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Creative Student Recruitment: Getting Personal in EDU Marketing

By | October 9, 2014

creative student recruitmentIn higher education marketing, you probably try all the digital marketing tactics to achieve higher enrollment rates. Maybe that’s pay-per-click advertising or search engine optimization. While I’m a proponent of both, I think college marketers can lose sight of the bigger picture. They get lost in the data. They stress under deadlines. They celebrate the wins of increased enrollments and feel the pangs of defeat when a program is underperforming.

Rarely do they stop to consider what their milestones and KPIs mean for each student. They focus on marketing the college, but do they really anticipate student needs? If they get personal (and creative) by addressing students’ concerns and desires ahead of time, the battle of getting students to click “Apply now” is already half-won.

Consider these common college “regrets,” “things I wish I knew,” and “wish-I-would-haves” from real college alumni. They probably sound familiar. They’re common experiences that can only be realized in hindsight. Keep them in mind when creating your marketing plans. They will help you think outside of the box – and reach the heart of what matters to your prospective students:

“I wish I would have experienced a broader community.”

Freshman year is the first time teens are faced with the opportunity to start fresh. They can develop themselves into the people they want to be. This is exciting, but it strikes fear in a large number of incoming undergraduates. Will they be liked? Will they fit in? How will they make friends?

Don’t ignore these concerns; find a way to market your university’s community-building opportunities. Maybe it’s a networking event for prospective students, an email that explains the roommate selection process, or a Facebook group for each dormitory. Get creative in how you ease the anxiety of your newest group of students. Here’s a cool example of a college promoting their community identity.

“I wish I would have balanced my time better.”

As students work on building community, they struggle with balancing their school and personal lives – particularly in the first year. It’s a major concern for most parents. Facing this pain point of the college experience head-on could win you credibility.

At high school recruitment days, spend a portion of your time discussing this balance (and round off the session with branded planners). Or build parent confidence by arming them with resources for addressing this topic. Simply adding a link to your academic or tutoring center in emails creates a sense of support. (Increased retention rate from addressing this struggle is a bonus!)

“I wish I would have majored in something that better aligns with my life goals.”

Knowing what they want to do with the rest of their lives isn’t something you should expect from your incoming students. Around 75% of them will change their majors before they graduate. Find a way to understand and embrace this indecision. Consider these techniques:

  • Rename your undeclared major to something more exciting.
  • Admit students into a particular “area of interest” as opposed to a specific degree.
  • Hold a faculty Q&A session as part of a guided tour.

Helping undecided students feel like they have a place on your campus will boost their confidence in what your university has to offer them.

“I wish I would have taken better advantage of on-campus resources and events.”

The decision to attend a college goes beyond location, program offering, and price point. It extends to the emotions and preferences of each student. Look for ways to include non-program related differentiators in your marketing campaigns. How about a Vine series of highlights from your nationally-ranked basketball team? Or an infographic of your tutoring and advising services? Try an instructo-graphic explaining how to use those complex machines at the gym, or a Tumblr micro-blog for your study abroad students.

The more you highlight what makes your university great, the more you’ll reach prospective students on an individual level. Take, for instance, this twitter account that celebrates “the best damn band in the land.”

By getting personal, higher education marketers can flip their strategies. Instead of simply marketing the college, focus on informing and empowering the student.Tweet: Instead of marketing your college, focus on informing and empowering the student. http://ctt.ec/BaINk+ #highered [Click to tweet]

What is your biggest college “regret”? What would you do differently if given the chance? Leave a comment below to inspire us all.

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Facebook Relaunches Atlas: What Does It Mean?

By | October 8, 2014

Last week, Facebook announced the relaunch of its Atlas advertising platform. Facebook described it as a tool that delivers “people-based marketing.” So, what’s the big deal?

We already know that both Facebook and Google use our data to target ads – when you search for a washing machine on Google, you will notice that advertisements on appliances will follow you for a few days/weeks on sites within the Google ad network. It is important to understand the tipping point we are potentially experiencing.

What’s new?

The first part of the announcement states the fact that the platform will not be based on cookies. This will give Atlas an advantage in cross-device compatibility and the edge on mobile. (More details on how they did it further below.)

Second, we know that all online ad platforms collect data on us and our behavior. The new situation is that Facebook knows who we are and has an absurdly vast amount of data on us.

Google and other platforms know that an anonymous individual is looking for a specific product and will direct relevant ads to that user. They can also sell the information to marketers, but our personal identities are still protected.

Facebook, on the other hand, identifies you specifically and aggregates all the data in your profile. This enables the company to sell the data in the context of your personal information.

To simplify the difference, here are two examples:

  1. Someone was looking for a washing machine on Google. Google doesn’t have much to do with it except list target ads.
  2. You were looking for a washing machine. You also posted on your Facebook profile that your old one just died and that you just bought a new house. These facts—along with your personal information, shopping history and contact information—may perhaps be passed to any interested party that is willing to pay for it.

How Facebook did it: The not-so-innocent like

Facebook is achieving a “cookie-less” solution by using its current scripts that exist on almost all websites in the world. Every time a website developer adds a ‘like’ button, a ‘share this’ icon or any other Facebook widget, a script allows Facebook to identify the visitors to the site. The only condition is that they are logged on to Facebook … and this behavior can now be collected and stored by Facebook under your profile.

This access to your activity gives it an advantage over Google in supporting identity across multiple devices. Furthermore, it provides supremacy in mobile and potentially an appealing dataset for marketers: A package of personal/behavioral information.

Bottom line

Even though Facebook, Google and other major sites have been collecting information on us for years, the thought that every advertiser can buy our information is not what we signed up for. At this moment, Facebook is collecting and storing accumulative data and trends, but promises it will not be sharing our personal information with advertisers.

I wonder how this will develop: Will we see the migration of advertisers from Google’s DoubleClick to Atlas? What will Google do in response?

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For more details, check out the WSJ’s “What Marketers Need to Know About Facebook’s Atlas.”

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3 Tips for Using Reddit for Market Research

By | October 3, 2014

 

use reddit image

Reddit is notorious for being “anti-marketing” with self-promotion being one of the easiest ways to get yourself blocked (or worse seen as a total “newb”) on their many forums. Although Reddit may not be great for sharing the content you create, it can be a good tool for researching your target audience, and finding new ideas to start creating content. As I’ve begun to use Reddit more (and start to feel less like a “newb” myself) I’ve found 3 things that seem to work well when using the platform for research purposes.

1. Come from a Place of Learning

Reddit users (or “Redditors”) abhor anything that feels disingenuous. Reddit is the place they go to be among people like themselves. It’s a chance for them to discuss the topics that they are most passionate about with like-minded individuals who “get it.” The worst thing you can do after joining a subreddit is immediately start asking survey questions. Instead, introduce yourself to the group and clearly state that you are not an “expert” or professional in this area, and that you are there to learn. You’ll feel like less of an intruder and users will be more open to letting you into their world.

2. Use Subreddits

Reddit can feel very overwhelming when you first start using it. They’ve positioned themselves as the “front page of the internet” and when you start scrolling through the newsfeed, it’s easy to see why. In order to get a more granular look, you can do a simple search for an industry or topic you’re specifically interested in, and, more likely than not you will get a list of “subreddits” that are devoted solely to that topic. Subreddits are essentially niche forums inside of Reddit where people in specific industries or who share similar interests can meet to discuss pertinent topics. Subreddits are one of the best places to get a behind the scenes look at your target audience and find ideas for content that are sure to resonate with them.

3. Ask Reddit

Worried that your question might not meet the guidelines of the subreddits you’re involved in? Post your questions to /r/AskReddit. AskReddit is sort of a free for all since any Reddit user can reply to your question, but this allows you to quickly and with minimal effort amass a large sampling of responses.

Reddit can be a valuable marketing tool, as long as you don’t use it to market yourself. Instead use it as a tool for gauging the kind of content your target audience is likely to find useful or engaging. Find the subreddits your audience is involved with, then take off your marketing hat. Engage with them simply as someone interested in learning more about the topic at hand, and as long as you follow the rules of the group, you can quickly amass ideas for better content creation.

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Make Shorter, Smoother, Time-Lapse Videos with Instagram Hyperlapse

By | September 8, 2014

Hyperlapse

There is a lot of hype about a recent video app that just hit the app store at the end of August. iPhone and iPad users are now able to record long videos and condense them into shorter, faster videos changing real time into hyper speed.

Hyper what?

Hyperlapse

Is it video or is it photography? A good example of hyperlapse footage is the House of Cards series intro. Over elapsed time clouds drift while the camera glides, traffic speeds as the camera pans, and flags flutter as the camera flips. This smooth time-lapse is a little combination of both photography and videography.

A Little History

Time-lapse photography has been around since the late 1800s. Specifically in the early 1900s, Georges Méliès, a European filmmaker known as a movie magician, used the concept of time-lapse photography to make the movie “A Trip to The Moon.” The French silent film used many special effects like stop motion, time-lapse, smoke, and mirrors to manipulate frames and make them magical.

Time is Ticking

As technology progressed from taking stills to the transition of video many people have experimented with changing frame rate (the picture viewing speed or frames per second). Today standard movies are shot in 24 fps while home video or broadcast footage is shot at 30 fps. Innovators are pushing the limits and experimenting finding new ways to tell stories more efficiently and effectively.

Technical Timing

Time-lapse photography is setting an interval to take pictures repeatedly and throw them into a video format 24 or 30 fps. So, if over three hours I set my camera to take a picture every 15 seconds, which is four times a minute, over the three hours I have 720 pictures which when edited into a 24fps video I only have 30 seconds of video. The final product is viewing those three hours in 30 seconds.

Taking it to a whole new level, hyper-lapsing is introducing motion while capturing the time-lapse. Traditional time-lapse photography is one static camera angle. So now during my three-hour shoot, if I decide to move the camera two feet to the left after each picture I will end up 1440 feet away from my initial spot with my 30 second video having an interesting motion that seems like it’s sped up. Now the only issue is figuring out how to smooth and stabilize from frame to frame. Taking all that data and smoothing it out can be a little tricky. Instagram has developed an app that uses the iPhone’s gyroscope as another data point to apply a series of algorithms creating a stabilized time-lapse motion video.

This mobile camera app helps turn bumpy, jittery, real-time video into shorter, smoother, sped up video.

Condensing/Shortening

Just as slow-motion video is useful in showing a reality that we can’t actually see, condensing long videos into short watchable videos is now possible on the go. Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. In 2000, our attention span was about 12 seconds. Now in 2014, it’s down to 8 seconds. With our attention span shortening video marketing needs to draw in their audience within the first 10 seconds. Using the technique of hyper-lapsing is extremely helpful to show a long process with smooth movement in a short amount of time.

Ok, Now What?

With the need of online video marketing growing, now you are able to use their mobile phones to shoot an interesting style video being more visible online.

Shoot a facility tour behind the scenes, or speed up a how to video. Showing elements from the company internally helps build rapport painting a positive picture that competitor A is better than competitor B because they have fun at work or have a fish tank in their lobby.

Here are Some Ideas

Holding a company contest?

Ask customers to post creative videos to promote your product. They could win a discount or a gift card.

Shipping a product to a client?

Show the wrapping and packing stage.

Got a new supplier?

Unmask the secret ingredient.

Got nominated for the ALS challenge?

Show the video, but shorter.

Work community service?

Film a before, during, and after video.

Product Display

Show your product

Summer Picnic? Holiday Bash?

Hyperlapse it!

Big Event?

Hyperlapse it!

Renovating the building?

Hyperlapse it!

Have a crazy idea?

Hyperlapse it!

Instagram Hyperlapse doesn’t require an Instagram account. The standalone app modifies the camera and saves final videos into Apple’s camera roll. This makes it easier to post, link, and share online.

 

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No Time for Blogging? Think Again!

By | August 26, 2014

Even as a content writer, I’ve always been a little on the fence about blogging. My hesitation with it is the same hesitation many of my clients have: Do I have the time and resources to continue to feed a blog? Guess what? You do! But it’s going to take some thought and planning before you even head down that path.

theresnotimeWhy Blog Now?

Start by asking yourself “why should I blog now?” Some reasons you might consider:

  • It’ll help other marketing efforts. Support your tradeshow efforts with blog posts leading up to them and after them. Feed your email newsletters with blog posts. Venture into social media with ease with a well-populated blog. The uses for a blog are endless!
  • You can educate people. If there are concepts or topics that don’t have a home on your website, a blog is a great place to store this information. Explain a theory, a product’s uses, or an industry trend to your audience.
  • “Fresh content” without a blog is hard to accomplish. It’s not always easy to continue to add new content your website, but we all know that Google loves fresh content. A blog is your answer.
  • Ramp up SEO. Outside of being a great answer Google’s call for fresh content, your blog can help with SEO efforts. Focus your blog posts around keywords of your choosing, whether they’re the ones you’re having difficulty ranking for or they’re your big money-maker keywords.
  • Show your personality. Not every blog post has to teach your customers something or has to offer ground-breaking information. You should also highlight things that make your company special. Simple things like employee spotlights, philanthropic efforts, awards won, interesting things happening around the office, etc., add to the personality of your company, which might not be apparent anywhere else on your website.

Before You Blog, Make a Plan

Once you’ve determined that a blog is the right choice for your company, it’s time to figure out how you’re actually going to get this done. Here are some other things you want to consider before you even build your blog:

  • How to host and update it: The harder you make it to update your blog, the less likely your team is to actually participate. A platform like WordPress is a good option because it’s nearly fool-proof once you get it set up.
  • Who is going to blog: It might sound picky, but it really irks me when I read a blog post written by “admin.” Each blog post should have an author associated with it and try to recruit people from all areas of your business in order to give your blog a variety of voices.
  • Make a blogging commitment: I recommend that my clients commit to at least a blog post a week, but doing more than that is probably a good idea. Whatever blogging frequency you choose, make sure your team knows and make sure you stick to it.
  • Create an editorial calendar: If you have an overall marketing plan or know when new products are being released, this can set the stage for your blog’s editorial calendar.
  • Topic generation: There are going to be topics you know you’ll address on your blog, like new products, but I highly recommend having a list of “evergreen” topics that can be written about at any time. The best way to get this list going? Have a good old fashioned brainstorming meeting and determine how often you’ll have these meetings.
  • Designate a blog owner: Someone’s got to keep everyone on track. This person should be responsible, dedicated to the idea of blogging, not afraid to nag your authors, and ready to pinch hit when necessary. They’ll own the editorial calendar, organize brainstorming meetings and assist blog authors along the way.

Now ask yourself again: Do I have the time and resources to continue to feed a blog?

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