Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

March 2009 Archives

Not long ago I reviewed how 9 professional and graduate schools are using Twitter. Barb Chamberlain at Washington State University Spokane then outlined in detail her experiences in setting up and operating a Twitter account in the midst of other ongoing communications responsibilities.

Barb's contribution is valuable for anyone trying to balance exploration of the new with maintenance of the old. In this post I've edited her comments, made them more visible as an individual post, and added links to the Twitter tools she uses to help measure impact and manage workflow.

Very many thanks to Barb for taking time to help others with these details. Follow her on Twitter.

From the Trenches at Washington State University

"Bob, I manage the @WSUSpokane account. We're an upper-division/graduate/professional campus of the multi-campus Washington State University system, headquarters for our health sciences research and teaching, and home to our Interdisciplinary Design Institute and selected professional programs such as educational leadership."

  • Started tweeting in early November 2008, have 452 followers, are following 407, and have provided 668 updates (updated for this posting). Our Twitter "Bio": Health sci, educ, & design programs @ a beautiful new downtown campus on river.
  • Our tweets are a mix of links to news releases, event announcements, campus happenings (such as our record snowfalls in December/January), retweets of resources relevant to our followers in health sciences, health care, and design disciplines, recognition of students and alumni who have done something great, live tweeting from selected campus events, and occasional links to the blog maintained by one of the campus librarians and others as they get established.
  • My goal is to be "professional with a personality" in managing the account. I use search results to identify people tweeting about us so I can respond and follow.

Evaluating the Twitter Investment 

  • WSU systemwide is taking to Twitter in a big way. See our full account list.
  • For a longer list of higher education Twitter accounts, look at this wiki. I use this as one of our measurement resources, although it's not comprehensive. Twitter outcome measures certainly are nowhere a science. I use the wiki list to measure us against comparable schools for # of followers (which isn't at all a measure of engagement).
  • I also look at retweets, twittergrader rankings, and twinfluence, just to have some sense of whether we're improving in our reach and value. I also track clickthroughs for all links I tweet, so I know how many eyeballs I've drawn and which content is the most popular.

Investment in Time and Energy

  • It isn't a full-time effort. At this point, I couldn't justify doing that for social media given everything else we need to produce in a small shop, although we're shifting priorities.
  • It took more time in the beginning to get going, which is true of any social space. For Twitter, that's time to find accounts to follow, and effort to build good value in our tweets so they would see why they might want to follow back. A more sophisticated result-tracking package might make it easier. It is a bit time-consuming to do my low-end copy/paste/spreadsheet analysis, and I only do that about once a month now. I did it more often in the beginning to get a sense of trend lines.

Workflow... and a Helpful Twitter Tool 

  • I use tweetlater to make it easier to have something going out every day whether I have much time to check or not. I tee up tweets on future events and basic items (like a periodic reminder to faculty/staff/students to update their emergency contact info). That way, on a daily basis I pop in, check the last couple of pages of tweets of people I'm following, maybe RT a couple of items, check our @s & DMs (still very light on the latter), and set up tweets on the day's news items.

Ongoing Challenge: Building Engagement 

  • The other piece I continue to work on is building a following among local people (as community relations work), students (on-campus communications), media (both traditional/mainstream and online), and alumni (although Facebook is the bigger priority there). It's not enough to have the account--to make it worth using as a communications tool, someone has to be listening.

That's all for now.

Yesterday I was running through the marvelous list of 822 colleges and universities created at the DIOSA website by Heather Mansfield in search of dedicated alumni Twitter sites.

Way down near the end appeared the Twitter site for "Web Editor"... given my interest in anything with those two words in the title, I followed right along and found myself at Jason Molin's Twitter location. Jason, it turns out, is a web editor working at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas. In my earlier review of professional school use of Twitter, the McCombs School was the "most robust" of those I wrote about.

If you're interested in web writing and the evolution of online communications in higher education, follow Jason. And also follow his web link to the "Web Works" blog at McCombs that promotes the ongoing integration of social media into the communication mix at McCombs.

  • Don't miss the interview on Twitter and Twitter training with Dave Wenger, communications director, and Tracy Mueller, Twitter account manager, and the list of Twitter tools they find most useful.

People at the business school can count themselves fortunate that the dean "gets it" and encourages everyone at the school to explore the possibilities. In a recent blog post, the dean noted that as newspapers diminish in importance, the need to use other channels grows in importance.

Put the Web Works blog on your list of regular reads and follow the "real world" evolution of Twitter as an important marketing element.

That's all for now.

Twitter includes at least 26 dedicated undergraduate admissions sites that are reviewed here today. This post continues a review of how colleges and universities are using Twitter for online communications. The first post looked at 9 graduate and professional schools.

This collection started with a group of 10 sites that I was already following from my Twitter site. Another 16 sites were added after a Twitter search for "admissions." Admissions sites for graduate and professional schools were not included. No doubt some sites especially for admissions were not found and many other general higher education sites that are not included here contain information about admissions. Sites are presented in the order returned by the Twitter search.

Why create a site especially for admissions?

From a marketing perspective, a Twitter site dedicated to the special interests and needs of potential students is a good thing if it is implemented in the right way. Information and conversation with possible future students won't get lost in a sea of updates for alumni and internal audiences. 

General observations on the 26 sites:

  • Twitter is not yet an important part of the marketing communication mix, although a few show early signs that it might become important if followers increase. That observation is based on one factor: number of followers. The follower total doesn't guarantee that people are paying attention, but without followers there can't be an enrollment impact.
  • Some schools are starting sites and not paying much attention to them. That's the only explanation for the small number of updates at several places reviewed. Someone decided to create a site, but that person either lost interest or could not get enough time allocated from other responsibilities to make the frequent updates that Twitter demands.
  • Dedicated Twitter sites are growing more rapidly this year than last, measured by the number starting since January 1. That's an opportunity to look back 5 or 6 months from now and see how followers have grown. If a dedicated admissions site on Twitter is going to become an important part of the marketing communications mix for student recruitment, we'll know more by June 1.
  • If you're new to this and looking for two models to review before starting your own dedicated Twitter site for admissions, spend time with UC Davis and Drexel University.
  • Most creative tweet: free cupcakes for visiting University of Washington Tacoma.  

Overall conclusions on key Twitter elements that emerged from the review:

  • Tone: What's the right balance between a personal and a professional relationship? That's a tricky question that admissions Twitter sites have to resolve. More often than note, these sites lean toward the professional, with formal notes on what's happening within the admissions process and at the host institution. The Drexel site stands out for the ability to mix personal conversation with potential students (how to appeal a financial aid award, for instance) with the formal notices.
  • Content: For the most part, content is appropriate to the admissions topic. The problem is some cases is that there isn't enough of it. That's because of the paucity of posts at several of the schools reviewed. Setting up an site around Labor Day last year and making 21 updates since then doesn't equal adequate content. 
  • Linking: The great majority of posts on most of the sites link to more information about the topic covered, are retweets, or are personal contacts with individual people.
  • Bio: As with the professional schools, there's a "build the brand" opportunity here that many schools are missing. Like so many tag lines, too many of these "bio" statements could be moved from one school to another and fit quite well. A few that stand out are highlighted. A couple had no "bio" statements at all.
  • Followers: Followers are far lower than at the professional schools, with the highest at 346 for UC Davis. In many cases, that's because the sites were just started in February or March of this year. But even sites that are 6 months old have fewer than 200 followers so far. That fact means that designated Twitter sites for admissions are not yet an important marketing element. 
  • Competitive Intelligence: Twitter offers a competitive intelligence opportunity to follow the posts of rival schools. Many of our examples follow some other school or admissions sites, but quick scans didn't reveal systematic monitoring of how competitors are using Twitter for marketing impact. Of course, competitors might yet be using Twitter. 

10 Schools With At Least 75 Followers

UC Davis

A venerable site in Twitter-time that started on 25 August with 403 updates since then. The effort has gained 346 followers. The admissions folk are following an eclectic 185 sites, ranging from a few admissions sites to sports, individual people, Good Morning America, The History Faculty and the Davis food co-op.

Updates are what you'd expect: notes on academic programs,sports, faculty achievements, admissions and financial aid deadlines. Just about everything links back to the UC Davis website. RTs abound.

Bio: "UC Davis official undergrad admission updates, deadlines and interesting tidbits." 

WPI (Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

Started 19 September. Only 30 updates since then, but a relatively robust 186 followers, matched by 188 people or places being followed.

Updates are weighted toward the admissions process. Sports aren't important and no references to student or faculty activities on campus. Pretty much just as the "bio" promises.

Bio: "WPI Admissions news, events, updates, and reminders. Check out @W_P_I for more."

Drexel University

Just started on 5 December and already 293 updates to 191 followers. Sites being followed: 200.

The feel here is very "social" with many updates in response to questions as varied as the admissions process, financial aid awards and appeals, and where people eat on campus (from trucks on the street as much as from the cafeterias). Relative low proportion of links back to regular website content.

Bio: "Here to share information about Drexel University and answer your admissions questions."

University of Oregon

Started on 12 November, this is a relatively quiet place with only 35 updates since then for the 149 who are following. Many posts link back to the regular website and three promote engagement with Oregon sites at Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube.

Virtually all posts have links to web pages. A scan of the first 3 pages of those being followed shows a handful of other admissions or university sites and one winery.

Bio: "A world-class public university dedicated to teaching and research. Be a Duck!" 

California State University San Bernadino

A new site that just started on 4 February 09 and has 102 followers since then. Updates at 41 pass the older WPI and Oregon sites and promise a reasonable level of ongoing activity.

Given the recent start, the 162 sites being followed is impressive. The list includes several other admissions sites, a few from CSUSB, and reaches as far as "PokerBookAuthor" and "The History Faculty."

Bio: "Cal State San Bernardino Office of Admissions & Student Recruitment"

University of Nevada

Since starting up back on 5 September, the site has been quiet with only 21 updates and 101 followers. Most updates are formal entries about admissions and financial aid, but March madness saw 2 updates about basketball.

Several admissions sites are among those followed, although my favorite was "isleptthroughclass," an "online note sharing community for college students."

Bio: "Go Beyond @ the University of Nevada"

University of Wisconsin Green Bay

Relatively ancient by Twitter-time, this site started on 9 May 2008 but has been relatively quiet since then with just 82 updates and 102 followers. I enjoyed the link to an interactive online catalog (no PDF!) that worked better than most similar efforts.

Nearly all the sites being followed are other Twitter spots from various offices within the university. Didn't check to see how active they were, but at least setting up a Twitter account seems to be a popular activity, from Disability Services at the start to Academic Advising at the end.

Bio: "The Admissions Office at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB)"

Winthrop University

Another new site that started on 6 January and has since published 83 updates and won 96 followers, while following another 82 sites. That's a much higher activity level than at older Twitter sites and bodes well for the future. 

What stands out among some of the updates is the absence of a link where it seems natural: mentions of Facebook sites, for instance. And a reference to a very successful visit day might have included a link to where to sign for the next visit opportunity.

The followed sites include several high schools and prep schools (feeders, we presume) and well as several people who offer advice to college bound students. 

Bio: "Founded in 1886, Winthrop University is a public, coeducational, comprehensive teaching university with a student body of more than 6,300 students."

University of Delaware

Since starting up on 17 September, there have only been 35 updates and the site has only 74 followers.

None of the updates link to anywhere on the main University website; only two connect with other people. Overall, the content here is not aimed at potential students but recounts activities and frustrations of someone in the admissions office.

Two universities are being followed (University of Illinois at Springfield and Bryant University).

Bio: "University of Delaware Admissions"

California State University Monterey Bay

Off to a recent start on 25 February, the site now has 174 followers and 8 updates.

The still few comments primarily cover admissions steps for new admits, but include one on athletics. Most of the sites being followed are from CSUMB or the state system.

Bio: "CSUMB Admissions and Recruitment"

The Other 16 Twitter Sites

From this point on, we enter a territory where the other admissions sites found on Twitter have fewer than 50 followers. What we'll include here is the URL for the site, the start date, and the number of followers and updates. Glance at the activity on the site and its success at attracting someone who might enroll. The "bio" is added if a marketing element stands out from what's being used by most others.

Special Social Friendliness Award

  • New York University The only undergraduate site found that requires approval to follow. My request is "pending." 21 followers and 8 updates.

That's it for now. Look for a report on far fewer alumni sites next week.


Earlier today I sent off the results of CCI (Customer Centric Index) surveys to DePaul University and Tyler Junior College.

A CCI survey asks website users to pick from 13 positive and 13 negative characteristics and tell us about the most positive and negative features of a website they've been using. CCI is part of the Customer Carewords program developed by Gerry McGovern.

Responses are grouped in 3 categories: Content, Information Architecture, and Social.

The more positive the results, the more the website is meeting the needs of the particular audience taking the survey. For the higher education sector, we've been doing tests with alumni, future students, current students, and faculty and staff. Not every school has surveyed every audience, but overall we've got a good response from people in each group.

CCI results point you in the right direction for effective use of website improvement resources.

CCI Results from 9 Colleges and Universities

Now that we've completed CCIs in Canada (University of Manitoba, University of Waterloo), the U.S. (DePaul University, East Stroudsburg University, Fordham University, Tyler Junior College, University of Missouri), Sweden (Lund University) and the U.K. (University of Hertfordshire), one element continues to stand out: there's a large gap between the experience of external users vs. those of internal users.

We've had positive experience reports of up to 90 percent from alumni and future students in some of these surveys, with a low of about 70 percent. When future students become current students and need to use the web for regular business, experiences change. For current students, a 60 percent positive rating is about as good as it gets.

Faculty and staff, more often than not, are even less satisfied. Positive response can drop to under 50 perecent and it seldom goes above 60 percent.

Intranets are Rare in Higher Education

Why the disparity?

The most immediate thought that comes to mind is that few colleges and universities have built Intranet sites especially for the faculty and staff who need to use the website for business almost every day. The typical home page is still the best indicator of that: home pages are most often designed as the entry points for everyone who uses a website. And creating navigation from that page that best meets the needs of both internal and external audiences is no small challenge.

In the next week or two I'll be writing about overall results from people in each of the 4 groups: alumni, future students, current students, and faculty/staff. We'll take a closer look at what each group likes and doesn't like about their experience at college and university sites. In every group, the mix is interesting.

Tune-up Your Website

Tune-up your website after a CCI survey. Contact me at for details and price. Learn how your website compares.

Subscribe to "Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter" at my website. 

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My first task this morning left me smiling.

I was reviewing several web pages sent from a potential Customer Carewords research client, a regional public university "down South" here in the States. The pages were not online yet... this was a series in redesign to replace the current site not long from now.

Something was missing... and it took me a few minutes to figure it out.

"Quick Links" were not on the home page. Amazing. Wonderful.

Quick Links are Seldom "Quick"

Over the past three years, in almost every website review I've done, the Quick Links feature popular on many sites was anything but "quick." In the original incarnation, Quick Links was a bandaid for poor home page navigation design. Home page political wars meant that important pages were hidden among a legion of topics in the left hand column. So why not list the important pages in Quick Links to make them easy to find?

Nice idea that didn't long survive. Web design politics quickly captured Quick Links and the list morphed into 12 to 20 items. Sometimes more. Truly important destinations (to audiences like potential students) were hidden in that long list. 

In a later phone talk with the marketing director at the university, it turned out that the absence of Quick Links was intentional. The director is hoping that by simply removing the feature, the political contest will disappear. I'm hoping that the plan succeeds.

Measure Quick Links with Analytics

If people are moved at all by objective evidence, everyone should make sure that their analytics program reports how often people follow each item on the Quick Links. That will at least provide a rationale for eliminating those that are seldom used so that the more important ones are easier to see.

If you must use Quick Links, take things a step further. Review how people are using "Search" and consider adding topics that are often sought in search. Even better, of course, make sure that frequently searched topics are very visible on the home page itself. 

"Majors and Programs" in Top Design

Something else about the page struck me a moment after noting the absence of the Quick Links feature. Up in the top navigation bar, between "Admisssion" and "Academics" was a link to "Majors and Programs."

This university was placing a highly visible link to content that for many future students is the first thing they want to find on a college or university website right where people can get to it in a single click.

That's rare. Not long ago I featured DeVry University as a Link of the Week on my website for including the major academic areas right on the home page. This wasn't quite as strong, but it was much better than most higher ed website manage.

"Majors and Programs" are Carewords

In our Customer Carewords research in higher education, "academic majors" and similar terms are rated highly by potential students of every age and every degree level. Sometime those are easy to find in a single click from the home page. Often they are not. That's not good marketing. 

For many if not most potential students, the most important initial question is pretty simple: "What programs do you offer?"

If you have the program that people wnat, they'll stay around and explore more. Of course, what they often want to explore next is more about their favored academic program. Many college and universities are still hoping that potential students get captivated by the brand message first. For institutions without a very powerful brand appeal, that's backwards marketing. Convince people first that you have a strong program in an academic area that interests them and then they will spend time to explore total brand attributes.

Marketing and Website Design

How did "majors and programs" come to be prominent on the home page? The influence of the admissions director who knew how important that element was. Close collaboration between the admissions and marketing offices. Primary responsibility for website design resting with the marketing director. A reason to smile. The rest of the day also went well.

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After a recent interview with Campus Technology magazine, "Recruitment Marketing Calls for Smarter Spending," a person commenting, "mktgdirector," asked for examples of professional and graduate schools using social media effectively in social networking and recruitment activities. I promised to post more information on the blog. This first installment reviews the way that graduate and professional schools are using Twitter.

The 9 schools included here were taken from the ones I'm following now on Twitter. Excluded were sites for entire colleges or universities or those specialized for admissions (several) or alumni (a few). Individual schools are presented in the order of their most recent tweet earlier today. All, or nearly all in the case of the McCombs School, were scanned quickly for a qualitative estimate of the frequency of links and retweets. Other more specific information is included with each school below.

One school stands out from the rest: the McCombs School at the University of Texas. With one exception, it is also the oldest by several months and so has had more time to develop.

Overall conclusions that emerged from the review:

  • Tone: Maintaining a balance between formal news items and informal personality and conversational tone in the postings is a challenge. It isn't surprising that most of these posts are more formal or "business like" than not.
  • Content: In most cases, tweets focus on activities taking place within the schools, including recruitment activities, speakers, faculty awards and honors, alumni recognitions and similar events. The McCombs School has reported the results of a survey that pretty much says this is exactly what followers want to find as Twitter posts. Information rather than entertainment is the reason people follow. That would also tend to validate the more formal tone used here.
  • Linking: The great majority of posts on all the sites either link to more information about the topic covered or are retweets.
  • Bio: The "bio" spot on Twitter is used in very different ways and I've included the exact words for each school. As you'll see, some could do a better equivalent of an "elavator speech" brand message in this space. The McCombs School adds a nice personal element by naming the person who maintains the site.
  • Followers: None of these have yet reached 1,000 followers and some that are more recently started have far fewer than that. Tracking the increase in followers is one way to measure the reach and effectiveness of Twitter as a marketing tool. The schools included here are very different in size so that direct comparisons based on followers between one school and another can't be made.
  • Competitive Intelligence: Twitter offers a competitive intelligence opportunity by following the posts of rival schools. All of our examples appear to follow similar institutions based on a quick visual scan. 

Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business 

The newest of the group started 24 February. Five tweets were made since then. So far, 22 people are following while Baruch follows 34 people or places.

Bio: None. 

University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

Started 28 August with 666 updates since then, this is definitely the most robust of the ones I'm following with 753 followers and 485 others being followed..

McCombs reported today the results of a survey reporting that people wanted tweets on "student news, campus events/speakers, alumni events, faculty accomplishments & major McCombs news."

Bio: "News from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin, tweeted by Tracy in the McCombs Communications office."

Texas A&M University Mays School of Business

Started 3 November with 61 updates since then. Mays has 289 followers and is following 96 others.

Bio: "Texas A&M University's Mays Business School educates 4,800 undergraduate, master's and doctoral students." 

Thunderbird School of Global Management

Thunderbird started 16 December and has posted 194 updates since then. Thunderbird has 422 followers and is following 463 others. That number of followers seems especially strong given the relatively recent start.

Virtually all posts have links to web pages.

Bio: "Thunderbird School of Global Management is dedicated to educating global leaders who create sustainable prosperity worldwide." 

University of Chicago Law School

The Law School started 25 November and has made 259 updates since then. Followers are at 263 and 174 are being followed. 

A conspicuous topic stood out... links to faculty blogs are frequenty made.

Bio: "Life of the mind? I'll show you the life of the mind."

Webster University School of Business and Technology

Webster started 20 February and has made 34 updates since then. Followers number 46 and the school is following 112 others.

Bio: "Communications director for Webster University's School of Business & Technology"

College of Charleston Graduate School

This site started 3 December, with 51 updates since then. Since then it has gained 85 followers and is following 116 others.

Bio: "We're the graduate school of the College of Charleston!"

Penn State University World Campus

The World Campus was the oldest site reviewed, starting over a year ago on January 8, 2008, with 112 updates since then. 138 are followers and the World Campus is following 133 others. Since the site has been up for more than 13 months, the number of followers seems low. 

Conspicuous posts: Recent links to/about Second Life activities after a 28 January 2009 launch. 

Bio: "Penn State Online and Distance Education"

University of Illinois College of Business

The College of Business started 27 January 2009 and has made 61 updates since then. 135 followers are listed and the College is following 82 others.

Bio: "The College of Business at the University of Illinois has outstanding programs in accountancy, business administration, and finance."

That's it for now.



In late December, I wrote about two private sector schools that had already announced no tuition increases for 2009... Benedictine University and Merrimack College.

Today, we have four more to add to the list:

  • Wheeling Jesuit University
  • Sierra Nevada College
  • Lake Erie College
  • Yeshiva University

Far from a stampede for sure, but this is still early in the year and the full impact of diminished college savings plans, restricted credit, and increase unemployment hasn't yet been felt. Financial aid award letters are on their way now to families and everyone will soon start to have a better idea of the economic impact on yield.

Lower than normal tuition increases are popping up like crocuses in the spring. Today we'll take a look at how these four schools are announcing their freeze, how prominent it is on their website, and peek at the language used to announce it.

Wheeling Jesuit University

At Wheeling the tuition freeze wasn't included today on the home page or on the first admissions page. The January 22 press release page did turn up in a Google search. The president's comment noted the "national and international financial crisis" that motivated the school to "take a more radical response" than usual efforts to keep tuition increases as low as possible." The freeze applies to both graduate and undergraduate tuition.

Included at the end of the release is news that the athletic program is expanding with the addition of new junior varsity sports in the hope that the move "encourages more high school student-athletes to look at us and discover a chance to continue to compete athletically while earning an excellent Jesuit education."

Sierra Nevada College

As at Wheeling, there was no sign on the home page of the tuition freeze announced on February 6, but a search for "tution freeze" from the home page went right to the press release announcing the decision

The release quotes the college president: "The board felt this was a very tough time for families, both of students who are already here and potential incoming freshmen." Reaction from several students is included and that can be summed up by the response of one: "Awesome." The release also notes a likely need to increase fund-raising to compensate for decreased tuition revenue. 

Lake Erie College

Alas, the Lake Erie College website was down and under repair when visiting to check the announcement. A search for the college's February 19 press release found it at a local TV station's website. The release notes that the college is offering "a glimmer of hope for those interested in attending a small, private college."

Included is the news that Lake Erie, like many others, has experienced a record number of applications this year... 1050 for a 35 percent increase over the same time a year ago. The freshmen enrollment goal in September is 400. Obviously, the college is concerned about yield despite the application increase level.

Yeshiva University

Noting "painful belt-tightening" at the university, President Richard Joel said in the press release of January 26 that a freeze was needed because "we must do everything we can in these challenging times to make our unique undergraduate experience affordable and accessible." The freeze is only for undergraduate tuition. The announcement also notes that scholarship funds are increasing for the new year.

The freeze itself was not on the home page today, although a link to the president's message about overall consequences of the economic situation, including non-facutly staff reductions, was included. Curiously, a link in the release and on the home page to a video of the president talking about the freeze doesn't go to a video, but to a message the the video is "only available on Yeshiva University premises."  

A Trickle or a Torrent?

How many more schools will actualy freeze tuition this year? Obviously impossible to predict, other than to say that more will follow these first six. And others, as some have already done, will lower tuition. Stay tuned. Each school that moves in this direction increases the pressure on another place, especially competitors, to do the same. The list will grow. That's certain.



March greetings as spring comes closer for readers in the northern Hemisphere. Haven't yet seen the first crocus, but expectations are growing. In southern Michigan, robins are back!

New professional expertise will help everyone meet challenging enrollment goals. Last week I was at Slippery Rock University for a "Writing Right for the Web" presentation. Bring people together on your campus for the webinar version on March 30. Register this week to improve your web writing at

If you have plans to boost adult student enrollment, attend Carol Aslanian's June 4-5 conference in Chicago, "Web Marketing to Reach Adult and Graduate Students." Full program details are online now at

Campus Technology magazine is running my 2-part interview series ("The Evolution of Online Student Recruitment" and "Recruitment Marketing Calls for Smarter Spending"). The second installment at links back to the first.

My webinar slides on "Adult Student Recruitment: Best Websites" are at

And now here are your March marketing news and notes.
Blogs More Popular than Social Networking Sites

In the legitimate rush to add social networking to the marketing mix, don't overlook blogs. That's the message reported by eMarketer, an Internet research service.

At the end of 2008, blogs were read by 54.0 percent of Internet users, while 41.2 percent were active on social networks like Facebook and MySpace. Attention to both areas is expected to grow, with blog readers reaching 69.0% in 2013 and social network participants reaching 51.8 percent.

The report also includes current and projected use of user-generated videos and wikis at
Hartwick Hits Publicity Jackpot

Introduce a new 3-year bachelor's degree program that cuts $40,000 off regular 4-year degree costs and you'll get dramatic media coverage. At least if you do it before others move the same way.

A March 1 web search for "Hartwick College 3 year degree" received 9,580 results. The original press release was issued on 24 February. The first 7 sites reported included Bloomberg, NY Times, Reuters, and USA Today, along with the Chronicle of Higher Education and a TV station in Binghamton, New York.

See the original release at
Transfer Students Are Very Secret Shoppers

The trend to "secret shopping" (you don't know who's looking at you until you receive an application) has been strong for several years now.

Recent research from Noel-Levitz reports that secret shopping is especially strong among transfer students at both public (57 percent) and private (44 percent) sector schools, while the "secret" rate for first-year students remains under 30 percent.

If transfer students are an important part of your enrollment goal, that's a powerful reason to give special attention to how well your website meets their needs, especially content about transfer of previous credits, blogs reporting on the transfer student experience, and outcomes achieved by people who transfer.

"The Changing Undergraduate Admissions Funnel: Fall 2008 Benchmarks" is at
Advertising Online: Gonzaga University vs. Capella University

Is online co-op advertising right for you?

Read the details of what happened when I responded to an ad for online degrees and asked for information about masters programs at Gonzaga in a new blog post at

In the online advertising world, the playing field is crowded. And co-op sponsors can make it even more crowded.
Jakob Nielsen on the Mobile Web Experience

Jakob Nielsen has just released results from usability tests by people attempting to access websites from smartphone and other mobile devices. He calls it a "cringeworthy experience" that reminded him of usability results from regular websites in 1998.

The impact of the iPhone gives Nielsen hope for better future access, but even the iPhone does not fare well with most present websites.

Do you need to design a separate site for mobile users? Not necessarily. Nielsen notes that relatively few people attempt to access websites from their smartphones. Be sure to check your web analytics reports to follow how people are trying to access your website. If the percent is approaching or passing 10, then you may well need to examine changes you might make.

Bloated pages, slow download times, and long scrolling are special problems. Read about those and more at
Kaplan University's 2009 Advertising Campaign

Early this year Kaplan University began running a series of TV ads promoting itself as "a different school of thought." Perhaps you saw the professor apologizing to a lecture hall full of students for not changing his approach to the learning process and ending classroom lectures.

If you responded to that ad with an inquiry, you've received an interactive series of email follow-up contacts, with an opportunity to "Chat with an Advisor," watch an "Online Demo," "Download Catalog" or connect by telephone.

See the email in web version at

If you are feeling masochistic, download the 243-page catalog PDF and browse the programs.
Language and Your Website

If you think how you use language on the web is as important as I do for marketing success, then you'll want to be a regular reader of Anne Caborn's fine blog at
Pew Internet on Twitter Use

Our friends at the Pew Internet and American Life Project have a new "Online Activities & Pursuits" report on how many people are using Twitter and similar micro-blogging sites.

So far this is an Internet area that shows dramatic age differences. At the end of 2008, 11 percent of all U.S. Internet users had Twitter or similar micro-blogging accounts. Use was strongest in the ages of 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 at about 20 percent for each group. For 35 to 44 year olds, use drops to 10 percent and continued to plunge after that.

Details are at

Join Twitter and follow my frequent marketing updates at
Reduction in Merit-Aid Programs

The Associated Press in February reported on trends across the country to reduce state funds available for merit scholarships at public universities, part of a public policy shift to focus more higher education financial aid on a need basis.

The impact on actual enrollment is difficult to predict. The article notes that "middle class" families are challenged by the higher rate of tuition increases in past years compared to increases in family income and the new Pell Grant increase won't help them.

Read the story at
The Sunday Times (London) Skewers Harvard MBA Grads

If you've been wondering who to blame for the current economic plague upon us, you'll have to read "Harvard's masters of the apocalypse" at

Here's a taste re MBAs: "that swollen class of jargon-spewing, value-destroying financiers and consultants have done more than any other group of people to create the economic misery we find ourselves in."
6 Social Media Myths

Adding social media to your marketing mix isn't easy or cost-free and it doesn't necessarily produce immediate and dramatic results.

Those are among the points made in "Debunking Six Social Media Myths," a Business Week article at

Be sure to read though to myth number six: "You can't measure social media marketing results."
Are You Really, Really Into SEO?

If the answer is yes, then visit the Search Engine Land list of people from the major search engines that have Twitter accounts and select some to follow. You'll find a long list but it shouldn't take long to see what each one tweets about and pick favorites to follow.

See "The Big List of Search Engines and Their Employees on Twitter" at
Boosting the Brand: Outside Higher Education Department

If you think introducing instant coffee will kill the Starbucks brand, you'll find a different opinion in an AdAge editorial "Starbucks' Instant Coffee is Best Idea It's Had in a While."

Starbuck's, AdAge says, "may be waking up to reality and embracing its inner Walmart." See if you agree after you read the reasoning at

Of course, this one is easy to measure. Sales will tell the tale.
My Upcoming Presentations in 2009

Share questions and answers with people like yourself who are building a competitive edge in higher education marketing. Join me for one or more of these events!

March 30, Webinar: Academic Impressions, "Writing Right for the Web." Session details and registration are available at

June 4-5, Chicago, IL: Aslanian Group, Web Marketing to Adult Students: "Writing Right for the Web" and "Using Adult Friendly Social Media in Marketing." Registration starts 15 February; review the outline of sessions now at

June 21-25, San Antonio, TX: College Sports Information Directors of America, Annual Conference: "Writing Right for the Web." Conference details are at

July 15-17, Chicago, IL: ACT Enrollment Planners Conference: "Student Recruitment in an Online World: Creating a Recruitment Communications Plan in a World without Paper: 2009 Update" (Pre-conference workshop) and "Rating Higher Education Websites: The Student Experience." Program details and registration information is at

July 20-22, Chicago, IL: eduWeb 2009: "Student Recruitment in the Online World: Communicating from First Web Search to Final Enrollment" (Pre-conference workshop). Review the program and register at

October 26-27, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin System, Adult Student Recruitment & Retention Conference: "Key Website Features for Adult Student Recruitment." Conference information is at

Increase ROI from your online marketing. Expand the writing, editing, and search marketing skills of people on your campus. Host a campus workshop on online marketing.

Contact me at
That's All for Now

Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. (
President and Senior Consultant
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

Increase your online marketing success with these 6 services.

• Customer Carewords Research with Gerry McGovern
• Writing Right for the Web On-Campus Workshops
• Marketing Communications Website Review
• Competitive Website Reviews
• Content Copywriting Services
• Usability Analysis

Start now at

Bob Johnson
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