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

Museums, apps and and the power of three (#smwgla)

Things come in three’s don’t they? And the power of three struck me this morning at the Guide Me Tours at Kelvingrove Museum session at Social Media Week Glasgow this morning.

Claire McLeod from Guide Me Tours gave an overview of the app they have developed for the museum. For those of you not familiar with Glasgow, Kelvingrove is one of the city’s main museums and is consistently in the top five visitor attractions in Scotland.

However like all (municipal) museums developing new income streams and improving the visitor experience is an ongoing challenge. And so to the power of three bit. The business model of Guide Me tours exploits the power of three. They develop the app (at no charge to the museum, but obviously working with museum staff) and then when the finished app is available, the income is split three ways – a third to the Apple/Android store, a third to the museum and a third to them. Seems like quite a good deal to me.

The new app (available on the Apple store just now and the Android version will be available in the next few weeks) gives a two hour audio tour of the museum. A free version gives a taster of the full experience and some of the highlights of the collection.

Screenshot of GuideMe Kelvingrove Museum App
Screenshot of GuideMe Kelvingrove Museum App

The team are now working on extending the user experience to produce other versions which are more inclusive with features for hearing and visually impaired visitors, and different language versions.

Currently there is no wifi in the museum, which gave rise to quite an interesting discussion about wifi provision in council buildings. I do find it disappointing that although we have wifi provision in our libraries, the City Council are still reluctant to widen provision to museums. This is just my personal view and I don’t know all the ins and outs of the decision process, costs etc. But I think wifi provision would increase visitor numbers and return visitors; as well as making downloading the app a lot faster (until we all have 4G on our phones!). It seems an interim measure of a wifi hot spot for access to the apple/android stores might be the first stage. There’s also a cafe across the road from the museum which has wifi – so you could just go there get a coffee and download the app there 🙂

Social Media Week, 24-28 September, 2012

This week is social media week, “a worldwide event exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media. Our mission is to help people and organizations connect through collaboration, learning and the sharing of ideas and information.”

Once again, Glasgow is one of the participating cities and I am one of the volunteers who will be at various locations and events around the city this week. There are a huge variety of events covering all aspects of social media for all sectors of the community.

I’m attending a couple of education specific events, including “What’s it all about? Using Social Media” at Glasgow Caledonian on Tuesday morning, and “Education on-line – mini-mooc” on Wednesday morning, where I’ll be part of a panel presenting a variety of view points on online education. My brief is to share some of the work JISC and CETIS have been involved in around curriculum design and course information.

As you’d expect, there are lots of ways to participate in all the events via hashtags, live streaming, youtube, flickr, facebook, apps etc. More information is on the main SMW website.

For the Glasgow event, here’s a twitter archive (courtesy of Martin Hawksey). There’s already a bit of activity on around the #smwgla tag. As the week progresses I’ll be sharing and checking out the top conversations using Martin’s tags explorer.

TAGS view of #smwgla twitter interaction
TAGS view of #smwgla twitter interaction

Again, using one of Martin’s templates, I’ve pulled together a timeline of videos/images which are using the #smwgla hashtag.

#smwgla timeline
#smwgla timeline

I’ll be sharing more of my experiences and thoughts throughout the week via this blog and twitter.

Confessions of a selfish conference tweeter

As many of you will know it’s the ALT- C 2012 conference this week, the UK’s biggest learning technology conference. I’m going later in the week but today am taking advance of the live streaming of the key notes and invited speakers (thank you ALT for once again providing this service); and of course following the twitter back channel.

During this mornings keynote the #altc2012 hashtag started trending on twitter.

Combined with this there seemed to be a growing number of complaints/ warnings about spam messages using the hashtag too.

The growth of twitter as an integral part of conferences is now, depending on your point of view, both a blessing and a curse. As well as some tweets from people who couldn’t be there positively encouraged tweeting, I also noticed a few tweets this morning bemoaning the level of tweets and harking back to the “good ol’ days” when it was a bit like the altc2012 google+ stream, with just a few “cool kids” hanging out.

So what’s my confession? Well there are a couple. Firstly, I never apologise for tweeting at a conference. If I go to a conference now I tweet. If you follow me you probably know this. I am in a very fortunate position that I am able to get to conferences/events that many in our sector can’t, so I think it is part of my role in publicly funded service to share my experiences/ relevant information and links etc. If that bothers you then I suspect you don’t/won’t follow me on twitter, and that is absolutely fine by me.

Secondly, I don’t use tweet deck or anything like that, and very rarely follow a conference hashtag stream. It may mean I miss out on a few tweets (or actually quite a lot), but you know what? (cue stage whisper) It doesn’t really matter. And there is the advantage of avoiding spam but sticking to my own (relatively) spam free stream.

Thirdly, I am slightly obsessed with the network views that people like Tony Hirst and Martin Hawskey create using the twitter data from conferences, and will no doubt be sharing during this week.

So, dear reader, there are my confessions, am I forgiven?

Edubloggers survey

Following Martin Weller’s example, here are my responses to Alice Bell’s educational blogging survey. If you want to participate (deadline 15th June), then either cut and paste the questions (and your answers) onto your blog, or comment on Alice’s original post.

Blog URL:

What do you blog about?Developments in educational technology, conferences and events I’ve been to. A large part of my work recently has involved supporting a number of JISC funded projects, so I blogged a lot about themes relating to them e.g. curriculum design, digital literacies, distributed learning environments, learning analytics. I also blog about our “corporate” use of social media.

Are you paid to blog?It’s not formally in my job description, but is an unwritten expectation and now an essential part of how I fulfil my work commitments.

What do you do professionally (other than blog)? Tweet 🙂 I work for one of the JISC innovation support centres so networking is central to my job. I experiment with, and use a wide range of web technologies for sharing innovation and developments in technology within the education sector.

How long have you been blogging at this site? Since September 2009

Do you write in other platforms? (e.g. in a print magazine?) Sometimes e.g. in other online publications, conference proceedings etc I also contribute to CETIS briefing papers which are available both in print and electronic formats, but the majority of my writing is on my blog.

Can you remember why you started blogging? I was told to! Our former Director thought it would be a good idea if we all started to blog.

What keeps you blogging?Habit, and as I said earlier blogging is now part of my working practice.

Do you have any idea of the size or character if your audience? How? Via google analytics, but my blog stats are amalgamated with the rest of CETIS staff blogs. We get around 10,000 visits per month.

What’s your attitude to/ relationship with people who comment on your blog?
I usually know them, so that is good, and I’m always delighted to get a “real” comment for a number of reasons including validation.

Do you feel as if you fit into any particular community, network or genre of blogging? (e.g. schools, science, education, museums, technology)
Educational technology

If so, what does that community give you?
Sense of common purpose and sharing of ideas/knowledge in an open way

What do you think are the advantages of blogging? What are its disadvantages/ limitations?
It is a good discipline and as much of my work centres on dissemination and networking it is an obvious medium to use. The disadvantages are that it can take a while to find your voice, I blog primarily in a professional context so I have to sometimes moderate my language/tone. On saying that, sometimes that’s no bad thing as it makes me be more considered and thoughtful about what the points I am trying to put forward.

Do you tell people you know offline that you’re a blogger? (e.g. your grandmother, your boss)It depends, sometimes, but when I’ve told non work people and they’ve had a look at the blog they think I’m from another planet.

Is there anything else you want to tell me about I haven’t asked?
Blogging is an essential part of my working practice. I don’t get a huge amount of traffic but I get some and it is a great addition to my memory, as well as illustrating what I do. A lot of my work isn’t very obvious and blogging gives it a presence/makes it more tangible and explicit.

Mozilla and web literacies

As part of the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme two public webinars have just been announced. The first is being held this Friday, 27 April, and the topic is “Mozilla and web literacies”.

Representatives from Mozilla will “will talk about their work in this area to define key Web literacy skills, create pathways for innovative learning experiences around them and build a network of instructors and facilitators with a shared mission.”

The next webinar is on the 4th of May and it titled “A history of digital literacy in the UK and EU”.

More information and a link to registration is available from the JISC e-learning programme blog.

Summary of technologies in use in the JISC Developing Digital Literacies Programme

The JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme is now well underway. As I reported from the programme start up meeting last October , the aim of this 2 year programme is too

” . . .promote the development of coherent, inclusive and holistic institutional strategies and organisational approaches for developing digital literacies for all staff and students in UK further and higher education.”

with projects:

” . . .working across the following stakeholder groupings in their plans for developing digital literacies: students, academic staff, research staff, librarians and learning resources and support staff, administrators and managers and institutional support staff . . .”

As part of the programme support project, over the last couple of months I’ve conducting our usual technical audits with the projects to get a picture of what technologies and standards they are using/considering to use at this stage. The results of these conversations are recorded in our PROD database.

The projects are due to complete their baselining phase at the end of January, so it has been timely to discuss some of the wider issues around using various technologies with each of the projects. The rest of this post gives a snap shot of the range of technologies the projects are currently using. NB Unfortunately I haven’t been able to speak with the UCL team, but once they have completed their baseline report we will be meeting and I’ll update the data, however don’t expect the general trends outlined in this post to change much.

The map shows the locations of the 12 projects, with links to the prod entry for each. As the programme progresses, I’ll be adding a links to the design studio pages for each project too.

Map showing locations of DDL projects
Map showing locations of DDL projects

The mindmap below gives an alternative view of the data entries for each project (if you click on the picture it will take you to a live version, NB the mind map will be open so you may find it easier to close nodes before exploring it in full).

Mind map of PROD entries for DDL programme
Mind map of PROD entries for DDL programme

The focus of the programme is more on the effective use of technology rather than as with other JISC funded work, the development of technology. On saying that, there are a couple of projects who are planning to develop some mobile applications and there are strong links between the work of the W2C project at MMU in relation the provision of mobile services, particularly with the SEEDPod project, University of Plymouth who have been working with MMU in conducting surveys of students uses of mobile devices. There are a number of approaches to mobile provision. The Developing Digital Literacy as a Post Graduate Attribute project is providing students with ipods to record and share their learning journeys, and to some extent leaving it to the students to find what works/doesn’t work for them. Whereas other projects (SEEDPod, InStePP) are developing more holistic, device and location agnostic approaches to provision of services/content.

So far we have 94 individual technologies and standards. The wordle below gives an overview.

Wordle of technologies & Standards in DDL progamme (Jan '12)
Wordle of technologies & Standards in DDL progamme (Jan '12)

This bubblegram gives another view of the range and instances of technologies and standards. Again if you click on the picture you’ll go to a larger, interactive version.

Bubblegram of technologies and standards in DDL, Jan 2012 (v4) Many Eyes

The projects area all blogging (you can access aggregated feeds here) and WordPress is top of our chart with 8 projects using it, the majority of these are also using institutionally hosted versions. What is also noticeable, is the (relatively) high instances of non- institutionally based services such a social networking sites – particularly twitter and Facebook. At the moment the main (and anticipated) use of both is for general project dissemination, however a number of projects are both to communicate with staff/students e.g. to get people involved in focus groups. The PADDLE project are planning to use existing facebook groups as collaboration/communication point with some of their focus groups.

Other external services such as drop-box (for document sharing), doodle for arranging meetings and a range of google apps (docs, calendar etc) are also being widely used. For the later there is a mix of institutional provision and more general use of, for example google docs for sharing project team related information. As with other programmes and the following a general sector wide trend, Moodle comes out as the most common VLE across the programme.

In terms of standards, the main focus was on packing formats with IMS CP, IMS CC and SCORM all getting one mention each. As we are still in early days, most projects haven’t got a clear idea of what format they will release any content in, however there was an overall interest in, and indeed knowledge of OER (i.e. the DIAL project is building on experiences from a previous UK OER project) and most projects expressed an desire to release any relevant content as OERs.

A number of projects (e.g. The Exeter Cascade Project, InStePP) are looking at greater integration of digital literacies into wider competency frameworks through for example making more explicit curriculum links to institutional graduate attributes; and also through working with other wider programme related stakeholders such as SCOUNL and ALT.

As mentioned earlier, projects are just coming to the end of their baselining work, and at this stage they are keen not to be prescriptive about the technologies they will be using, as they want to be as flexible as possible. Also, key to number of the projects is the exploration of the how, what, where and why of technology use (both hardware and software) of staff and students and then making appropriate interventions/recommendations for wider institutional policies.

When I repeat this exercise next year, I have a suspicion that there may be a subtle shift to more institutionally based services as more content will have been created and being used/shared within VLEs/repositories. As any changes to curriculum provision, and institutional policies, if not in place, will be fairly well scoped by then too. I am wondering if we will see, similar to the Curriculum Design programme, an increase in the use of Sharepoint for more formal documentation and a decrease in use of more informal sharing services such as drop box. At the moment there the project teams are using drop box primarily for the convenience of any time/where/device access.

One of the things I was curious about was if these projects would be more “literate” in their choices of technologies to use, and what would be the balance between use of institutionally based services and more general web based services. I don’t think I have an answer to the question, but I have seen a healthy sense of pragmatism displayed by all the projects in terms of their approaches.

I’ve had some really interesting discussions with projects (particularly Digitally Ready) around the definition of technology and what it was I really wanted to record i.e. everyday /commonplace technologies like email, calendars etc; was I interested in what the project team were using for project management or more what they were using for stakeholder engagement? In fact it’s all of the above – which probably goes some way to explaining the number of different technologies recorded to date. I feel it’s also worthwhile every now and again just stepping back and reflecting on how our expectations of peoples and projects use of technologies (JISC programme digital literacy perhaps?) have evolved. A few years ago, we’d be lucky if we got all projects to have a blog with more than 2 or 3 entries by the end of a programme – now, it’s one of the first things on a projects to do list, and most institutions provide some kind of hosted blogging service.

When we were developing PROD originally it was to record the tools, standards outputs and development processes of very technically focused projects. However as we’ve started to use it more widely across the JISC elearning programme, we’ve used it not just to record what projects are building, but the what, how and when of technologies projects are actually using. In the not so development focused projects such as DDL this is central. I think that this is starting to give us some real evidence of the diversity and commonality of approaches within and across programmes, and give us greater understanding of how actual use of technologies is being enabled and embedded both from the bottom up and top down.

As they move into the next phase of the programme it will be fascinating to see how the projects start to use the findings from their baselining and how that will impact on their next phase of development.

Crowd sourced open source alternatives to SPSS

This morning I was having a PROD call with Peter Kilcoyne from the WORDLE project (part of the current JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme). One area that came up during our discussion was open source alternatives to SPSS for data analysis of their baselining interviews with staff and students.

Peter and his team have done a bit of research and have been looking at SOFA, and some other other possibilities. Statistical analysis is not one an area I know that much about, but I know a lot of people who do have expertise, so I decided to take the tried and tested “lazy web” approach to see if there were any other recommendations from my twitter community. And once again the power of the crowd came through. I even got some email with more detailed information and suggestions of labs I could use in my university.

Below are the collated responses to my initial tweet. R was the most popular choice by far, but if you know of any other alternatives, then please let me know.

[View the story “Open source alternatives to SPSS” on Storify]

Social Media and Academia

Glasgow is one of the participating cities in the global Social Media Week. I was pleased to be able to attend the Social Media and Academia workshop at Glasgow University earlier this week; organised by Edinburgh Beltane, Beacon for Public Engagement and EDINA.

The event generated a really interesting discussion around use of social media from three main perspectives – teaching and learning, the library and community engagement. Nicola Osbourne (@suchprettyeyes) live blogged during the session and her account really captures the varied discussion that took place.

The things that struck me most were around the power to use social media to connect (or perhaps) reconnect place and community. Being a bit of a transient soul, I tend to use and think of social networks as virtual space devoid of location. However a sense of place is important for institutions, and it was interesting to hear about the various uses of Facebook within Glasgow University and also the discussion around the dangers of being in too many networks – particularly related to staff time to monitor these networks for any request for information. We also heard form Chris Speed and Peter Matthews about a really fascinating project in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, were local residents are sharing their memories of places, and place through voice memories via social networks – in this case primarily Facebook. I also found out about how Oxfam are using tagging of objects so you can now trace things you donate and see how much money they have been sold for.

There also seems to be a growing recognition in academia of the power of social networks – are we, in Gartner terms, on the slope of enlightenment perhaps?

I’ve also pulled together some of the tweets from the session too – which gives more of a twittter stream of conscious feel for the session too. All in all a really thought provoking session which I’m still thinking through. Many thanks to EDINA and Beltane for organising the session and to colleagues at Glasgow Uni for hosting it.

View “Social Media & Academia ” on Storify