Another conference in the bag this year and it’s time for another round of reflections. Although this conference was not as large as eduWEB or HighEdWeb, Stamats put together a rather impressive track of presenters and really hit a home run with this conference. So many of the conferences I’ve been to in the last few years have multiple tracks and a lot going on. It was actually kind of nice to have a scaled back and smaller conference. This really allowed the community to bond and grow. So much of the time there is simply so many people that you don’t feel like you get to just absorb everything and toss around ideas. There was excellent free time to do these sort of things and really toss around amazing ideas with each other. Oddly enough in the question time it almost felt like people were sitting around a roundtable and asking the presenter questions, seriously! So let’s look at a few of the takeaways.
Karlyn also posted her Reflection on the conference.
Probably my favorite quote of the conference came from Fritz McDonald in his first presentation.
“Usability is about your Brand and your Brand is about your Experience”
Think about that for a second. That is truly a powerful statement. Everyone talks about building their brand and the importance of branding. Branding is an important thing. I’m completely sold on the power of a powerful, meaningful, and trusted brand. So how do you get a trusted brand? Your site have a good user experience. How do you have a good user experience? Through usability. Light bulb!
Content Creation = Buzz
My rule of thumb, don’t remember anymore if I read this somewhere or what, but 10% of the people will create 90% of the content. This is especially true for forums, social networks, blogs, etc. Just another example of the long tail at work except this time let’s focus on the front end. Now what happens when you get that group of people together that are in that 1% of content creators? You get the explosion of content created for a conference like this. I’m not even going to get into the SEO and other reasons why lots of positive content on something is good.
Kathleen VanderVelde wrote it perfect on her blog yesterday.
“This conference produced a whole other conference outside of the presentations - streaming video, videos of presentations, photos, blogging, a #stamats08 Twitter Search (where everyone’s tweets are aggregated in real time, even people who weren’t there), a Ning group.
THIS is social media - the networking, but most important, the relationship building. Plus it gives us a chance to see and understand what others are doing and what we might do with social media for recruitment, retention, alumni …”
Bingo. But before I leave it I’ll include the comment I posted.
“YES! You got it. Social Media = Relationships. The tools and sites don’t matter and they are all over the place, but what is important is the relationships being built and shared. I have spent most of the day showing the girlfriend all the pictures, videos, and posts from the conference. Flickr, Ustream, Google Video, Twitter, various blogs, ning, the tools aren’t important as the relationships and conversations being shared and built out there. You will never be able to keep up with it all and that is ok too. People just won’t understand until they simply join the conversation and give it a try them self.”
Don’t Be Afraid
Social media and measurement from a business sense were a large part of the conference. Running a college marketing and web initiative from a business perspective is something that seems to be quite foreign to a lot of colleges and universities. So many people just do things without really having a game plan about what they want to do. This critical first step is so important and a huge reminder for a takeaway. There are so many things to do and not enough time so how do you do it all? Well Karlyn’s expert advice of “Just do one thing at a time” is so important to keep in your mind. It is so easy to get distracted and feel like you need to do this and this and that and forget what you really want to accomplish. One of the first things I plan to do when I get back is to spend half a day, away from the computer, defining a strategic plan for the remainder of the year and layout how I want to accomplish it. Then start taking things out one at a time. It was also said: “The great thing about social media is that it’s easy”. Hundreds of millions of people have Facebook and MySpace pages so it can’t be too hard. Check out the Social Marketing tab on this site if your looking for a place to start.
The Tools are Free
There are many tools that you can use and there is almost always a free or very affordable alternative to what you want to do. Invest your money on the people to use the tools not the tools. I know your saying well that’s great Kyle, but I don’t have any budget left to hire people! Well let’s just think about this for a second. What about student workers? Are you taping that resource? Are you tapping it effectively and using this option? The tools are free and honestly social media is dead easy to do but you just need time. Honestly students probably understand this medium probably better than we do so why not have them feel important and take the lead on these initiatives? Just as they are there to get an education they can also educate us.
Google Analytics, Facebook, Open Source software, reading blogs, YouTube all have one great thing in common. Assuming that you have a computer and connection to the internet they cost absolutely nothing but time. All you have to do is find the time, or hire more people with the time. The only way you fail in these is by not jumping in.
I’ve had some great discussion and people who disagree with me on this point and I think that’s great that we have different ways to approach things, but just go setup these services and spend a few hours getting them setup right. You spent part of a day and then see what happens. Tell a few people and see which one picks up steam. Don’t go and build your own social network until you know your community is ready for a social network. Setup a free group on ning and see if it gets traction and grows. If it does then you have built your case about why your developer needs to spend months working on a project to build your own social network. If it fails well it wasn’t what your audience wanted and now you know and can try to reach them in a different way. It is ok to fail in this way. Truthfully we learn more through our failures than our successes guys!
Where to Start
I don’t remember who said it, but another very powerful statement was:
“Never start with technology. Start with your goals and the user experience then find the technology to do it.”
I’m such a big advocate of this approach it’s not funny. Figure out what you want to do first. Never be satisfied that we need this product because it does X. Is X what you really want to do or do you just think it would be cool? Does it help your user experience? Is it something your audience cares about? Have you asked them what they want before you got it? Really understand exactly what you want to do then find the tool that does it best and is in your budget.
You want to purchase an Email Marketing Solution, great! So what exactly is important for this solution to do for you and your audience? Don’t know well ask your audience, see what others are doing inside and outside of the email industry. Subscribe to a bunch of email marketing campaigns and figure out what they do that you like and don’t like. You will probably notice that most every solution does all these things so you will find that you like the user interface of one better than the other. Wait… the user experience sways you on a specific product, imagine that? If your actually trying to select an Email Marketing Solutions here’s a great post to help with that decision process.
So much great content was created for the conference so I’ll close with some links to find it and help us remember it.
Pretty much everything is compiled together in the All of Stamats 08 BlogHighEd compilation that Jacob Oyen was awesome enough to put together. Thanks Jacob!
A few specific:
- Stamats 08 Flickr Group pictures are in slideshow above
- I tried to video a good many of the presentations which you can find on Google Video with the #stamats08 search.
- Stamats Ning Group which includes discussions around the conference.