Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

August 2009 Archives

Twitter Tips for Higher Education... Notes on DIOSA Recommendations

Earlier on Monday this week I posted a Twitter update to a list of "10 Twitter Tips for Higher Education" from Heather Mansfield at DIOSA.

At the start of the post I asked a simple question: How many do you agree with? And added the note that I was fine with all of them except #5.

The post prompted several RTs and  responses and it was quickly obvious that the 144 character limitation of Twitter inhibited anything resembling serious comment. The result? A promise to Brad Ward to elaborate on the list in a blog post. Brad, by the way, disagreed with #'s 2,5,7, and 10.

Never, I've no doubt, shall everyone agree on everything on this list or any other.

Without further ado, some notes on Heather's 10 tips. Read her reasons for each point at the DIOSA website.

1. Authenticity before marketing. Have personality. Build community. 

    • Just about everyone will agree with this one. "Reality marketing" still prevails and that's especially true at any social media site. People will resist a traditional marketing and public relations approach. Convey events and experiences and real stories and people who are interested in you will follow along. 

2. Don't use Twitter for RSS or publish "News" unless you call your Twitter profile "News".

    • I don't have a strong feeling about this one. Do agree that Twitter sites set up just to publish news events should make that clear in the name just to make it easier to sort things out.

3. Have many Twitter accounts!

    • Not sure about the definition of "many," but for large institutions this is esssential and even small schools can benefit from specialized Twitter accounts for athletics and admissions. It makes good marketing sense to plan for specialized Twitter accounts even if initial staffing only allows one at the start, especially as the frequency of tweets increases. 

4. Be nice. Be thankful. Reply and Retweet!

    • Here's another that should get unanimous support. Pay attention to who RTs your material and take time to thank them. Send a personal "thank you" to most new followers. (And if they seem like spammers, don't hesitate to block them.) RT when someone posts something of interest, remembering that the life of a typical tweet is brief and an RT a bit later gives more people the chance to see the original item.  

5. Follow everyone who follows you.

    • Heather and I have disagreed about this one before. For my own professional Twitter account, I feel no obligation to follow every follower. Instead, I review a person's tweets and follow those that interest me. When they are primarily personal, I don't follow. Similarly, I don't expect everyone I follow to follow me. If they aren't interested in higher education marketing, why should they?
    • Things might be a bit different with some higher education accounts. A Twitter site for alumni, for instance, might well want to follow all or most people who join and are obviously alumni. Still, I've trouble making this a hard and fast rule. Review each new follower and make an individual decision. 

6. Use "Favorites" to organize the chaos and feature your most important Tweets!

    • Indeed, this is a necessity if you are following many people. And whether or not you decide to follow everyone, your list is likely to grow and therefore the daily tweets received is going to grow. Best to take special note of those that are most important to you. 

7. Don't tweet about your coffee (unless it is fair trade), the weather, or how tired you are. Provide value to your followers, not chit-chat!

    • For "official" sites, I agree with this. While personal comments related to professional subjects are fine, I'd err on the side of caution about blending comments that are OK for "personal" Twitter sites with your official admissions or athletics or alumni site.
    • Yes, there is a "social" in social media but Twitter still suffers among many people from the early (and often accurate) impression that it was a place for people to post way too much information about trivial daily events. Even when the events don't seem trivial to you, stop and think about how much your readers want to know about your personal life.  

8. Don't only Tweet your own content.

    • Another good suggestion. On an admissions site, for instance, include links to content at other locations about financial aid, career opportunities, admission tips, or just about anything else that you know will interest your followers. Strive for a reputation as a source for valuable information that benefits people who follow you.
    • This also increases the chances that your followers will RT your tweets. That will help you gain more followers who value what you do.

9. Send messages, but not via auto-responders.

    • Absolutely. This links right back to #1. 'Nuff said.  

10. Limit your Tweets to 5 per day, and no more than 6!

    • Heather has interesting survey results to support this one. While I don't tend to be a fan of absolutes, I do think that you should be careful of sending too many messages just for the sake of sending them.
    • Most days, strive for a minimum of about 4 to 5 posts. And if you scatter them throughout the day, more people are likely to see at least one of them.
    • Track the popularity of posts with links by using a service like that lets you easily see how many followers are clicking on the links you include. Watch trends and think seriously about not posting often on items that receive less than normal attention from your readers. Easy marketing research.

That's all for now.



August greetings to everyone, and especially to the new subscribers from the ACT EPC and eduWeb2009 conferences this summer. Welcome.

In another month we will know even better than now just how shrinking credit availability and increasing price sensitivity has played out across higher education this year. Early reports on enrollment in the private sector are optimistic, balanced against the increased tuition discounting that has often been necessary to reach desired numbers. And many of my public sector friends still do not know quite what to expect from cost-cutting legislators. Best wishes to everyone.

My last webinar this summer is next week on August 11. A great thing about webinars is that you do not have to worry about sold-out hotel rooms blocking late registration. Join us for "Social Media and Marketing Communications" at

Join me on Twitter. Just over 1,700 people get eclectic marketing updates each day at

And now here are your marketing news and notes for August.
Branding: "Ineffective, Irrelevant, Irritating, Impotent"

The war over the role of traditional marketing in the digital era continues in this ClickZ article on the "false religion of branding" by Augustine Fou.

Note that Fou is not saying that brands do not exist. But he does question the value of traditional branding campaigns designed to introduce or reinforce or change a brand image with billboards and TV campaigns and the like.

The message is especially important for higher education in a time of shrinking budget resources.

Does the emperor have no clothes? Check the insights at
Recruitment Communications: No Paper Available

Can you imagine creating a recruitment communications plan without using print publications?

That was the task for the 70+ people attending my pre-conference workshops at ACT Enrollment Planners Conference and eduWeb2009 this year.

You miss the questions and conversation, but you can review the slides from the eduWeb version at
Mobile Marketing: 6 Guidelines for Consumer Contact

The continued adoption of iPhones and other smartphones is making more and more people believe that the "Year of Mobile Marketing" promised since 2004 may finally be upon us in 2010.

Prudent marketers will want to start tracking events. Start with the Mobile Marketing Association's "Commitment to Consumer Satisfaction."

Mobile marketers are concerned right now about how open the public is to receiving marketing messages on their iPhones. And so the first guideline stresses the same "Choice" or "opt-in" requirement that prevails (or should prevail) in email contact.

Check the other 5 guidelines and subscribe to the MMA newsletter when you visit
Web Analytics: Do You Know Where Your Bounce Rate is Today?

Your "bounce rate" (the percent of people coming to a page on your website who leave "bounce" off that page without going anywhere else) might be the single most important marketing metric for your website.

For that reason, spend just under 5 minutes watching Avinash Kaushik's video on "The Simply Powerful Metric" at

If you do not know any other metrics about what happens at your website, you should know the bounce rate from key pages, including these: home page, admissions entry page, inquiry page, application page, financial aid page, popular academic program pages. Be sure to set your filter to separate new from returning visitors in the report as you track results.

What is a good bounce rate? The folks at Google suggest 20 to 35 percent is about as low as it gets. For more on that and results from University of Buffalo, visit
Admissions & Alumni Publications Online: What role for "Flip" Technology?

You face pressure to move print publications online. And there is a temptation to do that with minimal time and expense. How will you react if someone suggests using "flip" technology?

Compare 5 "flip" publications in higher education with 6 done "right for the web" when you follow the links at my new blog post at

Pay heed to the comments of Paul Dempsey at Dickinson College. Take extra time to get the job done in a visitor-friendly style that encourages online reading. Don't fall for "flip."
Facebook on Top: July Traffic on Social Media Websites

Hitwise was out last month with the regular report on traffic among social media sites.

The "big three" continue to dominate: Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube together have 75 percent of all social media traffic in the U.S. The strong trend to Facebook continues and that site now has a substantial lead over MySpace.

For now, everything else has relatively minor status. Twitter, for instance, has crept from 6th to 5th place over the last month, with 1.4 percent of overall traffic. That small percent translates into quite a few people, for sure, but if resources are scarce it makes sense to focus staff time on the social media sites that draw the most traffic.

What social media site is in 4th place, a wee bit ahead of Twitter?

July results are at
Tuition Reduction: Time to Review Again?

Many colleges and universities are taking pride this year in raising tuition by lower amounts than have been typical in recent years. In most cases, the public has not been impressed.

Price sensitivity is greater than ever now and is likely to remain high for some time.

Kathy Kurz and Jim Scannel revisit the arguments for reducing tuition and highlight current innovations in a University Business article at
Social Media for Intranet Use: New Nielsen Alertbox

Everybody is talking about using social media to reach online marketing goals for student recruitment and alumni support, but how are Web 2.0 features used inside large organizations?

Nielsen surveyed 14 companies and reports mixed results that range from guerilla adoption to officially sanctioned efforts. Overall, social media is not yet especially welcome as a way to help people do their jobs better. Skeptics abound.

While Intranet use is limited in higher education, this report suggests that colleges and universities will need to respond to growing faculty and staff expectations to talk to one another on official websites just as they talk to friends and neighbors outside the workplace. Current students will have the same expectations.

Plan for the future at
Advertisers and Consumers: Opinions on Twitter

Do advertisers believe Twitter deserves marketing attention?

Many advertisers believe Twitter has marketing potential (45 percent), but others (21 percent) do not think it will last far into the future. The remaining 34 percent are evenly divided between those who think that Twitter Time has already passed and those who say they do not know enough to have an opinion.

Results are from a Harris Poll released in July. The pollsters also asked consumers what they thought of Twitter: a whopping 69 percent said they did not know enough about it to have an opinion. Until that changes, marketers had best invest with caution.

Email Dominates Online Communication

Every once in a while someone who is losing their grip on reality declares that email is dead as an effective marketing element.

If you have to confront that belief on your campus, remind them that over 80 percent of online adults use email at least once a month. That compares to just over 30 percent who visit social networking sites that often. Timely, relevant email retains marketing power.

For these stats and others on online activities, see the chart at

To review a check list of email marketing basics, visit
Minimalist Web Design: 9 Examples

Do you admire the simplicity of the Google website? Have you ever wished your college or university website might be a bit leaner and cleaner than it is now?

If your answer is "yes," review 9 "minimalist" design approaches in search of a stronger argument for adopting a "Stripped to the Bone" approach. Guaranteed: You will not like them all. Make sure not to skip the comments.

Visit and find your favorite(s).
Marketing Director Position in Vermont

Champlain College is searching for a Director of Marketing, Continuing Professional Studies to guide a mix of "branding, advertising, and public relations endeavors."

Details on responsibilities and qualifications are available online at
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.

August 11, Webinar: Magna Publications: "Social Media and Marketing Communications." Register at

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

November 15-17, Boston, MA: AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, "Marketing in a World without Paper: Creating a Recruitment Communications Plan in a World without Paper" (3 hour Sunday workshop). Details and registration are in progress.

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
Blog Contents
Recent Entries Categories Monthly Archives