The following is a guest blog post by Victoria Mita, Director of FundMyTravel. She describes how anyone can use social media to be able to generate funds for their study abroad adventures. It really is much easier than it sounds! Victoria offers some great tips and advice for anyone out there wondering how they are going to make their travel dreams come true!
Fortunately, the entertaining and rewarding aspects of crowd-sourced funding also happen to be the most vital ingredients to making a successful campaign pie. Don’t worry, that’s enough with the recipe metaphor, but I am going to break this down and you know, social media will be the cherry on top (right, I promise that’s the end of it.)
Pointer 1: This should never feel like asking for a hand-out. That’s no fun for anyone.
Whether you’re doing an online fundraiser to cover the costs of airfare, trying to scrounge up the remainder of a program fee, or just need a little something for visa and study materials, tapping into your online networks simply makes sense. It’s not about taking advantage of friends and family as a financial resource but it is about community building and gaining their support to reach your goals. Whether they can and want to offer support in monetary or moral form is up to them, but communicating your ambition and making it exciting is your job. Just as with any other project, you are only going to get out of it, what time, effort and activity you put into it, but as I said: that is the fun part!
· Time Investment: this sounds like a drag in written form, almost like another thing added to the to-do list or some type of personal homework assignment. Instead, consider it a break from your other work. It’s really an outlet and a space for you to be expressive. The more time you put into making little Updates, adding photos, video or even creating your own perks, the more it is going to benefit you and your longer term goals, while you’re abroad…
· Effort Investment: This is just about being consistent. If you’ve made the decision to do this and create a campaign in the first place, you might as well go all out and do it right all the way through. You can think of it as if you decided to join a sports team- Aim to make it to the championships and win. Just remember, if it does ever going slowly or your current efforts aren’t paying off, then it’s simply a matter of changing it up. (More on how in the next tip…)
Pointer 2: Never forget to say ‘Thank You,’ but offer more than your undying gratitude. Get creative!
If you’re putting in all that time and effort, be sure to make it engaging for yourself too. When you carry out a fundraising campaign in conjunction with something else that you love to do, all of your passion, determination and motivation become contagious for your page viewers because it’s genuine. If you can share the reasons you are so fired up and driven to make this goal a reality, then potential donors and other supporters are more likely to join your team and help build up that momentum, needed to keep your campaign going. SO, find a personal area of interest and loop it into the way you Update your campaign.
· Into Arts, Music, or Film?
o Write a little song for everyone who donates or shares your page themselves.
o Create a painting or drawing for donors and mail it to them from home or away.
o Make a video, make multiple videos! Even if you’re no cinematographer it’s fun.
· Into Literature, Writing, or History?
o Find/share quotes that connect with your feelings in anticipation of your trip.
o Create a reading list relevant to where you are going and share with viewers.
o Make a blog about your trip before leaving. Share links every time you Update.
o Explain the history and culture of your destination via video, blog or illustration.
· Into Service, Sports, or Cooking?
o Host a shindig around any theme of choice, and accept donations for organizing.
o Invite friends over to watch a sports game/have a board game night and ^
o Sign up for a marathon or walk/run to gain sponsorship for your campaign.
o Get some friends together to bake and sell the delicious treats for donations.
o Inform supporters you will put in community service hours for donations.
These kinds of ‘offline’ activities are just as important to bring into your online campaign experience. It makes the whole thing more meaningful to you and everyone else who gets involved. Just remember to communicate these extra efforts an ‘offline’ donation gains with your audience through Update sharing*
Pointer 3: This is MOST important for thee. Sharing can make the difference between flight and visa fee!
The biggest and most important influencer in your campaign’s success is the amount of exposure it gains. This is in large part up to you and those efforts we talked about earlier, but if you’ve kept your Updating and activity consistent, then your supporters and viewers end up doing a lot of this work with you. Allow me to explain why and how this all works out-
Dispelling the myths:
It’s obnoxious to over share.
· This could be true if you’re discussing something which is only of interest to you, but now you’re well aware that this whole experience is a relationship-building project! As long as the Update content is related to new photo, video, blog link or action you’ve taken, it is fun to see and read about. Likewise, the more activity that you have surrounding your campaign efforts, the more exciting, interesting and meaningful it will be to you, and so the same goes for your trip abroad.
· There’s nothing obnoxious about it, if you make something worth sharing. People and online audiences in particular, like to see positivity. They like to see someone who works hard, achieve their goal, and they like to be a part of the process. Making and sharing meaningful Updates on a daily basis also gives you more ownership on the whole project. It’s no longer just some online fundraising campaign. When you sort out how to communicate and relate this content to your audiences frequently and meaningfully, you’ve then developed a skill, a knowledge base and an experience that is highly valued and relevant to future employers, organizations, mentors, study abroad and admission offices within universities, the list goes on.
Facebook makes personal letters obsolete.
· This one is laughable. While many people are hip-to-the-groove with Facebook these days, it’s not safe to assume that all of the people who should see your page are on it or always checking their Facebook. In fact, a large percentage of a campaigner’s target audience may not even have Facebook- believe it or not. Even if they did, the impression made by writing a personal message to potential donors, is invaluable. They still may not all give, but they are going to be more interested to support your efforts and inform others who they think would give, than anyone you did not take the time to write a letter to. This can be done via email and go a long way, depending on your message, but nothing compares to the old fashioned snail mail. The fact that so many people communicate through the internet so often now, actually increases the value of those offline and in-person acts of thoughtfulness…
Once is enough.
· This could be true, if it meant once every hour... Honestly, I know it sounds excessive but, especially because of the way social media platforms are designed to refresh their content, you can share your campaign page two times in a single day and still have it overlooked. The best approach is to share multiple times within the week, of course with new content as often as possible, and then share out via multiple platforms, not just Facebook. Use facebook, twitter, Google+ and email. If you do not have accounts on all of these platforms, it’s something to consider. Twitter and Google+ may not be everyone’s jam right off the bat, but do trust in the long-term and bigger picture, it will only behoove you in business and future communication ventures to develop this presence.
Victoria graduated from Loyola University Maryland with a Bachelors in Education. Her first immersion experience was possible through class fundraising and took her to Lyon, France. She's had a passion for learning through travel ever since. Victoria studied abroad and later worked in Australia. She has presented English Speaking and Resume Building workshops in Macau, China and also worked at the Embassy of Australia, for the Education Team at Austrade. After her time with the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training in Adelaide, Australia, Victoria returned to the US and began work with GoAbroad.com. Now she directs FundMyTravel.com, which offers an online funding platform for meaningful travel experiences. Victoria takes immense joy in working with students to help them realize their dreams abroad.
When I was in school, checking my Facebook page (or MySpace when it was cool) would easily get you detention. In fact, I’m pretty sure the site was blocked on school computers. Recently, however, I thought since technology and social media communication permeates the modern world, why is it not part of the education system? Although most social media sites were created primarily for personal communication, now we are seeing how they can be assets in the professional sphere. In my opinion, students should be learning how to manage these sites responsibly and use them to their advantage.
I asked my younger sisters who are in high school and middle school if they had updated the computer class curriculum since I had been there, and I was shocked to learn they are still spending the class period learning to type!
Kids these days are basically born knowing how to type and manage electronic devices so why are we wasting time teaching them how to type? With all the instant messaging, texting, and computer usage by children and young adults, they are probably typing more wpm than their teachers.
That being said, it’s about time Facebook is introduced to the classroom because it can greatly benefit the younger generation to learn how to use social media sites correctly and in a way that can potentially enhance their future professional lives. One of the reasons social media sites are so shunned in school is because of the trouble kids find themselves in by misusing them – bullying, jealousy, illegal activities, etc. can all be attributed to irresponsible posts made by individuals. If children were taught social media etiquette from the beginning, and informed of the potential consequences of abusing Facebook, I think a lot of the stigma of social media could be erased.
Also, with computer technology being such a vital part of the workplace, I think students should learn more in-depth computer skills than typing. If students learned basic programming skills and how to operate more advanced programs than Microsoft Word and Powerpoint, we would be seeing incredible technological advances in our society.
If I were to re-write computer classroom curriculum, this is what I, Kimberly, would include:
1. Classroom blog (All students would take turns posting. This can enhance those typing skills while also including creative writing, social interaction, and expanded knowledge on a certain topic)
2. Social media etiquette
- Privacy settings
- How to present yourself in a positive manner (none of those self-pictures in your bathroom mirror of you making a duck face while giving a peace sign)
- Social media in professional setting (FB business page, marketing, etc.)
3. Basic computer programming (It is such a needed skill now! Imagine if it became second nature for the young generation)
4. Website construction (Using a basic site like Word Press or Google sites, students can make their own personal site or be creative by making a site for an imaginary business)
I have no background in education, so I have no idea how this would actually play out, but I think technology education needs a kick in the pants in some schools!
Does anyone know of schools that are taking this initiative to amp up computer classes? What else would you include in these classes?
Below is a special guest post by HootSuite Community Manager, Stephanie Wiriahardja. Stephanie runs the HootCampus Ambassador program for HootSuite which is a new initiative. Below is her post about a day in the life of a community manager for a social media management tool (among other things).
One of the questions I get asked the most as a Community Manager for a popular social media dashboard is "What's your day-to-day like?". I usually chuckle first before even attempting to put into words what exactly I do and what's my day-to-day like. Everyday is different, but there are a number of projects I oversee that involve a heavy usage of social media.
If you peek at my HootSuite dashboard, you'll see that I manage 38 different Twitter accounts, 8 Facebook Pages, 6 LinkedIn Groups, and 2 Google+ Pages. It will be such a nightmare if I had to log in and out to each one. Lucky for me, I get to use my company's product, HootSuite, to reach out to HootSuite users and promote HootSuite. Yep, it's that meta! I have actually used HootSuite for 1.5 years before I joined the team in 2011, so I didn't have to make any radical adjustments to my social media practice.
Some of my all-time favourites features are:
Streams and tabs are the bread and butter of HootSuite and I could not imagine having to go to each account to search for something or tweet from it. I manage all 54 accounts at all times, which means I have listening streams that I organize to different tabs to help me monitor everything that is mentioned. Now that I have all my accounts connected in one dashboard, I can easily tweet or post from any of the accounts without the need to take a step back, log out, log back in, and try to remember what I wanted to tweet, or who I wanted to give a shout out to.
I must admit I am not the only one monitoring and managing all 54 accounts. I have my coworkers spread across many departments that also have access to these accounts, simply because the questions that we get from the users vary. For example, most of the mentions that our main Community team's Twitter handle, @HootClub, is about how cute our owl swags are. Once in awhile though, we get technical questions, affiliate-related, or hiring questions. Sure we can answer these, but would not it be better if we can assign someone else that is an expert in the topic to answer the question? Rather than emailing or pinging the person on chat to reply to a specific tweet, HootSuite has a built-in Assignment feature for its Pro and Enterprise users.
Last year alone, I help host over 110 HootUps (similar to TweetUps, but with HootSuite as the main topic of conversation) in 43 cities, in 18 countries. Sometimes it's difficult to sift through the dozens of HootSuite mentions, but with the geo-location search, I can filter to only the mentions and conversations happening at a set location. This way, I get to tweet the people who are actually around the area of where the HootUp will be held. I also use it to give me relevant updates and insights. For example, if there's an event happening in town, I can see who's talking about it so I can create an opportunity to connect with them before the event.
Serving 6+ million users worldwide is not easy, especially dealing with the different time zones. The scheduling feature on HootSuite is so helpful in making sure I tweet articles when the audience is awake and most active. This feature also helps in making sure there's always content going out, even when I am taking vacation or day off. However, don't mistaken this as your reason for not replying to any mentions. You are not a spam bot, so you have to show your followers that while you have content scheduled, you also engage with them.
So there they are, my top four favourite features of my favourite social media tool (slightly biased, but I swear I am telling the truth, only the truth, and nothing but the truth)! What sort of features do you need the most to be more efficient? Leave a comment below or tweet me at @stephawie. I'd like to hear them!
If you are interested in being a guest blogger please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The NAFSA Annual Conference is just around the corner. I have been asked by many newbies to the conference if I have any tips and tricks to help them get through a very intense and exhausting week of activities. Below are my top tips and tricks for surviving the NAFSA Annual Conference. They are in no particular order and feel free to chime in if you have others.
1. Wear comfortable walking shoes. Ladies leave the high heels at home. You will regret wearing them at the end of the first day. One reason I say this is that the convention center tends to be huge and you could have to walk about a half a mile or more just to get from one meeting room to another. Additionally, the hotels are not all located right next door and neither are the restaurants for the receptions. So you will be doing a lot of walking and in many cases will need to do so quickly. You will notice most people are in their sneakers by Thursday or Friday.
2. Leave time between meetings. This one has gotten me many times. I book meetings back to back and forget that it will take me at least 10-15 minutes to get from the meeting spot to the exhibit hall (and find the booth I need) or vice versa. You need to leave time between meetings so you can transport yourself across vast distances.
3. A few money saving tips. Use the receptions for your dinners and other meals. Many of us get invited to multiple receptions every night. They normally don't have dinner but they usually have enough snacks that you can make a meal if you attend 2-3. This goes the same for breakfast meetings and luncheons. Plus, let's be honest, you will not have time to sit down for a real dinner or meal all week so you need to eat when you can.
4. Buy a power pack to charge your devices. If you are anything like me and are connected all the time via social media, email, etc., you will need an extra battery pack to charge your devices during the day because they will not survive from the beginning of the day to the end without a little help. I just purchased one and wish I had it several conferences ago. Click here to view the one I purchased. It seems to work pretty well.
5. Drink lots of water! I say this not only because it is good for your body in general but for several others reasons. One you will be doing a lot of talking and you don't want to lose your voice. Many of my friends lose their voice by the end of the conference. This may still happen but at least you can prolong it from happening possibly. Also, the convention center and the hotel rooms tend to be really dry and dry everything out including your throat. I always carry a bottle of water around with me and fill it up often during the day. They generally have either drinking fountains or portable water to fill up with around the convention center for everyone.
6. Have a plan of attack for the expo hall. The Expo Hall is huge. There are literally hundreds of booths throughout this massive space. This means if you are planning on gleaning any information from this expo hall you need to know who you want to visit and which booths you definitely want to stop by. If you don't, you will get lost in this massive space. Believe it or not I have gotten lost in there at least once every year. The booths all look alike after awhile. I suggest creating a list of those exhibitors you want to visit and then organize them by their booth number. Then start at one end of the Expo Hall and work your way to the other. You will need to do this over the course of several days since unless you are planning on spending 3-4 hours or more in the Expo Hall at one time, you will not be able to make it to all the exhibitors on your list at one time.
7. If you are presenting, do not count on the internet working. Make sure you include screen shots in your presentation in case the internet doesn't work. I have given too many presentations and been in too many rooms where the internet doesn't work or is so slow you can't do what you want. This also includes embedding videos into your presentation vs. counting on the internet to play them. If the internet works great but, if not you still can show what you want people to see.
These are some of my favorite tips and tricks for newbies to the NAFSA conference as well as a refresher for the veterans. If you have any great tips please let feel free to add them here.
A dear friend and I in Toronto, Canada
This may be a bit dramatic, but I am convinced I would not survive before the existence of Internet connections and online communication. Granted, this has to do with perspective; of course, I would not realize I was missing such an awesome tool for information and keeping in touch if it had not existed yet. All I know is I am thankful to be alive in this current age because I am not much of a snail-mail girl.
These thoughts came to me recently as I have been in the Dominican Republic for the past two and a half months. I found myself missing my friends and family back home when I realized I have nothing to complain about. With such easy access to social media due to the ever-increasing availability of Wi-Fi, I am frequently in contact with people from home. All I have to do is scroll through Facebook and I am immediately filled-in on people’s lives. Instagram, however, has been my preferred medium because it’s fantastic to just browse through photos without the clutter of lots of text and ads that Facebook can have. (It also makes me feel like a professional photographer with all the fancy filters.)
The benefit of using social media while abroad is a two-way street, however, because friends and family can keep up with me as well. Instead of calling or emailing parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends, all of these important people in my life (plus random acquaintances and the occasional stalker) are updated on my life in one fell swoop as I post photos and status updates.
One of the greatest ways social media has impacted my abroad experiences, however, is by giving me an ability to maintain friendships that began abroad. My Facebook friends consist of people I met on various trips, and I am so glad to be able to maintain those friendships today. I can honestly say if it weren’t for social media, I would never be able to communicate with so many people I met abroad. Although they were in my life for a brief period, we can maintain a relationship thanks to the upgrade from snail-mail.
All these advancements in social media communication, however, do come with a few drawbacks: it can be way more impersonal when I am not contacting to loved ones directly, so I make an effort to call or email those exceptionally special people (consider yourselves lucky ;)) Also, constantly being connected to people from home can distract from your abroad experience if you are not careful. Especially if you are only spending a semester abroad, it is important to take advantage of every minute in this new and exciting place. Home will be there when you get back, and I can bet you that not much will have changed in four months. I met too many people as an undergrad who I believe missed out on their experience abroad by being on Skype for hours at a time every day with people from home. Doing this, unfortunately, makes you miss home way too much and keeps you from making great connections with friends abroad.
I encourage those of you planning on going abroad to set a certain time of day or week for social media use, and catch up with friends and family during that time slot only, so you can take full advantage of exploring your surroundings!
How have you seen social media while traveling help or harm you?
Are there any apps or websites that are particularly helpful for communicating while abroad?
-Kimberly, Mandy's Mashups Intern
Many times people will ask, "how do I get my blog read?" or "What do I right about?". In this post Alia, an avid blogger, discuss six simple strategies/tips on how to write successful blogs that generate interest and readership.
Six Simple Tips of Successful Blog Writing
Before you even start a blog, you need to know the purpose of starting one. Many people do it for money, but approaches differ and so do the results. People, who claim to be experts, will tell you a lot on successful blogging - about SEO, keyword stuffing, tools and platforms. But the most important characteristic of all successful (and money-making) blogs is a genuine desire to help people. If you want to help people genuinely, then other techniques will follow.
Find out your niche first
What are you really good at? Are you a financial whiz kid or are you a technology geek? Do you have an expertise (such as stock market analysis) which will be of real help to people? Decide on your field (or fields) of expertise first. When you are choosing a particular field you are good at, you can provide a lot of value to people.
Have a list of topics for a period of time
This ensures that you do not waste too much of time thinking about topics. Also, do not forget to make a calendar of publishing the topics. While you are creating a list of topics, keep the requirements of your target audience in mind. For example, you can publish a post on protecting savings in a volatile stock market situation.
Use popular keywords
Popular keywords, though not the only method, will keep your blog on top of search engine listings. Use Adword Tool from Google to find out the most popular keywords related to your niche. Use keywords which are both directly and indirectly related to your niche. For example, if your blog is related to insurance products, life insurance can be a directly related keyword while life expectancy can be an indirect keyword.
Do not do keyword stuffing
Use keywords as long as it appears to be a natural part of a sentence - do not force keywords on a sentence. Also, do not overuse keywords. The ideal keyword density (number of keywords divided by the total blog post length) should not exceed 2%. Search engines treat an excessively high keyword density as an act of spamming.
Do not be a one-blog wonder. Keep supplying your target audience with fresh and unique information. Follow the calendar you have made (see the second tip) as closely as possible. You do not need to blog daily literally, but blog often.
Respond to your readers
Readers usually post their comments and questions on your blogs and they look forward to your inputs. Do not miss out on regularly addressing your readers. This not only answers their questions but also gives them the impression that you genuinely want to help them.
The above tips may not necessarily ensure that you will make a hugely successful blog, but these principles are proven and time-tested. The idea is to genuinely help people on a specific area and establish yourself as an authority on your chosen niche.
I hope you are able to use these tips in your blog writing.
About the Guest Blogger
Alia Haley is an avid blogger who loves blogging on tech and luxury portal. She is always on a lookout for the latest gadgets and cellphones in the market and recently added a Sony Ericsson android to her collection.
Many people will ask - "How do I get started with Twitter?". For me, the answer is simple - you just need to participate. The more you start interacting on Twitter the better your success rate will be. You may be a little dumbfounded by how simple that sounds but it really is that simple.
Basically what I mean is that you need to create an account and start posting information as well as retweeting information you find interesting. You should also start following people you find interesting and that pertain to your interests and your career field.
What you will found is that if you follow someone or retweet their post they will tend to start following you. People on Twitter are really that nice. :) It may seem a little odd but true.
The other question is - what to post. This is really up to you. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason why certain posts are more popular than others. Basically my philosophy is to post things you would normally want to tell your friends or colleagues. That is what Twitter is about - posting short pieces of news to your friends and colleagues via the WORLD.
Twitter makes things really easy to post almost anything. So if you read an interesting blog you can post the link. If you see take an awesome photo you can attach it to you post and so on. There are really almost limitless possibilities.
However, I will give you a few words of advice. One don't post everything all at once - meaning don't log in just once a day and post everything you want to say at that time. Try and spread your posts throughout the day. Also, be kind and retweet. This is kind of a general twitter rule and thank those that have retweeted your posts. Kindness really does pay off in the Twitosphere.
Other than that just have fun and enjoy all the information you will be able to glean from the world we call Twitter!
This blog is all about social media. I hope to offer tips, tricks, advice and more on using social media within international education and international travel.