An Entirely New Facebook Ads Experience

This comic I am about to share below is funny but it also has pretty good timing…

This Non-Sequitur comic strip ran this past weekend.

Okay, I know that is probably tough to see for many of you. The comic depicts souls reaching the entrance to Heaven. St. Peter suddenly proclaims Good News! The line should start moving a lot faster now that I’ve learned how to search your browser histories.

Of course we all know what is implied here. But to be honest, I would argue you don’t even need to look at their browser history. Instead, just take a glance at the ads they are being served on social media. That should tell you enough about what their online activity. Well, at least until now.

I said the comic had good timing because this week the long awaited/dreaded IOS 14.5 update started to roll out. Besides new emojis and a host of other things, the major draw with this significant update is that Apple users can now opt out from being tracked. Called App Tracking Transparency, people with iPhones will now have the option upfront to tell their favorite apps whether they can track their online activity or not.

Won’t be a difficult decision for many.

IOS 14.5 will change paid social media.

Although some might like being bombarded with Disney World ads on social media after doing a quick Google search for Orlando hotels, many others find it creepy and annoying. With the new IOS 14.5 update, apps such as Facebook must now ask users via pop-up prompt if it can continue to track their online journeys. Again, we all know where this is headed.

So while this development is welcome news for many, Facebook and other apps aren’t the only losers here. Those of us in the digital marketing business who have taken advantage of social media advertising over the years are losing some of the main instruments in our tool box. Audience sizes for paid social campaigns will undoubtedly dwindle as people opt out. The specificity with which we were once able to serve ads will no longer be as refined. The whole concept of retargeting is going to take a huge hit.

Just as damaging, the update will make ad analytics reporting much more of a guessing game than ever before. Because of tracking restrictions, Facebook had to reconfigure its entire conversion reporting system which will result in the loss of so much critical information.

The only consolation is that we weren’t blindsided by this update. I have known about the changes since late last year. Over the past couple months it has been a mad dash to help WSU campuses and departments prepare for IOS 14.5 while also working with our various agencies to pull their custom events underneath our web domain.

We still don’t know to what extent IOS 14.5 will impact paid social advertising but it certainly won’t be doing us any favors. However, I still choose to be optimistic. It is now time for the social media giants to make a move—one that will hopefully return the upper hand to advertisers while at the same time respecting the privacy of users…if that is even possible. Don’t Blink.

One Year A Coug

Could a work anniversary be anymore unique? Today I celebrate one year at Washington State University. On second thought, I think semantics are important in this case. Let me rephrase it this way: Today I celebrate one year with Washington State University.

I make this distinction in jest because I only spent a single day in the office during my debut year as a Coug. After that first day on campus in Pullman, due to the pandemic, I have worked entirely from home in Spokane. Although I joke about the strange circumstances and still use it as an icebreaker on Zoom when I meet someone new (believe it or not, I was just on campus for one day…), working remotely would not sour my first year working for WSU.

At my 1-year mark of employment at WSU, I give my experience two big thumbs up!

Except for a little thing called the Coronavirus, my social media strategist position has been exactly as advertised—which is a good thing because that is why I took the job. Paid social advertising, campaigns, analytics, and social media management for the WSU System channels were all focal points of the job description and turned out to be responsibilities I perform every day.

COVID-19 added some necessities to my plate such as virtual town hall organization, testing communication, and safe behavior outreach. Truth be told, there was never a time during my first year when the pandemic did not have a daily impact on what I did. Although the virus could be disruptive and scary, I always considered myself lucky that my position allowed me to stay as informed as possible. Working at a place with world-class scientists and excellent science writers will keep you abreast during a pandemic.

I was all smiles my first (and only) day on campus.

This first year at WSU I had the opportunity to give numerous presentations, devise/execute many plans, make recommendations, introduce new platforms, and provide trainings. This allowed me to not only contribute but more importantly it opened the “virtual” door to meet new people. Although some might believe that working remotely can hinder professional relationships, I never felt that way throughout the past 12 months.

It has been such a pleasure working with colleagues from different departments and campuses. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to work with non-WSU professionals in the Palouse community and social media managers at other institutions. But I can’t say enough about the people I have the joy of working with on a daily basis within the department that I am part of—University Marketing and Communications. From our news unit that I am housed under to our graphics team to our enrollment management marketing director to our web wizzes to our video crew to our dedicated magazine folks, I just feel fortunate to work with these folks who are so good at what they do.

My dad commemorated today’s workversary by making this.

I also feel extremely lucky to work for effective and humble leadership. We have a superb vice president leading our department who trusts the expertise of each individual in University Marketing and Communications. I also have incredible direct bosses who are supportive and empowering. When I was interviewing for this position I thought I want to work for these people and when I became part of the team my motivation to work for them strengthened even more.

Looking back on the first year, I have a few favorite things I worked on. The #PalouseUnity campaign, the 2020 WSU holiday video, our Coronavirus research awareness push, and the debut of our TikTok channel were all fun projects that also seemed to make a difference. Another bright spot from the first year was just the social media outreach I got to do with colleagues within the WSU System. Whether it was talking strategy, building paid social plans, or identifying key metrics to focus on when reporting analytics, my job was very rewarding because I got to help others at WSU reach their social media goals.

I have worked from home since my second day on the job.

When I arrived at WSU I had to adjust to working at a university that was much bigger and had much more tradition than my previous institution. Thankfully, the person I work closest with was there to help me navigate the waters. Matt Haugen, our social media manager, has an immense amount of institutional knowledge and he has never withheld sharing it with me. His willingness to help me with the complexities and nuances of a system the size of WSU has made my job a lot easier and his own social media expertise has made me better at what I do.

I am proud to be part of the Coug family. When I started the job I wrote that first and foremost I just wanted to contribute. As I enter my second year I want to focus on doing the same. it seems like once you are able to add something of value to your team, everything else just falls into place. Go Cougs! Don’t Blink.

A TikTok-Inspired Holiday Video

Click here to watch the 2020 #WSU Holiday Video

One December tradition that COVID couldn’t wipe away was the higher education institutional holiday video. You know, the videos where your favorite university wishes you season’s greetings in a sentimental/funny/ creative way?

During my time at Coastal Carolina University I had the pleasure of being involved with the annual holiday video whether it entailed me being in it, conceptualizing it, or just promoting it. It was always a fun project so I appreciated the opportunity to assist with Washington State University’s 2020 video.

“Illumination” was the theme of the 2020 WSU Holiday Video.

Although a pandemic couldn’t halt university holiday videos, it did limit what could be done (say goodbye to large festive group shots!). But could new limitations perhaps open new avenues for creativity? At WSU, the answer was yes.

We debuted our 2020 holiday video via our President’s Twitter account. Creativity played a big role this year.

In a year that many across the world might consider “dark,” we wanted to show how WSU was able to offer some light. We settled on the theme of illumination and decided to express it in a way that our student audience could relate to.

Our holiday video was successful because it appealed to all audiences. However, it especially resonated with students because it actually used students and it utilized a format popular with GenZ.

This is a bold claim as I have not watched an overabundance of other university holiday videos yet, but I think we might be the only ones to produce ours based off a TikTok theme. That’s right, the WSU 2020 holiday video is definitely TikTok-inspired…we even shot it vertically. Drawing motivation from the infamous Pass the Brush Challenge and other TikTok videos that pass objects off screen to other participants, we decided to go with something similar.

We had numerous students who appreciated our TikTok-inspired theme and who filmed clips to be included in the holiday video.

The basis of our video showcases WSU students dropping a holiday light from one screen to the next. The students catch a non-illuminated light, react to it, and then—magic—it illuminates! The light is then dropped to the next participant.

The video centers around people catching a holiday light, illuminating it, and passing it on.

The video kicks off with our mascot, Butch, illuminating the first light. It culminates with our First Lady catching the final light and passing it to the President. He then screws it into a string of lights and with a snap from the First Lady, the string and the state of Washington illuminates. Throughout the video, a voiceover from the President recognizes that it has been a difficult year but credits the WSU community for creating its own brightness.

Butch kicked off this year’s holiday video.

Our social team had a seat at the brainstorming table when developing the illumination theme. Our primary responsibility was to recruit holiday video participants by promoting the opportunity on social media. In just an hour or so after posting the callout we were inundated with willing Cougs. We sent out Christmas lights to the people (mostly students) who expressed interest along with directions on how to film their portion of the video. Our volunteers didn’t disappoint. Within a week we had received more than enough material to hand over to our video team.

Our video professionals did an incredible job piecing the video together and adding the illumination effect to each Christmas light. A talented staff member who writes for our magazine penned the President’s voiceover that really hit home. One of our designers built the video into an email to send out to the WSU family. It was a true team effort by our University Marketing and Communications department and it paid off.

The video all comes together at the end when President Schulz screws in a missing light and Dr. Noel Schulz, our First Lady, illuminates the string with a snap of the fingers.

The video was a major success. It was received extremely well because of its uniqueness and natural flow. As of Monday night, it has been viewed more than 40,000 times on social media and I am yet to see one negative comment on any platform. During an extremely tough year, it feels good that this project has given people a reason to smile. Don’t Blink.