Category Archives: Admissions

Content Strategy: Indiana University lets students tell the story

Your institution’s students and alumni are the best advertisements. Creating content that turns their achievements into powerful stories will engage both prospective families and alumni. And while you’re at it, why not make that content shareable? Social media strategy in 2012 must go beyond putting icons on the homepage. Curating stories in a way that entices your audience to interact, share, and explore deeper will only lead to success.

Jay Steele, Data Manager in the Office of Enrollment Management at Indiana University, is taking this approach to content and social media strategy with WeAreIU.com–a story-sharing platform for the IU community.

WeAreIU

How should institutions interact and engage with prospective students and what digital media tools exist to facilitate that connection?

In an attempt to answer this question Jay explored research on admissions, social media and Generations Y and Z. His research led to some conclusions and more questions:

  • When prospective students are in the decision making process, they want to hear from current students.
  • There is value in face-to-face interactions. How can we replicate that in a digital environment?
  • Traditional blogs are great, but how can we take that idea to the next level?
  • Student voices on official institutional websites carry a different sense of authority to prospective students.
  • Colleges and universities do not have control over the tool or the conversation on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. And many institutions are trying to get the tools to fit their goals, instead of the other way around.
  • How can we promote institutional messages by tapping into the existing networks of current students?

The answer? WeAreIU.com, a site that gives students (and alumni) an opportunity to contribute their IU stories and share those stories with their networks.

Unlike blogging programs at other institutions, Jay opened up the opportunity to any IU student interested in contributing content. The site, which launched in February, now has over 120 regular student contributors and a web-to-post form where anyone can contribute. In less than 6 months they’ve captured over 600 stories.

Nitty-gritty details

  • Interested students had to answer two questions: Why do you want to share your stories? Why are you qualified?
  • This is a volunteer-only program.
  • Each student has their own account on Compendium, the platform for WeAreIU.com.
  • Students were expected to attend a training session.
  • Students are expected to post a story once every couple of weeks. (Jay and his staff moderates all posts before they go live.)
  • Students are encouraged to share their stories on other social networks.
  • Anyone is able to share their story via a web form. (This was a smart feature to add. Students and even alumni are choosing to share meaningful stories this way.)

The Results

The site is young but there are already signs of its future success. Most of the traffic to WeAreIU.com is from search, social sharing, and direct. (The site is not currently promoted on IU websites.) Roughly 2/3 of the site visitors are new visitors and the site is seeing an average visit duration of over 2 minutes. Jay estimates that of the 120 contributes about 25 are “die-hard” and generating a lot of traffic to the site with their posts.

The best part? Indiana University now has a repository of student stories to use in other marketing campaigns on the web or in print. Jay knows that raising awareness of the site internally is key. And he’s sharing the stories with faculty, coaches, and student life in hopes that they’ll find ways to use the content to help market IU.

“You never know where you’ll see success coming from and you have to be ready, willing, and able to adapt. We don’t have a calendar or deadlines. The site is organically growing and the stories are authentic. Prospective students recognize and appreciate that.” – Jay Steele

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Reel Deal Monday: If you can… You can go to Brock

Sometimes dealing with criticism head-on is the best approach. The saying goes: “If you can walk and talk, you can go to Brock.”

Karine Joly covered this video when it published in February 2011. Read her Q&A with Kevin Grout, Marketing and Communications Manager, for a background on why and how the video was produced.

Perceived Goals

  • Address the misperception that Brock University accepts anyone who applies.
  • Highlight the intelligent and engaged community at Brock.
  • Positively enhance the University’s reputation.
  • Incorporate into undergraduate recruitment initiatives.

Evaluation

  • Someone very smart chose to begin and end the video with one woman stating, “You know how the saying goes.” (Was that you, Kevin?) This is effective at the beginning because once viewers recall the full taunt, they are bombarded with Brock students and faculty sharing their academic accomplishments. Unless you’ve brushed up on your SAT-vocab recently, a first-time viewer might become overwhelmed with the academic opportunities and might not understand everything being presented. The quick pace of the video contributes to that feeling. By the end of the video, when one can’t help but think, “Wow, there is a lot going on there…” the first woman reappears. This time when she says, “You know how the saying goes,” the viewer realizes the full absurdity of the taunt.
  • One criticism. I wish they’d highlighted a physically disabled student who is succeeding academically… even though they can’t “walk.”
  • My favorite clip: I loved how Brock got the point across that they attract leaders and people who think for themselves. It was powerful to say “If you aren’t one of these…” followed by an image of a sheep. The message was clear and clever.
  • I think it’s interesting that Brock chose to use an image of a closing door to accompany the latter half of the statement, “Fall in love or lust.” But hey, it’s college.
  • Warning, this is really picky. The timing of “supportive” around 1:06 and the person’s hand touching his friend’s shoulder was perfect. Combining sensory cues has a huge effect for the viewer, whether they realize it or not.
  • I like the text they selected for the video description. It strikes a balance between being friendly and inspiring.
  • This video was very well produced. Audio, visuals, length, pace… it’s all works together seamlessly. Kevin shared with Karine that a professional crew shot the video, but the concept and script were developed internally.

Results

  • Nearly 30,000 views is nothing to sneeze at.
  • Unlike many higher ed videos I’ve seen, this one actually received comments. It is great to see that Brock took the time to respond to some comments from the institution’s account and individuals associated with the project left their responses too. (And for what it is worth, I think it was a smart decision to avoid some of the more ridiculous conversations.)
  • I’d be curious to hear more from Kevin on whether or not they feel the video helped counter misperceptions.

Rating
rating 9.5

It isn’t easy to tackle tough subjects head on and I commend Brock for having the guts to produce this video. This video receives a 9.5 rating because it was edgy, smart, and well-produced.

What rating would you give this video and why? Leave a comment below.


Facebook Timeline Cheat Sheet

If you are in charge of your institution’s Facebook Page, get ready. Facebook will automatically push Timeline to all pages on March 30. Your institution has a wonderful opportunity to tell its story in a more visual and dynamic way. Change can be a good thing!

Download the Facebook Timeline Cheat Sheet to take full advantage of the new features Timeline offers, see size measurements for various images, and learn tips and tricks.

Facebook Timeline Cheat Sheet

And when you “go live” with your updated Page, tell me! Leave a link in the comments and let me know your favorite new feature.


Beyond Blogging, #heweb11

As promised, here are my slides for my 9:30 AM (CT) presentation of Beyond Blogging: Create an Integrated Online Student Ambassador program.

If you can’t attend HighEdWeb this year, I hope that you will follow along with the hashtags #heweb11 and #soc2 this morning. Leave any questions or comments you have as a comment and I’ll be sure to respond!


Inspiration for Facebook tabs from outside .edu (Part 1 of 4)

Note: I will be a regular contributor to mStoner’s blog.  This is a cross-post from my recent entry there.

It is important to provide your audience with a cohesive web experience. Customized tabs on Facebook can help achieve that goal, but they can do so much more! In the coming weeks I will highlight examples of compelling Facebook tabs from outside .edu that encourage your audience to “like” your Page and will keep them coming back.

Barack Obama – Are You In?

Obama Facebook tab

No surprise here, the Obama campaign is well-respected for using social media in new ways to inspire supporters.

Obama Facebook tab

I love the idea behind the “Are You In?” tab. First, you show your support by clicking “I’m in!” (simple, quick, and really what could be easier?) and then you are given the option to connect your Facebook account to see if your friends are in too. You are prompted to share that you “are in” on your wall and encouraged to invite your friends to join. Obama wants his supporters to spread the word for him, clearly aware that Americans trust friends and online recommendations far more than advertising messages.

Obama Facebook tab

How could this apply to .edu?
Envision “Are You In” as “Are You Applying?” Once you click “I’m Applying” the tab allows you to connect your Facebook account so you can share the good news with your friends. The tab then morphs into a place where you can invite your friends to join and interact with others who are also applying. Keep it social by giving prospective students a place to offer each other essay writing tips or ask current students questions about campus life.

Is your institution doing something new or different with Facebook tabs? We’d love to hear from you.

Next up: A favorite cartoon.


Rethinking a presentation

Next week I am presenting “Beyond Blogging: Create an integrated online student ambassador program” at HighEdWeb in Austin, TX.   I presented “Beyond Blogging” at two other conferences, therefore it should be a cakewalk, right?

Wrong.

This presentation was built from the perspective of someone who worked in a marketing office at a college specializing in social media.  In the past “Beyond Blogging” was essentially a case study of my former employer and the expansion of a blogging program into an online ambassador program.

I no longer work for a college, or in a marketing office, and I enjoy social media but my job doesn’t revolve around it.

Plus, HighEdWeb is a killer conference and you have to bring your “A” game.

Enter the need to rethink, revise, and expand the scope of “Beyond Blogging.”

Luckily, the knowledge I can draw on from managing the ambassador program is still very relevant and useful.  Insert examples and experiences from other institutions, and voila!  A new presentation is created.  A better presentation is created.  

And in the process the entire point of the presentation changed.  It’s no longer just about showing why ambassador programs are important.  It’s about showing ambassador programs can be created and will work anywhere.

To prepare for the presentation I spoke with higher education professionals at Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Oswego, College of William & Mary, and the Glendon campus of York University.  Combine these interviews with my knowledge from Saint Michael’s College and you have mixture of public and private; small, medium, and large; liberal arts, technical, and research institutions; and even an international campus.  These five schools are a great cross-section of the higher education industry.  (I only wish I could have added a community college to the mix!)  And guess what?  Online ambassador programs work for all of them.

The key is identifying what your goals are and finding the right mix of tools to support those goals.  This is what my presentation will focus on.

“Beyond Blogging” is in the social media track, Monday morning at 9:30am CDT.  This presentation is relevant for anyone who engages in admission-focused marketing.  If you are attending #heweb11 I hope to see you there.  If not, I hope to hear you in the backchannel and I promise to post my slides Monday morning so you can follow along.

Here’s a teaser:

Adam Lambert = Saint Michael's College

I was also inspired to recreate this presentation from a couple posts on Seth Godin’s blog.  Maybe they’ll inspire you too.
Really bad Powerpoint
The atomic method of creating a Powerpoint presentation


Thoughts: 2011 E-Expectations Report

Think about your web presence and not just your web site.  Your web presence is anywhere, anytime.

your web presence

This is the concept that Nick DeNardis and I opened with in our Penn State Web Conference presentation called “Give Your Content Legs and Run With It.”  This idea is also stated in the very first sentence of the 2011 Noel Levitz E-Expectations Report.  “The rise of social networking and the growing use of mobile Web access have fundamentally expanded how students access information and interact online.”

Your audience interacts with content.  Are you spending your time wisely to create the content they need and want?  How can you know what that type of content is?

The 2011 E-Expectations Report can help guide you.

This report surveyed 1045 students and 517 parents from across the USA to find out what their online expectations are during the college search.  If you work in Admissions or do recruitment-focused marketing, this report is a must read.

Key Findings

While I strongly encourage you to read the report for yourself (and perhaps even print it out and go through with a highlighter!) I have pulled out what I believe are three key findings and my reactions to them.

55% of students watch videos on college web sites

This number is up 13% from last year’s survey.  Also, 27% of students report that they visit other video sites (like YouTube) to look at schools on their list, up 17% from last year.

What type of videos are they seeking? Nearly half of respondents report that student life-related videos are most interesting.  These are videos that highlight on-campus activities and events and simply give prospects a sense of what it is like to be a member of your college community.  These videos are typically short, fun, easy to watch, and feature current students.

Here are some examples of great student life videos:
Lunch Break – Boston College
Penguin Plunge – Saint Michael’s College
Gym, Tan, Laundry – Stonehill College
First-Year Trips – Dartmouth
The Final – 2011 – West Virginia University (an awesome recap of the Class of 2011’s thoughts on life and leaving WVU)

47% of students and 57% of parents say a bad experience on your site will have a negative effect on their perception of the school

In fact, E-Expectations reports that 1 in 5 students will actually drop a school from consideration.  This alarming statistic makes me want to immediately do user testing on my institution’s website to make sure that information is easily found and the content is useful and interesting.

The report did not ask students what they considered to be a “negative experience” but we know that for many prospective families the website is their first “visit” to your college.  How much time is spent training student ambassadors and admission staff with the goal of portraying an exciting and positive (yet accurate!) account of the school?  That time will be wasted if students are writing off your institution before they even show up.

The report also found that both students and parents are first clicking on academic programs or admission information.  If you are trying to decide where to spend your dollars and/or time beefing up your site, doesn’t it make sense to start there?

Here are some resources to help you evaluate the design, structure, and content on your school’s website and to help you keep up with web trends:
Meet Content
Rebranding in Higher Ed– Higher Ed Live
EDUCheckup
eduStyle

While 80% of students surveyed have a Facebook account, only 27% have viewed a college Facebook page and nearly 2/3 of that population say the experience had no influence on their decision.

Well this was a bit disheartening, I will admit.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a college that is not putting time and effort into developing a Facebook presence.

My approach to Facebook?  To the best of your ability try and emulate online the vibrant campus community that occurs in real life.  Facilitate interaction between current students, alumni, staff and faculty, and even prospective students under one roof.  I’ve never felt that having a Facebook Page just for the admission office was a good idea.  The audience changes too quickly to ever build a strong following and I’d much rather send prospective students to a main institutional Page so they can see broader information and have the opportunity to interact with the community

Many schools find that accepted and enrolled students are more likely to join a “Class of” Page or Group.  These students are interested in connecting with each other at that point.   A recent post on .eduGuru examined community-building on both Pages and Groups that you may find helpful.

Other Resources:
SUNY Plattsburgh makes excellent use of tabs on their Facebook Page to bring all of their audiences together under one roof.
Tim Nekritz at SUNY Oswego expressed his belief on having just one Page to rule your various audiences back in January.

Know YOUR audience

When it comes to re-evaluating your web presence, this report will give you a jump start.  However, you may find yourself scratching your head at some of the findings.  Your audience of prospective students may behave differently than those surveyed, which is why it is important to collect and pay attention to your own metrics.

For example, E-Expectations found that only 1 in 4 students review blogs.  I know (because we ask them) that 2 in 3 enrolled students use SMCBlogs as a tool to help them learn more about Saint Michael’s College, but our audience and the type of student we attract is very different than other institutions – especially big state schools!
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There are many more compelling and important results to this survey that I did not discuss in this post.  Here is a Storify compiled by Mike Petroff on the findings he found to be important.

What results of this report did you find particularly interesting?  Please share your thoughts below.


The new technology at college fairs, what does it say?

Arm with barcode tattoo

There is a new piece of technology at NACAC college fairs, the “pocket sized laser scanner” which allows college reps to quickly scan student’s contact information if the student has registered online before the fair.  NACAC created a video explaining the tool which is found on YouTube.

NACAC debuted the scanner at select national fairs last spring, however they came at an extra cost to the school.  At 19 national fairs this spring, Admission reps are encouraged to use the scanners without paying additional fees.

I spoke with an admission colleague at Saint Michael’s College, Jeremy Brown, to get the scoop:

What benefits are there for admission officers, when participating at NACAC fairs that have scanners?
The biggest benefit is that the students’ information is legible and thorough. No more struggling to make out a student’s name, e-mail or physical address. Also, because presenting a bar code out is easier than filling out in inquiry card, the admissions representative has an opportunity to gather more leads.

Personally, the biggest benefit was that it let the geek inside of me sing with joy! Using gadgets is so fun and that little “beeeeeep-beep” that would sound when the code was read was just awesome!!!

What benefits are there to the prospective students?
Without a doubt, it makes the process a lot less daunting for the student. I have seen some kids at other fairs who have inquiry card-fatigue near the end of a fair and may be less apt to fill out that inquiry card than when they first got to the fair. Even the kids who are smart and bring labels for inquiry cards may run out.

Do you see any drawbacks to either party?
With the ease that comes with the Lead Retrieval devices, an admissions rep will definitely get more prospects, some of which will be soft prospects. The student will get more college materials in the mail and the college will have a group of students who may not be entirely interested and just were “scanned” because their friend was being “scanned”.

But if the college’s messaging is strong and they have a solid communication plan, the hope will be to move them from a ‘soft prospect’ to a student who visits your campus and is won over by the school.
______________________________________________________________________

What does this say about our society? We want convenience.  We want information quickly.  We can not be bothered to have a 3 minute conversation with an admission rep or take 1 minute to fill out a contact card.

What does this say about higher ed? Are we turning students into merchandise?  Do we value quantity versus quality?  Is this a sign that higher education is less “education” and more “business?”

Do you think the benefits of using a scanner outweigh the negatives?  What are your thoughts?  Contribute to the discussion in the comments.


Facebook and Enrollment – What do future students want?

Recently All Facebook has been all about higher education.

In my previous post “Admission Counselors on Facebook?” I attempted to clear up some miscontrued Kaplan survey results that All Facebook reported on.

Today’s headline?

Students Get To Tour College Campuses On Facebook

My first reaction = It’s cool… it’s really cool…but who will actually do it?

My opinion on Facebook and Enrollment:

When Suzie HighSchool gets home from softball practice she might log into Facebook.  But, I’ll put $10 on the fact that she is not going there to conduct her college search.  She is going to Facebook to connect with her peers and future classmates.  Suzie hits up your website or sites like Zinch (which are geared towards the college search process) to start her college search.

I believe that future students search for your institution on Facebook typically after they have applied to your school or have been admitted.  They want to join groups related to the college, their class year, and/or clubs and programs your institution offers that are of interest to them.   In short, they go to Facebook to connect and engage with other humans.

I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are on this story and on using Facebook in the enrollment marketing strategy.  Do you agree or disagree with me?  Let’s get this conversation started…


Admission Counselors on Facebook?

Nothin’ like twisting around some statistics to start off your Monday.

Higher ed and Admission folks may have missed this article over the weekend from All Facebook but twitter was well… a-twitter with this Huffington Post story this morning that ominously warns prospective students to clean up their Facebook profile or else be rejected from every school you have applied to.

Comparing apples to oranges

To state (in the original article) that “Four out of every five college admissions offices use Facebook to recruit students” is not equivalent to “Four out of five college admission offices use Facebook in the application decision making process” which is the conclusion that the Huffington Post jumps to.

This blatant misrepresentation of Kaplan’s statistics (which I can’t seem to find) is frustrating.

Admission Officers are busy

I spent two years in Admissions and during reading season you are… big surprise… READING!  God help me if I had time to do anything else.  I google’d an applicant once because the essay seemed too good to be true given the student’s test scores and transcript, but even in that case I was googling the essay and not the student herself.

(The essay was too good to be true, but that is besides the point.)

Mark Rothbaum of Varsity Outreach (a company that designs customized college Facebook apps for “community building and targeted communication” between admission’s and prospective students) told me, “I haven’t talked to a single admission counselor who has searched for a student on Facebook.”

St. Mike’s is considered one of the 80% of schools that use Facebook to connect with students, but that’s all we do, we connect with them and we do it appropriately – through Pages and Groups.  Admission counselors aren’t friending students or witch hunting them.  I continue to connect with hundreds of prospective students via the Class of 2015 Group, but I will never click on a student’s name to see their profile.  I don’t have the time and frankly, I don’t care.

Are you John Smith? Or John Smith?

Have you ever accidentally friended the wrong person?  Maybe not, because there is a good chance you can recognize them from their photo.

I just did a search for John Smith of Boston, MA.  Do you want to guess how many results were returned? 8 bagillion.

Most admission offices do not require head shots to accompany the application.  If I don’t know what John looks like there is no chance of me finding the correct one, and remember I don’t have time to be doing this search anyway…

Is this even legal?

In my conversation with Mark, he raised the question of the legality of all of this.  That’s an answer neither of us had and one I doubt a school wants to be put in a position to find out.

What’s your take on these articles?  Are you an admission counselor that consider the Facebook profile of their applicants?

UPDATE 1:  Here is the Kaplan Survey that both articles referenced.  Big thanks to Katye Robare Munger for locating it.

The results actual say that the majority of schools do not have official policies regarding using social media in the decision making process and of the schools that do have a policy, nearly half are not even allowed to visit the social networking site.  This question is asked completely separately from the question “Do you use Facebook to recruit prospective students?”

UPDATE 2: What does an Admission Counselor actually look for in an applicant?  Carrie Pratt, Admission Counselor at Saint Michael’s, writes this blog post.


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