Making Social Media Magic - NCMPR 2012

We thought it might be useful to the share the script we developed for our "Making Social Media Magic" presentation at the 2012 NCMPR conference.  While it won't be verbatim  to what delegates heard who were able to get into the session, it certainly contains most of the points, and perhaps a few that we missed.  If you have any questions or comments, you can certainly leave your thoughts on this blog post, or contact us directly:

Renee Summers - Marketing Manager -
Russell Thomas - Director -

Making Social Media Magic
March 12, 2012
San Francisco, CA

RUSSELL: Thank you so much. It is both an absolute thrill and an absolute terror to be on this side of the microphone after attending four previous NCMPR conferences in Savannah, Kansas City, Albuquerque and most recently in Philadelphia.

Before we go any further, I want to try something. I’ll need complete silence and attention for this. I’m going to show you a picture. If you have any sense as to what it’s about, please quietly raise your hand.

RUSSELL: That is SOCIAL MEDIA MAGIC. The KONY 2012 video was release one week ago today. What a difference a week can make.

RENEE: The title of our presentation is MAKING SOCIAL MEDIA MAGIC. We’re going to talk about the basics of platforms like Twitter and Facebook, give some interesting anecdotes about how they’ve become an important component of our marketing and communication mix and provide a few examples of things we’ve learned along the way. We’d also like to make this session as interactive as possible. So, we’ll be throwing out some challenge and test questions to get your thoughts and ideas.

RUSSELL: The reason that this presentation is rather daunting is that some of you come from colleges that are gargantuan, with multiple urban campuses, tens of thousands of students, and budgets that would put ours to shame. Others of you come from more modest roots, community colleges with a smaller number of students, small staffs, and budgets that force you to pull value out of every minute of your day. Are we up here as experts? No way. Have we figured it out? Not even close. Are we having fun trying? You bet.

RENEE: Our first test question, which should give us a quick sense of the room is: HOW MANY PEOPLE IN HERE KNOW THEIR PERSONAL KLOUT SCORE? HOW MANY PEOPLE KNOW THEIR COLLEGE’S KLOUT SCORE?

RUSSELL: KLOUT is a readily available online tool that automatically measures your influence using data from your social networks.

This is directly from their website: “Anywhere you have an online presence, you have the opportunity to influence people by creating or sharing content that inspires actions such as likes, retweets, comments and more. The more engagement your posts receive, the more influential you are. Klout uses this information to provide you a Klout Score that measures your overall influence.”

IMPORTANT: If you’re doing the right things with your college social media channels it will be reflected in your Klout Score. The same applies if you’re doing the wrong things.

RENEE: So we are thrilled to be here in San Francisco for the 38th annual NCMPR Conference. We are from Keyano College which is located in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada….proud members of ZONE 7!  But you might be asking yourself WHERE IN THE WORLD IS FORT MCMURRAY AND WHY WOULD I CARE?

If we pull back on the map and show all of North America, you see San Francisco here in northern California, followed by Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. We are off to the right in Alberta. This is CALGARY. Keyano College is a 7.5 hour drive directly north!

RUSSELL: Why you should care and how what happens in our region affects you is all contained is a 50-mile radius of Fort McMurray. Something called the Athabasca Oil Sands.

For the record, Renee hates this picture that I chose, but I think it’s illustrative as this is the Syncrude Upgrader facility with the sun setting off in the distance. This facility is in the heart of the 3rd largest proven supply of oil in the world.

175 billion barrels reside within that 50-mile circle, recoverable using today’s technology.

Over the next 25 years total investments, reinvestments and revenues from oil sands operations will top $2 trillion as we go from producing about 1.7 million barrels per day in 2012 to almost 5 million barrels per day by 2035.

Over the next 25 years, the number of jobs to be created in the US directly as a result of the activity happening on Keyano College turf: 465,000.

Right now, the Athabasca Oil Sands region is America’s #1 of non-domestic oil.

RENEE: And as the college in the heart of the biggest industrial development on the planet, we play a big role training the people they need (in frighteningly increasing numbers): power engineers, steamfitter/pipefitters, welders, crane operators, heavy equipment technicians and heavy hauler operators.

Our state of the art simulators prepare students to drive some of the biggest pieces of equipment in the world, like the Cat 797. The cost to replace just one of these mammoth tires? About $50,000.

RUSSELL: So, in as little time as we could manage, that’s a little bit about who we are and where we come from.

RENEE: This is an aerial shot of our beautiful community and campus.

We serve a region that has a population of just over 100,000. Our average household income is the highest in the province at about $180,000 fueled by thousands of well-paying jobs in the oil sands at plants that run 24-7, 365 days of the year. We are shiftwork community.

We make lots of money, but a lot of that goes to the high cost of northern living, including house prices that average $750,000. To illustrate that further, a nice mobile home on a lot, sells for over $400,000.
We are young. The average age is 32. We don’t have a lot of seniors.

We are highly educated. Over 65% of the population has credentials achieved beyond high school.


What does this mean for Keyano College?


RUSSELL: and then along comes Facebook. It went mass market in the fall of 2006, yet by April 28th of 2007 I had heard the term “Facebook” maybe twice. I didn’t really know what it meant or why would it would matter to me or Keyano College.

But, on that day, in a meeting with theatre professionals from around the province, in between agenda items, all they could talk about was this thing called Facebook that was sweeping through colleges and universities. I went back to my hotel room and signed up that night. And from that point on, Facebook was everywhere. It had reached a significant tipping point.

I got Facebook right away and ran right into the cliche that embarrassing pictures of you will invariably show up.  This picture of me drinking my first beer at a party in 1983 showed up within the first week of joining.

Note the sexy wristbands and stylin' white pants.  I was cool.

A horse of different colour is Twitter. I first heard about Twitter right here at the NCMPR Conference in Savannah. Dr. Pam Cox-Otto from Interact Communications was giving a presentation on social media while several members of her staff were in the audience tweeting on Twitter. I had no idea what that meant or what that looked like or why I would possibly want to try it myself. But I did. I went back to my hotel room and signed up.

It quite a long time to get the hang of Twitter. Facebook seemed easier, more applicable, more personal. But it during the glory days of the Vancouver Olympics that I discovered one of the practical uses for this micro-blogging platform.

The sport that I was following the most was curling. And both the Canadian men and women ended up in the finals. And both those games ended up happening at a time when I was in the middle of a packed theatre watching my kid perform in a show.

I figured out that if I put in the proper search using my BlackBerry that there were thousands of people tweeting what was happening in realtime. And as the Canadian men won, I let out a muted cheer, and discovered that 4 or 5 other people in the audience were doing the exact same thing.

During our most recent convocation and myriad other special college events, I took that lesson and turned it around, tweeting in realtime about events that mattered to us that we hope would matter to others. It didn’t cost any more money, all the work had been done for the event, we just maximized what was happening by sharing it on our social media channels. It’s a tremendous brand builder.

As the social media bubble began to get bigger and bigger, with no sign of going away, I gathered my staff together and said: “I DON’T CARE IF YOU’RE DOING SOCIAL MEDIA PERSONALLY, BUT I ABSOLUTELY NEED YOU TO BE DOING IT PROFESSIONALLY.”

Which leads to an interesting challenge:  PERSONAL VS PROFESSIONAL PROFILE?

RENEE: what kind of profile do you develop?

• A singular profile that speaks to all your activities: personal, work, community.
• Multiple profiles that separate the personal from the professional.

Russell, how have you approached this particular challenge?

RUSSELL: I guess from the very beginning I chose to share all aspects of my life using one profile. It has its limitations as I have to be very cautious on the kinds of things I post, but overall, it’s worked well for me.

RENEE: Does anyone want to share the choice you’ve made and why?

RENEE: The other thing that happened during the early stages of this social media revolution was that departments and programs got on the bandwagon. All of a sudden, Keyano College pages were popping up everywhere. It was out of control.

Departmental/Program pages – Managing the Beast

Did anyone else go through that phase?  Is anyone still in that phase? Would anyone be willing to share a strategy that has worked for your College?

We started the process of reining departments in and linking their social media activities with the “mother ship”, so to speak. And now that we’ve achieved some sense of control and the Board has instituted a social media policy to create a framework, we are in a much better place.

That said, we’re truly still trying to figure it out. Every day provides challenges and lessons about how to harness the incredible potential of having these direct channels to our students, stakeholders, and potential students.

RENEE:  My facebook story started with my daughter.  I discovered that here was an awesome way to share tons of pictures without cramming everyone's email inboxes.

But over time, my page has changed to be much more business focused.

RUSSELL: We’ve learned so much, and there is still so much more to learn. But we thought we would attempt to collate 10 specifics lessons or ideas that you can take back to your colleges.

We have a handout piece that you can take as a parting gift. So don’t feel like you need to write these down.


Whether you use or, shortened URLs offer insight into what is working and what is not. I use and here is some information that it provides.

Not only does it show how many people clicked through, but whether they clicked through on Facebook or Twitter, mobile or otherwise.

Why is this important? Because it is a direct way of measuring your effectiveness in engaging your audience.


I think there are two kinds of people in the social media world: those who tweet and post instinctively and just have a knack for weaving it into their busy lives, and the rest of us. How do you create a meaningful social media presence if you or members of your team are not wired that way?

The first step is to create an editorial schedule of things you need tweeted and multiple ways that you want to present and share that information. Tweeting or posting once is not going to move the meter. You need to have a rational balanced approach to sharing information within the social media realm.

When are most people engaging? Are you sending out messages at those times?

For instance, offers a mechanism to browse your Twitter community and provide you a whole menu of statistics that should inform your editorial schedule.

Using a dashboard like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite gives your team a tool where they can dedicate 30 minutes of their day to programming their social media messaging for the day. You can manage multiple profiles from one location and even schedule updates hours and days into the future.


I think of social media as both being relational and a conduit to content. In the process of building brand and awareness, your ultimate goal is to connect your audience with content that matters to them. If you have nuggets buried within your college website, you can use the channels you’ve developed on Facebook and Twitter to bring users into your world.

If I write a blog and it just sits there, it’s going to have next to no views. But one posting on Facebook and Twitter and come flying into the content.

There are lots of interesting things happening on the home page of our website, like an Aboriginal Awareness Day even, a Land Trust endowment story, and even someone attempting to break a world record, but if don’t invite people to engage with this content via Facebook or Twitter, we are not maximizing its potential.


This is a pretty simple concept: keep track of your social media channels so you know how you’re doing.

“What gets measured gets done.” If we see that one particular channel has flat lined, we can marshall forces within the college to give it a jumpstart.

Set targets for audience and challenge the college community to help you achieve them.
Even asking your audience to help in building more audience seems to work.

KEYS TO SUCCESS: take regular measurements and share the results. We use a red light, yellow light, green light approach to quickly identifying areas of success and challenge.


You don't have to reinvent the wheel.  Look at what your colleagues at other colleges are doing.  Certainly one of the most successful has been Harvard University with over 1.5 million fans of their Facebook page.  Look at the type of content they are adding and the frequency with which they are adding it.


At the end of the day content is everything. What it is, how and when you share it, and how often.


RICH – use images, links, videos – tweets with links are more likely to be retweeted.

RELEVANT – the higher the relevance the higher the resonance and SHARE FACTOR. Are you saying stuff that matters to the people in your audience?

TIMELY – timing matters and the sooner the better. What’s going to get more retweets, talking about Wayne Gretzky coming to Keyano College as it is being announced, or the next day when it’s already old news. This one’s a no-brainer.

AUTHENTIC – authenticity makes a tremendous difference in the social media world. About a month and a half ago, it was a particularly cold day in Fort McMurray, -40 or so, and I felt like grabbing a cup of coffee. So I walked from my office, which is in one building, to the other building where the cafeteria was located. As I was walking back, I glanced down and noticed that I was wearing two different pairs of shoes.

Anyone else ever do that?

I was mortified, embarrassed beyond, and in a little bit of a panic as I had meetings with important government officials later that morning. So, what did I do?

I pulled out my BlackBerry and took a picture and posted it on Facebook.

The interesting thing here is that this simple posting inspired 73 likes and 53 comments within just a couple of hours, or a response rate of 7%. Why? Because it was an honest human moment that everyone could relate to and it brought some sunshine to their very cold Alberta day.



Social media never sleeps. It doesn’t fit into a nice Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 box. How is your college responding to that reality?

We live in a shiftwork community, where people are engaging online at all hours.

Everyone needs to have a CHAMPION and the team needs to be empowered to be the eyes, ears, and voice of the College.

A whole lot of damage can occur to your institution during the weekends or at night when everyone is sleeping, or so you assume. Conversely, huge opportunities for engaging your audience exist outside the parameters of your normal business day.

This is a puzzle we have yet to solve, though we know it’s incredibly important.

RUSSELL: An example of this occurred last May 16 when I saw a Facebook post from a colleague at Northern Lakes College saying that she was becoming increasingly concerned about the disturbing images coming out of Slave Lake. I flipped over to Twitter to find out that a massive forest fired, fueled by 100 mph winds, was threatening this small community of about 7,000 people.

I spent the next six hours tweeting information, pictures, video clips of what was happening. Not only did my twitter followers jump dramatically, I had a call the following morning from the producers of the CBC National news wondering if I knew how to get ahold of the town’s mayor as I was obviously tapped in.
In the end, 40% of the town was reduced to ashes. The fire was so hot that concrete foundations literally melted. Where did people in the middle of that disaster go to find out information? Twitter and Facebook. Those became lifelines for people who didn’t know if they had a house to go back to.


If you want to go duck hunting, go where the ducks are. People are spending an increasing amount of time in the social media universe connecting with them, engaging them in dialogue, building relationships and networks.

How powerful is this social media dynamic? Last year, we need to advertise a Cash and Carry Sale for our facilities department. It was essentially a gargantuan garage sale where you could pick up surplus items for next to nothing.

We were selling flat screen computer monitors for $5…as an example.

They didn’t give us enough notice, so the only marketing we were able to do was using our Twitter and Facebook social media channels.

With not a single iota of traditional media support, the gymnasium full of surplus items sold out within a couple of hours.

We needed to go duck hunting, so we went where the ducks were.

50 / 25 / 25

One of the key questions that all of us are asking is WHAT DO I TWEET ABOUT? Or, WHAT DO I POST ON FACEBOOK?

One theory is to use the 50-25-25 approach.

50% of the time your content should be about your core business
25% of the time your content should be engaging your audience about your core business
25% of the time your content should be “whatever”….fun stuff

At the end of the day you’re wanting to achieve increasing engagement, more likes, comments, shares, and retweets.

I think our best example of fun stuff happened on Halloween last year. Staff members were invited to bring their little kids to the College to go trick or treating through the various departments. Our photographer had the brilliant idea of inviting every group into our photography studio to get their pictures taken.

They turned out so well that we posted them on Facebook and then sent them out on Twitter with hourly Halloween safety messages.

Did it have anything to do with our core business? Not even a bit.

Did it build brand for the college and increase engagement? Absolutely.

It also presented an opportunity to demonstrate that we a college that supports families and community.
It was a home run.


When your radio morning show runs a contest where they give away a trip to Hawaii between 6 and 6:20 am that results in a most amazing exchange with the winner….what do they do?

They repeat it….over and over again.

Why? Because great content is worth repeating.

And much like radio, where only a percentage of their listeners are tuned in at that precise moment, you want to share and post your most important content multiple times, over a number of different day parts to get the highest penetration and engagement.

Only 16% of your Facebook audience will see any one post.

RUSSELL: Tweets are flying in at an incredible rate. I follow roughly 1,500 people and at the busiest time of the day, I’m seeing 20-30 tweets per minute. If you want to cut through, you’ll have to find ways of getting your content sent out multiple times in multiple ways.

The reality is that we are all exploring a new frontier. As my wife sat at the computer with my 8 year old son Ben last Thursday evening watching the KONY 2012 video and what it meant, she made an astute observation, that this campaign had set a new benchmark for how to use social media to change the world.

A colleague of mine on Municipal Council recently said “That the only mistake we can possibly make, it to think too small.”

He was talking about urban development in Fort McMurray, but I think the sentiment applies directly to the relationship between colleges and their social media networks.

Focus not on your limitations, but on your opportunities – think beyond the obvious and imagine the possible.

Thank you.


  1. Russell,
    This is great - I am just wading into the world of Social Media and staggering at the immensity of the ocean.


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