Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter… February 2014

February greetings to everyone, with fervent hopes that those of us in a certain part of the U.S. are about to see the end of the Polar Vortex as the new month opens. As one college president wrote on Twitter not long ago, it seems as if our Canadian friends have conquered Michigan. I am ready to trade citizenship for normal temperatures if that is what it takes.

Despite the weather, we move forward. The 2014 conference year starts with “Writing Right for the Web: Focusing on Student Recruitment” on March 27-28. Expect new tips, techniques, and examples exclusively from student recruitment sites for recruiting both traditional and online students. Details are at

I am looking forward to preparing a customized Web Writing webinar that focuses on top task completion for my newest client, the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa.

For an in-depth review of online marketing elements, register for the first eduWeb Master Class on April 1, “Critical Online Steps to Boost Enrollment: Speed, Simplicity, and Top Task Completion.” Register at 

The Call for Papers for eduWeb2014 in August is open from now until February 28. For details and plan to join us to share your wisdom and experience.

And now here are your marketing news and notes for February.
Marketing Online: Social Media Update 2013

The good people at Pew Internet gave us a December 30 update on how people are using social media, noting that 73 percent of adults are using social media at varying levels of engagement.

Facebook remains the leader by a wide margin: 71 percent of adults use it, up from 67 percent in 2012. Second but far behind Facebook are LinkedIn at 22 percent and Pinterest at 21 percent. Twitter and Instagram come along next.

For detailed demographics on age, ethnicity, gender, income, and education level start your visit 
Public Relations: How College Pricing is Like Holiday Retail Sales

It is always a good thing to get outside our bubbles and see what the public might be reading about important issues in higher education. If you agree, take a few minutes to read how Pro Publica reports that colleges and universities are following a “J.C. Penney strategy.” 

Specific mentions include American University and Drexel University.

The article notes one important difference between retail and higher education: it is easier to compare retail price levels (TVs are used as an example) whereas you most often have to wait until after acceptance to learn just what a higher education price will be.

More in an article that might make you cringe at 
Student Recruitment Costs: Benchmark Data from Noel-Levitz

People ask about this all the time: what is a reasonable amount to spend for student recruitment? The answer of course will vary with individual schools but the Noel-Levitz “2103 Cost of Recruiting an Undergraduate Student Report” is a good place to start.

Visit to see that the median cost was $2,433 in the private sector, $457 in the four-year public sector and just $123 for community colleges.
Competition Research: Net Cost Data

How does your net cost compare to those of your most serious competitors?

Jon Boeckenstedt at DePaul University is doing a fine job presenting IPEDS data on various topics in a way that is easy to understand and work with. In this case, you can sort net cost data by region, state, level of selectivity, and Carnegie classification. You’ll also see net cost as a percent of family income and percent of students with Pell Grants.

Compare your school with your important competitors when you visit 
Jakob Nielsen on Higher Education Websites

Jakob was back in January with a relatively rare Alertbox focus on higher education, based on reviewing 57 university sites in the Canada, Taiwan, the U.K. and the U.S.

Many of the 10 specific advice points might seem obvious but alas they are not uniformly practiced. My two favorites were “Make it easy to view a list of majors and programs” and “Beware the perils of making your website cool.” 

Check your site against the Nielsen recommendations at 
NACAC Report: State of College Admissions 2013

The 11th annual report on what matters most in making college admissions decisions is available now.
The lead item in the NACAC press release: grades are the most important element in admissions decisions, with relatively little weight reportedly given to income level.

Start with an outline of what NACAC considers the most important results and download the complete report at 
Web Design: 8 Design Elements We Do Not Need Anymore

Planning to revise your website anytime soon? Before you get too far along read an article by John McKinney on “8 Design Elements Whose Time Has Come” for abandonment. John starts with drop-down menus and carousels and ends with mobile sites.

Do not miss the demise of Skeoumorphism when you visit 
Website Dead Zones: Welcome Messages from University Presidents

Most welcome messages from university presidents violate just about every major rule of how to present web content: dense text unbroken by subheads, bullet points, or links is the norm. In other words, they are impossible to scan quickly in search of something of interest.

The message itself: most often straight from the “Book of Higher Education Platitudes.”

See my report after a Google search, and links to three that break the norm, at 
Mobile Marketing: An Infographic to Review for 2014

If you are updating your mobile marketing strategy this year, print a copy of this infographic for everyone involved. You’ll find info on device and operating system popularity, mobile advertising, the most popular social media apps and much more at 
ABA Proposes Major Changes for Law Schools 

The American Bar Association is proposing changes in pricing and accreditation rules. 

Coming along soon after the first approval for an ABA accredited law school to offer online courses, you have to believe that current market place conditions for most law schools are helping to break barriers. More on the latest changes at 
Most Popular Topic in January Newsletter: Gerry McGovern on why “Speed Saves” on the Web

People will love your brand on the web if you let them complete top tasks quickly. And they will not like your brand if content that tries to tell visitors on how great you are hinders task completion. More at 
Conference Presentations in March and April

March 27-28, Denver: “Writing Right for the Web: Focusing on Student Recruitment” sponsored by Academic Impressions. Agenda and registration at 

April 1, Philadelphia: “Critical Online Steps to Boost Enrollment: Speed, Simplicity, and Top Task Completion,” an eduWeb Master Class. Review the program and register at 

Plan a custom presentation on your campus. Host a workshop on any of my conference topics. Review the 2013 list at and contact me at or 248.766.6425.
Be a marketing champion on your campus.

Bob Johnson, Ph.D. 
Bob Johnson Consulting, LLC

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