Seven years ago, I started this blog as a place to add my thoughts about people sharing. At one point, this blog had 4,000 readers a month, and last year, it went over 100K total views.
That said, it is time to end this experiment. LinkedIn has invited me to post on their platform. My first post already has 6 comments and 43 likes. While this blog was never about numbers, LinkedIn offers an audience. I believe in LinkedIn more than I believe in blogging, for now.
So this is it. I’m not going to shut it down, but I am going to stop caring about the blog spam. Eventually no one will read this blog, so the blog spam will be worthless.
See you over on LinkedIn.
Marketing in in the talk to business. From a 30-second TV spot, to a viewbook, brochure, website or a tour – marketing was about talking to people. For a brand, especially a university brand, we told people about our selling proposition, often next to a photo of a chapel. Small class sizes, world-renowned faculty, students going on to be CEO’s. Students publishing papers. These are all outcomes of the brand. Which is good, because it is arguably one of the most important purchase decisions people will make in their lives.
The things we tell people are carefully thought out to be the things the people want to hear. Historically though, the messages aren’t designed to get them to talk back. Marketing has always told, instructed. At their best, marketing messages with eye-catching visuals generate emotion and involvement. Marketing can compel behavioral change.
And then, along came digital media, and we’re still working through the change.
A subset of digital media, social media platforms surprised people by not just creating behavioral change, but also helping to create revolution. We marveled at the power of network to organize, and brands decided they wanted in. They wanted engagement.
The problem is: digital and social media operate on a fundamentally different level than marketing has operated for the last 50 or so years.
All of a sudden, so-called “social media marketing” is about conversations and engagement. but that doesn’t feel right. The terms “conversation” and “engagement” are loaded words: all marketing is designed to engage and generate some kind of behavior. Conversations? What are those, and why are they valuable?
So even though all the above is true, it is still new to send a prospective student an e-mail and have them go on Twitter and make a toothpaste joke @ the seal.
Change we still don’t fully understand.
The system has changed. Now the recipients of our a well thought out messages are getting their data from platforms we don’t control, and tinkling about the brand in a way that we don’t own. (As each department joins Twitter and Facebook, it further convolutes the perceived brand. Each new feed is a chink in the brand’s armor. One can reasonably argue this is a good or a bad thing, but it is a thing we don’t understand.)
The image creation industry (advertising) is almost 50 years old, whereas the higher ed institution where I work is going on 200. It didn’t need an image for the first three quarters of operation, but it needs one now because more people can and will talk about it. We aren’t in control, so it is arguably more important to be consistent, more important to put out viewbooks and brochures and e-mails, but make them all sing the same tune.
This is a think different kind of moment in higher ed. One of those transcending convergence marketing moments – like the printing press or TV. As we all get used to high-speed access in our pockets, and the ubiquitous immediacy it brings, it will demand executing in a different manner.
We need to bring more people into the “room” at the beginning regardless of the project.
We need to ask our students to help with the message. We need digital natives on our side. We need to enlist digitally savvy alumni. We need to mobilize the people who were accepted ED to become mavericks of our story.
We need to include people in the creation of more simple stories because that is how we’ll still be tellers of the message. We’ll do this through Mel Gibsonesque “are you with me speeches,” which will be tough, because faculty need to be with us.
I’m not sure what the future will bring, but I know this: the era of telling isn’t over. We still need to tell. But we have to be much more strategic about it, it must align with the mission, and it must be sharable.
In your school or brand, identify, then rally the troops.
Top ten lists have died off. I think they disappeared because blogs did. Top ten lists don’t work on Twitter.
Take a quick look at Digg. At almost anytime, you will see a list of things on there. The top ten things to see before you die. The top ten airports in the world. (Personal plug for Charlotte Airport: free internet which is a really nice touch).
We did a Top Ten List of the Greatest Sports call of all time for a client to great success. On this blog, the post that got the most traffic by a factor of almost 20 is called “Ten Things to do with a Facebook page“.
Top ten lists work get shared. Here, in my opinion, is why.
5.Headlineis simple: There’s a reason that newspapers have people to write the headlines of the articles. When the headline is about a top ten list, it’s a perfectly relevant headline. If people are…
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Picture a phone.
Depending on your age, you might have pictured:
- A home phone with a cord.
- A cordless home phone.
- A mobile phone.
- An iPod touch (Facetime)
- A computer (Skype)
To my seven-year old daughter, all of the above are a phone. She can customize her experience with communication depending on how she wants to experience the conversation. If it needs pictures, she’ll adapt. If it is just words, she won’t adapt.
However, her grandparents mostly use the phone. They rarely call on the computer because when they picture a phone, they default to the phone.
We live in a time where audiences are customizing their experience. I listen to podcasts from the UK, watch Netflix and read The Globe and Mail. My daughter is currently watching Charlie and Lola on YouTube.
My daughter lives in a world where mass personalization is the norm. She will organize via playlists – not have playlists dictated to her as prime time lineups. She will organize the internet her way, not a newspaper’s way. She will organize her entertainment in the manner that works best for her, not his it is set up on a dial.
She will look at the world, and interact with brands differently than you and I. And she is coming. To her, customization will be the cost of business not an option we can throw out there to position our products.
So what does that mean for higher ed?
First of all, I think higher ed is already mass customized. By definition, a liberal arts education isn’t mass produced. One can major in biochemistry and minor in theater.
A place with more options offers a chance to mass customize for students. The school where I work has 53 majors. That’s almost 3000 major/minor options – that is mass customization.
For someone who grows up with a playlist, getting one in college won’t be a change. The change, I think, is how we communicate something we already offer. The coming struggle will be that people who are getting used to mass customization will need to communicate to people who have already lived it.
We’ll need to change. Because the change is coming.
What do you think? Where does customization fit into the message of higher ed? Should it?
Online however, things aren’t constrained by physics.
Online, there isn’t a need for order. We don’t need “files” or “folders”. Those are real world things demanded by the requirement to put things in places. Online, things are merely 0’s and 1’s and computers don’t need an elaborate hierarchy to find them.
That’s why at grocery.com (a made up place), canned tomatoes can be tagged with ‘tomatoes, canned, vegetable, canned food, camping, staples, pasta, crock pot, etc. In fact, there’s no limitation on how to tag the tomatoes – and since a tag is the offline equivalent of a place (ie, where you go to find it), the more things you tag the tomatoes with, the better chance people will find them in a search.
In the real world, the grocery store guesses and uses shopping carts to strategically placed to get you walking around (and some, like Wegmans, I think purposefully crate alleys that get you lost).
On the internet, things are way more miscellaneous. Don’t think of your content as being one thing for one person in one place (as one would a can of tomatoes). Online, the can be the beginning of a killer crock pot recipe, the start of a great pasta, or just a can of tomatoes.
When putting together a marketing plan, perhaps it’s time to consider ‘how will our target market find this information?”