Photo of the Day, top photos for the year 2016

It has been awesome seeing all the submissions from our community for Wayne State’s Photo of the Day. You all have done a tremendous job of capturing the beauty of our campus and the excitement of Midtown/rebirth of Detroit. The WSU Social Media team compiled a list of our personal favorites as well as top viewed images for 2016.

Editors’ picks

Top viewed

The social Web beyond Facebook & Twitter – Instagram edition

Recently Wayne State was featured on College Recruiter’s list of top 10 colleges on Instagram. It got me thinking about the importance of micro communities. A lot of schools follow every new shiny thing that comes their way. That approach gets people to think they are “leading edge” but six to twelve months later, when the community or the internal resources dry up, the school is left with wasted resources that could have been used to build a more solid and engaged community.

I initially posted about our first 48 hours on Instagram as a litmus test. Since then we have been keeping up a continuous growth of followers and interactions. More importantly for us is the ability to connect with students, alumni and the community on a personal level. Looking back at the last six months on Instagram has allowed us to validate its ability to accomplish that very goal.

Our approach

We started the journey by “looking into the pond” during the first 48 hours which turned in to “getting our feet wet” during the first six months. Over the past six months we’ve kept Instagram isolated from our other social networks. This is by design and because we didn’t want to set up false expectations. The photos we posted were meant to grow the Instagram community and nothing else. If the community could stand on its own, we knew promoting it other places would only accelerate its growth.

Growth of followers vs engagement per photo

The graph above shows our growth in followers (blue) over the past six months from 0 to 1,000. The lines in green are photos we posted and their “interactions”. We consider an interaction a “like” or a comment on a photo.

Looking at the graph we were able to develop some insights about our reach. Instagram is an interaction based media, if you don’t post people don’t notice you. So keeping a constant stream of photos is important to the growth of the community (duh). The second is that we suffered from the same “shiny thing” syndrome that we were trying to avoid: lots of photos, interaction and growth initially then after three months we dropped off. Although we never dropped in followers, we didn’t grow at the rate we should have been.

The real secret to gaining Instagram followers

Since we were not promoting our account beyond the network itself, the only way to “advertise” that we were part of the community was to actually be a part of the community. This may seem like a novel concept to some but it is by far the first thing overlooked when resources are tight. “Let’s just push out content” is heard too often around meeting room tables. Our secret isn’t a secret at all, the largest factor to our follower growth didn’t come from our photos, it came from us liking, commenting and following others.

Listening and engaging when appropriate by far had the largest impact in our follower growth. We consider the photos we post as a secondary benefit to being on Instagram. Students are tagging us or geo-locating photos around campus at a rate of one every fifteen minutes. That is far more content than we could ever, or would ever, want to post.

Where we go from here

From here is the long road of supporting and interacting. That includes:

  • Integrating Instagram into our social dashboard (Socialy)
  • Promoting the community photos on Digital Signage
  • Driving more traffic to our newly launched profile page
  • Involving the campus community in our posts
  • Continuing to find those things that connect students and alumni back to campus

View Wayne State University’s profile on Instagram

A/B Testing: Schedule a Campus Tour

We are always on the hunt to optimize our websites and making changes on a consistent basis. I like to call the process “Micro Redesigns” and I have been talking about it more and more this year. A lot of the examples I use are from Wayne State. We are lucky enough to control the complete user experience from the bottom up so we have a lot of opportunity to play. And by play I mean optimize, optimize, optimize.

What is a micro redesign?

It is taking small deliberate steps to reach a larger goal (which may be not 100 percent apparent at the time).

No perfect website

No matter how long you work on a site and the number of people you test it on there is always room for improvement. For example, our homepage has felt the same for the last few years but has actually changed a lot. Instead of doing a sweeping redesign every two years we decided to focus on one piece of the site every two months and optimize it. As of right now, two years after launch, only 20 percent of the homepage is the same as the original look. We have increased the usability of every piece of the site without interrupting any stakeholders use of the page. It isn’t just the homepage either, sub pages have been changing also. More about that in the next week or so.

Schedule a tour example

This last month we set out to try and improve the number of conversions to our “Schedule a Tour” link on the homepage. We knew the link was getting traffic but we tested our homepage with prospective students asking them to start on the homepage and schedule a tour and they would completely overlook it. We decided to test making it more visual. Below is a comparison between the initial and the proposed visual treatment.

The original (left) design features text and a link to schedule a tour now. The proposed (right) design features a map image with a marker similar to Google Maps with a smaller amount of text.

We decided to put the two versions up against each other for a month to see which one performed the best. We had our idea of which one would perform the best, but we had to have the data to back it up.

The results

Launched:  Jun 22, 2011 | Completed: August 9, 2011

After the first week it was pretty clear which version was performing the best. But we made sure to run the test for at least a month before making a final decision. Just over a month, 1 million visits and 1,000 clicks later, the results were pretty conclusive. The newer, more visual schedule a tour button resulted in a 67 percent increase in the number of click throughs to the schedule a tour form.

Completed a reservation


I try to follow my own advice as often as possible but sometimes for what ever reason it doesn’t happen. This was one of those times. I can’t stress enough to test your configuration to ensure you can follow a user through the complete funnel to determine exactly what changes you made resulted in the most overall impact.


One could easily say that giving anything more color or space to click would yield more clicks. But we think these results show something deeper than that. I would agree in some sense that more color and space do yield more clicks but for this case I think it was what we added. The initial design didn’t connect the label with what the user was about to do. Adding a visual map and a marker that people were already familiar with (Google Maps), made a connection with an existing construct immediately.

If you look at the graph above you will see the goal to complete a visit is set up correctly and is recording but what isn’t recording is what page, or version of the “Schedule a Tour” button they came from that resulted in the goal completion. Google is just supplying “(entrance)” as the referral page and this isn’t helpful at all.

One note on the graph above, it is only the tours completed coming from our homepage, it is not a total of all the tours coming in from the entire website.

It’s important to have that source page to determine that although more people clicked on the more graphical version of the button, if they didn’t ultimately convert then it doesn’t matter how many people click it. We need to find which version produced the best ROI overall, not just in the micro sense.

Dream big, think small

In the end it comes down to the notion of improving the overall experience for your visitors. Don’t lose sight that those numbers are not a mass of people coming in hoards, but individuals coming one by one with a goal in mind with no tolerance for getting the run around.

2011 Presidential town hall streaming insights

We have streamed events in the past including the presidential town halls so this wasn’t anything new. The presidential town hall is an event where President Allan Gilmour provides an update on campus activity and progress achieved in regards to preparing for the upcoming academic year. The target audience for this event is mainly faculty and staff.

Promotion for the event starts with a campus-wide email. We collect RSVP’s to attend in person and a reminder email to watch live online if you cannot attend. Typically we have the entire video online within minutes of the event but we ran in to some technical issues with Ustream that prevented it.

I just wanted to share a few stats about the number of viewers for this internal event. To give you some context we have roughly 9,800 employees who were the primary audience for the event. We have ~32,000 students, some of which did watch the event but it was not promoted to them specifically.

Stats about the stream:

  • 1 hour running time
  • 868 unique viewers (275 last year)
  • 559 concurrent viewers
  • 583 viewer hours
  • 870 chat comments (345 last year)
  • 35 questions (20 last year)
  • 169 clicks throughs from Twitter (133 last year)
  • 48 click throughs from Facebook (35 last year)
  • 1,627 unique page views to (122 last year)
The event was streamed without ads, something we have been doing for all large scale events. We have found the cost to remove the ads is worth it, specifically with the open chat. With ads the chat consistently turns to discussion about how other institutions are being promoted on our stream.

A second lesson learned during this event was the importance of doing a run through with the actual equipment that is going to be used during the event. Our University Television department streams events on a consistent basis but moving to a new location always introduces new issues. This time we had a small issue with the audio only broadcasting in the left channel. It was still audible but a third of the chat at the start of the event was about the audio, this could have been and will be prevented in future events.

If you are interested in viewing the entire event, you can below:

A more useful homepage search

We have been slowly rolling out a new search page from over the past few months. This search page not only looks far better than the old Google partner search that they have since discontinued but is far more functional.

Making search useful

Over the past year we have been doing some significant research with how people use the search box. Last year I did a presentation on analyzing the real time searches and the recent changes have been a result of that research.

We realized that visitors search because Google taught them to. I believe this because we see searches for simple things that are clearly on the page if the person just looked in the actual content area. Doing a search though personalizes what they are looking for the Google is so good that often the snippet of the page containing their answer gets called out as the description for the first or second result. Thus allowing them to get the information they are looking for without having to scan the page.

Types of searches

As we are watching the searches come in throughout the day we started to notice some patterns. The patterns centered around the categories of the things they were looking for. They centered around these topics (in no particular order):

  • Web pages
  • People (Faculty mainly, then staff)
  • Courses
  • Events
  • Buildings

Repurposing existing information

Google is great at searching full text documents especially when authority is important. But for our purposes we need a little more fine grained results specific to a few parameters. We were not at all interested in writing a search engine but felt that we could extract information in an effective way for our visitors. We know the structure of class numbers, building names and short names, faculty/staff usernames and phone numbers.

Lastly we were not happy with Google’s results for events. When visitors hear about an event and want to know more about it they search for it. Our university has a lot of events going on each day, 50+ typically and a lot of them a repeating, either each semester, year or at random dates. The way Google’s algorithm works it gives more prominence to pages that have more authority, to gain authority pages need to be linked to, visited and around for a while. Well the events the visitor are typically looking for occur in the future and have possibly not been linked to a lot thus older events will show up higher than newer events with the same title.

Breaking it apart

As you can see in the screen shot on the right we are now breaking apart the search page into organic results, matching buildings, people, classes and events. This brings this otherwise hidden information to the top where a visitor can get an overview of all the parts of the university that match their search. This not only gives the visitor more accurate results but also gives them additional information they may not have thought about. Opinions for students have been very well received most notably about the events being pulled in. It reduced frustration around older events showing up in the web results and increased their awareness of things happening on campus.

We are not excluding these events, classes, people and buildings from showing up in the natural search results because at times Google does a better job at filtering them and not all users notice the column on the right. Again this is a result of Google having ads on the right hand side of their results, they are training users to not look there for organic information.

Continuous improvement

This is just the first step into improving information retrieval for our visitors. We understand we will never have a navigation and architecture that will please everyone, but from insights into this we can improve the way visitors are actually using our site. We strive to build a user experience that not only gets out of the way but also enjoyable. We don’t have a long term goal for the site search but we know our next steps will be to integrate domain or site specific search right into this page with appropriate context on the right column. This will allow us to have one search results page for every site on campus that is well branded and scoped.

View the combined search page at:

Snow brings followers and trends

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After posting the tweet above on February 1st, 2011 we received over 100 retweets and tons of questions looking for details. We replied and pushed everyone to the alert page on We were blown away by the amount of traffic to our twitter account and mentions outside of the actual closure update after the post.

Here are some statistics about the traffic to that status page:

The traffic wasn’t just coming from Twitter but everyone was interested in the snow closure. The announcement was placed in the center “alert” area of so it stood out above everything else. We removed the notice at midnight on the 2nd since we were open again on the 3rd as you can see by the graph.

Trending on Twitter

All the retweets and mentions got the attention of  Twitter and they pushed “WSU” to a trending topic in Detroit and we stayed there throughout the evening. Above is a few screen shots of our status through the evening and how our position moved. Trending is really important to us because it is free advertising. Everyone who logs in to from the Detroit area sees our name and it doesn’t cost us a thing.

Context around the increase in mentions

Above is a graph of our mentions from Jan 25th to Feb 8th 2011, the big spike in the middle is the snow day. I haven’t posted about this yet but we keep track of all Wayne State mentions on Twitter and rate them as Happy, Indifferent or Sad based on the mood of the tweet. The above graph shows the Happy (green), Indifferent (yellow), and Sad (red). As you can see the closure helped push the happy tweets above the sad and helped us spread our twitter account and name to their followers.

Increase in long lasting followers

As a result of all the mentions and exposure we had a healthy increase in followers during the snow day. As you can see above, before February 1st we have a steady increase of followers each day but our exposure really pushed the people following us up to a new high. These followers will now get all future tweets and have the ability to spread our message even further.

Although it wasn’t the best publicity in the world it did show the impact of Twitter on the impression of the university. The discussion within our community is important to us and we will continue to monitor and react to it closely. Just as a side note this is not a push to have every department on campus on twitter. We thought you could learn from this small snapshot of our web strategy . If you are thinking of using social media for your department we continue to ask us first, we will work with your to come up with a solid and long lasting strategy.

State of Social Media Monitoring

I was asked to give a presentation last week to the President’s Cabinet about the state of social media monitoring and response. Our department controls the university’s official social media presence and reputation online so it was only fitting for me to report on it.

About the presentation

The presentation above is an edited version from the one I gave. It was meant to give an overview of the sites we are involved with and how we handle engaging with the communities on them. It also outlines the tools we created and use to keep staff resources down.

About our resources

The responsibility of being in these social spaces and our efforts to unify the university online is something we initiated and maintain with existing staff. It is basically myself and Jenn Di Sano, our Web content administrator, who watch and respond to most of the engagement 24/7. Although the entire Web department comes up with campaigns, tools to track and monitor the networks on a passive basis, the bulk of work is between us two.

We answer any questions we can and seek out experts from campus when we can’t. We are a key position because we already interact with the information officiers from all around campus so it isn’t out of the ordinary that we ask them specific questions. We average 20-30 conversations per day, sometimes much more at peak complaint times.

Our strategy for departments interested

If a department on campus is interested in extending their message and connect with a community beyond their official website we step in and make sure they know what they are getting into. Often the “social media” buzz word gets thrown around by the dean or director without a clear understanding of the resources involved to keep up with social expectations. Our main concern is the long term effect of using social media, we have seen too many departments start out strong then stop after three months because the person controlling it has left or been re-assigned. This can cause a larger issue than not having an account at all. Student’s questions may be falling on deaf ears.

Before there was no formal documentation process to start social media efforts, it was just a personal interview with me. But because of the interest I have taken a questionnaire originally developed by Queens University and adapted by Rachel Reuben as a starting point for departments. It can be downloaded below and it outlines the important questions to think about before talking to our department about strategy.

Download the questionnaire (doc)

2010 President's Universitywide Address Wrap Up

Today’s Presidential Universitywide Address went off far better than expected. The format this year was completely different than previous years. This year Interim President Allan Gilmour solicited questions on his website from the entire campus community. The community was not required to log in and he received 208 comments in total. President Gilmour read every single one. Dr. James Hartway, distinguished professor in the Music department, was the moderator for the address. 20 questions were selected for President Gilmour to answer. This format was engaging and brought out personality and laughter in the president and crowd.

We knew not everyone could make it to campus so like previous years we streamed the address live via We also, as with all streamed events, opened the stream to live chat. We set the chat up so it didn’t require login to comment. We had a banner on before and during the address to drive traffic to the stream. In addition we pushed it out on Twitter and Facebook. We just wanted to give you guys a little insight into the interaction with the stream.

Here are some stats about the stream:

  • 1 Hour in length
  • 260 Average concurrent viewers
  • 275 Total unique viewers
  • 218 Click throughs from
  • 133 Click throughs from Twitter / 35 from Facebook
  • 345 Total chat comments
  • 202 Total comments (open for 1 week)
  • 20 Questions asked

Watch the recorded address at:

An insight into traffic (2010)

Last year I posted “An insight into traffic” which is an insight into the traffic to from June 15 – July 15, 2009. This year I wanted to do a comparison of the same week this year to last year’s numbers.

Below you will find the stats comparison from June 15, 2009 – July 15, 2009 compared to June 14, 2010 – July 14, 2010, I wanted to make sure the days of the week were consistent.

Top Pages

Just a note about the index.php page and the % Change. It looks so high because last year we were not tracking the index.php filename and just the “/” directory.  I couldn’t find a way in GA to compare the two different pages, drop me a line if you know how.

Referring Sites

In the past year direct traffic is down, it doesn’t surprise me that more people are using search, specifically Google to find information from our site. The more sites that transition into the CMS the better SEO they contain and this is a great example of a result of that transition.

Top Browsers

Two big trends to notice with the browser change: Internet Explorer is steadily declining while Chrome is rising by leaps and bounds. If you are interested in the breakdown of which versions of IE are being used you can see them at the detailed IE usage table. Basically IE6 is still at ~9% but is down from 30% last year. Hopefully next year it will be below 2%.

Operating Systems

What I want to point out on the OS table is the growth of everything mobile and the decline of the Windows OS. Android had the largest increase in visits for mobile and surprisingly the iPod is the only mobile device that declined in usage. I was actually surprised by the small increase in iPhone usage, I expected it to be more. This type of data is what we are looking to when developing our mobile strategy. I’ll give you a hint, we are leaning toward a web centric interface instead of app centric.

Overall there are a few things to note about the change in traffic over the past year. Search traffic continues to grow and we are continuing to work on our SEO. Mobile traffic is growing and it doesn’t look like it is going away. And lastly browsers are starting to get more diverse, IE is losing market share but doesn’t look like it is going away any time soon. We still make sure our sites work in all browsers with experiences that match their capabilities.

Mobile device usage

Inspired by Mike Nolan’s post over on the Edge Hill University Web Services blog I decided to give everyone an insight into the mobile device usage for

Mobile devices for the past month

Now this is just for and not all the sub sites under it so the numbers are deceiving. Also, this is for the last 30 days, May 15-June 14, 2010. In addition, these numbers are a little low because less students are on campus for the summer semester. But this may give us better insight into how our site is being accessed from off campus.

As you can see the iPhone has most of the mobile traffic with Android trailing close behind. If you combine the iPhone and iPod usage it accounts for over 53 percent of all mobile web traffic. That’s a lot and for that fact alone it is where we are focusing our mobile web initiatives.

Mobile access trends for the past eight months

(view more detailed trends)

Mobile access is growing fast and it doesn’t look like it will stop. We don’t want to just make sure our web content is accessible from these devices but we also want to deliver our content in context. For example, if you are viewing this blog from a mobile device the formatting is completely changed to enhance your reading and navigation experience.

Over the next few months we will be posting more about our mobile initiatives for and other areas of the Wayne State web.

Disclaimer: The graphs and data are straight from Google Analyics they don’t include any of our external mobile tracking.