Welcome Shannon Tucker to the Web Communications team

We are pretty excited to announce that Shannon Tucker will be joining the Web Communications team. Shannon has worked for C&ITfor 10 years and has been responsible for streaming services and video hosting for the university. He was also instrumental in the setup of the Echo 360 classroom recording system. Running the College of Engineering computer labs; (Unix/PC), distant learning classroom. Developed lecture capture, class recording, distant learning and training material for the Computer Science department. Not to mention hundreds of other cross departmental projects including Blackboard training and promotional material.

What Shannon will be responsible for

Digital Signage

Over the past year or so the digital signs on campushave expanded from 15 to around 60, with even more scheduled to go up this year. In addition to the quantity of the signs there is also need to customize each sign beyond the few base templates. Shannon is going to take the signage to the next level and allow for this customization while still maintaining the consistency between them all.


Still unofficially announced but we will be launching on iTunesU this summer. The hardware and software is all set up, we have just been waiting for the staff time to become available. With Shannon’s expertise with classroom recording, including the hardware, software, and faculty, it puts him in the perfect position to be the point person to ensure our iTunesU system is as robust as it possibly can be.

Event Streaming

Lastly, most of the streaming events on campus are produced by Shannon and are coordinated through the Marketing department. It is only natural that those services continue to expand. We’re always looking at different options to show off campus and our speakers, traditionally this has been done ad hoc and by request of the event organizer. We may be flipping that workflow and positioning streaming as a core promotion opportunity for events on campus. Shannon will be instrumental in this expansion.

What’s next

Over the next week or so we will be determining the exact roles Shannon will have and what opportunities will be available to campus. Look for him around campus, this blog and responding to your emails.

May 2012 Commencement Wrap-up

In years past I’ve done wrap-up posts about Commencement communication and the live stream (OK, I guess only one made it public). I wanted to start this tradition to ensure we have a historical record of statistics and lessons learned.

Below was our homepage and live streaming page on commencement day. We decided not to take over the entire homepage but instead use the standard banner area to promote the event. The homepage typically drives the most traffic to our live events page, but this year it was different, 95 percent of visitors came directly to the live streaming page. Let’s dive in to why this was the case this year.

A few differences this year

Typically we do everything in-house, this year we decided to move commencement off campus to Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. We also decided that instead of using Ustream we would use a vendor to provide streaming services. With that came the need to find an interactive chat system that met our needs. We decided to use Chatroll because it offers the open ability for guests to participate and allows people to log in with their Twitter or Facebook information. Plus it offers the ability to moderate the chat if needed.

Physical Event

The May commencement was a single ceremony, 2,600+ graduates with ~20,000 total guests. This was a big event so we knew the live stream would be popular. The event also took place from 7-10 pm on a Monday. Typically the event is smaller and takes place during the day on a weekend.

Total Viewers & Chat

On commencent day we had 5,579 page views and 3,087 total users watch the stream. This made the live stream page the third most popular page on wayne.edu that day. We were able to put up an archive of the stream right away, which continued to make the page popular for days after the event. In total we had 4,239 unique pageviews from 100+ countries. 1/3 of all the viewers were from outside of the US. We knew having the stream available was important to international students since that feedback has been consistent year after year.

Above is a standard screenshot for each of our moderators who were checking the live stream from a remote location to make sure the video and audio were up at all times. They were tasked with reading through the entire public chat looking for anything suspicious. Then there was the additional monitoring of email, Twitter, Instagram and of course, a backchannel on Campfire so we could discuss all the strings we were pulling in real time.

Chatroll made it really easy, actually much easier than Ustream’s IRC client, to mix in promotional messages, links for users to share on their social networks, ability to paste links in the chat for all to see, and even ban certain words. I’ll say the interface and features of Chatroll is far superior to Ustream but at the same time there is a cost associated with it. We estimated around 500 chatters based on previous years, apparently we hit that 500 in the first 20 minutes. What we didn’t know was even if someone is viewing the chat they are considered “online”. Obviously we had more that 500 people viewing the live page at a time which basically closed up the chat to those first 500.

In the end we had 289 active users who posted a total of 3,281 messages. 74 signed in through Facebook, 12 through Twitter. 24 percent of users who signed in with Facebook “recommended” the event to their friends. 92 percent of signed-in Twitter users tweeted about the event through the chat. Although not a lot of people used their existing social accounts, it was nice to see the ones who did take action to spread the event.

Traffic Sources

This year we had a lot more people promoting and pushing commencement material out (because it was a combined ceremony) so we were not able to get a fine grained picture of which medium drove the most traffic.

By looking at our traffic sources the one thing that struck me as interesting was the number of people who landed on the page by searching some variation of “wayne.edu/live”. Apparently it was the most distributed URL for offline material which caused a lot of direct and search traffic (not to mention direct traffic).


Social & Photos

Surprisingly our students decided that Instagram was the place to post photos this year. Of all the photo sharing services it was by far the most popular. We ended up favoriting all the commencement shots we could find, 65+ in total. A lot less than we were expecting but it seemed like most people were just tweeting instead of sharing photos. In total we saw 600+ twitter mentions during commencement. That is in line with the percent of our followers vs the total number of students we have 8,000 (twitter followers) / 33,000 (enrollment) = 25 percent. 600 (mentions) / 2,200 (graduates) = 27 percent. Facebook on the other hand saw far less activity during the event.

Here is a snapshot of some of our Instagram favorites:

Commencement in 2 minutes – timelapse

Lessons Learned

From the Web communications perspective we learned a lot this year. The first is that we should have mandated that everyone use a single URL for promotion. That URL should have been wayne.edu. The reason is two-fold, the first is we would have been able to customize the page for the event and include “extra” context that may have enticed an outsider to learn more about the university. The second is it would have reduced the number of searches for “wayne.edu/live”. It’s an unnatural URL that most students and family members are not use to visiting.

Secondly, chat is crucial, especially the ability to sign in as a guest. If we would have known the 500 chatter limit was including people who were simply viewing the chat window and not signed in we would have handled it differently. We probably would have had a screenshot of the chat window with a button to chat. Once clicked it would have loaded the chat window in its place. This would have given the more interested chatters the ability to join in.

Lastly, we learned that knowing the program beforehand is crucial. We knew a little about who was speaking and the general format but when the event started late then started to run long the online audience started to get a little antsy. In total we only had to ban six people from the chat for causing a disruption and continuously swearing.  But it’s the little details that matter, which schools will be walking across the stage at what approximate time, who is talking at any given time and some of the history of the event and why it’s such a structured event.

Overall the event went really well and the live stream gave friends and family who couldn’t make it the ability to be part of the ceremony.

An archive of the event is currently up at http://wayne.edu/live/

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 wayne.edu/live (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:

An insight into the May Commencement Web traffic

Last week Thursday and Friday we had our May Commencement. The ceremony was split up between five events spaced throughout the days. We streamed the events live as we have in previous years and I wanted to give a little insight into the amount of viewers we received.

Physical Attendance

To give a little prospective we have 3,500 graduates in all five ceremonies and the attendance was as follows:

  • 2,350 Ceremony 1
  • 1,200 Ceremony 2
  • 2,300 Ceremony 3
  • 2,350 Ceremony 4
  • 1,900 Ceremony 5

~10,000 total friends and family attend the physical event on campus.


We used our typical tried and true channels to promote the live stream. There were prominent links on the Commencement website for months while students were getting ready for the event. We also place a banner on wayne.edu to direct traffic to the live stream on the day of the event. The commencement committee sent out an email on the day of the event with a link to watch the event live. Unfortunately this year the email link to watch wasn’t tagged in a way for us to track the exact click through rate so we just have an estimate. Lastly we promoted the event socially on Facebook and Twitter.

A break down of the traffic sources is below. The diagram is pretty crude but it works to illustrate promoting it socially (we thought would bring the most amount of traffic) was actually not true. From what we could track, viewers primarily came in through email and the commencement website. There is still ~9,000 “direct” visits to the stream page that are unaccounted for, we are still looking in to where these people came from.

Traffic Sources

  • ~9,000 unaccounted for direct visitors
  • 3,863 referrals from the Commencement Website
  • ~1,500 referrals from email
  • 560 referrals from wayne.edu banner
  • 512 click throughs from Facebook
  • 449 click throughs from Twitter

Total Viewers

  • 3,510 Total unique viewers for all ceremonies
  • 1,693 Viewers for commencement 1
  • 1,327 Viewers for commencement 2 & 3
  • 909 Viewers for commencement 4
  • 873 Viewers for commencement 5

Live Chat

Like all live streamed events we open the chat up to everyone. We moderate it for profanity and people causing issues but other than that the community does a good job moderating itself. Here is a break down of the number of comments for each ceremony. For some reason the 3rd ceremony didn’t record the chat but we were watching and it was in line with #4 and #5.

  • 577 Comments on commencement 1
  • 345 Comments on commencement 2
  • 152 Comments on commencement 4
  • 204 Comments on commencement 5

What’s next?

This week Ustream introduced “Ustream on Facebook“. This is going to introduce a whole new audience for our events. We try to drive traffic to a branded page so visitors can learn more about WSU if they are interested. We installed the Ustream app on our facebook page and will be testing it out with our next live event.

One major thing they changed was the replacement of IRC chat for Facebook chat. This is going to introduce a new variable since it requires a Facebook account to chat. We don’t like the idea of having two chat interfaces so we will probably be migrating the wayne.edu/live chat to FB.

The second major shift is the reduction in analytics we can pull about the people who land on the Facebook page compared to the traditional Wayne State page.

The good thing is more people will be exposed to the events going on around campus. The problem of figuring out where to do our promotion is not a bad problem to have if that exposure is already high. Only time will tell which method is going to work best for our audience.