I was clearing out my Google Docs when I came across this little gem. It’s a document that I wrote to my then protegé, explaining our social media strategy which I helped develop. It’s now four years old and they’ve gotten way more sophisticated, but I found it interesting to look back at some of the predictions I made, and also, how much of it is still relevant today.
My favorite part might be, “ At its best, a college education is an opportunity to grow intellectually and emotionally. It is a chance to create long-lasting relationships and connections personally and professionally. At its worse, it is a four-year summer camp with booze, sex and drugs. “
The Successful Electronic Marketing Campaign
Andrew M. Millikin
The successful electronic marketing campaign incorporates multiple media channels in a complimentary manner to an institution’s marketing efforts in print media. There are four important points to remember throughout the campaign. Actually that’s a bunch of B.S. There are a ton of things to remember, but here are a few that came to mind:
- Keep the message on target. A successful electronic campaign will seamlessly blend the focus of a print marketing campaign and vice versa – be truthful to the institution on both accounts.
- Be quick. Be nibble. Damn the committees! Committees are where good ideas go to die. Avoid them at all costs. Embrace the mantra that it is easier to beg for forgiveness than ask permission of a committee.
- It’s not about what you want. It’s about what they want. It’s about creating a space and creating tools for people who care about a subject to share, collaborate and create (stolen from Brad J. Ward who stole it from the insufferable Seth Godin). Keep the information accurate, but don’t try to control the message.
- You sell a cool product. At its best, a college education is an opportunity to grow intellectually and emotionally. It is a chance to create long-lasting relationships and connections personally and professionally. At its worse, it is a four-year summer camp with booze, sex and drugs. Either way, for the right audience, it is a cool product.
I. Email Marketing
The KnightLites emails provide a branding for our email communication. At its simplest, KnightLites is a monthly newsletter highlighting Saint Michael’s strongest programs including M.O.V.E., the Smuggs Pass, Fire & Rescue, PBK and also on campus signature events such as P-Day and Jibbfest.
The Knightlites brand is also used to send information to targeted groups as deemed fit. For example, news may come out that an English major has received a grant to write a novel. A KnightLites will then go out to prospects who have selected English as an interest of theirs. This can be done for all academic interests and extra-curricular interests. It’s best to stay away from NCAA sports interests as there are NCAA regulations that govern how athletic programs are marketed to high school athletes.
- K.I.S.S. Live by it. Keep It SHORT and SWEET. I know not what you were expecting, but these are words to live my when it comes to email. Think of the pyramid structure in journalistic writing – most important points first to catch the reader’s attentions and then bring in the less exciting, but often essential details. 200 words max.
- Graphics and photos can add to a story, but because of the way SPAM filters and email services work, they should never be the sole content in an email.
- Every email should have a purpose and each Email should always have an action message driving the recipient to take action. This can be as simple as directing a student to the website for more information.
- Don’t use “Click Here.” It sounds lame. At the same time don’t use url’s like http://www.smcvt.edu in the text. The code that FER adds to track click-throughs makes it look ugly in the text.
- Before you hit send ask yourself, “What is the goal of this email?” Then proofread it 3 times. Read it backwards and then read it forwards and then backwards again. Check links.
The Next Level
The current campaign structure that we have is sufficient, but there is definitely more room to grow. Raising awareness amongst faculty and getting them more involved in the recruiting process by using tools like email is certainly one way.
II. Social Media
It’s not what you want. It’s what they want. But you sell a cool product. How do you get your message out?
A prospective student has three questions that they want answered. Can I get in? Will I fit in? And now, perhaps more so than before, can I afford it?
Your task in is to not broadcast the marketing department’s message in relation to these questions, but rather to create a space where these questions can be asked and discussed, not with you, but with their peers.
Remember, it’s never about you. It’s always about them and their needs.
Facebook is the foundation of a social media marketing plan. It’s the largest social networking site in the world, and we’ve only done an okay job using it. To make it more successful, we’ve got to drive more traffic to the Fan Page. Whether it is the Admission Fan Page or, hopefully, an overall Saint Michael’s College Fan Page getting the word out is key.
In the past, I was hesitant to use email to announce our presence on this social network because I thought it was their space. That, in retrospect, was a mistake. Again, we have a cool product. It’s okay to let people know where they can find us. Email, blogs, what ever you can do to drive traffic to the site, and then you need to figure out what needs to be there for content. That content has to be updated regularly and frequently. A Fan Page without new and fresh content is a Fan Page without active fans.
The structure of Facebook is as follows:
Recent updates to Facebook have been in an effort to make Fan Pages more like profiles. My sense is that Fan Pages are best suited for groups with broad interests i.e. the Saint Michael’s College Fan Page. Groups are more suited for specific interests such as the Class of 2013.
I’ve found that the best content on a Facebook “Class of..” is organic content. Let the prospective students create their own. They’re also a great place to advertise events like Blogger Chats.
Fan Pages are also great places for events. Ideally, we’d have a more proactive and technology friendly residence/student life staff and we’d have a better representation of what happens on campus here outside of classes.
The Next Level
The challenge is always, “How do we drive traffic to the Fan Page and how do we increase participation?” Creating a Fan Page that isn’t focused on the admission process or just a rss feed for news from the marketing department, but rather is focused on current student activities, athletic events, special events on campus, will provide a service to current students and give prospective students a better idea of life at Saint Michael’s.
Getting multiple offices in line on campus will also be helpful as it will give them a glimpse into the task of recruiting perspective students and what they’re looking for in as far as student services, etc.
The Ning sites are customizable social networking sites. We use two one for accepted students which is an invitation only site and another for prospective parents which has no restrictions. Ning isn’t as user-friendly as Facebook. It’s slightly harder to navigate. I haven’t spent much time digging around in the guts of it (XXXX handles these), so I don’t know much about formatting options. It seems like the simpler the better and like all of them, the more action the better. Bloggers should be on both, and a reminder from time to time wouldn’t be a bad idea. The key with these is to check it often and be able to respond to a post immediately. If it’s allowed to sit, it will be forgotten.
The Next Level
The Parent Coordinator and you and XXXX need to work on whose responsibility this is. To me its social media and therefore it makes much more sense for the social media expert in the office to oversee the page. I can also see the argument that the parent coordinator should be the one as they’re thinking about parents everyday as part of their job. That being said I still think the social media coordinator is the one who should over see it.
Twitter is the fastest growing social network in the world. The challenge here lies in its users. They’re older. They’re more likely to be in there 30’s and 40’s than in high school. It is growing though, and going after that older population isn’t a bad thing either. It may mean that you’re connected with parents of prospective students rather than the prospective students. Parents are of course major players in the decision process so again, this isn’t a bad thing.
Twitter can also serve as the blog post between the blog post. The short 140 character updates provide another dimension and give a reader more insight into the lives of the Bloggers on the Saint Michael’s campus.
Once students get into this they begin to see it as their own. It’s less formal than a blog and therefore, the content can get iffy. I’m pretty anti-censorship and haven’t acted on anything, but there have been times….
The Next Level
I don’t know. It’s a new medium. Its growth was so steep that I don’t think that the real value in Twitter has been figured out. As I’ve said many times though, it’s a great professional development tool. Make as many connections as possible with social media professionals at other schools. It’s a great networking tool.
This is where the story really comes out. I often tell the Bloggers that they just need to write about life. It doesn’t’ have to be groundbreaking, Pulitzer quality stuff. It just needs to be stuff and it needs to be updated frequently. I think the team atmosphere that I created with the Saint Michael’s College Bloggers has helped aid in the frequent posts. Meeting a couple of time s a month with them will help as well. A blog that hasn’t been updated in 3 months is worse than no blog at all. Again, I haven’t censored anything and I haven’t had to even think about it in these. Typically they understand what to write and what not to write.
Never begin a post with “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while” or some manifestation of that phrase. That’s an excuse and excuses are always lame. Besides, it draws attention to the fact that you’re a slacker and are neglecting your blog.
The Next Level
This is a big one. We have done a blogs pretty well in the last couple of years. The key is finding good talent and getting them involved in the group to keep their enthusiasm going throughout the year.
III. GO BIG OR GO HOME- The Big Picture Next level
The next step is simply to increase the media through which the conversation can continue. While we have some presence on YouTube and Flickr, etc, it won’t take much to do a better job.
Flickr has been very useful with students who are studying abroad. XXXXX is very familiar with Flickr and he would be a great person to act as a photo blogger.
YouTube is another area that would be an easy area to increase our presence. Each time a Blogger makes a video, rather than import it directly into Blogger, they should upload it to the YouTube account. The video quality will be better and it would mean more content on the account. A quick ten minute sit down with the Bloggers would be sufficient to teach them how to do it. It’s an easy process.
This is a video/chat website. We haven’t done much here and by not much I mean nothing. It could be a useful tool though. Maybe a simple, users post questions and someone answers them in the video.
What used to be called Virtual Open Houses. Open House implies something more than just a chat room that’s why we’re changing the name. There has got to be a better and probably cheaper chat program out there. I would encourage you to find it. In some ways, I think that Ustream TV might be that tool, but I’m not sure.
How did you learn all this, stuff?
By “stuff” do you mean useless crap or do you mean social media marketing expertise?
Different perspectives will value social media indifferent ways. They will also value the research and the learning process in different ways. To some it will seem ridiculous that you spend all day on social networking sites. I spend a lot of time “listening.” And by “listening,” I mean reading. I read a ton of blogs and I am always keeping an eye on Twitter. In fact, I’ve gotten more out of my peer group on Twitter than I have at any conference. Develop a strong network there and listen.
The real challenge is implementation, and knowing when to stop listening and start gettin ‘er done.