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10 things you can do with QR Codes in higher education

June 11, 2019

3E QR Code Almost 10 years ago, I wrote a post about what you could do with a QR code. They are decently awesome things that died on the vine for two reasons.

The first was an infrastructure problem. People had to download QR Code Readers — which often cost money, but certainly cost time and effort. That’s all changed now that cameras are QR code readers.

The second was dumb marketers used QR codes to drive people to websites, often not even mobile friendly sites. I even saw someone use a QR code to drive people to a PDF. That’s like inviting people to a party only for them to find out it is an AMWAY party and there’s no free booze. It makes people question parties.

However, QR Codes are back. So I’m bringing back my list, updated for higher ed.

Ten things you can do with a QR Code:

    1. Use it on the road to exchange contact information. Have the QR code automatically download your data into someone’s contact folder. A student is more likely to take your information than your brochure.
    2. Drive someone to a mobile form. If you want more details from us, go here.
    3. Have the QR code be a simple Facebook like. That’s it, scan this to like our page. Do it at school visits, on campus, on the bottom of the viewbooks (CTA could be “see the whole album,” on the side of your website. We already know people don’t click the follow us on Facebook ‘F’ logo. This is easier and people might do it.
    4. Have the QR code initiate a call. Yes, really. Do you have questions about the process? Call us. Way easier than making a 10-digit call.
    5. On the viewbook, a code to the video of the thing they are reading about. Place your camera over this to watch a video of students moving in.
    6. Send an e-mail (with subject and content). If you got really fancy, and did the work in advance of travel, this could be “email a student from your high school, state” and ask them about fit. You could get a prospective student and student talking.
    7. Add an event to a mobile calendar. On the acceptance letters, add the visit days as an event. Get them into people’s phones asap.
    8. Link to the alumni outcomes on LinkedIn. See what our alumni are up to (for now, you must have a LinkedIn account to see them, but parents could.)
    9. Deliver a wallpaper via QR code.
    10. On the summer tour, use them to add context to the buildings. Showcase faculty research on side of a building. Once you make one, it can updated all the time so make it elegant and frame it. Then update as needed.
When thinking about this list, consider the actual reasons people scan a QR Code. These are classic “get more information” and can be used to nurture the already aware. Everyone has a phone. Everyone has a QR Code reader.
We can do this again. This time better. Use them wisely. Don’t screw this up, or people will hate them again.
Matt offers seminars and digital media roadmaps with these ideas and more. Shoot him a text with the code below.
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How Wikipedia impacts enrollment at your school

May 31, 2019

Wikipedia is the second hit for your school on Google. Go ahead, take a look. It often comes second. Here is one school.

Screenshot 2019-05-30 at 8.36.24 AM

So what Wikipedia says about your school matters. Since it is almost summer, here are some things to think about. (Note, in your analytics, you’ll see source. Check to see where Wikipedia sits. It is worth thinking around 2-5% of the people click to your website from Wikipedia. That will give you a sense of the traffic.)

You don’t own your Wikipedia entry. 

You don’t own your profile on Wikipedia. I remember years ago, when I worked in an advertising agency, the head of our PR department was frustrated by the Wikipedia entry for one of our clients. He told me he was going to change it because it was “wrong.” So he changed the whole thing and made it “right.” It went from telling to selling.

It was changed back the next day, and he was banned. Let me repeat, you don’t own it. Wikimedia Foundation says:

“Adding content that is solely for commercial promotion goes directly against the policies, purpose and mission of Wikipedia to provide neutral, fact-based knowledge to the world.”

What you can do on Wikipedia. 

Now, before you read any of these, please always, always, always remember you don’t own your Wikipedia entry. Step one is to respect all the people who work on keeping Wikipedia up and up to date. I’ve been a Wikipedia editor for over 10 years. I don’t update a lot, but I have edited hundreds of entries, including a liberal arts school.

What you can do. 

Your school might not just have one Wikipedia entry. The Japanese language Wikipedia entry for Colgate stated that Colgate was 10 miles from New York City. It is 10 miles from the geographical center of New York State, which is a totally different thing than being 10 miles from NYC.

When I last checked, there were 17 different Wikipedia entries for Colgate. Not 17 translations. 17 different entries. Track down how many you have, and find a student (or professor) who speaks one of the languages, and get them to take a look. Your goal is to get the facts right. Nothing more.

Speaking of facts, make sure they are right. Wikipedia needs verifiable data, so make sure the facts are backed up somewhere. New buildings, new dorms, new Presidents, new data.

Don’t sell, just tell. This is the opposite advice from my last post.

Alumni on Wikipedia. 

Your school should have an alumni section. If you’re unlucky, then there’s an entire article on Wikipedia dedicated to your alumni. If that’s the case, I recommend breaking them into categories that help organize the story. Harvard does a nice job. Sorting on Wikipedia makes it easier to consume, so as long as you’re not promoting, and just sorting, it should be okay. Please be conscious of the number one rule.

Adding images.

You can add images. It isn’t simple, but you can add images of the University to the entry. I would always start by claiming your location, and adding photos to that entry. They will sit above your Wikipedia entry on your Knowledge Key, the thing on the right-hand side of a desktop search on Google.

Adding images means simply adding images that tell the story, not images that sell the story.

This is about telling, not selling.

Please note: the number one thing you should take away from this article is that you don’t own your Wikipedia entry. DO NOT FORGET THAT.

Respect it.

Matt is on Twitter. We do digital media seminars about Wikipedia, the SERP, and all your digital properties. Register.


Why people don’t like your brand’s content

May 30, 2019

Brands have a lot of content.

Content creation is easier thanks to the computers in our pockets connected to incredible networks like Facebook (Insta), YouTube and Twitter.

It is dead easy to start a blog, a Facebook page, a YouTube, a SnapChat, a [insert thing that is next]. People at keynotes have told us the power of these networks to “spread the word”.

So marketing or communications people start something because it is easy. The easiest thing to do on the internet is start a new thing, the hardest thing to do on the internet is build an audience. The keynote speakers usually leave that bit out.

Eventually, the people who started the thing call a digital strategist because they realize that turning on a Facebook page doesn’t build an audience.

So here are some simplified tips framed as 10 reasons why people don’t like your marketing content.

There is obviously more detail on all of these, but this is a starting point.

1. The marketing isn’t targeting the right people. This one is actually quite simple. When starting a new social channel, who do you want to reach? Also, if they catch the word you spread, what happens next? What do you want aware people to do? If you don’t ask who and what, you’re making content for no reason.

2. The right people don’t care. When spreading the word, the word has to be something worth spreading. The message needs to resonate to the right people or you’re wasting time. This is the HARDEST thing to do in marketing. It is about finding out what resonates about your brand, and then talking to the people in a way that drives a behavior. This is more than a content plan, this is a plan for behavior. This is a plan to drive people from awareness, to nurturing, to doing a behavior.

3. Someone said to post once a day or once a week or every Tuesday at noon. The keynote person who said turn on Twitter said you hd to post 3 times a day. Or something. Post when the content resonates to #1, ergo #2. Posting for the sake of it might make Google happy, but in the long run, it won’t move people to do something. The foundational goal of marketing is to own a piece of your consumer’s mind at the point of purchase. Bad content has the opposite effect.

4. If you’re posting on Facebook, the vast majority of the people who like the page don’t see it. That’s right, a post goes to about x% of your ‘likes’ — it usually around 1% but can grow based on the engagement of your last few posts. It is complicated and the algorithm might update every Thursday, but the point is, you’re not reaching people on social platforms unless you are doing ads.

5. It is even less if you’re doing it on Twitter.

6. There is better content on most networks. Back to Facebook: pretend someone does see the post – there is a good chance it is surrounded by cute pictures or personal posts from friends. It is doomed to be seen but not really seen. This is when the calendar matters the most — especially in higher ed. A post about tours in February will not break through. A Facebook Live tour in the summer, with a CTA of “sign up to see this IRL” might. Timing will help you keep your target’s attention.

7. A focus on people not SEO. SEO, or search engine optimization, means creating content that can be found in search engines. It should be noted that content isn’t found by search engines, it is found by people who ask questions on search engines. Seems obvious, right? It should be called search engine optimization for the people who want to see my marketing content. SEOFTPWWTSMC is way too long. So it is SEO. Instead, think about making marketing content that answers questions you know people are asking. Nail that part and you’re doing SEO.

8. Use more pictures than words. Not because people don’t read, because images and moving images look better on mobile technologies. People love pictures. Moving pictures spread farther on social channels. Make sure when you use pictures you add alt tags, and you name the picture what it is. No picture is img23456.jpg, a picture is actually CollegeQuadinsummer.jpg. Name the picture what it is, and give it an alt tag describing what it is. Look, you’re doing SEO again.

9. You’re not the New York Times. You don’t make content. You make marketing. You’re not breaking stories, you’re making marketing. Get to the point. Use short sentences that get to the point. Marketing is simple: the hard part is keeping it simple. Work hard to keep it simple.

10. Stop trying to create new things. Stop trying to create a new Facebook page. A new Instagram account. Snapchat. Unless you’re really awesome, focus. Find marketing content that will occupy a corner of your consumer’s brain. Just because we can take the picture or write the status update, or Tweet, doesn’t mean we should.

If your marketing content doesn’t do all the above, be quiet. It is okay to not post. The platforms will be fine without your picture of the quad, or a photo of a classroom with no students. The platforms will manage. Plus, you have work to do. #2 is really hard.

Good luck.

Matt is on Twitter.


5 ways to use YouTube in higher education

May 28, 2019

A youtube logo Young kids like video. Most higher education institutions have a YouTube channel. And unlike other “social platforms” they tend to only have one YouTube channel.

YouTube is the second most used search engine – after parent company Google.

And as devices are fully adopted, YouTube offers a device agnostic way to tell a story.

So here at the 5 ways to reach students using YouTube.

#1. Video as SEO. 

In what can only be only be described as irony, URL’s don’t matter in YouTube. On Google, the URL is one of the main SEO factors: a search for your school turns up because the name is in the URL. I used to work at a University that shares a name with a toothpaste brand. But any search for “toothpaste brand” and school would turn up the school’s URL.

However, YouTube URL’s are gibberish.

That means all the SEO weight rests on the title, description and tags – in that order. Your job is to think about a title that best describes the video, then use the description to really nail the keywords.

The tittle of your video should answer a question that prospective students are asking Google. If it does, Google will return the video as an answer.

When making a video, ask two questions. The first is “how will people get here.” That is an SEO question. If your video answers a question students are asking, you’ll get traffic from search.

The second question is “what do I want people to do next?”

If the answer is visit my website, then add links in the description. And, for the love of pete, add a CTA in the actual video saying, “learn more about our dorms in the description of this video.”

(Remember: when adding a URL to your description, use https: to turn it into a link.)

Answering those two questions will make your videos work harder and better.

#2. Video as blog.

Some people were born to write, others were born to talk. The people who were born to write can write. The people who were born to talk can interview, or simply talk on YouTube.

Length doesn’t matter. It isn’t true that short videos do better on Google. It is never true that something is too long, people sat in a movie theater this year in record numbers to watch a 3 hour movie. It isn’t length, it is relevance. In a world where we are all one click away from something better, you need to hold onto your audience a little harder.

That doesn’t mean better production. Young people are used to talking heads on their phones. They are the FaceTime generation. You need to focus on answering the question from #1. Forget fancy production, instead, get to the point. If the answer takes 10 minutes, you didn’t think hard enough about the answer.

If you follow the instructions on #1, length won’t matter. Content will. And a call to action. Add it.

One tip: video takes excitement. If someone has a normal level of excitement in a video, that will come across as boring. People need to turn up their excitement. I’ve told people to exaggerate excitement. It makes the end product better.

#3. Video as response.

Videos as response are way under utilized ways to engage.  Use the second-most-used search engine to find videos about your topic and respond.

Your school has videos about your school on YouTube. Some are old, out of date, or just wrong. You can do one of two things, ignore it and hope people don’t see them, or respond. If there is a video that is winning of an out-of-date dorm room tour, make a response to it. Add it to the comments of the original.

#4. Video as internal training. 

YouTube allows for videos to be sharable with link. Use this feature to create “how to’s” for your school. You should  have HR how to’s, and even how to use the Intranet.

Because they are not large corporations, schools tend to be bad at on-boarding. Video can help this process. Training on tools, training on HR, shoot it all and some of it will end up being “why you should come and work here” videos.

#5. Video from a QR code.

If it was up to me, QR codes would never, ever take anyone to a website. They would play a video. Every single one of them.  Think about it: a video is device agnostic – even the first smartphones played YouTube.

Now with QR code readers on EVERY smartphone, we can get back to adding more to a website and/or a print piece. All iPhones have camera that is a QR code reader, and now so do all Android devices.

Please, please, please, think about what you want people to do after they watch your video. It should never be “let YouTube decide.”

Your turn: how are you using video? Did I miss some things. Got any advice?

Matt is the associate VP of Social and Digital Strategy at 3 Enrollment Marketing.

I do social and digital strategy sessions where I talk a lot more about Wikipedia and your SERP. If you’re interested, drop me a DM on Twitter.

What is the goal of marketing?

May 21, 2019

This is not an academic question. When a company does marketing, they aren’t doing it for the tax breaks. They are doing it for a reason.

They want to own a space inside the consumer’s brain. The goal of every single marketing interaction should be to upgrade the brand’s value in the mind of the consumer.

The interaction could be on Twitter, on a blog, on a TV spot, within a search term, on a poster, on a t-shirt, in a YouTube video. It could be at the point of purchase or, as is the case with New Coke, on a hit TV show.

It could be in responding quickly to someone on Twitter. It could be having a conversation with someone on Facebook.

We do marketing to sell products. But all marketing can’t be “buy me” because then it sounds needy and wrong. No brand wants to be the digital version of an Amway salesman at a party.

Plus, asking for the order all the time eliminates the newly aware. No one wants to purchase a product they just heard of. 

In higher education, you can’t ask someone who just came to your website to apply. That’s like asking someone you just met to marry them. It skips too many steps.


We can use marketing to nurture someone and to upgrade the brand in their mind. Then, when it is time to purchase, the brand that has done the best job of nurturing is likely to be in consideration for a purchase.

Thus, a bad post might do the opposite. One of the reasons I always hated Instagram was this potential. An image from a phone of a university could have the opposite effect we desire. A bad image taken from a phone might downgrade the brand in the eye of the consumer.

The Instagram feeds of big and small brands are full of shots that have bad color, are poorly lit, and/or poorly angled. People all got phones with amazing cameras and then thought, I can take a picture. So they did. Even though they mostly can’t take good pictures. 

Photographers know a good picture. it is what they do. I can’t take a picture, so I refused to post images on my school’s Instagram for fear of downgrading the brand.

We’re at a point whereby all media can be used, to some extent, to upgrade the brand’s value.We’re also past the “hey, isn’t it cool that [brand] is on Facebook?” stage. So, we’re perilously close to downgrading the brand when we just make content.

So, ask this: will this message upgrade the brand’s value to the end user?

If you aren’t 100% sure it will, I’d argue it isn’t worth the cost.

I’m on Twitter. If you are.


I can see your Facebook ads

May 14, 2019

Screenshot 2019-05-14 at 12.38.44 PMHi there Facebook Page admins, did you know that Facebook recently turned on a bunch of things that mean transparency for your page?

For example, I can see when your page was created. And then when your admissions page was created.

I can also see the ads that are running. The University in my backyard is currently running three ads. One for fundraising, and two that are admissions related.

UMass Amherst is running 310 ads. They are video ads, and they are probably really focussed. I’d copy them if I was running a higher education Page for admissions.

Facebook transparency

With politicians ads, I can click through and see who is being targeted. With non-political ads, I can only see the ad, not the buy.

That said, I’ll bet UMass is getting a solid amount of data about who is interested in the ads. And I’ll bet the landing page traffic is also interesting. These ads are probably designed to raise someone’s hand and get them interested.

For example, the ads from Colgate above ask for the order before introductions are fully made. Same with my alma matar UofT.

The ad copy for UofT reads: Join a global leader in innovation and study at a world-renowned university. Choose #UofT today!

It is true, there’s a video. But the video has no words on the screen, it assumes people are watching this with headphones, or in a place wherein they can turn on the volume.

Aside: Someone once got Ryan Seacrest to explain to people why they should attend Colgate’s reunion. I posted it on FB and it got 27K views. It was Ryan freaking Seacrest talking into the camera, so that wasn’t unexpected. However, when I dug into the numbers, I discovered that 87% of the people who watched it did so with the volume off.

About 23.5K people watched a man talk to the camera with the sound off. !!!!

People look at FB when they are bored of what’s happening. They are at dinner, on the subway,  at work, in school, all places that aren’t easy to listen to a video.

So people will probably not hear the VO in your FB video ad.

So when you just have an ad that many won’t hear, and a CTA that is apply, with a link to the application page, you’re missing some steps.

It is like me walking up to a woman in a bar and asking her to marry me. It skips some steps.

Ad copy

There are many compelling reasons to go to UofT. They could list some of them. But more so, they could do this ad regionally.

American students are invited to join a global leader in innovation and study at a world-renowned university. Live and study in a world-renowned city, at a world renowned college. Use the learn more button to see how American’s can choose #UofT.

Over X number of Albertans have graduation from UofT. You’re invited to join a global leader in innovation and study at a world-renowned university. Some alumni include: Name, name, name. Use the learn more button to join their legacy and choose #UofT. 

See, these ads are targeted to people. They will feel like personal invitations, not ads.

Facebook ads

Facebook has a lot of data. Thus, you could think about how to use that data to make more personalised ads. Yes, you can steal some of these ideas, but you could also focus on what makes your school unique. What is the compelling reason to attend?

Then, target the ad, and the copy.

Also, if you’re doing it on Facebook, almost all people will view it via a mobile device and with the sound off.

Good luck.

Matt does things on Twitter.

The 2020 election and Facebook ads

May 14, 2019

Update: The Sanders campaign has 17,000 ads ready to deploy.

Last couple of days I’ve been looking at the Facebook ads for candidates in the 2020 election.

Facebook now lets you see all the ads of a Page. It is transparency. Here are some of the threads.

The gist of the whole things is that Facebook will impact the 2020 election.

In the last 7 days, here are the numbers:

POTUS: 2,300 ads, 107K spent
Warren: 460 ads — 88K
Sanders: 0 ads.
Harris: 220 ads — 77K
O’Rourke: 130 ads — 10K
Klobuchar: 260 ads — 6K
Gillibrand: 180 ads – 36K
Biden: 94 ads — 238K !!

The anomaly on this list is Trump, who is running more ads than everyone on the list, times about 10. (Also, Sanders? WTF?)

The Trump campaign is smart. 

The 2,300 ads are split into one demo in one state, so 18-24 in Ohio. This is a super smart strategy because when Amy in Ohio sees the ad, there’s a chance that some of her friends who already “like” the Page (and over 25mm do) will see an endorsement.

Sarah likes this page, it might say on the top of the ad. This endorsement placement will spread the ad farther. That’s the secret to FB ads, and why they are so profitable. Here is an ad for home depot. Two of my FB friends like Home Depot, so this looks like they endorse the ad.

This is why POTUS is buying so many ad sets, and why the democratic spend is wrong. The democrats currently have ideas on their side. They need to be making ads with ideas, and sending those ideas to small demos.

For example, an ad talking about higher education could say:

College debt has a negative impact on young women in Ohio. I have a plan that will impact it positively. 

This ad can be bought to women 18-24 in Ohio with a college degree or in college.

College debt has a negative impact on the women of Ohio who are looking to start a family. I have a plan that will impact it positively. 

This one to 24-35 with no kids but married.

College debt has a negative impact on the women of Ohio who are starting a family. I have a plan that will impact it positively. 

This one 24-35 with kids.

You get the idea. You take what you know about your policy, and weave an ad to what you know about people.

An ad on LinkedIn to business owners in Ohio could say:

College debt impacts your business in Ohio. My plan will give consumers in this state more money to spend on your business. 

The POTUS campaign is only doing hyper targeting. They are taking the exact same ad and micro targeting it. And the ads running are bumper sticker ads.

Build a wall.
Don’t let them take your guns.
POTUS is turning 72, donate for his birthday (I’m not making this one up)

The Democrats have the ideas. They just need the ads. 

One more thing you can do. Go like the Facebook Pages of the top 3 people you like. After liking it, click “See First” under “following.”

You’ll see the posts first on Facebook. You’ll be up to date on the campaign you like, and act as the “send to friend” key when Warren’s team ups their ad game.

If you wish this election was about issues and not about a cult of personality, then share, comment, and like issues by seeing them first.

Follow me on Twitter for more things like this.