Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

June 2010 Archives

A Note for May, 2011: I'll be doing a presentation complete with screen shots on the Susquehanna website story at the J.BoyePhiladelphia2011 conference, May 3-5.


Susquehanna University: Visitors Report Very High 90% Satisfaction Level

Websites win awards for different reasons, but seldom for what the people who actually use a website think of their experience with it.

Over the past two years, Customer Carewords partners have completed CCI (Customer Centric Index) surveys at 18 colleges and universities. We've asked future students, current students, faculty and staff, alumni, and parents to tell us the top 3 web characteristics (from a list of 13 positive and 13 negative possibilities) that best represent their experience at the website.

There's a pattern to the results. External users are almost always more satisfied than internal users. And "menus and links" and the "search" function are usually the areas of most dissatisfaction. Relatively few people select the "visual appeal" of a site, but when they do, most are positive about it.

90% Postive Rating from Parents and Future Students

Last week we completed a CCI survey of parents and possible future students at Susquehanna University. The results, compared to other CCI surveys, were indeed amazing. Parents (114 responses) and future students (182 responses) picked one of the 13 positive web elements 90 percent of the time. Susquehanna received the highest ratings we've seen in 8 of the 13 areas and was not far behind the leaders in the others.

The website was launced less than a year ago. Paul Novack, director of web communications, and the entire web team have much to smile about as they continue to plan future improvements.

"Search" and "Menus and Links" Stand Out

The results for "search" were especially impressive. The search function on higher education websites is almost always one of the top two topics selected by users and the selections are much more negative than positive. In this case, 6% of the positive ratings received were about search and only 1% of the few negative ratings.

Similarly, 12% of the positive ratings were for "menus and links" and only 2% were negative. 

Both of those results are equivalent to a "man bites dog" story as the exact opposite of what usually happens. The unusual success in these two areas is what set the Susquehanna website apart from most CCI results.

The "visual appeal" of the site was also quite strong, receiving 19% of the positive votes and only 1% of the negative votes. The difference here from other CCI surveys is that "visual appeal" received more total selections than any of the 13 areas. That's never happened before.

Comments from Real People

We give survey takers the chance to answer this question: "If you could change one thing about this website, what would it be and why" and 164 people did that for the Suspuehanna survey. These two reflect the overall tone:

  • Parent: "Nothing--it is the best of all the colleges we have researched for our son this year, who will be coming as a freshman in the fall."
  • Future Student: "Sorry, this isn't an improvement - This website is actually one of the best college websites I've come across. Good work!"

Of course, no website is perfect. Changes suggested included: an area for student ratings about their experience after enrolling, more photos and videos of student activities, average test scores and GPAs for entering students, and more information about faculty.

CCI Results at 10 Colleges and Universities

Overall CCI Results at 10 colleges and universities are reviewed in my presentation "Rating Higher Education Websites: The Student Experience" from  the J.Boye conference last November in Denmark that's available on SlideShare.

A CCI survey can help you fine tune your website. Results are usually available about 2 weeks after survey invitations are sent. Contact me at   

That's all for now 



Alumni magazines in the social media world: can they survive Facebook? 

Given the short attention span to most tweets (at least for mine... tracking shows that most things get noticed in about 5 to 10 minutes or not at all), I always pay close attention to anything that breaks the norm and continues to draw interest over an extended time.

One of those this week has been a link to a report in the NY Times re the challenge for alumni magazines to retain interest in the social media era. In "College Alumni Magazines Struggle to Compete with Facebook," the NYT notes that young alumni have little patience with "password protected sites" that restrict the immediacy of posting information similar to what's in the popular class notes section of printed and online alumni magazines.

So far, 8 people have done RTs on the original tweet and 67 people have followed the link since June 15. That includes readers in Canada, Finland, Australia, the U.K. and four "other" countries besides the U.S.

Controlling the "privacy" of class notes at Colgate University

The reason most often given for restricting immediate posting of class notes is privacy. Without some form of screening, how can anyone know that an item about a particular person is indeed coming from that person? In the social media era, the answer is that you can't.

At Colgate University, for instance, a 2000 graduate who wants to submit a class note to the online magazine sends it by email to a member of the class who has, presumably, volunteered to do the screening. That step preserves the "walled garden" approach that keeps rabbits from eating the plants. But in the social media world, the rabbits have other places to play. Why worry about a wall when you can just hop to another garden without one?

Colgate alumni at the official FB site

Compare that to the Colgate University site on Facebook, where 6,216 people "like" what's happening. Visit soon and note the update from alumnus Andy Krulewitz that includes a link to a new YouTube video about his recent trip to Europe, comments re the last alumni reunion event, and an invite from a local restaurant to stop for breakfast. Colgate on FB is a lively place.

As the NYT notes, alumni magazines and their expensive budgets exist in no small part to maintain alumni engagement that leads to alumni donations. How much will this role change over the next 10 years?

That's all for now 


Mobile Websites for Higher Education... 45 to Explore

My eyes are open for all things mobile these days as I prepare for three upcoming mobile marketing workshops in July (ACT Enrollment Planners Conference and eduWeb2010) and November at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education.

This morning I was especially happy to get an email from the "University and College Webmasters" listserv sent by Jon Wilcox, web development specialist at Angelo State University, with this list of 45 links to higher education mobile websites. (A June 11 update: after my post, Jon wrote to note that he did not compile this list but did not remember who had done the work. But Michael Bazeley at the UC Berkeley School of Law did remember: thanks go to Andrew Harris at University of Melbourne.)

This quick blog post is for anyone else who might be looking for higher education examples. I've added the names of the schools for faster scanning to find your friends and competitors, but otherwise kept the list in the same order as received. I've not visited every site here so you might find a link or two that isn't working.

And of course not every school with a mobile site is listed here.

Happy exploring!  University of Melbourne Education Network Australia Curtin University of Technology Swinburne University The Australian National University Victoria University Library Mobile Catalog Deakin University Library Catalog Waikato Institute of Technology Virginia Tech Florida State College at Jacksonville Charleston Southern University University of Virginia University of Southern California Parsons The New School for Design Tomkins Cortland Community College University of Texas Edison State College Colorado Technical University Dallas Theological Seminary American Intercontinental University Link not working when visited  << very nice!... note from Jon and I agree... University of Alabama Indiana University Wayne State University St. Mary's University University of Iowa Duke University Seton Hall University Roanoke College Roanoke College Kean University University of Washington The Johns Hopkins University University of Missouri System Texas A&M University Florida International University University of San Francisco Remington College University of Iowa University of California San Diego University of California San Diego INSEAD School of Business University of California San Diego Massachusetts Institute of Technology Stanford University

That's all for now 


June and the first days of the summer season are here, warmer than expected in Michigan. As the days grow longer, my friends tell me the search for enrollment yield and budget balance goes on. Difficult times, but the best will adapt, survive, and thrive again.

What most matters now in higher education marketing? The experience people have as they select a college or university, from their first moments at the website to the contacts with real people on campus visits and after enrollment that drive social media comments and connections. Word of mouth marketing is more important than ever in the era of social media and quick mobile contact. Are we worth the price we want to charge? The experience people have and tell others about will answer that question.

One constant is the value of sharing ideas and solutions with bright people at conferences. Attend one of these July events that best helps you build new marketing success: ACT Enrollment Planners Conference ( and eduWeb2010 ( in Chicago and Graduate Student Marketing with Carol Aslanian ( at the Harvard Club in New York.

Check below for my workshops and presentations at these meetings.

And now here are your marketing news and notes for June.
10 Boston-area Schools Ranked for Twitter Use

What criteria might you use to measure your marketing effectiveness on Twitter?

Check the article by Jennie White that ranks 10 Boston schools by number of followers, list counts, and engagement factors. Yes, followers count but the highest number did not lead to the top ranking.

Boston University was first of the 10 and Northeastern was last. See how eight others finished when you visit
NYT on Student Loan Debt

Do you think the way higher education recommends loans to students is equivalent to the way sub-prime mortgages were offered to home buyers?

That is the PR nightmare suggested by the New York Times in a May 28 blog post on "Placing the Blame as Students are Buried in Debt." Higher education, writes author Ron Lieber, shares responsibility for encouraging loan sources without regard to future ability to pay.

Check the argument, with special attention to one NYU graduate, at
International Recruitment Change: OK to Use For-Profit Agents

Pressure to maintain enrollment can bring unexpected change to the way higher education in the United States does business.

That is the driving force behind the growing willingness to use agents abroad to recruit international students for universities in the U.S. The new (2008) American International Recruitment Council is certifying recruitment agencies. This is providing a new legitimacy to schools that want to start doing the same thing that Australian and U.K. universities have been doing for years.

Find 13 diverse college and university participants from private sector schools of varying selectivity to large public universities to higher end MBA programs in an InsideHigherEd article at
Early Critique: Advertising on the iPad

The folks at ClickZ paid $4.95 to download a copy of the new Wired magazine app for the iPad so they could check the ads.

The result: most ads were close to their print versions and failed to take advantage of the interactive capabilities of the new tool. The worst ads were direct lifts from print and included URLs that did not go live to a website.

The future is not here yet. For a primer on how to get it right, watch the ClickZ video at
Pocket Guide to Defensive Branding

In the social media era, you had best pay careful attention to how your brand is treated by those who write about it on Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other places.

Acting in defense of your brand requires great care. Shouting back online will not help you preserve equity in your brand. Ignoring negative comments will not help either.

Whether you are dealing with minor irritations or a major crisis, Pete Blackshaw has some excellent advice, starting with "listen first, engage last" in his AdAge column at
Prediction: For-Profit Higher Education Stocks Will Fall

Steve Eisman is a hedge fund manager in the public view for a best-selling book about how he predicted the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market and "sold short" to take advantage of it.

Eisman is predicting a similar fate for the for-profit sector of higher education. It will not, he believes, survive government concerns over what he calls "socially destructive and morally bankrupt" lending practices used to enroll students. His argument is that loan restrictions are inevitable. Revenue and profit will fall. Investors will flee.

Bloomberg Business Week outlines the Eisman position while also noting that a new loan policy based on the probability of "gainful employment" after enrollment is not inevitable. Read the story at
Strong Adult Student Recruitment Websites

Follow links to 6 examples of strong adult student recruitment website features in my new blog post at

The web pages range from payment options to academic program visibility to transfer credit evaluation.

And I added something often requested and never done before: picked a single "best of the best" website for recruiting people to adult degree programs, with an emphasis on graduate and professional programs.
Mobile Marketing and Radio Advertising: A Higher Education Example

Mobile marketing is breaking out here, there, not quite everywhere in higher education.

Read about results of one effort that used a 10 second call-to-action to send a text message in a radio ad campaign when you visit the report on Columbia College at

The campaign was targeted to returning adult students. Scroll to the end to see a comment about the ethics and/or legality of calling people on the phone after receiving a text message from them.

While at the site, subscribe to the email newsletter from Mobile Marketer to help stay current with this important area.
"Demonstrated Interest" as Admissions Criterion

This is a topic that's been around since the 1990s: is a college entitled to wait list or reject students who meet their academic criteria but who have not shown serious interest in the school?

In this time of increased focus on yield from inflated applicant pools, the level of interest shown by a person is back in the news. This story from the Chronicle of Higher Education highlights the practice at American University and Hamilton College at with special attention to the role of campus visits and admission interviews.
Writing Right for the Web: Press Releases

Rewriting traditional press releases for your web pages can produce not only search marketing dividends but also stronger visitor engagement with the rest of your website.

Shorter paragraphs, more subheads, and hyperlinks will all add value to your effort.

Find more on these points and review 5 other tips from Deni Kasrel for higher impact website press releases when you visit
Speed on the Web: It Is Not About Page Download

Web pages that take forever to download are not good.

But what really influences opinion about your website is how long it takes visitors to complete a task. A "sticky" website is not a good thing if it means people are stuck trying to get something done.

That's the point Gerry McGovern makes in more detail in "The Need for Speed on the Web" at
If You Write: Highly Recommended Blog

If you write regularly, online or off, visit The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller at
My Upcoming Conferences and Webinars in 2010

Attend an upcoming conference to share questions and answers with people like you who are building a competitive edge in higher education marketing. Join me at these events.

June 3-4, Education Dynamics Aslanian Group Seminar, Marketing to Adult Students, Chicago, IL "Adult-friendly Websites: A 'Best of the Best' Review" and "Web Analytics: A Guide to Improving Recruitment Success." Register at

July 21-23, ACT Enrollment Planners Conference, Chicago, IL Pre-conference workshop, "'Mobile in the Marketing Mix': Myth and Reality for 2010 and Beyond" and conference session: "International Student Recruitment: Best Practice Website Features." Program details and registration at

July 26-28, eduWeb2010, Chicago, IL Review the program and register for my mobile marketing pre-conference workshop at

July 29, Education Dynamics Aslanian Group Seminar, Marketing to Graduate Students, New York, NY. Register at

November 3, webinar: Academic Impressions, "Writing Right for the Web." Details coming this summer.

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.
• What Visitors Love & Hate about Your Website: A Survey
• Writing Right for the Web On-Campus Workshops
• Marketing Communications Website Review
• Competitive Website Reviews
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