Let me start by saying: I don’t work in marketing (so no Bill Hicks-style jabs). I’ve worked in higher education for a few years–in Student Affairs and Information Technology–and always involving supporting web content management as well as content creation, which, for many institutions, means working hand-in-hand with the marketing department.
The institutions with which I’ve worked have always had very traditional marketing departments–focus on billboards, radio ads, banner ads, mass mailings, you know…all those things of which they say there’s a better chance of your prospect surviving a plane than engaging with your marketing–and the departments are usually heavily staffed with people who aren’t interested in trends or changing the way they do business. Which makes it challenging when I need to work out a new communications plan for Admissions, or help spread the word about a student-affected IT initiative.
And who *owns* the website? Marketing, of course. So let’s all try to work together and eradicate the following:
- Segmenting audiences in ways.
My biggest pet peeve is when Marketing claims we can’t put something on the main page, or the Facebook page, or on Twitter, because those are only for external audiences. So in higher education, what does that mean exactly? Alumni? Prospects? Potential business partners? I would argue that it’s all of these–and if you don’t think you need to market to current students, think again. Minnesota has the highest transfer rate in the nation, with almost 30% of students switching schools (some multiple times). There are some types of content which do fit the traditional internal/external model–but don’t think of your current students as signed, sealed & delivered.
- Stop the spray-and-pray, and start making social media work.
Higher education marketers need to learn how to engage with prospects and current students instead of telling them. In the business world we’re seeing how brands are being built off consumer engagement via how they’re sharing information. Stop pushing out messages and start engaging. Show your human side. Two thirds of the class of 2012 looked up potential colleges & universities on social media before making a choice; when they look up your institution, what will they find?
- Stop organizing content based on internal structure.
Basically, Big data + social strategy = content strategy. Use whatever analytic tools are at your disposal and see 1) who’s visiting, 2) what they’re spending their time on, and 3) how often do they come back to find those things? Move onto your Facebook or Twitter or other social tools, and do the same with the Insights or Hootsuite reports. Which types of content are people liking or sharing or retweeting or clicking? Now. Use it to build a content strategy.
- Image carousels on main pages.
This says it all.
If you’re in the same boat, commiserate with me or tell me why I’m wrong below =]