What I learned on my summer vacation
Two weeks ago I went on vacation to Newport, Rhode Island, one of my favorite destinations. My wife and I have a 15 month old son so the term “vacation” takes on a new meaning. We decided to try to make this vacation a truly relaxing experience for the family and not pack it with activities. Freedom and relaxation were the keywords. My wife added one caveat, that I commit to these principle’s with limited time spent on my laptop (which was of course making the trip) and my blackberry, which has facebook, twitter, and foursquare mobile applications to name a few. For better or worse, like many, I am hyper-connected, sometimes to a fault.
My wife is a realist; disconnecting from everything for a week may be possible or liberating for some, but not me. But limiting my time on social media while on a family vacation is more than a fair request. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit some level of anxiety to our agreement.
Over the seven-day vacation I checked twitter a handful of times; normally I check twitter a handful of times per day, or have tweetdeck open most of the day. I took several valuable lessons from my time spent “away” for social media;
1. It’s about quality not quantity. This has been written a million times but lets make it a million and one because it’s important.
2. You must build trust. Trust is the currency of social media. Ultimately the tweets I read were links to articles and blogs posted by people I trust because they have delivered in the past. they have taken time to build social capital and consistently posted interesting content. My top three while on vacation were: David Bill @dcinc66, Brendan J Schneider @schneiderb, and Cameron Herold @CameronHerold. I equate this to my favorite musical artists. At this point the Black Rebel Motorcycle club or the Foo Fighters could release an album and I will buy it without ever previewing it or reading a review. Every single thing they have done in the past speaks to me and makes me believe I will like what they do next.
3. Don’t underestimate the power of a title or lead-in. I follow 224 people on Twitter, that is a lot of tweets per day, what will make me read your tweet, blog, or article, when I have limited time? What will cut through the noise? Cameron Herold, one of my favorite bloggers wrote Make Your Employees’ Dreams Come True – How could you NOT read that post? Or Tucker Kimball’s @tuckerkimball “Why a mustache will help you remember me.” Those titles pull you in.
4. Don’t take your followers (readers) for granted. I lost 9 “followers” over the 7 days I was on vacation; why? because I sent out 5 tweets in 7 days – all about my vacation. I don’t blame them for unfollowing. They followed me because I tweet, write, and link to information about social media in education – consistently; I stopped doing that for a short period, so they found someone more interesting to follow for the time being. (I vow to win you back!)
5. It’s about content stupid! Again, this is the millionth time you have heard this but it’s always a good idea to reinforce the basics.
6. “Brevity is the soul of wit.” – Bill Shakespeare. With limited time I found myself drawn to shorter blogs and articles. I tend to like minimalist writing anyway, but I was particularly less inclined to read a 2000 word article than a 200 word blog. Cameron Herold is the best example of brevity, his blogs are short on words but long on lessons. Seth Godin @sethgodins is another great example. This does not mean there is not a time and place for your lengthy manifesto, but always keep your audience in mind.
As a school you have a somewhat captive audience, but your constituents are still busy people with access to limitless options for information; you still need to cut through the noise; you still need to engage; you still need to provide interesting content, build trust, be consistent, and respect your audience.
I did find a good use of social media while on vacation to appease my wife…restaurant recommendations; this was my facebook status our last day in Rhode Island:
Newport Friends…where should Bethany, Fin and I go for a late lunch on our last day in Newport?
I got nine recommendations and had a wonderful meal to end to our vacation.
What do you think? Do you have examples of schools doing it right?