch, they were still chasing down templates and college communications materials with old logos. Even after the “project” was finished, the rebranding “process” was still ongoing.
Should we be asking if post-launch strategy is more vital to success than the launch itself? Again, what good is a new brand if no one ever sees it, or if the website link they click through to was down? When asked how their campaigns were so successful, it was clear that each team never lost inertia, even after the initial project phase ended.
From convincing your president or CEO to start his own Twitter account to updating the website homepage, the most important thing wasn’t that a tweet was sent or that a page was updated – it was that you had an ongoing strategy to carry it through. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, but it’s not a journey if you don’t have the energy to walk the next thousand miles.
Content Snapchat is king
Speaking of presidents, if you want your social media to be engaging and successful, support has to come from the top. Period. Middlesex Community College offered a perfect case study of how to get key stakeholders on board and active in their online college community. Campaigns with hashtags like #MeetTim or #PresidentChat are a great way to introduce new stakeholders to the Twitter-verse, and allow your community to feel like they have a direct channel to the top. After all, how incredible is it that you could tweet your college’s president directly, and even better, receive a response? Also, “Even the President/CEO is doing it,” is a pretty awesome comeback to social media naysayers.
Still, many raised their concerns with social media’s unpredictable nature. What if you get hacked? What if someone trolls you, or in one case, shares threatening messages? And new apps like Snapchat seemed even more risky. What’s the point of a social media campaign if it’s live for five seconds and disappears? How do you track analytics, prove ROI? How do you know what has been shared at all?
In one breakout, we spent the last 30 minutes discussing the pros and cons of Snapchat alone. While the room seemed divided on best practices, everyone also seemed to know that doing nothing wasn’t an option.
A 2014 study found that 77% of college students use Snapchat daily – a number that has to have only increased. In the first GOP debate, almost twice as many 18-24 year-olds watched the debate on Snapchat than TV. In fact, Snapchat’s Live Stories bring in over 20 million views a day. Over 100 million people use Snapchat around the globe. So we all know we need to do something about “the Snapchat problem,” but what?
Well, if you’re not sure how to reach your target audience, sometimes the easiest thing to do is just ask…
Use the resources you already have – your community
Of the highest-attended breakouts I sat in, each had a common element – involving their community. In addition to launching a Twitter account for their college president, Middlesex Community College also launched a student “street team” to capture everyday campus life from their own students’ perspective.
For their rebranding, Midlands Tech used current students in their new website photos along with student photographers instead of stock images. In the Snapchat discussion, one attendee pointed out that they allowed students to use the college Snapchat account while they travelled, resulting in snaps from the dugout and a student trip abroad. It was an easy way to let people see how vibrant and potential student life at the college could be, without the college marketers travelling to those places themselves and scheduling posts.
Yes, allowing students or other community members to post on official accounts can seem a bit risky, but the risk can be worth the reward. Engaging “native speakers” for your social media results in content that feels authentic, organic, and provides job experience, as street team positions can easily be framed as an internship or job shadowing. All in all, everyone wins.
And that, dear Watson, is what we call “collegiate,” not elementary.