When Content Marketing Fails to Deliver: 6 problems with Marketo’s Ebook

Note: In a previous post I discussed how I am teaching Content Marketing in my Writing Across Platforms class next fall and why we should teach it in the writing class.

I am going to come out and say it. I am glad none of my students were behind the creation or promotion of Marketo’s recent e-book “50 Tried and True Social Insights From Real Marketers.”

Here are 6 reasons why.

push

1) Pushing isn’t social: First, I saw the following spammy post in a social media group I’m a part of, counter to the very ethos of social media (Should have been skeptical from the start, right?). I skimmed and found:

There’s a ton of content on how to do social marketing – but this FREE eBook is different than any I’ve seen before….

You’ll get fascinating insights on how different organizations – large to small – are using social marketing, and get tips and best practices on:
• The rules of social engagement
• How to measure and iterate on social programs
• Ideas to generate social lift
• Social marketing words of wisdom
• Why content is king
• How to make social a group effort

Cool! I thought. Different. Unique. A ton of content! So I followed the link, gave them my email address (see: regret), and got the ebook (If you are so inclined, you can here). I’d never heard of Marketo before.

What would have worked? Perhaps a post that didn’t read like an ad. Some such thing as: “Hey all, last week we were talking about XYZ. I came across this ebook titled Blah Blah. It really helped me understand how to deal with a particular part of XYZ. Enjoy and let me know what you think. I’d love to talk about it.”

Which leads me to the rest of my points:

2) Proof Read – Tips #1 and #11 are the same. Carelessness kills credibility.

3) Where’s the eBook? This piece of content marketing is passed off as an ebook. There are 10 pages including the cover and 1 back cover. But much of it is gloss and graphics. In terms of content, there may be 2 pages of text here. There are some great quotes and insights. Don’t get me wrong. But, really… that’s all they are.

4) Help me, Help me! How is what you’re offering add value to my life? Rather than tell me 50 general statements that are not actionable, help me. Show me HOW to do something. How this newfound knowledge can be applied. A series of blog posts or ebooks about each one of these items, with context, evidence (they are tried and true, right?), reasoning, and suggestions would go much further in helping me improve my social media. Give me examples I can follow. Outcomes. Best practices. As one commenter on the LinkedIn thread (see below) pointed out, much of the content is “common sense.”

5) Is it unique? If it isn’t entertaining, new, different, or going to help me, don’t waste my time. Prognostications and platitudes are a dime a dozen on social media.

6) The Pitch: What’s delivered must match the claim – how often do we read hyperbole in social content nowadays? Tweets that read “The Best Description of Graph Search.” YouTube videos titled “The Greatest Touchdown Of All Time!” “The Only SEO Guide You’ll Ever Need!” I know strong language grabs attention, and there are tons of blog posts about writing great headlines that preach this sort of thing (I plan to talk about it in my class, in fact!). But it is becoming overdone. And when something’s overdone it becomes noise. Meaningless. In this particular case, the title is fine. There are 50 insights. My problem here is how the content was pitched on social. I don’t know if the person who posted it was affiliated with Marketo or not. The language on the Marketo site is a little different, though it contains some of the same content from the social post. But a ton of content? Not really. Different from any other ebook out there? Yes, in that it isn’t an ebook. Fascinating? No. Tried and true? Where is the proof that they are tried and true? They are indeed insights, some of them very valuable.

I want my students to be great at social media. I want them to create great content. In all my classes, I have a bias towards showing students the “Heck Yes!” examples – something exemplary that they can aspire to. For better or worse, I tend to shy away from the “Don’t Do This!” examples such as this one.

But for the reasons mentioned above, this post got under my skin. Apparently, I’m not the only one who felt cheated by this content marketing attempt. A thread on LinkedIn reveals a number of folks who agree (and disagree!) with my assessment.

Content marketing is about adding value. Deliver something that shows your thought leadership, that provides your target audience with useful insight. Don’t waste their time. I’m not Marketo’s target audience (although I am looking to build a partnership with a social media analytics software company to use in my classes). But if I were, this wouldn’t do it for me.

What are your thoughts about this? Is it bad content marketing, or am I being too harsh? (Maybe its the end of the semester stress getting to me!) Where am I wrong? Can you think of other examples you can share?

Related Posts:

  1. Why We Should Teach Content Marketing in the Writing Class
  2. Introducing Students to SEO Keyword Research with Google Trends (Activity)

photo (from top to bottom): CC by Steve Snodgrass | marc falardeau |  doodleatwork |  Betchaboy

Pay-Per Networking: Facebook Now Charging You to Contact Non-Friends

It appears Facebook has followed through with rumors and reports that the social networking service may begin charging to contact celebrities and “non-friends.”

That day, it seems, is here. A student of mine just dropped by my office to let me know the news. I tested it, and it is true for me as well.

Try it. Find someone you’re not friends with on Facebook and see about messaging them.

Here’s what I found when I tried to Message someone I’m not friends with on Facebook:

facebook_pay-to-message
I can see charing to contact celebrities, but people I don’t know? Facebook, seriously? Several weeks ago I blogged about how Facebook is losing its grab with young adults. This may leave Facebook holding on by a pinky. My student’s exact words when she told me about this were “Facebook is dead.” There again, perhaps people won’t use this service and so its impact is negligible. But the turn off is real.

Now there are ways around this, and people will get creative. The most basic is the “other” inbox that you can send these messages to. Privacy settings indicate that you can modify what comes to your normal inbox and your “other’ inbox. Admittedly quick poking around did not indicate a clear fix for this.

Facebook’s help page also indicates that if you receive messages you don’t want, you can filter them to your other inbox. This may also mean that marketing messages and spam will soon be coming to our Facebook inboxes, a la our email addresses.

What do you think? What does this mean for Facebook? Has social networking lost its innocence? 

Introducing Students to SEO Keyword Research with Google Trends (Activity)

On my last post I talked about Why I’m teaching Content Marketing in the Writing Class. One of the reasons I gave was the close connection between social media, SEO, and content marketing.

Today, we must teach students to write for 2 audiences:

  • Humans – you know, those organisms you interact with on social media.. oh, sometimes in real life too.
  • Search Engines – Where wonders cease and answers are found.

seo_cartoon

For written assignments, students in Writing Across Platforms (see syllabus) will conduct keyword research to optimize their content for the web.

As one way to introduce my students to SEO and keyword research, I use the below in class exercise with Google Trends (formerly, Google Insights). Google Trends allows users to see and compare trends on what Googlers are searching for, by showing search volume across time. Users can break down trends by category, such as geography.

We also discuss keyword research via Google Adword Keyword Search Tool. But I like to talk about Google Trends first because it is easy to use and a bit more approachable with its visual layout, including interactive maps.

Google Trends Activity and Discussion (Time: 15-20 minutes). Note: Lecture notes at bottom of blog post.

In class, I explain how search engines like Google seek to rank content based on relevancy and credibility so they can deliver the best content to searchers. The algorithms for ranking content are complex and constantly changing. But the question for anyone seeking to get their content in front of the right eyeballs remains the same:

How can we optimize our content to increase the chance people will find it online?

  1. I explain how Google Trends can be used to see what characteristics or features of a topic people search for (you can see the slides below). I ask students to imagine they are writing content for a new Volkswagen. How can they know what features of the new car to highlight in their content?
  2. I use this example because Google already has a great video explaining the results of a keyword search topic. So after we discuss some popular features, I show them the video example.
  3. Then we go to Google Trends and try it for ourselves.
  4. I then give them an in-class activity with a similar scenario asking them to find out what people search for most regarding a particular topic. I prompt with:
  5. Imagine you work for a client who wants to promote a new gym. What do people seem to be most interested in?
  6. Look specifically at Maryland. What do they search for in Maryland?
  7. How could you apply this knowledge to target user interest?
  8. Students go to the following Google Doc (http://bit.ly/WAP_GTrendsEx) and follow the instructions and visuals to walk them through the steps on Google Trends.
  9. This brief activity is followed by discussion of what they found, and their thoughts on how this information could be used.
  10. In my experience (I taught this in a social media class in the past), students at this point are excited about this tool and want to compare a topic they are interested in – maybe ice cream flavors, celebrities, brands, etc. I’ll ask students to make predictions on what topic is being searched for most and why. Often, we are surprised by what we find, which makes for a great discussion. We have lots of fun spending a few minutes doing this kind of exploration!
  11. I end by emphasizing that one way to use Google Trends is to see what people care about the most when they search for a topic, whether it be cars, gyms, et cetera.

From there, we move on to discussing Google Adwords Keyword tool, which I’ll save for a future blog post.

Check out the associated slides for this class and the class before it where I explain SEO and linking below:

What is SEO and link building and why do they matter?

Keyword Research Activity: Google Trends and Adwords (relates directly to above blog post)

What do you think? How do you teach your students about keyword research and search engine optimization? Would love to hear your exercises and thoughts below.

Cheers!
– Matt

Related Posts:

  1. When Content Marketing Fails to Deliver: 6 Problems with Marketo’s Ebook
  2. Why We Should Teach Content Marketing in the Writing Class

top cartoon: Some rights reserved by seanrnicholson

Why We Should Teach Content Marketing in the Writing Class

Some say content marketing is a hot topic in 2013 that will pass – a buzzword of sorts. I say, we should be teaching it to our students.

What is content marketing?

As Tom Foremski said, “Every company is a media company.” Content marketing is the creating of content aimed at attracting a target audience. The content adds value to the audience, rather than simply trying to sell them a product. Ultimately, the content serves a business objective (think, profit).

tractor

For example, I’ve been spending a great deal of time researching lawnmowers. Kelin and I are new homeowners. We have a 3/4 acre lawn and last summer after purchasing the house I nearly killed myself trying to mow the hilly thing with a push mower that was not self propelled (Hey, I’m a professor not a body builder). It’s hot and humid here. This year, I have visions of myself destroying that tall grass from behind the wheel of a riding lawnmower, a bottle of ice-cold water in the cup holder.

I know what I want. But there are so many options and price points. As I research mowers online, I’m trying to educate myself on the different transmissions, how much power I need (we’ve got a mean hill), whether paying more for a particular brand is “worth it,” and more.

A traditional approach would be to show me a bright red mower and pitch me on why I should buy it.

A content marketing approach might be to educate me on how to pick the best mower for my lawn terrain, how to prepare my lawn for mowing, tips on how to ensure the longevity of my mower, et cetera. How does this work? Simply, as I learn more, I become more confident in the credibility and reliability of the company providing me this information – perhaps in this case the content marketing is being done by a local hardware store. They aren’t just trying to sell me something, they are trying to help me. They are building a relationship with me. I know I’m the type of consumer that is skeptical, over-thinks purchasing decisions, hates to waste a buck. I appreciate being helped and educated on the subject. I’m more likely to buy from this hardware store.

Next fall I’m teaching Writing Across Platforms. My goal is to prepare students to write for the Web economy. I chose to focus a good portion of the class on online content marketing. Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. Content marketing is tried and true – public relations practitioners have been using content marketing for decades! The concept isn’t new. The goal isn’t either: to build trusting relationships and establish reputations. Which leads me to:
  2. If the brand is a media company, it needs great content creators – Social media enables organizes to create content and reach audiences like never before, arguably shifting the role of communication professionals and making “owned media” king. As such, content marketing is being used by more and more brands today. Pitching is great, but you can go directly to your audience… they’re searching for you anyways. If a student is going to excel in the social media landscape, he/she needs to understand how to create content that builds relationships with and excites their target audience. That’s a different relationship than with bloggers and the media. I know social media is going to change in ways I can’t predict. I want students understand fundamental ideas that can be applied across social tools, the underlying essence of what makes these tools so powerful.
  3. Social / content marketing/ and SEO go hand in hand – I’ll talk more about this in future blog posts. But in essence, for people to find your brand on the overcrowded web, you need to create search-friendly content that people want.

I’m excited to say I’ve completed planning the class.

While students won’t get a chance to make ebooks, webinars, or other cool content (so much to do, too little time) – they will get a clear understanding of what content marketing is, explore many examples through the text and in-class, and use this approach to content to plan out and create a series of blog posts that add value to a clearly defined audience while building the reputation of an organization. Why a blog? As Mark Schaefer says in Born to Blog, the blog is the best content marketing tool around.

In future blog posts I’ll talk more in depth about some of the activities and assignments we’ll be covering in Writing Across Platforms, such as keyword research and SEO.

Are you teaching content marketing? If so, how? What books or resources are you using? I’d love to talk shop. If you’ve got any comments or questions, please drop them below.

By the way, hope you like the new website layout. Had to merge over to WordPress now that Posterous is going away.

Cheers!
– Matt

Related Posts:

  1. When Content Marketing Fails to Deliver: 6 Problems with Marketo’s Ebook
  2. Introducing Students to SEO Keyword Research with Google Trends (Activity)
  3. What is SEO keyword competition? A primer for the Google Keywords competition activity

Photo – creative commons by aivo2010

Must-watch interviews with social media experts (Snow Day!)

I should be sledding. Shepherd University is closed today and the views from my front and side windows are inviting.

20130325_080932

photo: Snow and our vintage typewriter

As I sip my morning coffee, glad I don’t have to shovel our long, steep driveway, I’m wondering if it is truly March 25th. No matter. Whether you’ve got the day off today for a snow day, spring break, or not, here are some great social media resources you don’t want to miss.

Recently, Don Stanley (@3rhinomedia), social media strategist and professor who teaches social media at the University of Wisconsin-Madision, conducted two great interviews with two social media heavyweights: Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe), founder of the Content Marketing Institute, and Mark Schaefer (@markwschaefer), author of {grow} and a number of social media books.

Snowday-march

photo: out our kitchen window.

Thanks to Don for a wonderful job hosting these, asking great questions, and for sharing these on his class blog. I learned a ton from each. (if the embeds aren’t working, click on the title to go directly to the post on Don’s blog).

Content Marketing with Joe Pulizzi – founder of the Content Marketing Institute

Joe Pulizzi Video (Click the link to watch – WordPress will not allow me to embed. My apologies.)

A few things that stuck out to me from this interview:

  1. Blogging and social media in general is a marathon, not a sprint. Joe discusses how long it took him for his business to become successful through blogging. Many of us get discouraged when we don’t find immediate success.
  2. Don’t use a blanket approach to posting to social networks. Each social network is different. The culture and audience of each network is different and so we must .
  3. We don’t own our social networks. They can be gone tomorrow. It is important to get email addresses for your blog’s followers, so that you can stay in contact with your readers.

Mark Schaefer talks Twitter

Mark Schaefer Video – Click the link to watch – WordPress will not allow me to embed. My apologies.

Takeaway:

  1. Read Mark’s books. That’s what I decided to do after watching this interview. I got my hands on Tao of Twitter and Mark’s new book, which I am absolutely loving: Born to Blog. Both books offer great insights into the culture of social media and how to thrive in it. I will post reviews of each in future posts.

Ok, no sledding for this blogger. Its time to get back to work. It may be a snow day but the AEJMC deadline is fast approaching! Will I be seeing you in DC in August?

20130325_080628

Photo: View over our deck

Photos from this morning courtesy of my awesome wife, Kelin!

Social Media Measurement Google Plus Hangout with Social Media Professors

G+ Hangout
Screengrab of our Google Plus Social Media Professor Hangout

Last night I had lots of fun hanging out on Google+ with some very talented social media professors. Gary Schirr, Nancy Ricmond, and Jeremy Floyd, and I discussed social media analytics.

This was the first public G+ Hangout broadcast from the Social Media & Marketing LinkedIn Group. We are planning to do hold one about every month.

Jeremy Floyd (@jfloyd), who hosted the G+ Hangout, put together a great list of resources from the discussion including links to texts and analytics tools.

Not loading? Watch the video on YouTube.

Among the many new tools I learned about last night, I am thrilled that Jeremy shared with us the spreadsheet he created for his students to use to monitor their social media. One thing that struck out to me was the ability to track metrics against individual posts per their day and time to help in post scheduling optimization. This is a tool I am looking forward to getting my hands on and adopting for my own classes next semester.

If you’re a social media educator, I strongly encourage you to check out the Social Media & Marketing LinkedIn Group, which I wrote about in a previous post on how to find social media professors.

It is a great space to discuss issues and strategies in social media education and has been a valuable resource and sounding board for me as I build out the Strategic Comm concentration here at Shepherd University. I believe I’m the only faculty member coming from Communication in the group – but, as you know, the lines have blurred with social media. I really feel that cross-pollination is the way to go and encourage both marketing and strategic comm folks to join.

Come join and be part of the discussion and next month’s G+ Hangout. I will be moderating next month’s topic which will be on what key knowledge and skills we need to teach students to thrive in a social media economy.

Cheers!

– Matt

As the teenager goes, so goes Facebook.. so goes the social media professor?

FB_logo

Back in January I posted the below Tweet.

My Communication & New Media class was talking about the boom and bust of Web 1.0, Web 2.0, and the “cool hunt” – the tendency of young folks to jump from one trend to the next. (Yes, of course MySpace came up. Interestingly, students this semester hadn’t heard of Friendster).

I have asked the same question every semester since 2008-2009, when I began teaching new media as a grad student at Washington State University. “What is the most popular social network?” The answer has always been Facebook.

This semester the answer was clear. Facebook is on the way out.

Is there a shift coming to social media?

A great article posted to CNET last week titled “Why teens are tiring of Facebook” offers an in depth look as to the social networking giant’s troubles. Many of those same troubles were echoed by my students. They can be summed up in this Tweet I posted to a question I got from @richelecole to my original Tweet as to what was in:

In other words, Facebook:

  • Lacks exclusivity – “Everyone” is on Facebook – and yes, that means Mom, Dad, and the grandparents. There could be nothing less cool.
  • Is too cumbersome – Facebook, the social network that built itself on being sleeker and less chaotic than Myspace, is too complicated for the fast-paced on the go lifestyle. It takes too much time to maintain and participate in. Students said they just didn’t have time for all Facebook demanded of them. Twitter is quick and easy. Instagram is too, and the bonus is – pictures!

It seems my students aren’t the only ones thinking about unfriending Facebook.

As social media professors, are we always part of the cool hunt as well?

In a way. Trying to keep up with changing trends while balancing the many other responsibilities of being a professor may feel sometimes like an unwinnable race. That’s why it is so important that we keep our focus on what truly matters. Teaching students to think.

The tools will change. New trends will emerge. The fundamentals are much less fickle.

I think of them as:

  1. Monitoring: Strategies for identifying, cultivating, monitoring, and analyzing information on the social/real-time web.
  2. Metrics: Strategies for setting goals and what to measure on social media. And measuring them.
  3. Optimization: Strategic use of optimization strategies to maximize potential exposure to communication content online.
  4. Engagement: Strategies for targeting and engaging potential publics online.

When we teach new media, we should always keep in mind that the tool we’re teaching may be gone tomorrow.

It isn’t the tool so much that counts, as understanding the underlying concepts and strategies – the Why. If students learn only two things in my classes they should be: Be Adaptable (apply what you’ve learned to new situations). Be Lifelong Learners. These are platform agnostic skillsets.

Is a shift coming to social media and what does that mean for educators? As an educator, how do you stay current with changing trends in the classroom? What do you emphasize to your students?  Do you disagree with my approach? I would love to hear your thoughts and discuss this important topic further. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Like this post? Please share it.

Cheers!

– Matt

image creds: Facebook logo. This version hosted by MarcoPako Flickr page.

How do you rock the Skype guest lecture?

Last Thursday I had the wonderful opportunity to give a guest lecture in Dr. Antony’s COMM 4370 New Media Technologies and Communication at Schreiner University. As you know, my research focuses on social media and civic and political participation. So I was more than happy when I got an invite by my fellow WSU Edward R. Murrow College of Communication Ph.D. grad, Dr. Antony to discuss the topic with her students via Skype.

We covered social media and social change, both by working within and outside democratic systems. Discussion included subjects such as Rheingold’s Smart Mobs, Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, as well as Slacktivism

Dr. Antony’s students were great and well-prepared. They offered great insights, asked thoughtful questions and I truly enjoyed the opportunity to learn from them. 

I loved the experience and am always looking for ways to improve my delivery and better reach students. It got me thinking about some of the challenges of using video conference in the classroom. I love Skyping with classes, or having others come in and Skype with my classes. I always find it a little difficult at first – no matter what side I’m on as guest or professor with an invited guest – to build rapport when first meeting someone (or in this case, a classroom of students) through the screen. There is that sense of distance in the video experience. My students, often lively and talkative in class, always seem a bit reserved when I bring a guest in. 

Bringing guests into the classroom via Skype or Google+ Hangout is such a powerful resourceI am wondering how do you rock the Skype guest lecture – what tips and strategies do you use when giving guest lectures via videoconference? What tactics you have found helpful? How do you warm up your class to a videoconference guest? Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.

Below are my Slideshare slides from the guest lecture.  In a related vein, I spoke this January to the Shepherdstown, WV Rotary Club on social media and civic empowerment.

On a software service note, I was surprised to find that Skype requires a premium membership to do screen sharing. I seemed to remember doing this before at no cost. Why pay when I can use Google Hangouts for free? What’s up with that! 

Cheers!
-Matt

Talking to students about how they present themselves online

February 26, 2013

Over the past few years I’ve noticed an increase in how much students are thinking about how they present themselves online, their professional online identity.

This is good news because according to a CareerBuilder survey, 37% of employers look up perspective employees on social media before hiring. (Personally, I was surprised by this – 37% to me seems a little low). Certainly what we say and do online impacts how others see us.

If you teach social media, you likely follow many of your students on social media. Sometimes I cringe when I see the things some students Tweet.

 

Every semester for the past few years I’ve taken time in class to talk about presenting oneself professionally online.

This semester I decided to go about it a little differently. I decided to go a little more in depth. I am building a concentration of courses in our department that will emphasize strategic social media, and because the Principles of Public Relations class is the first class in the concentration, I decided I want to get students thinking about the professional uses of social media from the get go.

Here’s what I did in my Principles of PR class this semester:

  1. Early on in this semester we talked about being professional online, the fact that many employers look up a potential employee on social media before making a hiring decision, and watched this video about the business of researching potential employees on social media (embedded below). I had them read Dr. Karen Russell’s great list titled “PR Students: What not to Tweet” over at teachingpr.org.
  2. I then had students fill out an in class activity about what being professional online means to them, and how they would want others to see their identity online (see it on Scribd). I photocopied the form and gave a copy back to them. I kept a copy.
  3. I told the students to start using Twitter, if they hadn’t already. (I decide to focus on Twitter, though I’ve come to find that many of our students don’t use or like Twitter. So maybe I should broaden my horizons in the future).
  4. After several weeks, we were discussing public opinion and how the failure of co-orientation between an organization and its publics can lead to misunderstandings of stance on an issue that can harm the relationship. (Chapter 8 of Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations 11th edition) I told the students to: “Write a brief paragraph about how you want others to see you as a professional person who works in your career field choice.”
  5. I then gave them a little homework assignment (on Scribd). They were to  print out tag clouds of their Tweets, their Tweetstats, and their profile and bring them to class the following class.
  6. The following class, I gave students a few minutes to look over the things they’d printed the night before (their stats, profile, etc.) and had them answer some questions (found on Scribd here) about the sort of things they post, and whether what they post reflects how they want to be perceived professionally. We revisited Dr. Russell’s list of what students should not Tweet. Students checked whether they were following Dr. Russell’s guidelines, revisited what they’d written several weeks back about what being professional on social media meant to them, and revisited their statement from the class before about how they want others to see them professionally in their career of choice.

The purpose here was to see if the students identified differences between how they had seen themselves and how they discovered through the exercise how others may see them based on what they post online. Through this, we were able to make a connection to our discussion the class period before about the potential harm brought on by a lack of co-orientation between an organization (the org being the student in this case) and its publics.

Students who weren’t afraid to share what they post on Twitter to the class had their tweets projected on the screen using VisibleTweets.com.

After, we talked for a while about professional behavior online. Many students expressed that they were increasingly conscious of what they post online, particularly out of concern that a future employer might see what they post. When they were younger, some said, they didn’t think as much about what they’d posted. Many felt it was unfair that people were judged for things they’d posted long ago, pointing out that people change, grow, and mature.

I continue to see some students who throw caution to the wind, using social media as a place to vent all those frustrations and share those things they wouldn’t normally say to someone. But overall, I’m impressed by how much students today are considering the implications of what they post on social media. A few short years ago, this was not my experience.

How about you? Do you discuss professional self-representation on social media with your students? If so, what have you found effective? What challenges have you faced? It is a difficult subject and I’m constantly looking for ways to reach students on this issue. Please share in the comments section below. Thanks! 🙂 

Cheers!

images CC jcoleman (top) (bottom) DavidDMuir

Using Buffer in the Classroom to Teach Students Social Media Scheduling.

Feb 13, 2013

These days, there is a lot of talk about the importance of scheduling posts to social media (Dan Zarella thinks of it as a ‘science). Posting content to social media at the right time can make all the difference as to how much engagement you garner via likes, clicks, retweets, comments, etc.

That’s why it is important that as social media educators we teach our students about optimizing scheduling social media posts and monitoring the success of our posts help us determine when the best times to share are.

Buffer_headline

Enter the new app that’s getting a lot of buzz: Bufferapp –  a simple way to automate scheduling posts to be shared on social media (More about the Buffer social media post scheduler).

No more posting too much all at once. No more thinking about when to post something.

But is this new tool Buffer useful in the classroom? I think so. Here’s how I would use it:

How I would use Buffer

While I haven’t used Buffer in the classroom – I’d consider it as a tool for executing a schedule plan. I think its greatest utility would be to couple Buffer with Hootsuite’s post scheduler. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. Students schedule content they’ve created as part of a campaign (e.g., original Tweets, Tweets sharing their blog posts, etc). using Hootsuite.
  2. Students use Buffer as a compliment to Hootsuite – setting up their Buffer to post ONLY at those times that they are not posting their original content via Hoostuie. That way, when they find relevant and timely content to share, they can add it to their Buffer. If there’s no content, nothing is posted.

This combination will result in a more complete sharing schedule strategy that doesn’t overlap.

  • A simple example:
    • Original written and planned scheduled post – via Hoostuite.
      • 10am, noon, 4pm.
    • “Found” content – via Buffer.
      • 9am, 1pm, 6pm.

How Buffer Works

I had mixed feelings about Buffer at first. It honestly seemed like a lazy person’s tool to me (I’d previously taught my students to schedule their posts via Hootsuite).

Buffer’s appeal is its simplicity. You post something you want to share to Buffer, and it schedules it to be published on your social media account at a given time (currently supports: Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. I’ve connected to my Twitter @mjkushin & my LinkedIn profile). There is an app, a browser plugin, and integration into your social media accounts. So it is easy to add content from around the web to your Buffer. You can also manually enter Tweets.

Setting up Your Schedule on Buffer

Buffer-schedule

When I dug into Buffer, I found the user sets up what day(s) of the week and what time Buffer publishes content. You can also change your settings by day of the week (you have to pay for this feature unfortunately). Once your schedule is set up, all you have to do is add content and Buffer will publish it at your programmed days/times until your Buffer is empty (screen shot of empty buffer rom my Android app).

Bufferapp-android-queue

In theory, once you determine your optimized schedule, you can program Buffer for those times. You can always adjust the schedule later of course based on analytics feedback (below).

URL shortener and Analytics

Buffer-app-analytics

There is an integrated URL shortener with analytics, a la Bit.ly. As you can see (photo above of web app, photo below is same thing on my Android) , it tracks some basic stats for me: retweets, mentions, potential reach (my # of followers here), favorites, and clicks. Not quite as robust at Bit.ly, but good. You can also attach photos.

Bufferapp-android-screenshot

Conclusion

Benefits:

  • Quick & easy to learn & use
  • All-in-one posting and analytics.
  • Can be used to schedule posts, once schedule has been determined.
  • Can be used to monitor success of scheduling, to refine posting schedule.

Limitations:

  • A lack of in-depth analytics.
  • Minimal customization on posting schedule – you can’t adjust the days with free account.

I want my students to not only understand the importance of scheduling, but to understand how to determine the best times to schedule through pre-campaign research, and monitoring.

Buffer may be a great supplemental tool as part of a larger social media scheduling program and lesson. I’ll keep it in my thoughts and report back if I end up using it in the future.

Have you tried Buffer for yourself, in the classroom? What are your thoughts and experiences? 

Have you taught social media scheduling? How? Please comment below.

A Social Media Education Blog by Matthew J. Kushin, Ph.D.