Thursday, 2 April 2015

EdChats... Getting Competitive?

I truly believe that a key area for EdReform are educators who manage and attend Twitter Chats. This post highlights where Education-based Twitter Chats are in the "Technology Adoption Cycle," and considers 6 ideas that could help encourage more educators to get connected, as well as some suggestions to help moderators to grow their chat.

I watched part of the Dimbleby Lecture where Martha Lane Fox was talking about the need for deeper understanding of the internet. While I agreed with what was said and the rhetoric on Twitter, I couldn't help but think:

"You're barking up the wrong tree! All our politicians care about is their own self importance and self interest, this makes for the kind of change that's required 'a bit of a challenge'" 

I have some theories about who the reformers are, and so far, testing the hypothesis thrown up some interesting and positive results. So anyone who is in with the UK "political classes," hope you have fun... I'll be hangin' with some US educators and a few startups.

So EdChats is where it's at. I am convinced of this! I am also keen to assist these change agents in any way I possibly can. So, when I put my sales and community manager hat on and think about the world of EdChats, I wonder if there are some areas that could be improved upon.

TalkMath: 400 Education Twitter Chat/A 168 Hour Week 
I first started exploring US EdChats so I would have people to talk to on social media about education, while I waited for UK educators to catch up with the idea of Twitter as a great source of PD. Since abandoning my current plans with UK education I have focused a little more time on EdChats.

When I first started exploring the world of Twitter chats there were 150 regualr education based chats that I was able to find. There are now almost 400 active EdChats, with another 50-60+ that appear to have been abandoned.

When there are only 168 hours in a week and people have to factor in 40 hours of work and 8 hours of sleep (Erm... In an ideal world that is!). Then there's time needed for all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, gardening... It can leave little time for chatting, whether with friends in real life... Or online. I attended 10 chats in a week for a while, and it sure was a challenge to keep up at times!

All of which means that EdChats are getting competitive... There just isn't enough time in the week and there are more EdChats than ever to choose from. To give just one example, there are 30 EdChats on between 8-10pm (ET) on Wednesdays.

Add the fact that a relatively small number of teachers are on Twitter... there could be a strong argument made that it's time for some significant outreach, as this fantastic Connect an Educator Day post by Scott Rocco (@ScottRRocco; EdChat: #SatChat) demonstrates. The information below is in support of this event next month.


EdChats: Crossing the Chasm
The Institute of Education Sciences indicates that there are 3.7 million elementary and secondary school teachers in the US. In Adam Bellow's 2013 ISTE Keynote he highlighted that Tom Whitby's research indicated that there are 200,000 educators who are active on Twitter.

If we were to consider EdChats as a startup that needed to be rolled out to other educators, some of the following things would be considered with Senior Managers regarding a sales strategy;

Home or Target Market: The area that you would focus most of your efforts on. In the case of EdChats, the home market would be the US as this is where it was founded and is the most developed market.

Attainable Market: Is the the number of potential users. The Institute of Education Science gives us a figure of 3.7 million educators and potential users that we could get chatting on Twitter. "Secondary markets" could include other countries or involve expanding existing chats to include more users ie students, parents and employers etc in the home market

Market Share: How many educators currently use EdChats in comparison to the overall attainable market.

So, to answer a question that Scott Rocco poses in his Connect and Educator post: If we take the 200,000 active educators and compare this with the 3.7 million US educators = 5% of US educators are on Twitter.

Obviously there are issues with these stats as the 200,000 figure is from 2 years ago, and the total includes educators from other countries as well..

If we try to adjust for any flaws in this data/approach, even if we were to double the number of active educators, at 4-500,000 we are looking at 14% of the "US attainable market."

All of which translates to: EdChats are still in the "Early adopter" phase, but they are also at a very exciting and key stage... EdChats could be set to become a mainstream form of PD.

However, in order to "Cross the Chasm" into the mainstream, a bit of salesmanship might not go amiss (I am determined to demonstrate to educators that sales people have their uses... And show EdTech sales people they can still engage with educators without cold calling our busy teachers).

I have been having similar thoughts to Scott, and have been thinking of ways of doing more outreach with the "unconnected." But any attempts to engage this group might be more effective if done through a number of initiatives that have online and offline components.

1) Net Promoter Score
The first and best sales strategy is to make sure that your current customers are happy.

If I am supporting an Twitter Chat in any way (which is usually when the chat is just starting out), something I like to do is to compile some stats and monitor the frequency of participants visits.In doing this I am looking for two things in particular;

1) For people who attend once and don't return.
2) For people who used to attend regularly, but then visit with less frequency and/or don't return at all

In sales these stats provide one of the best indicators to demonstrate that you had a great product: A High Net Promoter Score"

"Net Promoter Score is based on the fundamental perspective that every company’s customers can be divided into three categories: Promoters, Passives, and Detractors.

By asking one simple question — How likely is it that you would recommend XYZ Chat to a friend or colleague? — you can track these groups and get a clear measure of your company’s performance through your customers’ eyes. Customers respond on a 0-to-10 point rating scale and are categorized as follows:
  • Promoters are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth.
  • Passives are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings.
  • Detractors are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth.
If the net promoter score is high, I would encourge moderators to check out this Community Manager video: Scaling Personal Connections, empowering community members like this can help the chat grow, and ensure that there is plenty of assistance when it is super busy.

Indigestion Vs Starvation
A lot of companies can suffer because they grow too fast and can't fill positions with the right staff quick enough, so the product suffers... and customers who were one time fans and proponents, leave.

The startup can end up going bust as a result of this. They got too many customers too quickly, and were not able to reply to users or keep the product quality to the same high standard.

In a Twitter Chat context, many who join a number of Chats regularly may find themselves in the same situation as Goldilocks would, if she were a connected educator: some chats are too fast, some are quite slow... while others are just right ;). Lol.

Moderators may find that one reason for people who used to attend regularly drop out, if the chat gets too fast for them. I've joined some really busy Twitter Chat's live a few times but find them really manic! I tend to catch up with really fast chats via the chat archives.

Obviously a high NPS will be especially important for chats where the "market is crowded" ie If there are 10+ chats on at the same time.

2) Help to Clean Up online Abuse: #DigCit Vs Trolls
During a recent visit to #DigCit chat where the topic as "Trolls and Cyberbullying" I found that there was an element of 'preaching to the choir' (as can be the case in EdChats), and that the advice of educators differed quite a bit from experienced Community Managers.

I suggested that we needed more "evanalising to the sinners" and some of the #DigCit chat moderators liked some of my suggestions so elaborated on the idea via this post.
This could raise the profile of chats like #DigCit and #NT2T, with a little bit of PR and press coverage to help ensure that "unconnected" teachers and students were aware of the anti-Trolling initiatives.

This form of outreach could also help to get more educators connected and help admins/teachers who are social media novices and simply don't know how to deal with issues like this:
Articles like this are neither the best advert for or the best introduction to encourage educators to spend more time on Social Media. But if a "Connected Educator" initiative like this was successful it could;
  • See more educators "get connected" 
  • Be another example to take to policy makers regarding the value of the work they do.
  • Develop relationships with the business community, especially Social Media and Cmgr's.
3) EdChatMod Appreciation Day
Just over a year ago I suggested that an "EdChat-A-Thon" might be an interesting idea but the suggestion didn't get a huge amount of feedback, one way or the other. Jena Ball  (@JenaiaMorane; Chat: #Gueri11aEd )mentioned this when we were discussion #Get2ISTE, and imagining what a giant EdChatMod Tweetup might look like.

I suggested this Chat-A-Thon before I knew about Community Manager Hangout (#Cmgrhangout), which the "My Community Manager" team organises.... They also organise the annual Community Manager Appreciation Day.

This is a 24 hour event with 1 hour GHO sessions with different hosts discussing various aspects of managing communities... wouldn't replicating this with an EdChatMod Appreciation Day be a fantastic way to;
  • Show appreciation for the time and effort that Moderators put into this form of PD
  • To share what each chat has learned in the last 12 months... to discuss how random ideas from a chat became a viable project etc
  • To showcase to people who are not on Twitter that this isn't just about pointless chatter... it's about change. It's Professional Development. It's EdReform... By, with and for educators!
A Day Dedicated to EdChatMod to Thank Them for all they Do
4) Offline Tweetups
If one person is a regular of an EdChat then there is a god chance they have encouraged a few other people to join in. Why not arrange regular mini-Tweetups... Even if this is just 2-3 people to start with (It's how the EdChat started), to discuss what you have learned over the last week/month and consider ways to share what you have learned online with colleagues in the staff room etc.

Creating a "Tweetup Counter-Culture" at the school will slowly, but surely, attract a following. For more information to see how and why this would have an impact (It worked for Apple!), please see;

5) Re-Arrange & Co-ordinate Edchat Time Slots?
Could the time slots for chats be organised in a different way? Could chats that are geographical and/or those that are subject specific and those aimed at certain age groups be on at the same time?

For example,  An 11th Grade English teacher from Florida might be unlikely to attend a California based EdChat for 1st graders who are math enthusiasts.

Therefore could sessions be grouped so that Geographic chats take place on XYZ days/time slots, Subject specific ones on ABC days/times and age specific chats on DEF days/times.

This way, if there are 10 chats on at the same time there may be less chances of encountering any conflicts in the schedule by having multiple chats that would appeal to the same audience.

I realise there might be challenges with this given that people will have discussed the best time with their community members, but it might be worth considering and discussing some options?

6) Some Friendly Competition? EdChat Leader Board and ISTE
I really like the Student Advisor's Top 100 Social Media Colleges leader board. It takes some of the traditional university rivalries, and fuels the growth of the institutions' online community.

Texas A&M and the University of Texas traditional rivalry saw them try to outdo each other with the most followers.

What would happen if there was some friendly competition amongst edchats? Would a leader board that curated things like;

# of regulars
# of newbies
# of Tweets
# of Favs
# of RTs

Would this help to get unconnected educators online?
Would some friendly competition see educators put in a little more sales hustle in the staff room? Educators have already shown me some formidable sales skills, what could they do if they really got onto selling EdChats?

Or what about some competition to see which EdChat could help the most regulars #Get2ISTE?
What if moderators opened a #Get2ISTE Pledgecents account, not for themselves but for their chat community, to see how many regulars could be sent to ISTE... and then have the biggest EdChat Tweetup ever!

A collective account opened under the name of the EdChat could also help solve some recurring issues... which may impact on the success of this for ISTE2015, and 2016.
  • Selfless Givers - I'm not sure how the registrations for PledgeCents is going but I can't shake this feeling that educators are reluctant to open accounts for themselves, because of this "selfless giver" trait, personality type/nature.

    The idea of "How many people can XYZ EdChat send to ISTE, could solve this issue. Selfless givers won't ask for help themselves, but BOY! will they pitch in when they are pulling for other people!

    The more people there, the more that students and the EdChat will learn through the workshops and making new connections.
  • Potential Sponsors - By not opening a #Get2ISTE account are educators sending a message to vendors that they are happy with the status quo? Are educators saying they prefer to see marketing spend used for flashy leaflets and brochures instead of something like #Get2ISTE?

    The more accounts that are opened the stronger the message that is sent to suppliers for the appetite for change.

    This will not just impact on ISTE but could see some changes as suppliers may decide to allocate XYZ% of their marketing budget to educators Pledgecents causes and campaigns throughout the year.
Open a #Get2ISTE acct for your EdChat
If a few people were able to go into their school and say "I will #Get2ISTE because I've spent time chatting on Twitter" do you think that would help "Connect an Educator" and assist with the growth of Moderators EdChat?

7) Mystery Idea...
Did I say I had 6 ideas for helping with the outreach of EdChats?

I have one more idea which should help with #Get2ISTE as well as #SatChat's "Connect an Educator Day" ...I am doing all I can to have this ready by 2nd May.

I hope that any EdChat moderators or regulars have found these ideas useful and would be happy to address any questions anyone may have.

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