Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

February 2011 Archives

Mobile marketing in higher education: a student recruitment opportunity in 2011

Is it really almost March? Indeed it is. And that tells me it is time to start thinking about updates to last year's series of mobile marketing workshops done for ACT's Enrollment Planners Conference, eduWeb2010, and the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education.

This year, new mobile marketing workshops are already set for J.Boye2011 in Philadelphia in May and again at the ACT Enrollment Planners Conference in July.

Mobile marketing in higher education was of high interest last year and that interest is continuing to grow in 2011. This is the year where lack of a mobile marketing strategy will give a major marketing advantage to your competitors.

Key points for recruitment success

As I get ready to make the updates in March, here are key points that come to mind from a marketing perspective.

  • Finding your list of academic programs is a top task for future students. Marketers must insist that a link to a list of academic programs is clearly visible when people start on the first mobile page, whether that's an app or a mobile website. Don't compromise on this.
  • A serious danger point happens when links for a list of academic programs lead to regular website pages that are not yet mobile friendly. If your mobile content strategy does not have a priority list to make academic programs of most interest to future students mobile friendly, that's a serious deficiency. Fix it.
  • Keep the inquiry form clean and simple, even more so than on a regular website. Remember, the longer the form, the fewer people will complete it. Ask only what you need to get info back to the person making the inquiry. Few schools need to know gender, date of birth, and similar demographic data. Be ruthless about this.
  • Start now to use web analytics data from your regular website to identify pages that are seldom if ever visited. When you get to the inevitable point of building a true mobile-friendly website, you'll need objective data to limit your workload to what's of most interest to your visitors. What percent of your present web pages are irrelevant based on actual use? Nobody needs to plan to convert their entire "traditional" website to a mobile-friendly site.

Mobile Marketing Workshop May 3 in Philadelphia

Join us at the J.Boye Phildelphia 2011 conference. The higher education track is great this year, with a special international flavor that you can't find at other conferences here in the U.S.

Together with Nathan Gerber from Utah Valley University, I'll be doing a tutorial on "Mobile Communication Challenges in Higher Education: Issues, Perils, Potential." The first two hours will be an overview of what's happening in higher education, replete with best practice examples and some not-so-best practices. Nathan will close things out with a Utah Valley case study.

Register after you check the full conference agenda.

That's all for now 

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Writing Right for Academic Program Websites

Last week found me back at East Stroudsburg University for another campus presentation of "Writing Right for the Web." Here are some random notes about academic program websites based on questions and discussions that came up during our two hours together.

Doug Smith, Steve LaBadie, and Brenda Friday deserve special thanks for setting up a fine program for the 60 or so people who attended.

"Content Stewards" Rather than "Content Editors"?

"Content stewards" from throughout the university who are responsible for monitoring and updating content in academic and administrative areas were the primary audience. "Content stewards" is an informal phrase used and not something I'd heard before. It does indeed capture the valuable role that these people play.

Academic Program Home Pages: Key Role in Student Recruitment First Impressions

  • As we started, the first question came from a person working in the history deparment: what content is most important to introduce an academic section? Academic program areas are critical to successful engagement with future students. Many will start their first visit with a search for academic programs offered and move directly from that page to the programs of interest.
    • What should people see in the first 5 seconds? How about a link to the courses offered and another to the faculty who teach them? And this would be a great place to introduce video stories from students majoring in the area about their experience in the program.
    • What do people not need to see in the first 5 seconds? The department mission statement is an easy choice to either eliminate or place elsewhere on the site where it does not block a quick connection to courses, faculty, and student stories.
    • Make sure the academic page has a link to an inquiry form and the admissions application. Don't make first-time visitors go elsewhere if the academic program content motivates them to take a desired next action.

Skip Generic "Why Study..." Discipline Openings

At every university many academic areas start with a general "Why Study (name of discipline)" heading. Why is that?

  • Starting with "Why study... " seems to assume that the primary purpose of the page is to convert visitors to the discipline on the page. These sections are almost always written in a way that could be picked up and moved to any university website.
  • Consider this alternative: assume that the person visiting the page already thinks the discipline at hand is worthy of study. Then the content focus will change.
    • Take the marketing perspective that the main goal is to convince people to study this discipline at this university. If that's the goal, then the content should feature specifics about what makes each university's program special.
    • Consider these possible elements for that first 5-second scan of the page: number of major and minors, if applicable; number of courses offered and number of students who take them; internships and research opportunities available.

Remember Basics for Any Web Page

Academic program pages are not immune from basic points that apply to any website.

  • Consistent navigation in each academic area is important. Visitors, especially first time visitors interested in more than one academic program, will not be happy if they have to puzzle out different navigation elements at different discipline sites. If it is politically impossible to keep navigation consistent everywhere, demand consistency within major schools and colleges.
  • Long blocks of dense text are disaster areas guaranteed to reduce the number of visitors who actually read the content on the page. Let no paragraph run longer than 5 lines. Keep every sentence as short as possible. If you feel the need to add a semi-colon to a sentence, it is likely getting too long.
  • Greet every visitor with sub-heads and bullet points on the page for quick, easy scanning.

Next "Writing Right for the Web" Webinars

Planning for the next webinars with Academic Impressions is happening right now. Mark your calendar for May 19 (Traditional Websites) and/or May 26 (Social Media and Mobile Environment).

"Writing Right for the Web" on Your Campus

Webinars are great, but the live contact on campus is even better. To bring "Writing Right for the Web" to your campus, contact me at

That's all for now 

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· Subscribe to "Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter" at 






Winter greetings to everyone who lives and works north of the equator. As I finish this newsletter, we are starting our first truly serious snow of the season here in Michigan.

If adult student enrollment is important to you, check the program at the first 2011 Carol Aslanian conference at and join us in Chicago. Great people will share great ideas to boost your enrollment success.

Web creators and managers will want to review the program, including a higher education track, at the J.Boye Conference in Philadelphia in May at as a great place to learn from presenters from around the world.

Have you ever wondered why you have FAQs on your website? Check my "FAQs as Lucky Bags" blog post at and you might decide to "just dump them."

We had a fine, fun time at the University of Notre Dame Communications Summit in January. My presentation with mobile and social marketing screen shots is online at

And now here are your marketing news and notes for February.
How is Your STARS Rating?

If your college and university is like most others, your institution likely has not yet submitted a report to the Sustainability Tracking Assessment & Rating System to receive a Gold, Silver, or Bronze rating for "sustainability leadership."

To date STARS has rated 34 colleges and universities, from American University (Gold) to Wilfrid Laurier University (Bronze). The group includes public and private sector institutions from community colleges to liberal arts colleges to research universities. Many other schools have registered their intent to submit reports for evaluation.

Check to see if your competitors are included and link to the report for each rating from
US News: Most Popular Universities

Our friends at US News are back with a new twist on the data. Using the percent yield of enrolled students from the number accepted as the measure of popularity, we have a new list of universities that starts with Brigham Young at 76.9 percent (just slightly ahead of Harvard) and ends with University of Bridgeport at 9.8 percent.

There is a separate list for liberal arts colleges, although it seems a bit strange to see two military academies leading that group, followed by Berea College.

Start your list scan at
State Spending for Higher Education: Check the Map

For an easy state-by-state check on how state funding for higher education will change this year, visit the interactive map from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Scroll over the states at
Social Media Marketing Survey Open

If you are a marketer interested in social media, Marketing Sherpa would like you to complete the 2011 Social Media Benchmark Survey in "approximately 5 to 15 minutes.

Complete the survey and you can download a 50-page report on "top 5" Facebook case studies of best integration with overall marketing efforts.

Take the survey at
Worldwide University Badges at Foursquare

Foursquare started a university partners program with Harvard University and has been expanding it ever since. Now it has announced availability of a badge for "all schools, worldwide!"

Will you see an explosion of Foursquare use on your campus as more students join the Ambassadors Program? The announcement is at
Prestige Arrives in the Online MBA World

The Kenan-Flagler Business School at University of North Carolina has ventured into the world of online MBA degree programs as the most prestigious to date, hoping to enroll 50 students in the $89,000 program.

Details of the innovative program as well as a review of the overall state of online MBA degrees are in an article at

Kenan-Flagler did excellent work on the program entry page, positioning a highly visible, quick-to-complete inquiry form in the upper right part of the page at

Be sure to complete the form so you can see the way the automatic inquiry response page links to the Facebook page for the program. Very nicely done.

Will a prestigious law school ever do something similar?
Writing Right for the Web: Avoiding Typographic Crimes

Yes, the little things do count. And one of the biggest little things is how you present your content on your website, including typography.

Matt Ward offers some simple tips on getting typography right, including this basic: the difference between hyphens and dashes.

Find more Simple Tips for Improving Web Typography at
Mobile Marketing: 7 "Hot Trends" in Mobile Website Design

From a marketing perspective, remember this about your mobile website: you cannot show your regular website home page as the first impression and expect many visitors to be impressed.

Review seven examples of mobile website design at

Which one is your favorite? Mine was either number 6 or number 7, the first extolling the virtue of "text driven interfaces" and the second focusing on best fonts.
The Immorality of Enrollment Management?

The language and tone of this report drives me just a bit crazy but the overall content certainly is worth reading for both a history of enrollment management and a review of how the pursuit of "status and prestige" has resulted (in some cases, at least) in a weak tie to morality.

For a critical view of marketing "competition" in pursuit of institutional goals, download the 24-page PDF from the University of Southern California Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice at
Dartmouth College Recruitment Video

At just over 11 minutes it violates the usual prescriptions for video length, but watch at least a fair part of this effort for an excellent example of how informal story telling by new students (the class of 2014 in this case) can serve as an excellent recruitment tool for the 2015 class.

Beware of video creep. The same effort with the class of 2013 is just over 6 minutes long.

Watch both to decide which is most effective.

Visit the Voices of Dartmouth Class of 2014 video at
Content Strategist Opening at University at Buffalo

The University Communications department is looking for a special person to join their web team: a skilled information architect who also understands the important role that content strategy plays in the impact of the UB home page and other top tier pages on the website.

For description details and salary range, visit
My Upcoming Conferences and Webinars in 2011

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.

March 31-April 1, Education Dynamics Carol Aslanian Conference: Converting Credits to Degrees: 38 Million Adults to Recruit, Chicago, IL: "Creating (or Re-Creating) an Adult-Friendly Website." Review program and register at

May 3-5, J.Boye Conference Philadelphia 2011, Pre-conference tutorial "Mobile Communication Challenges in Higher Education" and "Susquehanna University: Achieving a 90% Positive Web Rating." Register at

June 8-10, SUNY CUAD Annual Conference, Saratoga Springs, NY: A "core faculty" person for marketing issues for presentation and personal meetings. Program details available soon 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
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