Jun 122012

people at BerkeleyConsider the facts: Your students, your staff, your alumni, your clients, your competitors, your donors, your advocates and your detractors are all socially engaged. They all have voices.

Some have created a “personal brand.” Others are speaking with association to a company’s or school’s brand. This rise of the unofficial spokesperson has significant potential repercussions.

These voices, in the physical world, are mostly weak. In the social world, they can be powerful and influential. In the social world, there is noise and signal. Noise is retweeted, thoughtless, unconnected 140-character sets. It’s flaky Facebook fans. Signal cuts through. Is on message. Is connected. Signal drives to action.

Effective social marketers have intentionally high signal-to-noise ratios. Effective social marketers listen extremely well. They understand the value of dialogue. They welcome conversation.

This rise of the constituent voice, of many voices, is changing marketing.

With potentially more than half of your employees and faculty online and socially active, there is a need for empowerment guidelines. Most will not have had the media training of traditional company spokespeople. With a desire for your subject matter experts to be engaged, there is a need for either incentives or new job profiles to encourage the behavior sought. With the massive volume of messages to listen to and interpret, there is a need for focus, for direction and connection. This is the new role of network management.

Add to this complexity that it’s likely that close to 100% of your student body is online and social active.

As a result, education is changing. So is customer service.  It’s faster and it’s public. Forget Twelpforce, though this in itself is a powerful outworking of the positive. Think disgruntled customers who are not getting the attention they need or deserve. Think of the opportunity for your competitor or detractor to amplify this dissatisfaction. Or, now thinking Twelpforce, consider the competitor who listens to your customers and embraces them.  Now think about it from the perspective of your student body.

Social is the opportunity to listen. As children, we all heard that we were created with two ears and one mouth, and that meant we should focus on listening first and doing that twice as much. This truism holds for the Age of Many Voices.

Besides being polite, it will help ensure you are on message. Listening is a research opportunity. Done properly, it is an incredible research tool as well as a lead-capturing and -farming opportunity. And, critically, all of this is in real time.

Effective social marketers create intentional systems.

We started with “consider the facts.” Perhaps consider this: Do you know how many of your students are socially engaged?  What about your alumni and faculty? Do you know how many of your prospective students are online? Do you know what your competitors are saying, what your advocates and detractors are saying? Are you socially engaged?

In the Age of Many Voices, are you ready?

George Gallate
Global Chairman, Euro RSCG 4D

Jun 122012


Ram Kapoor

Ram Kapoor

As the Digital Head for the university, I was informed the other day (no tweet, no poke, regular old email) that UC Berkeley has been granted automatic registration to a new social network. One that is solely focused on people with IQ scores of 180 and above. Wow, really? So now they expect me to take my social networking team (person) and spread it (her) even thinner across yet another social network that may or may not take off? No thanks!

We have our hands full managing the social networks we are already committed to – Facebook, Twitter, the water cooler committee, Google Plus (the last one was just to ingratiate myself with Louis Gray from Google, who I hope will show us how to use G+ more effectively.) ‘Pint arrest’? (that was auto correct but it’s kind of cute). I love the interface and the user numbers (Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google Plus, Linkedin and Youtube combined) but feel it is better suited to fashion, design and entertainment. At least that is what my 11 year old messaged me from an alternate universe.

If some of you are wondering what all this is leading up to, don’t worry. I’ll let you know as soon as I find out. In the meantime, here is my 3-point plan for the web. (The world domination plan was 7 points and I didn’t want to waste your time.)

  1. There’s a lot of chaos on the web. It’s our job to bring order to it. At least our share of it. Or as much as possible given our resources and constraints. Whenever we feel up to it….
  2. I believe there are only two kinds of digital plans. Those that engage and those that bore. I believe the latter should be isolated using fluorescent yellow tapes and flashing red lights. The penalty for crossing over should be 12 years in a Siberian gulag prison hut with no Internet access. Or plumbing.
  3. Our audience is one click away from our competitor’s website. That is true. But what do you do when you have a busload of different competitors? What if you compete with Harvard for daily university news, xkcd for comics, Flickr for photo essays, and StumbleUpon for new discoveries? Wouldn’t people go mad click-clicking their way to our competitors’ sites? Or raise their de Quervain syndromes to catastrophic levels? Isn’t it our moral duty to save humanity from death by multiple clicks? That is why our site has to be so good that nobody ever wants to leave it. Even to go to the bathroom. Or to check if that burning smell is really the toaster. We want them 100%. We want puppy-dog obedience and utter devotion. To our website and social media channels. Is that too much to ask for?

Outraged? Engaged? Feel free to respond below or tweet your feelings to #sharebc2.  It will give us a chance to test some funky twitter visualization apps!

Jun 112012

A prescient post by Louis Gray, a noted social media expert who will speak at the Berkeley Communications Conference this Thursday. 

Social media illustrationNow that the world’s information is posted, linked, indexed and searchable, and friends are connecting, sharing, liking, and following, the quest is on to streamline the noise and give the Web another dimension – one not measured by the data, or who led you to the data, but you as an individual. The third wave of the Web, I believe, is going to be about personalization by individual based on that individual’s preferences – explicitly stated or otherwise.

The declaration of the next wave of the Web being personal is not shared universally, of course. Some say the next wave is all about mobile. Others may say the next wave is all about location. But the right approach to ‘personal’ absolutely encompasses each of these things. With our smartphones and tablets being increasingly powerful, they are practically an extension of us, and we are relying on them to discover relevant things, content, places and products for us as individuals. Similarly, our location is an ingredient of who we are – for where we are impacts our decisions, and what tips are relevant, be it for news, for restaurants, lodging, dating or anything else. So “personal” as an individual is both local and mobile.


Jun 042012
Claire Holmes

Claire Holmes (Peg Skorpinski photo)

It’s true! I gravitate to brands that understand my needs and meet them, time after time. I am an evangelist and student of others’ great work. So, when I arrived here four years ago, I blabbed about a number of brands I admired and wanted to use as illustrations of how good work happens. It took only a few meetings for me to experience the whispers and rolling of eyes that took place each time I uttered the “B” word. It somehow offended and alienated audiences.

I set out to understand why and discovered that to many people at Berkeley, the B word had come to mean a veneer-of-fake-stuff-that-trivializes-the-real-meaning-of-our-mission. When they heard the word brand, they saw trite phrases, tag lines and logo designs. A sentiment that was epitomized by the spray-painted phrase on the Thanks to Berkeley wall near Dwinelle back in 2008 that read, “We are not a brand.”

B for bummer, I thought, because to me, a B is so much more. Our B is all about the experience of Berkeley—the butterflies in the stomach when the band plays at a football game, when we bask in global adulation at winning yet another Nobel Prize, or when a student overcomes incredible obstacles to cross the stage at graduation. A brand to me is about the gut and emotion, not just about typeface, color, logo, type treatment, or tag line.

The fact is, whether we like the B word or not, Berkeley has a very strong B. Both at a personal level—the “complex, messy, chaotic, exciting, vibrant” emotion you feel for the university as a student, faculty member, staff or visitor (ref: a recent perception study my department conducted)—and at the international level, where it has consistently appeared in the Global Top 5 lists.

That, to me, is what B is all about, and that is what I am striving to convey in the current set of positioning and messaging work undertaken by my department. We want to capture the authentic, emotional voice, words, tone, and images that express what is uniquely Berkeley to the world. We have an opportunity to embrace and reflect our highest aspirations and truest selves in a more cohesive way. Simply said, we have a chance to “own” our B.

I hereby promise that, whatever happens, our B will not be a synthetic cover or a commercial endeavor. It will be as unique as each one of you is. It will help differentiate us from our competitors and yet be flexible enough so there is room for personal creative expression and allows us to embrace the diversity of experiences and passion and inspires us all.

I am very excited about meeting so many colleagues and talking about this and a number of other topics at our upcoming conference on June 14. I invite you to share your thoughts here and now about what excites you about working here. What emotion does Berkeley conjure for you, and how do you experience our B?

I look forward to hearing what is likely to be a variety of opinions about this effort. I would expect nothing less from Berkeley.