As I sat watching the results of Super Tuesday last night, I was reminded of one of my favorite books on the Internet and the power of Web 2.0. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Democracy, The Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything) was written by Joe Trippi, the campaign manager for Howard Dean’s presidential run in 2004. My favorite part of the book are his Seven Inviolable, Irrefutable, Ingenious Things Your Business or Institution or Candidate Can Do in the Age of the Internet That Might Keep You from Getting Your A** Kicked But Then Again Might Not:
- Be First – There is very little about the Internet that is proprietary. I could start a bookstore tomorrow and do everything Amazon does. And you know what? Amazon would still beat me like a dirty rug. … The first everything has a head start in building community. (Rule 1.a: If you’re not going to be the first mover, you’d better be a hell of a lot better.)
- Keep it moving – Do not be static. The Internet is a liquid medium. It’s amazing how many companies spend $100 million on TV advertising while their $64,000-a-year “web division” consists of the CEO’s twenty-two-year-old Nintendo geek nephew updating the site with a new press release once a month. Don’t let your site be wall paper. Your Internet presence should be an organic, flowing, daily dialogue with your customers.
- Use an Authentic Voice – The Internet is not a place for safe, vetted corporate communications. We’re not morons. When we get an e-mail from the president of the company, we know it wasn’t really written by him. People would rather get a real e-mail from a real guy in the real mailroom than a phony one from the CEO. Have real people write real stuff.
- Tell the Truth – The Internet has an inherent transparency. A strong Internet presence is a way to open the doors of the company. But if you invite people in, you’d better be prepared to have them look in the medicine cabinet.
- Build a community – Create a commons, a town square, a place where people can come together and talk… Get people involved! This is not top-down, one-to-many anymore. The Internet is side-to-side, up-and-down, many-to-many. Use it that way. It’s the dialog, stupid.
- Cede Control – Once you invite people in, they’re going to want to do more. I know this violates everything you were taught in school, but you have to let go of the old command and control style of business. Let the edges blur between customer and company.
- Believe Again – The days of condescension toward customers and citizens are over. Democracy is based on the principle that if we give citizens control over their common future, they will choose the best path. The same is true for consumers.
All of this is very applicable to higher ed. I recommend reading the book. Depending on your politics, you will immediately love it or hate it. I suggest putting politics aside and focus on the use of technology.