Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

May 2011 Archives

QR codes... best marketing success requires a mobile-friendly landing page

QR codes inspire a fair bit of discussion about whether or not they have any practical value for higher education marketing efforts. Here in the United States, their use so far seems limited but growing slowly. There isn't a need to rush into this. Smartphones sold in the U.S. don't come with bar code readers installed and most people have not yet taken time to download an app for that.

That said, limited use of bar codes in higher education marketing is starting. Last week flying back from a visit to Algoma University I opened the May issue of Sky Magazine, with special interest in the ads run by universities to entice business folk seeking professional advancement.

QR codes in 2 higher education magazine ads

Most of the 12 or so ads did not use QR codes. Two did: City University of New York School of Professional Studies and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. And so I used my free Bakodo app to read the QR codes to visit the landing pages for each ad.

One got it right. One got it wrong.

The CUNY QR code took me to a landing page designed especially for people visiting from a mobile device. A few key links, including the names of 4 featured academic programs, were immediately visible and easy to follow. No need for any finger flicking.

The Embry-Riddle QR code lead to a regular website landing page, designed to repeat and reinforce the main design theme and message of the original ad. That's admirable when taking people to a regular website page. It isn't so admirable when a visitor has to squint to see the primary heading above text that's impossible to read. The next step: finger flicking to enlarge the page and sideways scrolling to read the text. Not very mobile friendly.

The bottom line: create a mobile-friendly landing page

The jury is out on whether or not QR codes can increase inquiry response in advertising campaigns.

But from everything we know about website usability, engagement will suffer if your QR code brings people to a landing page that is not mobile-friendly. Make sure that people who arrive at the page from a smartphone can immediately see topics that will continue their interest in 5 seconds or less. Adding a QR code to an ad is easy. Creating an effective landing page is not so easy.

Test these QR codes at Sky Magazine

If you're interested in QR codes and their landing pages, take this trip. Visit the online edition of Sky Magazine (yes, for this you'll have to wade through the flip tech version) with your QR code reader in hand and visit the CUNY (p. 135) and Embry-Riddle (p.136) ads. 

Do you agree that one landing page is far more effective than the other?

New "Writing Right for the Web" Event

My first 2-day "Writing Right for the Web" Conference is set for San Diego on July 26 - 27. Check the detailed outline and register to improve your website content.

That's all for now.

Forecasting online tools and policies: J.Boye conference delegates speak

Forecasting the future is the theme of the closing Town Hall event each year at a J.Boye conference, a session that's both fun and informative. Two volunteer experts offer their respective "yes" or "no" opinions on possible future trends on the online world. And then the delegates vote on which possibility they think is most likely to happen.

Here, with a few notes about the discussions from yours truly, are the questions and answers from last Thursday at J.BoyePhiladelphia2011

Do you say "Yes" or "No" to these predictions of the future?

QR codes will be huge.
    • No. Several things are holding them back. Most people, at least in the U.S., don't know what they are. The apps to read them don't come installed on smartphones. Here is the U.S. you don't see them often on ads. For those who have the apps now (I have Bakodo), they simply don't always work on every QR code on every device.
Just pick the "cool tool" for social media or undertake a procurement process to decide what an organization should use?
    • Pick the cool tool. Many people cannot stand formal procurement processes and don't feel that a procurement review would result in better decisions about the most appropriate social media tools.
Websites are "sooo dead."
    • An emphatic "no" on this one. Present websites will adapt but some tasks that people expect to do online are best done on a regular website, now and forever.
Keyboards and a mouse will vanish.
    • No. Lots of division on this one, with some taking note that today's 5 year old child may not ever use a traditional keyboard or mouse. But for many in the room, keyboards allow much faster writing than smartphones and tablets and are not going away anytime soon.
"Governance" of websites is a waste of time.
    • No. Although few felt that present "governance" or "management" schemes were especially effective, even fewer could imagine letting anarchy reign.
Forgo text, video is the new thing.
    • No. Video is important, but almost nobody felt it was going to replace text.
Facebook is the next Google.
    • No. I couldn't sense how much of the sentiment here was a wee bit of latent hostility re Facebook but the best comments suggested that Google was a much broader enterprise than Facebook and was not about to lose its current position as had IBM and Microsoft.
Steve killed Flash.
    • No. Some discussion here of the HTML5 impact on web development, but Adobe remains vigorous in defense of flash and Adroid tablets use it. A majority felt it would continue to exist in the future.
How far away is the future?

At least one person asked just how far away everyone felt the "future" was. From the discussion, I'd say it was at least as far away as the working lifespan of everyone in the room. Safe to assume that's about 25 years old and up. Only a brave few were trying to imagine the future for today's youngest children.

J.Boye Future Conferences

Plan now to explore the future this year or next at a J.Boye Conference
New "Writing Right for the Web" Event

My first 2-day "Writing Right for the Web" Conference is set for San Diego on July 26 - 27. Check the detailed outline and register to improve your website content.

That's all for now.

Greetings to everyone as spring flowers start to bloom here in Michigan. I hope the enrollment deposits expected at U.S. universities will arrive in good order this week.

If I had to pick a presentation topic as a personal favorite it would be 'Writing Right for the Web." That is why I am especially excited to join with Academic Impressions to present a new two day conference on that topic in July. Check the details at

If a "Writing Right" webinar better fits your plans, we have a new version of that popular session starting May 19 at

Mobile marketing continues as a topic of high interest this year. I will be doing workshops on that at J.BoyePhiladelphia2011 this week and later in the summer at the ACT EPC and eduWeb2011 events. If you have success stories to share now with your colleagues at these events, contact me at

And now here are your marketing news and notes for May.
Reinventing Higher Education: A New Book

Reinventing Higher Education: The Promise of Innovation is a new collection of essays just published by Harvard Education Press. While I would not usually recommend something that I have not yet seen myself, this book will likely get much attention in the weeks ahead.

The promo blurbs are from very establishment folk indeed, including the president of Duke University. Is this a guide to how the old order can reform itself and survive in this new era of scare resources and increased scrutiny of higher education?

Part of me hates sending readers to an 8-page PDF to review chapter titles and authors and read the introduction but you can get there from the "Look Inside the Book" link on the announcement page at
Price Pressure Continues to Grow

Higher education will have to react in a major way to public concern for the cost of earning a bachelor's degree. Increasing tuition to compensate for reduced public sector financial support is not a politically acceptable solution for any but the most selective institutions.

Expect pricing to be an even more important marketing element tomorrow than it is today.

Can expansion of 2 + 2 programs with community colleges and an expansion of online programs provide a bachelor's degree for about $10,000 in a public university system?

That solution to the higher education cost dilemma is getting serious study in Texas now. The Chronicle reports details at
Mobile Communication Strategy at William and Mary

Without a doubt, this is one of the best articles describing one university's mobile communication strategy that I have read.

Key points include the need for simple design and content valued by your audience (which of course requires asking the audiences what to include).

If you are involved in anything "mobile" on your campus, do not miss the article by Susan Evans, director of creative services at the College of William and Mary, at
Mobile Marketing: Selecting Mobile App Alternatives

Marketing with mobile apps today requires at least iPhone and Android versions if reach is your primary goal.

If you have a special interest in enrolling people already working in health care, finance or law, then you had best narrow your focus to Blackberry and Windows users.

Mobile Marketer gives an overview of the various platforms and their expected market strength over the next year or two at
Marketing to Young Adults

If you are recruiting people to graduate programs, recent survey research about attitudes to higher education might give insights into redesigning how learning takes place to gain competitive advantage against traditional programs.

People 18 to 24 year olds are more than a little skeptical of the value of traditional classroom teaching while placing high value on self-learning and internships. About 36 percent said the current higher education system was not relevant to their values.

Read the report on "Young Adults' Perspectives on American Higher Education" at
20 Year Evolution of Web Design: Infographic

Sometimes a quick look back at history can help us move forward to tomorrow.

If you have an interest in how web design techniques and priorities have changed since 1991, spend a few minutes with the Infographic from KISSmetrics at
Can Software Robots Replace Academic Advisors?

We all know the quality of academic advising varies widely. Now Austin Peay State University has introduced an automated system to help students identify and schedule the right courses better than real people.

The system, says the provost and math professor who created it, will help students find courses they might not have considered in the past.

Needless to say, reactions in 53 comments to article run the proverbial gamut.

Check to see if you think this is part of the future of academe at
Using RateMyProfessor to Pick Courses: Advice from a Student

How do students use RateMyProfessor to select their courses?

Chance Carmichael, a student at the University of Kansas, uses ratings to pick his courses and professors. He compares the comments from students about their experiences to those found on Amazon and advises his fellow students to use ratings them with common sense and to read the detailed comments as well as the numerical scores.

This is interesting advice from one student to others at
Mobile App or Mobile Website?

That is a popular question at my mobile marketing conference sessions, especially when staff time and money are limited. The answer is not the same for everyone.

From a marketing perspective, a mobile-friendly website is the best investment if forced to pick from one or the other. But in an ideal world, apps have a place in the marketing mix.

Tony Long spells out three decision points to consider, including how often the content requires updating, when deciding whether to build a mobile app or not in a Mobile Marketer column at
Best Words to Link to Social Media: 11 Suggestions

Simple, conventional language is almost always best in online communications.

Best words to use to link to social media: Social Media. Not such good words: Connect with Us.

Check a collection of 11 recommendations from higher education web folk for the best words to use in linking to social media sites from regular websites in my blog post at
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.

May 19, May 26, Academic Impressions Webinars: "Writing Right for the Web: Social Media, Mobile, and Traditional Sites." Register for one or both in 2-part series at

June 8-10, SUNY CUAD Annual Conference, Saratoga Springs, NY: "Mobile Marketing in Higher Education: Challenges & Opportunities" and "Future Students and Their Parents: Exploring a 90% Positive Website Rating." Visit

June 14, Customer Carewords Webinar: "Recruiting International Students: 10 Top Website Features." Register for this free webinar at

July 20-22, ACT Enrollment Planners Conference, Chicago, IL: Pre-conference workshop: "Mobile Marketing and Student Recruitment: What's Hot and What's Not in 2011" and regular conference session, "Explore a 90% Positive Website Rating by Future Students & Parents." Register at

July 26-27, Academic Impressions Conference, San Diego, CA: "Writing Right for the Web: Improving Your Institution's Web Content." Program at

July 28-29, Education Dynamics - Carol Aslanian Conference Marketing Graduate Programs to Working Professionals, New York, NY: Sessions on mobile marketing and best website practices for graduate recruiting. Details at

August 1-3, eduWeb2011, San Antonio, TX: Pre-conference workshop: "Mobile Marketing in Higher Education: Challenges and Strategies for 2011." Visit

Improve 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. (
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

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