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  • signaltonoise 5:43 pm on March 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: fred wilson, marketing, product   

    Lots of talk about Fred Wilson’s views on Marketing. I’m not sure I  agree entirely that marketing is for companies with sucky products. I don’t think that’s the case for all marketing, but I will say that Wilson’s on to something…marketing is often used as a crutch for sucky products or an excuse for when decent products fail to see traction. At the early stage though, and perhaps especially for B2C, you want to focus on building a product that will create evangelists and thus require less promotion (which is different than marketing).

    Ideally, you’d want your product to be your best marketer and your early adopters to be your best sales people.

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  • signaltonoise 5:50 pm on February 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , marketing, sales   

    Always Be Selling 

    As a vendor selling into higher education, I’ve learned just how skeptical…no, scared…people are of the word “sales” in this industry.  Wait, am I even allowed to call it an ‘industry’? Anyway, like it or not, you’re always selling something.  However, this isn’t a post about the ongoing debate about whether or not students are “customers” and whether or not higher education should be sold as a product.   There have been many books and blog posts written on this topic over the years.  In fact, The New York Times covered both sides of this debate last year as part of their “Room for Debate” series.

    While you may not view yourself as a sales person, you are in fact always selling.  I’m not talking about turning yourself into the guy in this picture necessarily, but he may have some tricks up his sleeve to help you sell your products.

    The products you’re selling are your ideas.

    In navigating the world of multi-departmental decision making and committees and top-down hierarchy that many higher education administrators deal with, there’s always an opportunity to sell your ideas. In fact, it’s because of this complex decision making structure that selling should be an integral part of your day-to-day job.

    To paraphrase Ben Affleck from the movie Boiler Room, “A sale is made on every call you make.  Either you sell them [your idea] or they sell you on a reason [you] can’t.  Either way a sale is made.  The only question is, ‘Who’s going to close?'”

    For more on the Affleck school of sales, visit this article (WARNING: includes some NSFW dialogue in the videos).

    Here are my PG-rated thoughts on the matter.

    You may have a great idea, but that won’t help you sell it.  The key to selling your idea is building a solid business case.

    In the corporate world, many organization use “Solution Selling” methodology to help overcome common objections to ideas.  The key to building your business case is to focus less on the idea and more on the problems you’re looking to solve with that idea.

    Rather than just promoting a specific product or tactic (eg. “We need to get on Facebook.”), focus on the organization’s pain(s) and addressing the issue with possible resolutions to those pains that include sound, strategic planning…not just products or tactics (eg. “We’re having difficulty retaining current students.  This has impacted our overall budget.  Other organizations have seen success in engaging students by integrating their communications efforts with social media.  What if we were to…)

    It seems fairly obvious, but all too often we get hung up on the tools and not the problems that we’re looking to solve.  It’s another spin on the strategy vs. tactics conversation.  Additionally, we often get hung up on our individual pains.  “This would make MY life a lot easier.” But another key to selling your ideas is how they will impact both the organization as a whole and other individuals within your organization.

    Solutions Selling Methodology helps you:

    • Diagnose your organization’s pain points
    • Identify key players affected by your institution’s pains
    • Create shared goals and objectives
    • Discover possible solutions to address your pains
    • Establish a value proposition for possible solutions
    • Creates a win-win resolution across every member of your organization

    Now, let’s assume you’ve got a solid idea and and a general idea of its benefit to your organization.  It’s now time to organize those thoughts into a comprehensive business case that brings all of your key decision makers and influencers on board.  Here is where solution selling can help.  They offer a framework to help you organize your business case by helping you identify:

    • Key players in your organization
    • How each player’s pain is linked to the other’s
    • The causes and effects of living with that pain
    • The benefits of overcoming that pain
    • Examples of what others have done

    It’s impossible to learn everything there is to learn about solutions selling in one blog post, but hopefully this gives you a preview.  For those interested in learning more, there are several books on the topic, but the New Solution Selling by Keith Eades is considered gospel by many sales professionals.  But we’ve always wondered what solutions selling would look like through the lens of those working in enrollment marketing and admissions at higher education institutions.

    Inspired by solutions selling methodology, we’ve seen how many educational institutions have struggled to build consensus within their organizations to launch new technology initiatives.  As a result, this week we’re holding a Workshop at the UPCEA Marketing Seminar that’s intended to help institutions build their business case.  In this case, we’ll be looking at building a business case for CRM since that’s an area where we feel we know a thing or two, but we hope the lessons learned can be applied to building a business case for any broad initiative you may have on campus.

    Below are some examples of the excercises we’ll be going through with attendees to help them identify the right solutions to addressing those pains.  Here are some examples of each “solutions selling” artifact followed by a “worksheet.”  For those of you that are unable to attend the session in person, use these worksheets to jot down your own thoughts about the pains YOUR ideas can help solve within your organization.

     
  • signaltonoise 2:14 pm on September 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , marketing   

    A novel idea… 

    Sometimes customer service can be a great marketing tool. Or, as this Adotas contributor puts it, a new kind of interactive advertising.

     
  • signaltonoise 1:21 pm on September 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: marketing,   

    Ooh, shiny! Me likey. 

    Do institutions suffer from shiny new object syndrome?  It may appear so with all the time and attention devoted to leveraging the next great thing to help them engage students.  But how often do these new toys pan out?  Remember all the hype surrounding Second Life back in 2007? 

    Institutions and brands of all shapes and sizes took part in the virtual land grab that SL had to offer. They built it, often investing lots of money, and ultimately “they” did not come.  Today, many of the site’s once promising venues have a rather ghost-town feel to them.

    One of my favorite bloggers, Tom Fishburne, found a great quote from Ted Simon which sums it up well:

    “In this headlong rush of confusing a tactic with a strategy, organizations waste time, energy, resources chasing a “shiny new object.”

    We’ve written about strategy vs. tactics here in the past.  However, I’m not saying that institutions shouldn’t experiment and try new things…despite all the duds there are certainly a few new toys out there that are worth keeping…but they should be careful about becoming obsessed with trying something new, especially if it distracts from your core focus.  

    If that’s the case, then perhaps instead of asking yourself, “how can I use this?” you should be asking these questions instead: “should I use this?” and “will this help us meet our strategic objectives?” 

    Or, as Chris Brogan puts it, “Pursue the goal not the method.”

    Inevitably, what winds up happening is that institutions will get so worked up about missing the boat on the “next big thing” that they rush to “be there” without thinking things through.  As a result, you have many half-hearted attempts to build a massive online presence and oftentimes one or more of your communities becomes neglected.  This is certainly true with respect to the slew of social networking options that are out there, but it does not only apply to social networking.  

    Perhaps it’s time for institutions to exercise the Unix Philosophy, which is (to paraphrase) to do one thing and do it well.  Once you’ve done that well, move on to something else and do that well.  

    In short: Measure and optimize your existing efforts before opening up the box on that new shiny toy.  

     
  • signaltonoise 1:20 pm on September 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , marketing   

    Want to show you’re a bargain? Try a print ad. 

    Okay, this headline is probably a gross simplification, but there might be something to it.  Last week some of my colleagues were in attendance at the Stamats Integrated Marketing: Adult Student Marketing Conference and while all of the content looked great, one session in particular grabbed my attention: “Marketing ROI Tool Talk” lead by Chuck Reed, Vice President, Client Services, Stamats.   Here’s a brief description of the session:

    In today’s budget-conscious times, we’re asked more than ever to prove the investment in marketing is the right one. But how can you measure the impact of an ad? A billboard? A recruitment campaign? And, most importantly, do it while doing the gazillion other things in your job description? We’ll explore key issues in measuring marketing return on investment (mROI), including the importance of measuring mROI for yourself and your institution, how to decide what to track, and the pros and cons of different methods of measurement. Plus, we’ll get your peers to share their insights.  All in all, a nice investment in your time.

    My understanding is that the session sparked some pretty interesting conversation (at least among my colleagues), particularly with respect to measuring ROI on traditional media.  In a day and age where measurement is so easy on interactive advertising channels is it even worth considering traditional media?  How can billboards and print ads still be relevant?  As with all things, it depends.  

    Specifically, it depends largely on your audience and who you’re trying to attract.  For example, if you’re looking to position your institution as a “bargain” over the local competition, you may want to consider a more traditional approach as a recent Harris Interactive poll finds.  

    Age plays a big role, older consumers tend to favor older forms of media.  However, the poll also finds that level of education plays a significant role in influencing bargain seekers’ opinions.  

    According to MarketingCharts,”Education also plays a role in the type of media to which consumers gravitate when seeking bargains: One-fourth of those with a high-school education or less (25%) say newspaper and magazine ads are more likely to help them find a bargain compared with 20% of those with at least a college degree. Three in 10 of those with at least a college degree (29%) believe online advertisements are more likely to help them find a bargain compared with 12% of those with a high school education or less who say the same.”

    What’s the point?  You have to take into consideration the preferences of the audience you’re looking to attract and reach out to them where they’re most comfortable.  If your audience happens to be adult learners with a high school education who are looking for a bargain, it might be worth it to carve out some ad budget for traditional media. Looking to attract a younger audience?  Place your bets online.  

     

     
  • signaltonoise 1:19 pm on September 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , marketing, word of mouth   

    Trust me, don’t try so hard… 

    With all the noise out there today, marketers (and college recruitment professionals) often try to yell as loud as possible in order to be heard.  But are all those yelps falling on deaf ears?  That may be the case if you’re trying to reach Gen Y women.

    A new report Radar Research and Pop Sugar Media finds that this audience segment prefers subtle marketing messages and expert advice over overt advertising.  

    According to Marketing Charts, “While Gen Y women tend to be skeptical of obvious marketing messages, they do respond to brands and messages they perceive to be “authentic,” a concept which they continue to redefine, PopSugar said. While Gen X women tend to seek insight and brand approval from “experts,” Gen Y women rely more heavily on their peers because they believe their advice about brands to be more unbiased and honest. Gen Y women are more likely to turn to online user reviews, with almost two in five women (38%) trusting the postings of online users to learn more about a product or brand. Gen Y women tend to be slightly more skeptical of professional reviewers and need to be reassured the reviewer doesn’t have a stake in the results of the review.”

    For institutions, there are two things you can do to make this possible.  Make it easy for your RAVING FANS (those that are already part of your community) to share their stories with prospects, and focus your efforts on building a strong online presence so that prospects can find you where they’re most likely to begin their search…from a computer or other internet-enabled device.

    This probably holds true regardless of gender.  Whether you’re trying to recruit Gen Y women or Gen Y men…it boils back down to the basics.  Provide relevant content that serves as a valuable resource for your customers (i.e. students) and make it easy for them to get more information through easy access to peers and other experts at your institution.  Focus on facilitating these connections so that individual prospects can learn more about what they want to learn about…not just what you want to tell them.

    Communication is a two-way street.  Rather than putting all your effort into bringing your message to your audience, make it easier for your audience to find you.

     
  • signaltonoise 1:19 pm on September 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , marketing   

    Student Experience Resolutions 

    Some good food for thought posted today by Forrester Analyst, Bruce Temkin on his blog.  He offers up his annual top-ten list of resolutions that companies should consider this New Year.  Surprisingly, there’s no mention of losing weight, quitting smoking or better managing their budgets (though that would be a good one).

    Here are his Customer Experience Resolutions for 2010:

    1. We shall put in place a robust voice of the customer program
    2. We shall stop playing with social media and put it to good use
    3. We shall treat customer service as a loyalty-driver, not a cost center
    4. We shall go beyond just fixing problems and inspire brand promoters
    5. We shall establish clarity in our brand, internally and externally
    6. We shall identify a senior executive to lead the transformation effort
    7. We shall help new customers get value from us faster and easier
    8. We shall improve the usability of all self-service interactions
    9. We shall communicate more clearly with customers across all channels
    10. We shall make our culture more customer-centric

    How are these points relevant to higher education?  Here are a few thoughts on how Bruce’s suggestions could be applied at your college or university (feel free to add your own):

    1. We shall put in place a robust voice of the customer program – 

    Many institutions still wrestle with the notion that students are in fact customers that are purchasing a service from the college or university. As a result, institutions sometimes forget to gather feedback from constituents about their experience.  How can you be expected to improve your service if you don’t bother asking those you serve? It’s time to start hearing the voice of YOUR customer – students.

    2. We shall stop playing with social media and put it to good use

    2009 was the year of Twitter and of course Facebook continued to exert its massive force across the universe.  Despite having a reputation for being laggards with respect to technology, few industries have been as quick as higher education to adopt social media.  A study conducted last year by UMASS-Dartmouth found that 13% of the Fortune 500 and 39% of the Inc. 500 currently have a public blog, it is interesting to note that college admissions departments continue to lead the pack with blogs at 41% of US colleges and universities.  Social media has arrived on campus in a major way.  However, 2010 will be the year where colleges and universities must stop viewing social media as a “rogue” channel and start integrating it with their other marketing channels.

    3. We shall treat customer service as a loyalty-driver, not a cost center –

    What’s the average cost to recruit a new student? About $2,500 (according to NACAC).  How much are they worth to your institution over 4-years? In many cases well over 6 figures.  Ironically though, particularly for public institutions, having students stick around too long could result in diminishing returns and extra costs to both parents and the institution. You should start thinking about retention and student success before you even enroll a new student.  The more you know up front, the better prepared you’ll be to ensure they’re the right fit for your institution and that you’re prepared to make them successful.

    4. We shall go beyond just fixing problems and inspire brand promoters –

    Don’t strive to just meet expectations…strive for greatness.

    5. We shall establish clarity in our brand, internally and externally –

    Are you afraid you won’t be able to differentiate your institution from the competition?  It’s probably because it’s true.  Differentiation is hard. And as some think, it may not even be what you should be shooting for as “uniqueness is overrated.”  However, ensuring consistency of your brand can go a long way towards helping your constituents make positive associations with your institution which may be enough of a differentiator (especially if your competition has lousy branding).

    6. We shall identify a senior executive to lead the transformation effort – 

    We often hear about how difficult it is for those at the lower levels of higher education administration to affect change at their institutions.  To that I say, “hogwash.” That’s right, hogwash…not a word I use lightly. You’re in the position that you are in because someone, at some point, trusted you.  Leverage that trust to help implement change. Take your ideas to senior executives.  You never know which ones may stick.  The reality is that you sometimes need to know people in high places to get things done. Get heard by finding an executive champion for your ideas.

    7. We shall help new customers get value from us faster and easier – 

    As I alluded to on #3, shaping your enrollment properly, and providing excellent service and first-year learning experiences goes a long way toward delivering a life-long fan of your institution.  It’s never too early to start thinking about how you’re going to prove a ROI to your students. 

    8. We shall improve the usability of all self-service interactions –

    It’s important to help customers help themselves, but make sure you’re consistent with your offerings.  Provide access to the information they need without re-inventing the wheel and forcing them to sign up for a different site for every stage of the student lifecycle. 

    9. We shall communicate more clearly with customers across all channels –

    Marshall McLuhan is known for saying, “The medium is the messsage,” meaning that a medium influences how a message is perceived.  However, try not to let the medium control your message too much.  Whether it’s social media, email, traditional or paid search advertising, your customers want a continuity of experience across all channels.  

    10. We shall make our culture more customer-centric – I think this one speaks for itself.  Try to make your culture more student-centric.  Otherwise, why bother having students to begin with?

     
  • signaltonoise 1:18 pm on September 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: marketing   

    Sometimes Clichés are True 

    “Doing More with Less.”  Since the beginning of the global recession, it’s an expression that you’ve no doubt heard dozens of times.  If you work in higher education, you’ve probably even seen presentations from peers or industry experts that highlight this point.  

    However, does this expression still hold true?  The Dow’s above 10,000 again.  Stocks are rebounding. And many schools are seeing enrollments spike despite the down economy.  Looks like business is booming, so do you really have to do more with less?

    According to data released today by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the answer is still, “yes.”  As reported today by Mary Beth Marklein of USA Today, the demand for higher education has never been greater, however, yield continues to drop for many colleges and universities. As a result institutions have been forced to dramatically alter their admissions procedures to make their classes.  

    A few of the highlights Marklein points out: 

  • The average acceptance rate at four-year colleges declined from 71% in 2001 to 67% in 2007. But while that may look at first blush like the admissions process is more selective than ever, the decline is tempered by other trends, particularly a rise in the number of colleges to which students are applying. NACAC’s analysis of Education Department data from 2002 to 2006, for example, found that applications to college increased by almost 24% and the number of acceptance letters mailed out by colleges increased 20%. The college acceptance rates decreased 4% but yield — the percentage of students who are admitted by a college that ultimately enrolls there — dropped even more, 9%. (The average was 45% in 2007) And, the number of new freshman grew by nearly 10%, suggesting that colleges made room for the steady rise in the number of high school graduates (it peaked this year at 3.3 million).
  •  

  • 21% of colleges reported that they had revoked an admission offer for the fall 2008 admission cycle, compared with 35% in 2007. The average number revoked was 10. The most common reasons: final grades (65%), disciplinary issues(35%), falsification of application information (29%). Public colleges were more likely than private colleges to have rescinded an offer because of final grades, and selective colleges were more likely to have revoked an offer because of disciplinary reasons.
  •  

  • After a decade of growth, the number of high school graduates peaked in 2008-09 at 3.33 million. The number is expected to decline with the 2010 graduating class, and then to rebound to 3.31 million by 2017-18. College enrollment also reached an all-time high; as of 2006, approximately 17.8 million students were enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions. Total college enrollment is expected to continue increasing until at least 2017.
  •  

    Increased demand.  Limited capacity.  Shifting demographics.  I’m sorry to say it, but it looks like we may be hearing the old “Doing more with less” cliché for some time to come.  That is…unless you can think of something better to encapsulate these times.  

    So now that we’ve come to terms with this permanent reality, the question is no longer, “Are you doing more with less?” but “How are you doing more with less?”  

 
  • signaltonoise 1:17 pm on September 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , marketing   

    Enrollment Funnel or Bottleneck? 

    We’re all familiar with the image of an enrollment funnel.  Many individuals enter as “leads” and hopefully a few make it all the way through to become enrolled students.  Traditionally, you’d want as many leads at the top of your funnel so that you can have your pick of hot prospects to convert into enrolled students.  Ideally, you’d want your funnel to look something like this. But in today’s recruitment environment, more leads may not necessarily be such a good thing.  In fact, too many leads (especially bad leads) could turn your enrollment funnel into an enrollment bottleneck. According to Wikipedia:

    bottleneck is a phenomenon where the performance or capacity of an entire system is limited by a single or limited number of components or resources. The term bottleneck is taken from the ‘assets are water’ metaphor. As water is poured out of a bottle, the rate of outflow is limited by the width of the conduit of exit – that is, bottleneck. Increase the width of the bottleneck, and you can increase the rate of which the water flows out.

    This week, I’ve noticed two trends that are impacting a number of institutions and creating bottlenecks in their recruitment funnels.  

    1) The first is a simple matter of not having the supply to meet demand.  This was a point highlighted last week by the New York Times in a story that showed how many of New York’s community colleges are having to turn away students because applications have increased so dramatically.    

    2) The second is the fact that while many schools are seeing increased applications, they’re not changing their admissions standards.  This means that schools are having to manage many more applications without any way to facilitate the selection of candidates.  Some schools that have traditionally guaranteed admission to students living in so-called service areas are now turning away those applicants in favor of non-local students to make sure they reach their recruitment goals. The logic is that schools that are concerned about yield will still hit their numbers if they admit more students.  However this could have the end result of forcing institutions to turn away more qualified candidates than ever before.

    In each scenario, the admissions process is made more difficult for both students and administrators due to limited resources.  Additionally, each scenario also poses these questions:

    If you’re facing more demand than you can meet, how are you directing students to other options or making it possible for them to stay connected to your institution for when a spot does become available?  If your mission is to provide access, how are you ensuring that students have access even if you’re not able to provide it?

    If you’re taking in more applications than ever before simply to make sure you hit your enrollment numbers, what are you doing to analyze your yield and how are you ensuring that you’re still enrolling (not just admitting) the caliber of student you ACTUALLY want?

    So what are you doing to keep your leads flowing and at the same time avoid bottlenecks? In both cases it may help to NARROW your funnel rather than cast a wide net.  As I noted a few months ago, this pre-qualification could help minimize a lot of the cost an effort associate with recruitment and ultimately lead to better results in terms of admissions and retention.  

    Additionally, at a time when many institutions are trying to battle the forces of supply and demand, some are asking if there’s perhaps an over emphasis on the importance of college to begin with.  GOOD Magazine’s blog recently summarized a discussion at the Chronicle of Higher Education where participants were asked “Are too many students going to college?”  According to GOOD, the responses basically fell into two camps:

    Camp one: Postsecondary education is a practical necessity that everyone should pursue and have access to. Sample quote from Daniel Yankelovich, a public-policy expert: “In today’s society and economy, virtually everyone who has the motivation and stamina should acquire some form of postsecondary education.”

    Camp two: Traditional bachelors degrees are not actually the best move for most students; they can be a waste of money; and statistics (and anecdotal evidence, surely) show this, over and over and over again. Sample quote from Charles Murray, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute: “We have a moral obligation to destroy the current role of the B.A. in American life. It has become an emblem of first-class citizenship for no good reason.”

    If what members of Camp one say is true then more students should be be seeking higher education and institutions should do everything in their power to give them access.  If what Camp two says is true then more unqualified students are seeking education than ever before making it more difficult for selective institutions to sift through the crop and/or there is additional  burden on less selective institutions who are now forced to deal with students that should not be there in the first place.

    A FUNNEL, A BOTTLE OR…A PRETZEL?

    For many institutions, particularly public institutions, budget cutbacks and orders to limit enrollments have made it more difficult than ever to manage their traditional marketing funnels and created bottlenecks for both prospective students and administrators.  Add to that a mix of new technologies and evolving customer expectations, and you may find that your funnel may have several bottlenecks at each stage of the recruitment lifecycle.  In fact, your bottle (funnel) probably looks more like a pretzel as the chart below from Forrester Research illustrates.

     

    So how exactly do you narrow the funnel to avoid bottlenecks (or some of the twists and turns above)?

    That’s the hard part.  However, there are things that can be done at each stage of the recruitment lifecycle that can help narrow the funnel.  Branding plays a big part.  Ivy League schools, for example, have an inherently narrow funnel at the top because most students know they have to meet certain criteria in order to even be considered. However, while most institutions don’t have that luxury, there are other ways to brand and position your offerings in order to attract the right student for YOUR institution and avoid some of the noise associated with the front-end of the funnel.

    For others there may be opportunities to narrow the funnel at the inquiry stage. For example, what if an inquiry comes in and you discover that the student may in fact be a better fit for another institution?  Do you keep engaging them or do you recommend that other institution? 

    The point is that there’s an opportunity at every stage of the marketing funnel to make sure you balance the needs of the market with what your institution has to offer.  Selectivity and segmentation should begin long before that first inquiry form is submitted or before that application is filled out.  Doing this can help you avoid a lot of headaches and bottlenecks.

    For those on the front lines, what are some bottlenecks you’re seeing?

     
  • signaltonoise 1:16 pm on September 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: marketing,   

    Just one of the guys 

    While some institutions are still trying to figure out whether or not they want to include social media into their marketing mix, it appears marketers have already made up their minds…”No worries, social media, you’re allowed to hang out with us.”  A survey by MarketingSherpa this week shows that social media has earned its spot to complete the holy trinity for online marketers: email, search, and now social media.  But will it replace either email or search?  Not according to most.  

    Most respondents are in violent agreement that there’s a role for social media in the marketing mix, but few believe it will replace other channels out right.  

    So what are you waiting for, why not jump in?  Not so fast.  Think about what you want to accomplish first.

    If you buy into the general notion of the Marketing Effectiveness model you’ll know that “consistency of strategy across various media, not just within each individual media message, can amplify and enhance the impact of the overall marketing campaign effort.”  Presumably, inconsistency can have the opposite effect.  

    This seems to be where many institutions fail with respect to social media.

    Tim Copeland argued recently (quite well) that certain social media channels have been over-hyped in higher education.  However, he also cautioned us to not throw the baby out with the bath water, writing:

    Students prefer the channels that colleges and universities have developed some competencies in, and are actively using today.

    Social technologies? In our research, the institutions that have jumped on the bandwagon aren’t doing a very good job.  The problem is that many are looking at these new avenues as ways to talk AT students, rather than talk WITH students.

    It’s a paradigm shift that requires institutions to think about how they want to change their relationships with prospective students. Before you start choosing the ‘Twitters’ or other revolutionary communication medium, it requires understanding what your students are ready for (their participation profile), what objectives you are trying to support, and determining the right strategies to employ. The tools come last.

    Part of the problem is that many institutions have developed siloed or unofficial social media presences that are disconnected from the rest of the organization.  Neglecting these social media channels, or not allowing them to become an “official” part of your communications strategy could result in inconsistent messaging that may ultimately hurt your efforts across other channels…they may also spark some creative ideas that influence your traditional initiatives (but that’s another blog post).  

    Even if it’s a relatively small percentage of your audience using social media to connect with your institution, do you really want to provide a disruptive experience for them as they cross from one channel to the next?  Wouldn’t it be better to provide some continuity of experience?

    Having social media live separately from your other marketing and customer engagement initiatives will not work for most organizations for this very reason. 

    Is social media a panacea?  No.  Should you put all your eggs in that one basket?  Of course not.  Does it deserve more attention than your other channels?  No, not yet anyway.  But, it’s time to stop viewing social media as a rogue channel, and time to start incorporating it into a more comprehensive marketing strategy. 

     
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