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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

7 Ways to Engage Current Students through Social Media

Once you’ve gotten students to your university, you may think you’re in the clear. However, 1 in 3 students choose to transfer at least once during their time in college, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. That means you need to be active in the process of making your students proud to be there.

In addition, if you don’t engage your current students, you could be missing your greatest opportunity to bring in prospective students. Peers still play a big role in the college decision process, according to research by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. So you’re not just increasing loyalty of your current students, but you could be creating a new trend among their younger friends.

With tactical social media content and strong loyalty from current students, you could even draw the 1 in 3 students that choose to transfer from another university! (For more ways to reach prospective students, check out “5 Ways to Attract Prospective Students through Social Media”).

Here are 7 ways to engage your current students:  

1. Share Interesting News
In the digital age, there is so much vying for your current students’ attention. The good news is that they’ll want to read your stuff because you are a trusted source -- these students already have a vested interest in what’s new at your school.

So how do you rise to the top? The same way that journalists do -- by using news values. It’s what makes your content interesting. It should contain elements of the Impact, Timeliness, Prominence, Proximity, Oddity, Human Interest and/or Conflict.

Like it or not, social media is a type of journalism. However, now you are the gatekeeper of the information that is shared. But your students aren’t going to read your posts if they aren’t interesting.

Since this is the foundational principle, I will share how it influences the other 6 tips.  

2. Talk about Famous People
As previously stated, talking about famous people (or prominence) is always a good way to get social engagement (i.e. likes, retweets, favorites, comments). People like to be associated with any type of celebrity and they’ll share about it, in person and through social media.

So, if you have famous alumni or special guests visiting your university, milk it for what it’s worth. Write a story, interview the guest/alumnus and promote it on social media! This will create great engagement with your students and it will create the kind of buzz you’re looking for.

Check out what the University of Wisconsin-Madison did to leverage Katie Couric’s birthday:

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 8.13.27 PM.png

Couric wasn’t even a graduate from Wisconsin, but they leveraged this photo from graduation and got 2,577 likes and 38 shares -- it’s tough to beat that engagement!

Download the free social media prospecting workbook

3. Share Students’ Content
The average college student spends 8-10 hours on his/her phone, according to a study from Baylor University. Much of this time is spent on social media, Facebook being the second most recorded task behind texting.

One of the main reasons students check social media is to see if anyone has interacted with them. It’s a big deal -- so how much more so if they get a notification from their university?

If you retweet a student’s tweet, or share a student’s Instagram photo, it will likely impact their day and they will tell their friends. There’s that social influence again.

Check out how George Mason University has done this with some of its students.

By retweeting Bridget’s tweet, GMU is positively affirming her social connection with the university, and she’ll be more likely to incorporate her university into more of her tweets.  

4. Use Social Media as a Link
Social media is a natural connector. It’s connects your university with your current students, prospective students, former students and potential investors.

But it’s not just a social connector -- it’s a tech connector. You can use social media as a dynamic marketplace of ideas: news stories, updates and happenings. It’s where web content can be pumped in and potential website visitors can be pumped out.

When you use social media as a link and not just an individual platform, then you maximize its utility for resourcing your current students with information and bringing in more consumers of your web content.

Check out the way that the University of California Berkeley used social media as a link, sharing the same story across multiple platforms.

UC Berkeley tweets out their original content on alumni who are doing great things in the area. They are employing news values of interest to students (proximity, human interest) in order to garner new consumers for its news stories.
Here’s the original story on the website. The social sharing icons below the story allow it to be organically shared on social media by interested readers, allowing current readers to market to potential readers from their social circles.

5. Capitalize on Sports’ Success
As interesting as news stories and famous people might be, nothing seems to capture the attention of college students like sports success.

On the one hand, college students are young, active and probably interested in sports themselves. But something happens in college athletics that turns ordinary fans into obsessed fanatics, according to Eric Simons author of The Secret Lives of Sports Fans.

Simons writes that there is a physiological science that affects the affinity of students and makes them physically and emotionally attached to their team. This creates a strong bond that is not easily broken. And you can capitalize on this strong bond by sharing and celebrating the successes of your sports teams.

See the way that Texas Christian University and the University of Virginia leverage their sports teams for social media success.

This TCU tweet capitalized on timeliness (tweeted in January), proximity and prominence. You can tell by the engagement (167 favorites, 44 retweets) how successful it was.


UVA used human interest by capitalizing on Brogdon’s success and his prominence through his interview with ESPN. Students want to be connected to someone like this and they’ll retweet it to show their support -- 64 times that is!

6. Use Social Campaigns & Trending Hashtags
Another way to drum up interactions and engagements with your current students is to use campaigns and trending hashtags. This allows your students to take part in something bigger than themselves and to buy into the vision that you have created.  Thus, you are able to organically create buzz surrounding your school by launching a platform for students to share and communicate about their experience.

Check out this campaign from the University of Maryland: #UMDinspires.

By changing their cover photo, they’ve informed their current students about the campaign #UMDinspires and integrated the goals and engagement across platforms.

Maryland is able to share its commitment to diversity and diverse student body through the lens of the campaign, inviting students to share their excitement for this, or other aspects of the university that inspire them.

7. Use Humor
At the end of the day, your current students want to have fun and that’s why they’re on social media. If you’re always gloating or sharing statistics, they’re going to tune out. You need to be professional and strategic, but if you neglect the entertainment piece than your efforts will reach a ceiling of engagement.

Check out how University of California Los Angeles balances humor, natural language and professionalism here:

UCLA capitalizes on its sports success and tries to engage the entertainment culture so prevalent amongst college students with this humorous, fitting video.

UCLA makes the best of a bad situation, combining oddity with humor in this tweet.

Download the free social media prospecting workbook

Thursday, December 17, 2015

5 Ways to Attract Prospective Students through Social Media

You believe in your school -- that’s why you work there. You just wish that you could get prospective students to see what you see. That’s where social media comes in. You get to entertain them, engage them on their turf and paint the picture for the school that you know and love. These five best practices will help prospective students see what you see.

1) Know Your Audience

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 5.47.38 PM.pngYou’re reaching people, not robots. These people have real stories and they’re going to be more attracted to their interests, not yours. This will take some thorough research from your school’s admissions history. Where are your students from? What are the most popular majors? What sorts of things do they like to do? Why did they choose your university? Once you’ve established some key characteristics, create a few prospective student personas -- these are profiles designed to help you put a face to the students you’re trying to reach. Take some time to read up on social media habits of your target audience. This will help you gear where to place your content. According to the Pew Research article “Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015”, your best bet is to use Facebook or Instagram to reach your prospective students.

2) Make Content Purposeful

It’s gotta be fun, of course. But if there isn’t a purpose to it, why post it? According to US News and World Report, the biggest reasons why prospective students land on a college is for reputation, job prospects upon graduation and financial feasibility.

Harvard Insta Purpose.png
Harvard Engaging Students via Instagram
So don’t just post fluff. Teens can go anywhere online for that. But they’re going to follow or engage with you because you can create content with a purpose without sacrificing entertainment. How can you do this? By using something timely like Harvard did during Thanksgiving, they’re able to remain playful but are also able to share a unique aspect of their culture.


3) Engage Prospective Students

UMich Insta Engage.png
University of Michigan kids Cheer!
Social media is a perfect medium for entertaining, so if you’re not already doing that, then you need to start. This is especially true if you’re a smaller school. Entertaining social media posts can help get your school recognized and get your name out there. First impressions are key, and entertaining a prospective student is the first step. It helps to build rapport and trust. Here’s a great example from University of Michigan’s Instagram: Who wouldn’t want to go to your school with cute kids cheering for you?

4) Make Your Social Media Relevant

Harvard uses Social Media to Engage Students
"The World According to Star Wars" on Harvard's Facebook Page 
Teens are always online. According to Pew Research Center, 92% of teens go online daily, 24% of whom describe themselves as “constantly online”. That’s a lot of time and opportunity to come across your school! The only problem is that there’s so much to look at, and teens are easily swayed. They need to be convinced that whatever they’re looking at is relevant to their lives right now. So you’ve got to be creative. Harvard knows it’s audience and they can have a little fun. When prospective students see Star Wars characters in the classroom, you’ve got their attention. Check out another great example from Harvard’s Facebook:

5) Highlight Real People Doing Big Things

UPenn FB People.pngProspective students have big dreams. Sure, culture tells them to go to college so they can get a good job and become successful -- the American dream. But entrepreneurship and research are on the rise and college students are leading the charge. The best way to sell your school is to show your prospective students what they could become and what they could accomplish. Everyone can connect with a story. When stories are told about current students and/or alumni doing big things in the world, prospective students start dreaming.

So you can sell them on the nuts and bolts of your school all day long, which is important, but if they don’t see the big picture, they’re not going to be convinced.
This post from the University of Pennsylvania’s Facebook is a great example:

How Many Developers Does It Take to Screw In a Lightbulb? Leveraging the Internet of Things!

The Internet of Things (IoT)

by Steve Drucker, Founder

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the increasing number of devices that are now connected to the Internet and can be programmed remotely (typically from your smartphone).  Everything from from Oral-B toothbrushes to Samsung Washer-DryersNest Thermostats, and Philips Light Bulbs are now connected and have their own programming interfaces. Additional products are coming online that enable you to control virtually any electronic device remotely.
This technology revolution opens the door for software developers to produce some truly innovative and immersive experiences. Easy to use API’s and libraries now exist, such as Cylon.js and the forthcoming “Thunder” IoT platform from Salesforce.com that make it quite simple to control devices in the physical world from the virtual one. Of course, all of this power also opens up a myriad of security concerns as well. While I certainly don’t want my blender getting hacked into and ruining my margarita,  I have a dream where I can install NEST thermostats in my sales team’s houses and turn up the heat (literally) when automatic reporting from Salesforce.com indicates that they’re not making their quotas. Because that’s how I roll.

Enlightening yourself about IoT with Philips Hue Lights

For our first IoT trick, we’re going to use several well-proven technologies to produce a simple app to control a Philips Hue lightbulb. I’ve been using Hue bulbs for a couple of years now and they’re fantastic. They use light-emitting diodes to produce energy-efficient light across the RGB palette. Each bulb contains a wi-fi radio that connects to a bridge.
Philips Hue Starter Kit with Bridge and 3 Connected Bulbs

The Bridge has its own REST API that enables you to easily get a list of the bulbs that have been named/registered as well as send commands to set the color and brightness of each bulb.

Tools of the Trade

We used the following tools to produce our first IoT app. As a bonus, all of the aforementioned products are free and open-source. They also all use JavaScript as their programming language.
  • Node.JS application server
    Node.js uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it lightweight and efficient. Node.js’ package ecosystem, npm, is the largest ecosystem of open source libraries in the world.
  • Cylon.JS API for Controlling Devices
    Cylon.js is a JavaScript framework for robotics, physical computing, and the Internet of Things. It makes it incredibly easy to command robots and devices.
  • Sencha Ext JS (GPL License) for producing the front-end GUI.
    The most comprehensive JavaScript framework for building feature-rich cross-platform web applications targeting desktop, tablets, and smartphones. Ext JS leverages HTML5 features on modern browsers while maintaining compatibility and functionality for legacy browsers.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Drupal 8 Training News, Alerts and Discounts

The release of Drupal 8 brings with it over 200 new features and improvements allowing you
to build almost any integrated experience you can imagine. Drupal 8 offers simplicity for editors, power for administrators and accessibility for everyone.

No matter if you are moving from Drupal 6, or Drupal 7 or just getting started fresh with Drupal 8, "We've Got You Covered".  Fig Leaf is Acquia's #1 Training Provider and our Certified Technical Trainers have trained more than 35,000 students. 

With Drupal 8 released today, we are pleased to announce that training is soon to follow.  We've developed more than 30 courses for the likes of Salesforce, Adobe, Intel, Sencha, PaperThin and others, and in there is typically a slight delay from the time of product launch, to official training.  We invite you to be the first to know about Drupal 8 hands-on, instructor-led training from Fig Leaf Software.  

Sign up to receive news and announcements about the upcoming Drupal 8 training as it is released. Classes planned include: 

Ready, Set, Drupal 8 
Drupal 8 In a Day 
Drupal 8 Practical 
Drupal 8 Understanding Core 
Drupal 8 Conceptual 
Drupal 8 Layout and Theming 
Drupal 8 Module Development 

Get Drupal 8 Training Info

Fig Leaf Software offers public and private training for Drupal using our own Drupal training materials and training materials certified by Acquia, Inc. To view the full course outline for current Drupal training visit http://training.figleaf.com 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Cisco Broke my Internet

Many of our customers use Cisco's Anyconnect Secure Mobility Client to connect to their VPNs - it's easy to use and works great. Two days ago however, I started it up and it decided to auto-update without prompting me.  In general I'm not opposed to this - upgrades to software and especially security-related software like a VPN client can be critical, and companies can make the process relatively seamless (both Firefox and Chrome have been self-updating for awhile now and it hasn't caused me problems). This time, once the auto-update finished and the client restarted, my internet no longer worked.  I couldn't access websites and ironically I could no longer access VPNs either - Cisco's update had someone broken my internet and broken itself to boot. So after poking around for an hour or I figured out what had happened - Cisco had decided to 'bundle' in a separate Web Security Agent with the VPN client software update that was re-routing all my HTTP traffic to some sort of 'safety web scanner' service, and that service was failing.  My main internet connectivity was intact (I could ping IPs and get a response) but webpages were kaput.

This epitomizes one of the things I hate about a lot of modern software companies - tons of them want to stick things that you don't need and probably don't even want on your machine.  These practices are already pretty shady - you'll often get them if you don't check or uncheck some innocuous checkbox or you'll be 'implicitly agreeing' when you simply choose a 'Standard Install' option over the 'Advanced Install' that lets you unselect all that crap, but this time Cisco went one better and just stuck it on my machine without so much as letting me know what they'd done, let alone giving me the option to decide. The end result is that I booted up my computer and Cisco decided that it could just put things on it, and without so much as an 'ok' button my internet access was disabled.  I'm sure that's not what they intended, but it's what they did.

Fortunately I had another machine to search the web with, and after awhile I found that Cisco had installed a Web Security Agent - if this happens to you, you can go to Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Programs and Features, look for that Cisco Web Security Agent, and uninstall it - your internet access should come right back (and if you have it installed and you didn't intend to, you may want to uninstall it even if your internet is still working, as it's possible that it'll slow down your internet access by doing this HTTP service reroute).

It just goes to show that computer problems can come from anywhere - computer systems and web servers have become unimaginably complex, and here's an incomplete list of things that can cause an issue with your site:  Code bugs, database issues, OS problems, system upgrades, server resource limits, software updates, hardware failures, network outages, configuration settings, strange HTTP headers from a Chinese search engine, and an infinite variety of human errors.

So when something breaks the cause can be both unexpected and very difficult to track down.  At Fig Leaf, we deal with the unexpected every day, so if you need someone to help you navigate through the maze that is maintaining a website, give us a call.

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