Category Archives: Marketing

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


Reel Deal Monday: Big Things Are Within Reach, Nina Blanco

This post was originally featured on mStonerblog.com

Profiling current students is one of the easiest ways to show prospective students the potential opportunities available at your institution. This idea isn’t rocket science, but it can have a big impact. Here is the second video in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s new series “Big Things Are Within Reach.”

Perceived Goals

  • Sharing opportunities available for students attending SIU with prospective students. (“This could be you!”)
  • “This series focuses on students gaining hands-on experience and pursuing their goals,” stated Tamarah Cook, manger of social media at SIU.
  • Tamarah added that this series directly supports SIU’s overall branding messages.

Evaluation

  • “Big Things Are Within Reach” videos are created and produced by students on the Social Media Team. Awesome! Giving capable students a project like this is really smart. They’re in touch with the current student body, have the ability to easily find these unique stories, and the end result will often look more authentic.
  • If you aren’t required to have a three to five second intro of your institution’s logo, get rid of it. You can always put your logo at the end of the video or add a small watermark over your frames in the beginning. The first five to ten seconds are critical to retaining your viewers. In some ways I consider those intro-logos to be a punishment!
  • I love the b-roll and effects selected for the beginning of the video. Making it clear very quickly that Nina’s story is unique and taking place outside the typical academic setting was a smart decision. As a viewer, I’m curious to see and hear more.
  • The shots of Nina in action are interesting and fun. Filming the interview from her DJ chair enhances the story and provides authenticity. Smart visual choices!
  • When you’re profiling current students with web video it is really important to select people who will be natural and relatable in front of the camera. Nina was a great choice.
  • Layering music or other audio underneath a person speaking is a common practice, but you have to be really careful to not distract viewers from what is being said. The music was well selected for Nina’s video profile, but overall it needs to be toned down. Many video editors will auto-adjust layered tracks for you, known as “ducking.” Make sure you manually re-adjust if necessary. In fact, you might have to reduce the volume of your layered tracks to different levels throughout the video depending on how loudly the person on camera is speaking. Once you have all the audio tracks properly layered and adjusted, always give the entire video one final listen, with you eyes closed. It’s amazing what you might pick up when you remove the sense of sight and just focus on listening.
  • It’s important to select your visual effects wisely. Too many transitions, flashes, or filters can be a bit overwhelming.
  • Perfect length.
  • More could have been done with the description and tags. What if a student wants to take Nina’s path? What is the next step? Why not provide a link to her major’s academic page? And better tagging will increase the likelihood that other videos from this series will appear in the side column of related videos.
  • In case a prospective student discovers these type of videos on your YouTube channel, create YouTube playlists for your video series when two or more videos are posted.
  • In case a prospective student randomly stumbles across this video, don’t make it difficult for them to discover the rest. Using YouTube annotations you can quickly and easily link to the rest of the videos in your series.

Results

  • This video fits well into the theme “Big Things Are Within Reach.” And Nina is a great example of a SIUC student pursuing special opportunities.
  • The video has received a modest number of views.
  • Selecting a title for the series that is in line with other branding efforts allows SIUC to take advantage of SEO opportunities. For example, notice the first sentence on the how to apply page.

Rating

rating 7.5

My rating for this video is a 7.5. The video series is a fantastic idea to enhance the “Big Things” tagline and profiling Nina was a smart decision. I took into account that this series is student created and produced, but there were some audio issues and other minor details that prevented me from giving the video a higher score. Overall, it is an interesting and enjoyable video to watch.

Thanks for sharing this series, Tamarah!

Don’t forget to submit a video from your institution.


Reel Deal Monday: A day in the life of Gettysburg College, Leap Day Photo Project

This post was originally featured on mStonerblog.com

I love starting my week with video. Here’s one from Gettysburg College. What better day than Leap Day to capture campus life via photos and short video?

Perceived Goals

  • To showcase life on Gettysburg College campus.
  • I believe there are broader purposes for this video than simply using it as a recruitment-focused marketing tool.

Evaluation

  • If I was giving out points, I’d give Gettysburg 279 points for creating an interactive and integrated social media campaign for the Leap Day Photo Project. Not only was this video shared on Gettysburg.edu and YouTube, the College promoted the project on Facebook and encouraged user photo submissions on Tumblr and on a special Posterous account for the project.

Facebook Gettysburg College

  • YouTube Insights gives valuable information into the success of your videos. As a regular viewer, I am able to view the top three gender + age demographics for any YouTube video. Of course, when you are trying to recruit a traditional undergraduate student the goal is to have “Female 13-17” and “Male 13-17” among the list. A day in the life hit a home run with the “Female 13-17” demographic. I’m going to roll with awarding arbitrary points and grant Gettysburg 78 points for connecting with half of their target market.
  • As you know from my last review, I think it is extremely important to update description, tags, and the category for YouTube videos. Because this project has an interactive component, I think Gettysburg should have encouraged photo submissions with a link to Posterous or Tumblr right within the video description. And why isn’t “Leap Day” a tag? 40 points awarded for not leaving these sections blank. 18 points taken away for missing an opportunity.
  • The length is perfect. The video moves along and the visuals are nicely timed with the music. (Little details like that make all the difference.) This is the type of video where length can easily get away from you, so kudos for keeping it to just over one minute.
  • Campus looks great, students look happy, and a woman was wearing a Gettysburg hoodie. “Duh,” you might be thinking, “why would I show trash or unhappy faces?” Well, getting these images isn’t as easy as you might think when you are snapping candid photos and shooting random video clips. And most of the photos and videos have that raw, “I just pulled out my iPhone” feel.
  • Academics, athletics, and food. I think my one complaint is every photo or video can be placed into one of those categories. What about the impressive performing arts groups? Or photos of students volunteering with the local youth?

Results

  • By sharing the video in multiple places, the view count is over 1,000.
  • I’m wondering if Gettysburg can attribute new photo submissions on either Tumblr or Posterous directly to this video. (Paul, are you out there? Have any insights?)

Rating

rating 9

I give this video a 9 because Gettysburg paid attention to details. Lining up the images and music may have been something a less-experienced video editor would have overlooked. And this video will be easily repurposed, increasing the return on investment. The length is perfect and I walk away feeling good about life on campus at Gettysburg.

Paul Fairbanks, Director of Web Communications, Communications and Marketing, submitted this video and says, “We feel the video was successful in both capturing the day and reflecting life at Gettysburg College. We are pleased with the view count and will re-use the video in the future.” Well done, Paul.

What rating would you give this video and why? Leave a comment below. And don’t forget to submit a video from your institution.


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.


A #highered holiday card I actually like

As you can probably tell from my title, I am rarely impressed with holiday cards from higher education institutions. More often than not I find them to be forced, too long, boring, etc.

There are a couple video holiday cards this season that I’ve been particularly impressed with. The College of William & Mary and Wofford College produced amazing video holiday cards. Both focus on the talents of current students (Wofford actually wrote their own holiday song!) and they are very well produced.

I often think we try to do too much with video. Let one concept shine through and you’re golden. That is why I like these two examples in particular. They keep it simple. They focus on the cheer that a holiday song will bring viewers. They are the perfect length.

My alma mater and former employer, Saint Michael’s College, produced their very first video holiday card this year. And to my happy surprise, I love it.

Why?

  1. The music featured in the video is from the Sleepless Knights, one of the acapella groups on campus. Featuring students is important to higher education video engagement. And it saves you from violating any copyright laws.
  2. The theme of the holiday card is “giving back at Christmastime.” They are able to execute this theme in a way that engages the viewers and sprinkles in some good ole’ cheesy-humor. St. Mike’s is a catholic institution and the founders, the Edmundites, are known for their generosity and giving back to the community. They didn’t produce a video holiday card to be like all the other institutions out there. This theme was well thought out and relevant for the institution. Three cheers for being mission-driven AND entertaining.
  3. The mascot, Mike the Knight, is the star of the video. He gets the point across but keeps it light and humorous. Who doesn’t want to watch a school mascot decorate a gingerbread house?
  4. It is under 2 minutes. My attention never faltered.
  5. The video is appropriate for any audience. Viewers are treated to many notable locations on campus as Mike the Knight goes about bringing Christmas cheer to students, faculty, and staff. Alumni will enjoy seeing familiar places and prospective students get an idea of what campus looks like.
  6. It’s my alma mater. I’m partial.

Have you seen any holiday cards that have impressed you this year?


Inspiration for Facebook tabs from outside .edu (Part 3 of 4)

The third post is a series of blogs I wrote for mStoner’s blog. This one is my favorite!

rue lala facebook tab

Discount shopping sites have revolutionized how American consumers are accessing designer brands. Rue La La isn’t the only one in the marketplace, but they are by far the most interesting when it comes to their social presence. I’m often tweeting about how innovative and engaging they are and recently I featured their blog in a guest lecture to a business class at a Vermont college.

second rue la la screen shot

 

A month ago Rue La La did it again, showing their social media prowess with a brand new “Inside Rue” Facebook tab. The goal is clearly to introduce you to the fabulous team at Rue. I think they nailed it.

The tab is clean and full of interactive and sharable content. It incorporates video, quizzes, and calls out to various twitter accounts. There are at least five ways within the tab where you can share content you find interesting with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

 

 

rue lala facebook tab 3

How do we make this apply to .edu?
I hope you can imagine the endless ways this example could be translated to .edu Pages! Feature admission counselors on twitter and their territories. Incorporate your institution’s branding and messaging into fun wall post sayings. Highlight the videos your marketing team spent long hours creating in an easy to view and easy to share format.

My favorite idea to pull from Rue is the interactive quiz. How easy would it be to put together a five-question quiz for prospective students to take so they can figure out what “type of student” they would be?

What ideas are you inspired to try after seeing Rue La La’s tab? Share your thoughts with us!

Next up: Broadway, of course.


Inspiration for Facebook tabs from outside .edu (Part 2 of 4)

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

simpsons Facebook tab for nedna

To gear up for the fall season premiere, the Simpsons asked viewers to vote on whether or not Ned and Edna (Nedna) should stay together. Who doesn’t enjoy sharing their opinion? Fun and interactive, this is something that will engage a casual viewer to the most passionate fans of the show.

The Nedna tab keeps it simple. Watch two 50 second videos to determine whether you are pro or no Nedna and then cast your vote. (My only complaint is that the voting redirects you to the Simpson’s website versus voting within the tab.)

 

How could this apply to .edu?

Research continues to show that your constituents enjoy viewing web video. The 2011 E-Expectations Report from Noel-Levitz highlights that the majority of prospective students and their parents will watch videos about your institution if they are considering you. Comscore reports that in August Facebook was the third most popular site for unique video views.

Is your campus holding a contest? Maybe you are searching for a new mascot or elections for student body president are coming up. Taking the Nedna-approach you can showcase the options with video and then let the students vote.

Many institutions host video contests, asking students to submit videos highlighting their favorite place on campus. Have you thought about letting students vote on the winner? Put the top three videos on a Facebook tab and let the students decide.

Have you experimented with video in a Facebook tab? Leave a comment and share your example.

Next up: Online shopping goes social.


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


Georgy Cohen’s HighEd Web Arkansas Keynote

You must watch this powerful keynote given by Georgy Cohen at the HighEd Web regional in Arkansas.

“Once Upon a Semester:
Storytelling as a framework higher ed marketing”

Storytelling rules by Georgy Cohen


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