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Higher Education should get a podcast

June 4, 2018

About a quarter of America listens to a podcast each month. The vast majority probably listens on their commute to work. From RadioLab, to This American Life, some people might even know when their favorite new podcast drops. We’re approaching peak podcast – wherein people say, this is where the audience is, and you should do this.

Imagine if billboards didn’t exist. Then one day someone had the idea to put up a billboard. The news would be: “millions of people drive past this every single day, brands have to be here.” So brands, or higher education brands, would go about making a Billboard – which isn’t easy. Distilling the essence of higher education down to 7 words is an exercise in sheer impossibility.

Here are the reasons to say no, and the reasons to say yes. 

Look, I’m not saying higher education shouldn’t get a podcast. The plus side is that more and more students will begin using Siri, Alexa, and Hey Google assistants to aid them in the school search. Having a podcast called “Getting into (school)” or “life at school” could begin to win those particular digital assistant searches.

that said, before going down the complicated road of making a podcast, consider using business.google.com to ensure that the content on your search engine results page (SERP) is 100% perfect. Getting that right takes continued care and a detailed, calendar-specific content plan.

This is like a football game. There are certain things one must do to win a football game. A team must block and tackle to win. That is called doing the fundamentals. When the fundamentals are right, and there is a content plan for Twitter, Notes for Facebook, posts for Google, all fitting the time of the year in the admissions or development cycle, and the Wikipedia page is updated with a notable alumni section, then start a podcast.

The podcast will be the trick play of your offense. An “in vogue” play that gets the school the championship, or a play from a digital assistant. Just don’t ignore the blocking an tackling.

It is also worth noting that making a podcast is hard. One of the hardest things to do on the Internet is build an audience. It has taken me years to get to 3K followers on Twitter. Maybe a hit podcast would increase my reach. Maybe not.

Finally, the podcast has to live alongside Serial, RadioLab, and 99% Invisible, and other professionally created  podcasts. At the end of the day, the podcast by a brand is an ad. Their podcasts aren’t an ad. So tread carefully.

What do you think?

How higher education should think about the website

May 19, 2018

Before I start, I would like to make a semantic argument.

The Facebook Page is a website. The Twitter feed and YouTube channels are websites. In fact, everything that is on the first page of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for a brand – or University, is a website.

The .edu is often first on the list of searches for the University (second is often Wikipedia, it has that much power.).

The .edu is also the only place to register for a tour, apply for prospective students. It is also the only place to register for alumni events, and to give. (Facebook offers the opportunity for a college or university to register as a not for profit and take money online, but only if the school changes the category to not for profit.)

The .edu is also the only place to register for classes, and get information about facilities, hours, and perhaps menus.

So it is critical to generate the behaviors needed at a school.

The .edu is rarely a first point of contact.

Unlike YouTube and Facebook (and perhaps Twitter), the .edu is rarely, if ever, a first point of contact for someone interested in the school.

No one is made aware of a University via the website.

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 6.25.26 AMEven if someone searches “nursing school” and selects an autofill, the text of the SERP for the program is the first point of contact. It is worth noting that the first 4 results are ads.

For a liberal arts undergraduate university, the .edu is almost never a first point of contact.

That’s a bold statement. Almost never.

The few exceptions are blog posts, magazine articles with good SEO, and faculty searches after a conference or a meeting. The people who make these kinds of searches are probably not alumni, and are almost never prospective students.

That doesn’t mean the traffic isn’t important, but it does show the importance of landing pages. As a product, Google is winning because it gets people to the content they need.

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 6.31.27 AMThe psychology professor who is in the news has a landing page for the website. Chances are high that the majors and minors page is a landing page. More and more, the smart people at Google are looking to get people directly to the page they want. A search for Harvard offers some helpful looks into landing pages that aren’t the front page of the .edu.

These autofill options are based on search volume at certain times of the year. Right now, the Class of 2023 is thinking about Harvard and wondering about tuition, acceptance rates and requirements. The “nursing” hit is Google trying to be helpful to me, and anticipate what I am seeking. Prior to this search I did a search for “nursing” – the Google AI wonders is that is still on my mind. (Pro tip, do a your school and collect the screen shot of the autofill each month.)

Why understanding Google search matters

A student learns about a school – either from a guidance counselor, a teacher, a family friend who attended the school, sports success, an email to a purchased list, or reading or listening to a professor’s work. They hear about the school, then go to Google and search for the school. No one types in URL’s anymore, people type search queries into the search bar and wait for autofill to help. While it is increasingly rare that people don’t take autofill suggestions, presume for a minute that the search ends up being for the school, in this case Harvard University.

Like most schools, the .edu wins the Google search. Wikipedia is often second, but since I’m logged into Twitter and use it a lot, Google delivers me three random Tweets from Harvard’s main Twitter feed. Next are Facebook, Athletics, USN&WR, and the Times Higher Educations. Some other schools get Niche, Princeton Review, and Forbes. Quite often lists on the front page of a SERP. (I think the similarity of marketing from schools results in a marketing void filled by lists that numerically differentiate schools.)

Social media channels have taught us to scroll-scan, so most people do and look at the options. The Knowledge Key, the thing on the right-hand side, also anticipates a searcher’s needs – which is where business.google.com comes in.

Even though Google is actively trying to answer the query with the Knowledge Key, assume the user clicks on the first result, the website. After they peruse the site, and click on the links in a way that the web company proposed, they will leave. if they come back again, it will be via a more detailed Google search.

Academics at school. Research at school. Majors at school. Student life at school. Athletics at school. Dorms/food at school. Or they might listen to Google’s suggestions and follow the breadcrumbs of previous searchers.

Landing pages for the win. 

When a brand decides to redo their website, it often starts with a hierarchical flow. Students will start here and click twice to get here. The desire is a top down flow, almost mirroring the University governance – Faculty get the departments and their own bios, the school gets the rest of the pages. The people who make the site assume two things:

  1. This is an introduction to the school.
  2. Users will always start on the front page.

It isn’t an introduction to the school. they already know something by coming from your amazing video, Facebook post, Canvas Ad, or Twitter post.

The website can’t get the first hit, but it can encourage the second, third and subsequent hits. It can encourage a hit for research, academics, and student life.

These are things any university wants to attract, so the website should be designed, written, and created to encourage these kinds of searches.

It should not be designed as a top down site. Instead, it should be designed with two questions in mind.

  1. How will people get here?
  2. What pages do you want them to find?

If those questions aren’t asked and answered, the schools ends up with a website that has a lot of information on it. It will have majors and minors, programs, stories, and images. It just won’t have purpose.

What do you think? How do you think the web should be crafted?

Hey #highered can we talk about tone?

May 12, 2018

Hi there,

I run the digital media channels for a 200 year old collection of buildings. The Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin channels are the voice of a highly selective liberal arts university on a hill.

Fun!

If you happen to attend a higher ed conference, someone will say the following: “I want to bring more fun to our voice.”

It will never be me.

200 year old buildings are fun. College isn’t fun. College students are fun. College sports are fun. College events are fun. The buildings aren’t fun. The mission of a university isn’t fun.

The mission is important. It is also important to get people involved in executing the mission to agree on said mission. Or vision. Or strategic plan.

So, this post below. This is the kind of post that is killing digital media platforms.

I would have accepted this post with “Final exams are underway.” That’s it. The buildings of this particular school are reporting on a fact. Alums will probably be nostalgic. The Class of 2018 will definately feel nostalgic. This would have been a great post.

But marketing is simple, the hard part is keeping it simple.

You got this!

That is the voice of the glee club. Of DORAK. Of a student who wants to support. That isn’t the voice of a chapel. Or an academic building. Or most professors.

Also, never use a screamer. Ever. Not ever. My rule is one screamer a year, maximum. So if I used a screamer to talk about finals, I wouldn’t be able to use it for commencement. Or Reunion. Or when we turn 200. Or something that is actually exciting.

My storify on Donald Trump and Climate Change

May 5, 2018

One time I did a storify on Trump’s climate change tweets. Since Storify is going away, I moved it here. In my Storify, I added comments about his posts, probably pithy things that were too clever by half.

The tweets are a record.  And they are still love on the Internet.

It actually isn’t actually that amazing

April 28, 2018

This is going around LinkedIn, the amazing proclamation that we can read words that are spelled horribly wrong.

Only, it isn’t that amazing. We don’t read letters, we read word patterns. We don’t read t-h-e with the word the, we read a pattern. We see the pattern of the, not the letters.

So what does that mean?

Two things, really.

First, when you TYPE IN ALL CAPS, you make it harder for people to read. The more words in all caps, the less people will read it. THE isn’t recognizable in ALL CAPS, so we actually have to read the letters. Often, we don’t. Thus, if you intend to communicate something, doesn’t use all caps.

Reverse type is hard to read because of this phenomenon. Reverse type, white text on black isn’t actually the thing, instead, it is the absence of color. So we don’t pick up the patterns in reverse type because what we’re mostly seeing is the lack of color.

So, when someone says let’s do all caps reverse headlines on the poster, point out this post, and the simple fact that you made your communication less of a communication.

13 reasons why a University should have one Facebook page

April 21, 2018

In 2013 (2013!)  I did a session at a conference called “Can I talk you out of a Facebook page“. My point then and now isn’t to suggest Facebook is a bad marketing tool. My point is that for a University, many Facebook pages make Facebook a bad marketing tool for the school.

On Tuesday, I am doing a CASE chat about Facebook strategy.

Seems a good time to revisit this list.

#1: A prospective student = a student = an alum. 

Why on earth would a school need an admissions page, a school page and an alumni page if, and this is important, they are the same people? When you attract people to your page, they become students and then alums. Schools with separate pages need to waste marketing energy attracting people – again – to a page.

#2: Confusion.

If the school has a Facebook page, an athletics page, a department page, a Chapel page, a page for the mascot…it confuses people. If people don’t know what to follow, you’re doing it wrong. At many schools, a first-year student has 18 million things they could follow.

#3: Algorithms.

The page I manage has 28K likes. So 28K people like this page, are friends with about 250 people, and like, on average, another 8 brand pages. Our content needs to compete with all those things. WHY on earth make it compete with content from your own school?

#4: Bad copy.

With so many pages to manage, a school ends up with the desire to feed the beast. “I need to post on Facebook.” The need to post on Facebook is not a strategic reason to post on Facebook and ends up with a bad post. Don’t end up with bad posts, consolidate.

#5: The best pictures.

I used to think that anyone could take a good picture. I used to think that the iPhone allowed us all to snap the moment, and post it. Then I moved to one of the most stunningly beautiful campuses in the world, and I realized I was wrong. Fewer posts means less desire to snap a photo with an iPhone. You have opportunities to capture moments that rock the socks off your current students and alums. These are the pictures they’ll share – not the crappy iPhone shots. The good pictures make the brand stronger.

#6: Reach.

Your English department Facebook page has 607 likes. The main Page is on the first page of a Google Search for the school and has 27K likes. I’m not awesome at math, but I think 27K > 607. .

#7: Location. 

People are checking in like mad. At this point, there isn’t anything we can effectively do with checkins. But the day will come. One page means less confusion on where to check in, especially tours. Be ready.

#8: Marketing. 

It takes marketing effort to get  like. If people click like, you’re done. You can go back to telling stories and quite marketing. for every page your school has, that is more marketing resources that get expended.

#9: The good times are over. 

I remember a day when I managed a fast-food Facebook page. I recall the day I sat there hitting refresh and watching the number of fans (they were called fans then) go up by 10’s every refresh. 30 seconds was a few hundred. It was incredible, and it will never happen again. It takes work now. If you have two pages, it takes twice the work, and you get half the returns.

#10: There are already too many pages.

The Facebook Pages app helpfully says: “Pages Manager lets you manage up to 50 Pages from your smartphone or tablet.”

Oh. My. God.

#11: Business.Facebook.com.

It is amazing. It offers detailed analytics of your .edu, of your one Page, it connects your one Instagram. It closes the loop in a way that will only get better. Trust. Me.

#12: Ads. 

Facebook ads from one page. I’m utterly convinced that your last organic post impacts your next ad. I’m convinced that your ad impacts your next post. But all that said, here’s why one page is critical. Facebook is an auction. If I buy 18-12 year old college students, and the English department page buys it too, we artificially increase the cost to reach and the cost to click.

WE ARE COMPETING WITH OURSELVES FOR OUR PEOPLE!

Sorry for yelling. But we are. One page, one focus, ad potential.

#13: Facebook is becoming a better content management system.

This month, I shared videos that had already beed posted on Facebook, back on Facebook. The posts launched with the already banked views. So a new video post launched with 2K views. In April. For yield. And alumni liked the videos because they created a nostalgic memory.

The reasons to attend your school are the same things that generate nostalgia from your alumni.

The issue is this: it is easy to turn on a Facebook page. That doesn’t mean it should happen. Because guess what, it is just as easy to delete them. It is just as easy to consolidate.

So if you talk someone out of a Facebook Page, or delete one, let me know. I keep track.

How LinkedIn could be even better for Higher education

April 14, 2018

LinkedIn Company pages are awesome. so far this fiscal year, we’ve earned about 3.5 million impressions on content. Since LinkedIn automatically subscribes alumni to the school page for which they attended, the vast majority of those impressions are alumni impressions.

On a Company Page, we are able to tag people in a post. This post was for a panel event for Colgate’s Professional Networks.

As you can see, I was able to tag all of the alumni in the post. LinkedIn notifies them that Colgate tagged them (I want to be tagged by UofT.)

Now, before you get all excited, I have bad news. The tagging ability is limited to 1st and 2nd connections of the admin doing the posting.

Yes, you read that right.

I’ve had to connect to an alum, just so I could tag that person. (Note: I continue to ask LinkedIn about this. Why can’t the Company Page of a college or university tag people who went to the school? The short answer is that LinkedIn cares about helping Microsoft get more employees. They don’t care about my content.

 

I also told them I thought it was mean to make me be first or second connections to alumni in order to tag them on the page. If an admin can’t tag people, it looks like Colgate can’t tag people. It just weird for our brand and Linkedin’s brand.

Which is insane!

Why do I troll LinkedIn?

I troll LinkedIn because as a University, I feel like this platform can tell a story that other parts of the web can’t tell.

The LinkedIn profile is the roadmap to being a CEO for a first-year student. LinkedIn is the largest data set of outcomes ever assembled, and since it is crowd-sourced, it is basically correct. It is a better database of outcomes than your database.

As a data company, LinkedIn offers students the ability to swipe through alumni outcomes that best fit the major and clubs a student is doing.

LinkedIn can literally match a student’s dreams to the career of an alum. It is both an idea generating tool, and an awareness generating tool. Really, one can become that with a Religion degree?

I just wish they would get out of their own way and let us tell the stories of alumni. The non-intuitive way they do things drives me bat-shot crazy. Like, here you go, you can tag alumni, I’m sorry, only alumni you’re connected to.

Agree, disagree? Feel free to yell at me in comments, share this with someone at LinkedIn, or heckle me on Twitter.