Some Highlights from the EduWeb 2012 Conference

Date posted: August 6, 2012

We’re back from eduWeb12 in Boston after a 3-day conference feast for the mind! The content was excellent and the people we met there were truly inspiring. This was HEM’s first US-based higher ed marketing conference. We were thrilled to meet so many of you, establishing many new friendships and building the foundation for many future business partnerships. Thanks to the eduWeb team for a producing such a high-quality conference! Here are some of the conference trends we found most prevalent and interesting:

  1. Responsive Web Design appears to be the future of higher ed websites and 2012 is the last year of desktop supremacy. Starting in fall 2013, more tablets than PC’s will be sold. According to Noel-Levitz, 52% of college-bound high school students have looked at a school’s website on a mobile device. At such a high rate, colleges and universities websites need to look optimal on all platforms, including smartphone, tablet, desktop and everything in-between. That’s where Responsive Web Design comes in. Check out these examples of the winners of the Edustyle web award for responsive websites in higher ed to see how it is done well. Another great example example of a responsive site can be seen here.
  2. Content will be responsive as well: According to Colleen Jones, principal consultant at Content Science, who presented the conference’s closing keynote, “one in five high school students drop a university or college from their consideration list because of a bad content experience”. Website content quality is more important than just the site’s look or feel. Here is her presentation to find out more about what to do to create compelling content for your site. Note that story-telling was another key theme of the conference. This approach has been spreading throughout marketing circles and is naturally hitting higher ed. Here is a link to a great conference all about how to keep students interested through story telling.
  3. Website redesigns: As colleges and universities compete for student, academic, research and alumni mindshare their websites have become their most critical forward facing point of contact for all of their constituencies. As a result of this fierce competition it seems that almost every person we spoke with had either just completed or were just beginning the process to redesign their website. Anecdotally the average lifecycle of higher ed websites appears to be about 3 years. The most extreme examples, candidly reported that they are now seriously committed to redesigning their sites every year. In these examples, schools have shifted their approach from producing a site that is expected to last a few years to adopting a strategy more like a Fortune Five Hundred company, figuring out what this year’s marketing plan and resulting campaigns need to be and redesigning their sites accordingly. Major resources are required to effect this, particularly in terms of in-house staff to support this level of change. Smaller, more budget constrained schools certainly can’t adopt this approach but are being forced to shorten their redesign cycles to keep their sites looking at least minimally competitive. Two other other driving factors influencing site redesign are rapidly evolving content management systems and the never ending pressure to master the integration of social media. All these elements are combiningd to create market pressure that demands website currency in the form of structure and/or content and resultantly colleges and universities are responding in large numbers with website redesigns.
  4. Focus on marketing ROI is higher than ever: There was a lot of buzz during the conference about social media ROI, with college and university marketers looking for new ways to link their social media activities to the registration funnel. Although this is a legitimate need given the rise of social media, measuring and keeping track of your efforts on Google Analytics should remain a vcolleges’ and universities’ top online priority. According to Higher Ed Experts’ 2012 report, over the past few years, more and more colleges and universities have been tracking results on Google analytics. However, the study shows that over 60 per cent still do spend very little time time each week to look at their analytics to find ways to enhance their online performance. At HEM we are a bit fanatical about using analytics to track site and social media traffic to determine your return on marketing investment. If you would like to explore this in more detail please give us a call.

If you didn’t get a chance to attend the conference this year we highly recommend you check out some of the papers and presentations that will be posted on their website.You’ll find it very interesting! Let us know your favourites and we will pass them along. Even better make a note in you calendar to attend next year. We’ll see you there!