Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… March 2009

March greetings as spring comes closer for readers in the northern Hemisphere. Haven’t yet seen the first crocus, but expectations are growing. In southern Michigan, robins are back!

New professional expertise will help everyone meet challenging enrollment goals. Last week I was at Slippery Rock University for a “Writing Right for the Web” presentation. Bring people together on your campus for the webinar version on March 30. Register this week to improve your web writing at

If you have plans to boost adult student enrollment, attend Carol Aslanian’s June 4-5 conference in Chicago, “Web Marketing to Reach Adult and Graduate Students.” Full program details are online now at

Campus Technology magazine is running my 2-part interview series (“The Evolution of Online Student Recruitment” and “Recruitment Marketing Calls for Smarter Spending”). The second installment at links back to the first.

My webinar slides on “Adult Student Recruitment: Best Websites” are at

And now here are your March marketing news and notes.
Blogs More Popular than Social Networking Sites

In the legitimate rush to add social networking to the marketing mix, don’t overlook blogs. That’s the message reported by eMarketer, an Internet research service.

At the end of 2008, blogs were read by 54.0 percent of Internet users, while 41.2 percent were active on social networks like Facebook and MySpace. Attention to both areas is expected to grow, with blog readers reaching 69.0% in 2013 and social network participants reaching 51.8 percent.

The report also includes current and projected use of user-generated videos and wikis at
Hartwick Hits Publicity Jackpot

Introduce a new 3-year bachelor’s degree program that cuts $40,000 off regular 4-year degree costs and you’ll get dramatic media coverage. At least if you do it before others move the same way.

A March 1 web search for “Hartwick College 3 year degree” received 9,580 results. The original press release was issued on 24 February. The first 7 sites reported included Bloomberg, NY Times, Reuters, and USA Today, along with the Chronicle of Higher Education and a TV station in Binghamton, New York.

See the original release at
Transfer Students Are Very Secret Shoppers

The trend to “secret shopping” (you don’t know who’s looking at you until you receive an application) has been strong for several years now.

Recent research from Noel-Levitz reports that secret shopping is especially strong among transfer students at both public (57 percent) and private (44 percent) sector schools, while the “secret” rate for first-year students remains under 30 percent.

If transfer students are an important part of your enrollment goal, that’s a powerful reason to give special attention to how well your website meets their needs, especially content about transfer of previous credits, blogs reporting on the transfer student experience, and outcomes achieved by people who transfer.

“The Changing Undergraduate Admissions Funnel: Fall 2008 Benchmarks” is at
Advertising Online: Gonzaga University vs. Capella University

Is online co-op advertising right for you?

Read the details of what happened when I responded to an ad for online degrees and asked for information about masters programs at Gonzaga in a new blog post at

In the online advertising world, the playing field is crowded. And co-op sponsors can make it even more crowded.
Jakob Nielsen on the Mobile Web Experience

Jakob Nielsen has just released results from usability tests by people attempting to access websites from smartphone and other mobile devices. He calls it a “cringeworthy experience” that reminded him of usability results from regular websites in 1998.

The impact of the iPhone gives Nielsen hope for better future access, but even the iPhone does not fare well with most present websites.

Do you need to design a separate site for mobile users? Not necessarily. Nielsen notes that relatively few people attempt to access websites from their smartphones. Be sure to check your web analytics reports to follow how people are trying to access your website. If the percent is approaching or passing 10, then you may well need to examine changes you might make.

Bloated pages, slow download times, and long scrolling are special problems. Read about those and more at
Kaplan University’s 2009 Advertising Campaign

Early this year Kaplan University began running a series of TV ads promoting itself as “a different school of thought.” Perhaps you saw the professor apologizing to a lecture hall full of students for not changing his approach to the learning process and ending classroom lectures.

If you responded to that ad with an inquiry, you’ve received an interactive series of email follow-up contacts, with an opportunity to “Chat with an Advisor,” watch an “Online Demo,” “Download Catalog” or connect by telephone.

See the email in web version at

If you are feeling masochistic, download the 243-page catalog PDF and browse the programs.
Language and Your Websi

If you think how you use language on the web is as important as I do for marketing success, then you’ll want to be a regular reader of Anne Caborn’s fine blog at
Pew Internet on Twitter Use

Our friends at the Pew Internet and American Life Project have a new “Online Activities & Pursuits” report on how many people are using Twitter and similar micro-blogging sites.

So far this is an Internet area that shows dramatic age differences. At the end of 2008, 11 percent of all U.S. Internet users had Twitter or similar micro-blogging accounts. Use was strongest in the ages of 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 at about 20 percent for each group. For 35 to 44 year olds, use drops to 10 percent and continued to plunge after that.

Details are at

Join Twitter and follow my frequent marketing updates at
Reduction in Merit-Aid Programs

The Associated Press in February reported on trends across the country to reduce state funds available for merit scholarships at public universities, part of a public policy shift to focus more higher education financial aid on a need basis.

The impact on actual enrollment is difficult to predict. The article notes that “middle class” families are challenged by the higher rate of tuition increases in past years compared to increases in family income and the new Pell Grant increase won’t help them.

Read the story at
The Sunday Times (London) Skewers Harvard MBA Grads

If you’ve been wondering who to blame for the current economic plague upon us, you’ll have to read “Harvard’s masters of the apocalypse” at

Here’s a taste re MBAs: “that swollen class of jargon-spewing, value-destroying financiers and consultants have done more than any other group of people to create the economic misery we find ourselves in.”
6 Social Media Myths

Adding social media to your marketing mix isn’t easy or cost-free and it doesn’t necessarily produce immediate and dramatic results.

Those are among the points made in “Debunking Six Social Media Myths,” a Business Week article at

Be sure to read though to myth number six: “You can’t measure social media marketing results.”
Are You Really, Really Into SEO?

If the answer is yes, then visit the Search Engine Land list of people from the major search engines that have Twitter accounts and select some to follow. You’ll find a long list but it shouldn’t take long to see what each one tweets about and pick favorites to follow.

See “The Big List of Search Engines and Their Employees on Twitter” at
Boosting the Brand: Outside Higher Education Department

If you think introducing instant coffee will kill the Starbucks brand, you’ll find a different opinion in an AdAge editorial “Starbucks’ Instant Coffee is Best Idea It’s Had in a While.”

Starbuck’s, AdAge says, “may be waking up to reality and embracing its inner Walmart.” See if you agree after you read the reasoning at

Of course, this one is easy to measure. Sales will tell the tale.
My Upcoming Presentations in 2009

Share questions and answers with people like yourself who are building a competitive edge in higher education marketing. Join me for one or more of these events!

March 30, Webinar: Academic Impressions, “Writing Right for the Web.” Session details and registration are available at

June 4-5, Chicago, IL: Aslanian Group, Web Marketing to Adult Students: “Writing Right for the Web” and “Using Adult Friendly Social Media in Marketing.” Registration starts 15 February; review the outline of sessions now at

June 21-25, San Antonio, TX: College Sports Information Directors of America, Annual Conference: “Writing Right for the Web.” Conference details are at

July 15-17, Chicago, IL: ACT Enrollment Planners Conference: “Student Recruitment in an Online World: Creating a Recruitment Communications Plan in a World without Paper: 2009 Update” (Pre-conference workshop) and “Rating Higher Education Websites: The Student Experience.” Program details and registration information is at

July 20-22, Chicago, IL: eduWeb 2009: “Student Recruitment in the Online World: Communicating from First Web Search to Final Enrollment” (Pre-conference workshop). Review the program and register at

October 26-27, Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin System, Adult Studen
t Recruitment & Retention Conference: “Key Website Features for Adult Student Recruitment.” Conference information is 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
• Content Copywriting Services
• Usability Analysis

Start now at

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