Malleable Musings

June 19, 2010

Back to Africa / back to Facebook

Filed under: Facebook, International Student Recruitment — Brendan @ 9:11 pm

I’ve always had a bit of love affair with Africa.  So when I was pressured by my boss in to going to Ghana this week, I didn’t resist too hard.  Especially given that this is the year that Africa gains the recognition of hosting the World Cup.

It’s nine or ten years since I was last in Ghana and whilst I always consider Ghana as West Africa for beginners (it’s just less chaotic than elsewhere) I had a thoroughly enjoyable time.

I loved meeting our students and alumni, and I caught a few moments to listen to some African drummers, who were performing outside my hotel at some sort of corporate function.

I also loved the football atmosphere.  There were signs of the world cup everywhere – from football pitches on the ground in the airport, to the flags of all of the nations involved all around the bars, to people selling football strips in the streets to cars carrying Ghanaian flags.

One of the objectives of the visit was to try and foster a better relationship with our alumni, and current students.  We had set up various events and so last Saturday during the first England game I set up a Facebook page to see if it would help promote the recruitment activities  and if it could be used to help foster an online community for students and alumni.  I had a Google Adwords voucher so I set up a few ads aimed at my target demographic and did a few Facebook ads as well.  This took a bit longer that I thought it would – primarily because the interface has changed so much on Google since I last used it via the web (about two years ago).  I ran the ads for a few days after we arrived and for a total cost of around £30 I’d had around 3/4m ad impressions and around 600 clicks through to the facebook fan page.  This meant that by the time I arrived in Ghana the following day there were already around 35 page ‘likers’ / fans.

Unfortunately whilst internet connectivity in West Africa has definitely moved on.  My personal connectivity hadn’t.  It was a bit of a hit and miss affair as to whether I could get on the internet.  When I did get online I generally couldn’t upload large files.  In all it meant that my ability to update statuses and drive interaction and traffic was a little limited.

It was therefore a bit of a bizarre coincidence that when I returned to the office yesterday that my first meeting of the day was a meeting about an official Facebook page.  Having just got in after a long flight I probably wasn’t in the best of form for such a meeting and my initial reaction was that there were far too many people in the room.  However I soon changed this view to being that some of the most important people hadn’t even been invited. I guess it comes back to the old problem of who owns stakeholder communications – and the answer is everyone.


September 6, 2009

Things I’ve learned in the past couple of weeks

Filed under: Branding, Facebook, Life at home — Brendan @ 9:57 pm

Being new to a job does mean that you can take three and a bit weeks out of the office without coming back to email overload. However even without an email backlog I’ve seemed to have plenty to do and I’ve learned quite a bit since my last blog post. Including some of the following bits of trivia:

Antigua has 365 beaches – one for every day of the year.
Fermanagh has 365 lakes. (Guess who was in Ireland on holiday during the wettest August on record!)

Facebook advertising seems to be determined by your ISP location in addition to the networks that you are part of.

You can now get on the internet anywhere (although the positioning according to Google Maps seems a bit out). I’m sure I first saw this technology at work in Abuja eight years ago.

There are more chickens than humans on the planet. Although trying to get an accurate number for the chicken population is pretty difficult.

More significantly I found out that Shell no longer operates in Ireland. People were boycotting the Shell branded petrol stations (for eco-reasons) so they re-branded under the Topaz marque. However as this blog shows a re-brand may not be enough.

August 2, 2009

Facebook Courses

Filed under: Facebook, Uncategorized — Brendan @ 10:44 pm

On the surface my new job has very little to with social networks however it’s been an interesting week in terms of social networks and web 2.0 tools.

I attended a really interesting presentation by Ross Parry on Tuesday in which he talked mainly about using common web 2.0 stuff instead of Blackboard. He’s a really engaging presenter!

Then having seen some of the stuff from #IWMW2009 (the link is Mike Nolan’s atom feeds) I found something about the top UK HE Twitter accounts. I found it funny that an account I started had ended up top (at least in the initial post – see Friendfeed for my reaction and for this Facebook post that I found from one of my old colleagues).

On Friday I ended up in a discussion about amplification that I would never had been invited to, if I hadn’t been involved in social media.

I was also asked on Friday to do a guest post on how HE/FE use social media to engage with prospects, current students and alumni. I was asked if I could come up with something thought provoking or even a bit controversial to get a discussion going.

Social networks, and especially the behemoth that is Facebook, are important advertising and communication platforms. I read a tweet sometime earlier in the week – sorry can’t remember who from – that suggested that Facebook might eventually replace Admissions pages and LinkedIn will replace Alumni pages on institutional websites. Whilst I’m doubtful that this will happen. They will probably remain as critically important tools in the work that I do – even though social media forms no part of my job description.

Therefore, in the end I thought it was best to point the person who asked me to guest post at a few other people whose blogs I read. Although I’m now having second thoughts and think it’s important to write something around how crucial it is to appoint the right staff and then trust and support them well when wanting to engaging with social networks.

The reason for this is the self-reflection that I did on Saturday when Tony Hirst tweeted about COURSE PROFILES – A Facebook Application for Open University Students and Alumni.

I was thinking about something like this for quite some time when I was in my last job. My intention was to produce something very, very similar to both the Course Profiles and the My OU Story application that Tony talks about in his Google doc.

For me, this idea was a no brainer. Just look at this Facebook Page or the comments/discussions in the student-created student group on Facebook and you can see why applications like this are so important.

Unfortunately I never got around to implementing an application like Course Profiles properly. Although I did manage to create an application, uolcourses, that would add a badge with some self-declared text on to the user’s profile, that was all it did and I was miles away from releasing something into the wild.

I can’t remember what it was that eventually stopped me, or even when it happened. I’m sure it was probably that I hit a snag in a piece of code, and couldn’t find a way to get it working. If today you were to look at the application I created it simply returns some debugging data.

I remember approaching some of my more technically minded colleagues about incorporating a course unit list but I couldn’t persuade the techies (or rather their managers) of the importance of developing Facebook applications.

So the only resource I was able to push in to this was my own time, late at night outside of working hours, using my limited technical skills.

I’m really pleased to see that Tony and his colleagues at the OU were able to provide a mutual platform of support to each other to enable an application like Course Profiles to be produced and I can’t wait to see the new applications they are working on.

However one thing I don’t understand is why they aren’t linking the Course Profiles page from their main Fan page.

BTW: if anyone reading this thinks that they have a thought-provoking guest post in them about how HE is using social media to engage prospects, current students and alumni please let me know and I’ll pass on your details.