I’m going to talk a lot about why we did things, and the planning process, because that’s the most important part of any story. I’m not going into a lot of detail about the technology involved. If you have any questions about that, though, I’m happy to answer them as we go through.
First, a little background…
The Problem: At the beginning of 2012, I got promoted to Acting Director, Communications and Stakeholder Relations, BCcampus.I had a problem: an overbuilt web site. There were no fewer than FIFTEEN content areas on the front page, TWELVE of which needed fresh content in order not to look outdated PLUS a blog! I was only one person to create and manage all that content, plus attend to my other duties.Also: our surveys told us that many of our key stakeholders really didn’t know exactly what BCcampus did.
We looked at our analytics, and some other sites similar to ours (like JISC), and I decided to make some changes right away.We took out the nine top-of-fold content areas and replaced it with a carousel that could feature up to six stories from the Blog (or Latest News) section.We put in an area for temporary announcements and outage alerts (top right), and moved the blog section “above the fold.”We added an events calendar underneath that. Also – our analytics told us a lot of visitors were getting to our site using the search term “ApplyBC” – we also saw a lot of bouncing around the site to various pages mentioning ApplyBC.We surmised that some students weren’t looking for information about BCcampus at all, they were looking for the application service. So we put a link and a button front and centre.
We needed to make some changes right away, but first we needed a plan
Our target audience is people in higher education: presidents,instructional designers, vice-presidents academic, information technology directors, faculty members, librarians, researchers. We developed personas - tried to look at it from our stakeholder's point of view. What do they want to know about?Analytics - hired a firm to analyze who is coming to our site, how much time they were spending, etc. User Testing - we had no idea really how our audience saw our web site.So we literally went and asked them: over the course of a week I was at UBC, Emily Carr University, SFU Burnaby, Royal Roads, Camosun College and UVic.We knew it was too much to ask them to come to us. Content Strategy –Christina Halvorson – Content Strategy for the Web.
An example of how important user testing is.We had assumed we had enough information about OER for a reader who didn’t know what it was. We were wrong. When we asked users to do a task involving searching for news about Open Educational Resources, there was nowhere for them to go. This was something we fixed right away, within days of finishing up the testing.…..But by this time had I also realized I couldn’t do this alone….
I needed some help.
Knowing I couldn’t do it alone, I managed to pull together a great team to support me.BCcampus employs 30-some staff distributed in Vancouver, Victoria and elsewhere. Web Designer- Barb Murphy. Barb is the only permanent full time staff person who is my direct report. I don't know what I would do without her. Co-op Student Kevin Choy from SFU Interactive Arts Program: User testing and CMS management.I realized I was spending much of my precious day uploading content, finding photos and cropping them (rusty skills in that area). I also knew that implementing user testing was something co-op students from SFU's Interactive Arts program were trained and skilled at - so I hired Kevin Choy for two terms.I realized I did have a budget for some writing services and I knew there were a lot of independent pros who know what they're doing around blog and web copy. .SO I looked around for writers - and I found them. I couldn't afford to hire someone else on staff - and I knew I needed writers who could easily pick up on the content - who could quickly grasp OER, educational technology, MOOCs, registration systems, shared services - from subject matter experts and deliver it in a way their bosses might understand. I went to my former colleagues in government who do the same thing all the time. Christine Wood - who I met when I first started in the BC government 8 years ago.bWest Interactive to help with strategy. They had been doing our newsletter for a year or so - but I wanted to deploy those resources to better pick apart Chris's brain. I brought the newsletter distribution in-house (Co-op student) and Chris helped with social media and SEO strategies to take full advantage of our communications planning.
We began to heighten our storytelling efforts.
The Message (the “content” part of The Plan): I realized through my own social media experience that talking about yourself all the time just doesn't cut it anymore. What I also realized was this: What BCcampus does for the post-secondary system in BC is in the background. We're the plumbing - our stakeholders (colleges, universities and institutes - 25 public ones in BC) are the shiny fixtures. They're what everyone sees and uses, we just provide the supports - the IT infrastructure and training and co-ordination to make it all work better. Educational Technology should not be noticed - it should just work - to enhance learning, to ease the registration process, to free up resources our stakeholders can use elsewhere in their IT departments, Registrar's offices and Teaching and Learning centres. Oftentimes if we get "noticed" it's when something goes wrong. So …..
…Here’s one of our stories.We work to become the reliable sidekick, the supportive best friend, sometimes the fixer and bushwhacker. We want to reflect our stakeholders in our work. We wanted to hold a mirror up to them, so they could see themselves in what we do. We are interested in stories of ed-tech innovation that our partners are involved in, whether we had anything to do with that innovation or not.So – being interested in others became the starting point for our content management strategy.
Aim to publish twice a week (need to be flexible) – professional writing.Allocate about 4 hours to research, write, edit and submit a blog post. Each blog post is submitted two days before the ‘go live’ date.Newsletter is published every three weeks. Each post is Tweeted, Shared on Facebook and Linked In using Hootsuite or Buffer.
We had to set the tone for our writing.Write the way we speak. We translate academic terms into plain language. We use active voice,We use lots of subheads, bullet points and hyperlinks where appropriate. We avoid jargon and acronyms (or if we do, we explain what they are). I’ve posted this style guide on private Wordpress pages for all our writers..and on Basecamp where I keep my editorial calendar.I do have a longer style guide which also sets out things like word usage, common spelling, etc. That is also available for writers.
Here is a screenshot of our front page nowadays.We made the switch to WordPress from Silverstripe in the Fall 2013; redesigning the site in response to our user testing (See that OER section top right?)Cleaner, more minimalist design with similar elements – but easier for us to use and for the reader to read. It’s also responsive – our previous site was very hard to read on mobile screens.We understand that people are in a hurry and strive to delight, entertain and inform with all our articles.
We’re most proud of the calendar plug-in that lets us get in more information in a more easily digested format.You can even subscribe to it.
Our results so far have been impressive.
We wanted to increase our readership by 10 per cent in a year, and it worked. In 2013 so far, compared with the same time period last year, the number of pageviews of this site increased by 9.83% overall. The increase was been especially noticeable during the summer (not everyone disappears in July and August!).We have found the most effective way to get the word out about our great content is our newsletter. We had 400 recipients on our newsletter mailing list at the end of 2013 - a number that had also grown by about 10 per cent a year. A higher-than-normal portion of readers click and read our newsletter content, and we're happy you're finding information that's relevant.average of 4,300 visitors per month. They are mostly from B.C., but also from people interested in educational technology from all over the world.In the future – we are looking at doing more user testing as resources allow, and I still need to find a way to integrate more of our “doing” sites: the professional learning and open education – into the main site.
BCcampus: Spreading Stories with Social Media
with Social Media
ETUG T.E.L.L. Session
Feb 25, 2014
Telling Stories with Social Media
• The Problem
• The Plan
• The Team
• The Stories and how we tell them
• The Results
Focus on blogging
• Conversational tone
• Editorial calendar
• Newsletter drives traffic
• Social media drives traffic
The Stories: Short Style Guide
Not like this:
We respect the autonomy of
each of our system partners. A
centralized, “one-size-fits all”
approach doesn’t work for our
clients or for us.
Where centralization may be perceived as a onesize-fits-all approach that doesn’t fit any one
department in the organization well, and
outsourcing may be perceived as a loss of selfsufficiency and expertise of the whole
organization, shared services may not have
similar detriments if a self-determining, consortial
approach to service solutions is utilized.
Some of our system partners
might think “shared services”
means “centralization” and
The shared service approach is often confused
with the older methods of centralization and
At BCcampus, we run shared
The BCcampus shared and collaborative service
services in collaboration with our model is most closely aligned with the multiclients who use them.
campus system model.
• Traffic increased ~ 10%
• Average 4,300 unique visits/month
• Especially noticed increased traffic during summer (!)
• Newsletter subs up from 350-400 (it’s now ~430)
• Content Strategy for the Web
• Search Analytics for Your Site: Conversations with Your Customers
• Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works
Stay in touch:
• @BCcampus | @Vic_toria