In Review: The Social Conference Experience at ICBO 2014

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I had an absolutely amazing time at ICBO 2014 in Birmingham, England this past week. I had one of the most rewarding experiences of my career serving as the head of the digital media strategy for the conference. Our ICBO Social app was a tremendous success that far exceeded my expectations. The positive feedback was off the charts!

When we decided to go “all in” on an interactive mobile conference app, I knew it was a tool with a great deal of potential. Since it is its own social network centered around the conference, I believed the tool had unique advantages over relying on dispersed platforms like Twitter and Instagram. But, would people use the social features of the app? OR, rely on what they’re used to – i.e., Twitter. There were several hurdles and questions.

The attendees at ICBO ran the gamut in terms of age and technological familiarity. A good number of them are older. Would an older optometrist who doesn’t use social media in his daily life or for his business use this tool? Would people have no interest in the social features – finding them superfluous, or worse, a distraction from agenda and other information? In short, would people “get it”? And I worked very hard to address these and several other issues in building my plan for this event.

To my delight, the conference attendees and nearly all exhibitors (as well as many speakers) enthusiastically adopted the ICBO Social app. Anecdotal feedback suggests the app served as a great icebreaker, enabled attendees to forge new and more robust connections with one another, and truly enhanced engagement with the speaker sessions and speakers themselves by enabling meta conversations and because we used the app to solicit questions that the speakers responded to during Q&A.

We had an amazing group of attendees – and their energy, friendliness, and passion for their profession played a big role in the success.

Here are the final stats for the 5 and 1/2 days (2 days of pre-conference and 3.5 days of conference).

ICBO soical final stats

  • Total Active Users: 237 (Unfortunately, I don’t have the total # of attendees and exhibitors at this time – ballpark of 300-15)
  • Status Updates: 3,082
  • Photos: 2,363
  • Comments: 1,878
  • Check-Ins to exhibitors and sessions: 890
  • Ratings completed: 1,261
  • Total Points accumulated by all participants: 36,365 (points are earned for in app activities)
  • Total # of badges earned: 706

In the weeks ahead, I look forward to finding the time to sit down and reflect on the event, and write up my report. For now, it is back to my “day job” as a professor. I’m back in West Virginia after a long flight yesterday. It is good to be back but I miss all of the wonderful people I met and amazing experiences I had at ICBO 2014. :)

 

Cheers!

Matt

An ICBO Social Update from Birmingham

You may have noticed I haven’t been on Twitter lately. I am here in Birmingham, UK working the social element of the ICBO 2014 conference. It has been super busy and a wonderful experience!

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I thought I’d write a quick post as the conference is getting very busy today with the exhibit hall opening and the second day of the preconference lectures. 

Our ICBO Social mobile conference app (available in the app store – but only availabe to attendees, speakers, and exhibitors) has been a roaring success so far!

The app was released about a week prior to the start of the preconference – the preconference has been going on yesterday and today. And in the days leading up to the preconference, we had already earned some very strong engagement!

The conference hadn’t even started, with only few folks having arrived. and already we had 593 comments, 309 status updates, 245 photos, and1594 likes. 

After our first day, we gained 67 more photos, 97 more comments, 246 more likes. That is great considering most attendees haven’t yet arrived – only a percentage of people attend the preconference.

As people have arrived today and yesterday, they’ve already known others via the app. And this has been a great “icebreaker” and networking lubricant.

Feedback on the app has been tremendous – we’ve received a number of compliments in person as well as through the app including these from the app:

“This ICBO App is truly amazing! We haven’t even arrived in Birmingham and already I feel the love and excitement! This is more addictive than Facebook!”

“I can only congratulate you all, for what you have done and already have achieved. This app is like a pre-pre conference. We have the feeling that everything is already there in Birmingham. Thanks for your ingenious idea you have created a warmth and a big family feeling.” 

That’s all for now! I hope all is going great!

- Cheer!

 

4 Awesome Things That Have Inspired Me For The Semester Ahead

Before I do my annual practice of posting relevant syllabi to this blog, I want to take a minute to reflect on a few highlights from the last academic year and this summer. These are 4 awesome things that have me excited for the year ahead. And here are my thoughts on how I hope to grow, change, or improve.

I wrote a similar type post in December focusing on my teaching goals for Spring 2014. I liked that process, so I thought I’d try it again with a different twist.

1) An Opportunity to Grow A New Program – The fall 2013 semester was the start of the strategic communication in the Department of Communication at Shepherd University. I’m the coordinator for this concentration and put it into the curriculum during the year prior. I’m excited for what we accomplished in the first year. And I feel that in Spring 2014 we started to make traction. But there is still so much more to do. I want to see the concentration grow and expand and be the best it can be. And that is going to take starting to spread the word more about our program! While I’ve put a lot of my effort into building the program, I know the next few years are going to be instrumental in helping it grow and improve.

2) Awesome Social Media Educators – I’ve met some incredible educators virtually that have taught me so much and inspired me to continue to strive and push myself. As I’ve said before, I believe teaching social media is a different animal than other areas. Things are constantly changing. And these great educators are more than up for the task. Karen Freberg from the University of Louisville writes an amazing blog on social media education filled with tons of tips, ideas, etc. She is a true resource in the field and prolific across her blog and social media. I strongly encourage you to follow her. Carolyn Mae Kim from Biola University is another professor doing awesome things in the realm of social media education. She also has a great blog where she discusses education in a social / digital world that I strongly recommend following. I’ve had the pleasure of working with both of these folks on a recent social media education project. And I finally got to meet them in person at AEJMC a few weeks ago. Having the opportunity to interact with and learn from Karen, Carolyn, and several others, makes me excited for the year ahead because I know there is a growing network of folks out there who are going to continue to push the envelope in social media education. And that motivates me to grow and improve my own classes.

3) Contributing to the Social Media Education Discussion via this Blog – This blog has been great. Meeting the educators mentioned above as well as others I’ve communicated with has re-affirmed what I have set out to do with this blog – to contribute to the convo on social media and try and help others seeking to teach in this area. In addition, I’ve sought to be open and share things I’m experimenting with in a changing field, so that others can learn from my mistakes or improve upon my ideas. I believe is important that those of us teaching in this area are out there sharing our thoughts, our work, our activities, our advice, our trials and errors, and our outright mistakes. I’m so thankful for the praise I’ve gotten on this blog. And I find it most rewarding when I see people checking out the syllabi I post and the classroom assignments and activities. But there is a lot more that I wish I was doing with this blog. So here’s the truth:

This blog has a ways to go.  There were a number of blog posts I intended to write last semester and this summer that I never did – such as a full review of AEJMC and my assignment for conducting surveys with iPads! I was just so busy working on so many exciting and cool project. When I started this blog, my hope was to turn it into a resource on social media education. That includes teaching material: syllabi, class assignments, class activities, slides, etc. But it also includes linking you with great resources and leading educators, and news and articles that can help you in the classroom. I hope that this year I can recommit more time to this blog and to getting those posts up, particularly about what we’re doing in the classroom. Here’s how you can help me: Please leave any comments or feedback on the sort things you like and find helpful on this blog so I can do more of them.

4) New Activities, Assignments, and Partnerships The truth is that I love teaching. I’m excited to be back in the classroom. And I can’t help myself from constantly trying new things and seeking to get better. This year, I’ve made a few changes to my classes. I’m excited to see how they go. I am trying new things, taking new risks, and looking for ways to push myself and my students. I’ll be teaching the Campaigns class for the first time in our department. And we’ve got a great client for our class that I’ll be talking about in an upcoming post. I’ll also be sharing my Social Media syllabus for this fall – which will have an entirely new semester long project. So check back as Fall 2014 gets underway!

I hope everyone has an awesome 2014-2015 academic year!

- Cheers!

-Matt

photo CC Lel4nd

 

Why I Love the Hootsuite University Higher Ed Program

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Recently I had the opportunity to write a guest blog post on the Hootsuite blog about harnessing the social media mindset our Millennial students bring into the college class today. That post was published yesterday!

Here are two great things I love about Hootsuite and their higher ed program.

1) Dedication to Social Media Education and Professors: Thanks so much to the awesome people at Hootsuite for inviting me to write this post and for all the great support they’ve given social media educators. I know of no other company like Hootsuite that has done so much to support social media education in higher education. And I am very proud to have had the opportunity to write a post for such a great brand. Hootsuite is a leader in helping give students free access to professional social media tools, and has shown a true dedication to supporting social media educators with the Hootsuite University Higher Education program - a free program available to university educators and their students.

They continue to take steps that have demonstrated their dedication, including a free webinar this Thursday (August 21st) with tips from professors teaching social media. They also presented at AEJMC 2014. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend because I had to present elsewhere. But the word is that it was a great presentation to a packed room.

To learn social media, students need hands on experience with the tools they’ll be using in the field. Unfortunately, the high cost of many of these tools makes them inaccessible in many classrooms unless there is substantial funding. And in today’s educational environment, that is hard to come by. I truly wish more companies in the social media space would follow Hootsuite’s lead and provide access, training, and support to social media professors and our students. I’ve attended numerous conference sessions where I’ve heard these sentiments being expressed among new media educators.

2) Benefits of the Hootsuite Program – I began using Hootsuite University in my social media class last fall and loved it. Prior to that, my social media students were using Hootsuite for in class assignments but I wasn’t yet aware of Hootsuite University program.

I’ll be using Hootsuite University again this year because it is truly an essential tool for the social media classroom. I say that because it offers not only access to a paid version of the Hootsuite dashboard – Hootsuite Pro – with advanced features that students can learn from hands on, but also a rich library of educational videos that really help students learn the professional use of social media. As I mentioned in my blog post on Hootsuite’s blog, while students today are digital natives they do greatly benefit from our help when it comes to moving from personal to professional use of social media.

Hootsuite University also includes a number of video case studies professors can use in the classroom.

Here are 3 Great Benefits of the Hootsuite University Higher Ed Program, a previous post I wrote about this great resource.

One thing I don’t mention in that post is that Hootsuite also provides material for professors via suggested curriculum:

How I use Hootsuite University:

I like to use the Hootsuite University videos as supplements to class lecture, activities, and assignments. All of my students are required to complete the certification exam, which includes with it a series of courses to be completed before taking the exam. They also must complete a few of the other course that I assign from Hootsuite University program as well as one course of their choosing.  In the classroom, we use Hootsuite dashboard and the things students learn via the educational videos to complete in class activities and assignments. In this way, I bring what they’re learning in HU into the class – these are skills they must learn in HU and apply in class to succeed. I wrote about one such activity in the blog post on Hootsuite’s blog where students search brands using the Hootsuite dashboard.

Last semester I also used a few video case studies in class and plan to use a few more this semester.

If you’re not familiar with Hootsuite, they are the creators of an awesome social media dashboard that I’ve been using for years. The dashboard integrates Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other services and enables you to spread your lists into columns for easy viewing. It also offers some powerful tools like scheduling posts, auto scheduling, and Klout search.

If you have anymore questions about my thoughts or experiences with Hootsuite, drop a comment or contact me via Twitter.

Cheers!

Note: Hootsuite and the Hootsuite logo are copyright Hootsuite Media.

#AEJMC14 Highlights: What are the Ethics of Content Marketing?

After two weeks of traveling to New England for a vacation and to Montreal for the AEJMC, it is good to be home! AEJMC flew by!

I’d like to look at one of my favorite panels from the conference: the Ethics and Brand Content panel put on by the Advertising and Media Ethics divisions.  Let me recap and add my thoughts, because the ethics of content marketing is something we need to consider as educators.

The media system "Clover Leaf" from the panel Source: Contently

The media system “Clover Leaf” from the panel
Source: Contently

This panel included Ira Basen (CBC Radio) Michael Mirer (Wisoncin-Madison) and Karen Mallia (South Carolina) and was moderated by Kathleen Bartzen Culver (Wisconsin-Madison). They looked at content marketing, including the different types of content including brand publishing, branded content, native advertising, sponsored content, and brand journalism (the latter of which was a term the panel did not prefer).  It was interesting to look at the ethics of content marketing from the perspective of both a journalist, Ira, and advertising, the other panelists. Ira focused on native advertising, which he defined as: “relevant to the consumer experience, which is not interruptive, and which looks and feels similar to its editorial environment”

Examples of good content marketing, as presented by conference panel presenters

Examples of good content marketing, as presented by conference panel presenters

Interestingly, Ira noted that research shows most consumers are unaware of what “sponsored content” means on sites like the New York Times – they don’t know that the news outlet didn’t write the content. For example, when you watch the news programming and a company sponsors the program, you don’t assume that the company also wrote the news piece on the program. This is a great point. The intent of sponsored content on online publications is just that – for you to not know that the news outlet didn’t write it. What happens when people find out?

One of the best examples was the article and infographic on the New York Times sponsored by Netflix to promote (a show I love) Orange is the New Black.  Netflix paid a freelancer to research and write the piece, focusing on the need for female focused prison policies. You probably saw this floating around. Did you know Netflix sponsored it? I didn’t (despite the logo clearly printed at the top, I hadn’t even noticed it).

Let me make my second point and then I’ll try and tie this together.

Ira also stated that trust in brands is high, while trust in journalism is low (did not catch his source for this statistic. But I am going to take it at face value for this blog post). Ira acknowledged that, for journalism, many of those hits to their trust were self-inflicted. I take it that what he means is that journalists have made a number of public mistakes over a period of time that have resulted in distrust among the general public.

If it is true, why is it that trust in brands is so high right now (at least, compared to journalists)? And how might that change?

Let’s think about it. The purpose of content marketing is to create content for your audience. Continuously. As a brand becomes a media company, there is an imperative to continue to create more and more content.

And that opens up companies to the possibility of making the same mistakes as journalists have. Ok, not the same mistakes exactly. But you know what I mean. The more content you create the greater the chance you will say or do something that will be a mistake – a false or misleading claim, a sensationalist move to gain viewers, a gaffe, offensive or insensitive content, etc.

It is an interesting dilemma. You’ve got to create content. The more you exposure yourself, the more risk you are essentially taking. So as everyday companies strive to become media companies – creating and reporting their own news – will trust in brands decline?

Let me say that differently. Will content marketing, the tool many are counting on to build meaningful relationships and thus trust, result in the decline of trust in brands over the long term?

And how should we deal with this long-term possibility?

It may be that we are simply at a place where mediated relationships with brands are still relatively new and that is why trust remains high. We haven’t had time to grow cynical yet.

Or am I thinking about this all wrong? Perhaps there is something fundamentally different about journalism. After all, a journalist is supposed to be looking out for our best interest. While we acknowledge that a company seeks a profit and offers a specific service to us. Further still, journalism is an institution. We may look at it on the whole. But loss of trust in one brand, does not inevitably lead to loss in trust in another brand. In fact, a brand may benefit by loss of trust in its competitor.

Whatever the case may be, as educators there is a need to really think about what the ethics of branded content are so that our students thrive as ethical content creators.

Survey results of expected growth in B2B content marketing spending

Survey results of expected growth in B2B content marketing spending

Of course, I talk about ethics in my classes. But I haven’t looked at them through this specific lens – the comparison with journalism as media outlets and the issues journalism faces with public trust- and I thank Ira and the other panelists for prompting me to do so.

What do you think?

In sum, it was a fascinating panel that really got me thinking about this question. And this question was just the tip of the iceberg of what came out of a truly fascinating panel.

In closing, I got to attend a number of other great panels while at AEJMC and learned a ton from them! Unfortunately, there were more panels I wanted to attend than time to attend them. It is super busy now with classes 2 weeks away and the ICBO deadline fast approaching. But I hope to get another post up later this week or early next week looking at some of the other great takeaways from the conference, including the great people I met and more!

 

FYI: I’ve written a lot about content marketing on this blog. Here are my other posts on the subject.

Update: Planning Social Media and Mobile App for An Event

As you know, one of the big projects I’ve been working on this summer is creating and executing the social media event plan for the International Congress of Behavioural Optometry (ICBO) conference in Birmingham, England this September.

This project, which was sponsored by the Shepherd University Foundation, has been a lot of fun and a great learning experience. I’ve been working with the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (OEPF) who is organizing the conference. OEPF is an international nonprofit that does important work advancing the discipline of optometry.

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I thought I’d take a moment to post a status update on the project. After completing the social media plan for the event, the majority of the work has focused on preparing the ICBO 2014 conference app to create an app that helps OEPF meet its goals. The app is titled ICBO Social and works on iPhone, Android, and HTML5.  Once complete (I hope to finish building the app over the next few weeks), we’ll move onto promoting the app as the primary means of social engagement at the conference. We’re also presently working to get buy in from key stakeholders: exhibitors and speakers.

The reason the app is our primary social tool and centerpiece of the plan is because (as I like to say) ICBO Social is no ordinary conference app. OEPF and I have been fortunate to be using DoubleDutch as the platform to build our app. DoubleDutch is doing amazing things pushing the envelope on conference apps and what they offer is like no other conference app I’ve seen before.

ICBO Social (and all DoubleDutch apps) is a comprehensive social network built around the conference and thus exclusively for conference goers.

So attendees won’t just be seeing an agenda, or have the ability to create their own schedule, or see a list of exhibitors. And they won’t be limited socially by Twitter feeds. While it has these features, the app is really designed for the social interaction to occur within the app itself.

It contains an activity feed (like Facebook or Twitter) where you can see what other attendees are posting (comments and photos), liking, and where they are checking in.

Gamification is a great part of the app. Users are rewarded for their app activity. They can earn badges (like on Foursquare) for checking in, posting photos, and more. And, they can earn points for in app activities. I will be creating custom badges and designating higher point values for certain behavior to encourage desired behaviors. There is also a leader board app users can check to see how many points they’ve accumulated in comparison with others. And we may use those points to give prizes as further incentive to use the app.

Each individual has a robust profile that shows their activity, what badges they’ve earned, and connections to their social media accounts.

The app also encourages deeper engagement with exhibitors. Attendees can check in to exhibitor booths, share photos, leave comments, etc. Given these abilities, features of the app can be harnessed depending on what the exhibitor is looking to achieve.

The app also enables us to easily get feedback from attendees by the use of surveys and ratings.

We also plan on  using the app to bolster our Q&A speaker sessions at featured speaker events in order to give more attendees the opportunity to ask questions.

Lastly, we talk a bit about analytics on this blog. By driving activity within the app (as opposed to encouraging its spread it across social networks), I’ll be able to get a more comprehensive look at engagement via the app analytics in the CMS  – such as # of check ins, what events people checked into the most, top contributors, and other engagement metrics.

Having been to many conferences and used social media at many and many conference apps, I know the value of being able to connect and stay current with the conversation at the event. I believe using this app will greatly enhance that experience by centering it and making it super easy for participants to stay up to date with and be a part of the conversation. All of these things will enable ICBO attendees to network, interact, and build lasting connections and thereby further establish the ICBO conference as a highly valuable must attend event.

While the app is the major focus of the social media engagement experience of the conference, we’ll also be encouraging attendees to discuss ICBO 2014 on external social media channels as ways to build excitement before the event, continuing the conversation after the event, and, importantly, increase awareness of ICBO among the wider optometric community and non attendees.

It is exciting to see how the DoubleDutch platform is enabling us to create a true, encompassing social experience for attendees and I’m very fortunate to be learning and using this cutting edge tool.

Note: The app is sponsored by HOYA and the app splash screen shown above was designed by one of their very talented graphic designers.