Giving voice to student bloggers

Furman University has been receiving many kudos in higher ed marketing circles for their innovative use of the web. See this summary of Furman’s work, presented at EduWeb 2006, to bring you up to speed.

But what I really love about Furman is their hands-off approach to student bloggers who keep online journals for the school’s Engage Furman admissions site. Consider this post from a former Furman student, who decided to transfer. In an entry sure to make most admissions officers and college presidents squirm, he explains his reasons for posting this news on his journal:

Why did Furman put these freshman journals online? Surely not as another method pro-Furman propaganda, encouraging you to jump on the first flight over here because there is no other college worth going to. That’s for the rest of the site to tell you. No, it’s our job to give you a firsthand experience, to cut through the gleam and glamor you see on the admissions website and give you both the diamonds and the muck hidden underneath. In other words, we have to give you the good, the bad, and the ugly.

How many other schools would have the guts to allow this post to go live? How many would dare to give voice to a student who was leaving? Hats off to Furman for setting the bar high, for keeping it real, and for valuing the authenticity of voice.

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Blogging tips for business (and higher ed, too)

No one, to my knowledge, has written a manifesto about blogging for higher education, so until they do, Debbie Weil’s Beginner’s Guide to Business Blogging will have to do. Here’s an excerpt:

Why Blog? Isn’t My e-Newsletter Enough?

Unless your e-newsletter or ezine has your customer’s mortgage statement attached to it, you’ll be lucky if your subscribers open it. Between the new federal CAN-Spam legislation, spam filters and actual spam, inbox noise has reached an all-time high. Don’t get me wrong — email is still a viable marketing tool. In fact, email is now in its mature phase as a killer app of online marketing.
But a blog may be the perfect complement to an e-newsletter. Here’s why:
» Since blogs aren’t email, inbox clutter and spam filters are a non-issue. But readers can still subscribe to blogs using an RSS newsreader.
» Blogs, through an easy interface, publish instantly. No formatting, no templates, no fancy coding.
» Search engines love blogs. Each entry on your blog is its own Web page (even if it’s a one-liner). And search engines are drawn to fresh, updated pages. So by virtue of blogging, you can drive traffic to your company or business site — without hiring an expensive SEO (search engine optimization) service.

There’s a lot more good advice for beginning bloggers — and handy reminders for those of us who’ve been doing this for awhile. Link via ChangeThis.

Live, from Baltimore! It’s EduWeb 2006!

Several readers of Karine Joly’s Collegewebeditor.com blog are posting updates from EduWeb 2006, a conference being held in Baltimore today and tomorrow. EduWeb is billed as “the only conference that offers attendees a combination of Web development and Web marketing topics presented by some of the top speakers in the country.” (Apparently, according to Joly’s blog, one of those top speakers, keynoter Jeff Kallay, cancelled at the last minute.)

Today’s entry summarizes a presentation by Stacy Roberts Beam of Northwestern University on the subject of project management. Thanks to Rachel Reuben of the State University of New York at New Paltz for the summary.
Joly put out a call for bloggers attending EduWeb to post on her site. She got seven takers. So we should be seeing more activity later tonight and tomorrow.

P.S. – Sorry about the cheesy Saturday Night Live ripoff in the headline. I just couldn’t resist.

Enticing email for AutoPreview surfers

…some pretty big mailers (Target, The Company Store, the DMA and ourselves among them) have blah, please-don’t-open-me AutoPreview copy.

You know the routine. If you’re like 69 percent of Outlook users, you scan through the morning’s email using AutoPreview, deleting all the html-email marketing pitches that show up as a hairline box outline where some image is supposed to be and the text, “”Click here to download images.”

Instead, you click to delete.

Again. And again.

So, what if your prospective students, alumni, potential donors and other potential readers are doing the same thing with your oh-so-important email messages?

The crack research staff at Marketing Sherpa has combed the web looking for good examples of email that just might make it past the Outlook AutoPreview gatekeeper. According to Marketing Sherpa, “some pretty big mailers (Target, The Company Store, the DMA and ourselves among them) have blah, please-don’t-open-me AutoPreview copy.”

But there’s hope. In this article, Marketing Sherpa offers some great tips for more readable email.

Among the tips:
Start with compelling copy. “Instead of beginning the text-version with administrative crud, emailers including JetBlue, Mystery Reader and the Motley Fool launch directly into their content — the letter or article summary that the email is hoping recipients will react to.”

Use CAPS to catch the eye. “The average Outlook in-box screen has five-six emails when viewed in AutoPreview. So, your message is competing with four-five other messages to get the open. Putting all caps in your subject line is a no-no due to spam filter restrictions these days.”

Use text symbols to catch the eye. Adding a row of symbols is another way to catch the eye in a busy in-box.

Bonus: some examples of what and what not to do.

Too much sharing about file sharing?

Inside Higher Ed reports that the results of a U.S. General Accounting Office survey about college and university policies on file sharing may not be kept confidential. Usually, such surveys include a statement that the information will be kept confidential. But not in this case.

According to the report, “Congressional aides have insisted that the agency in this instance report not just on the file sharing landscape in the aggregate, but on how individual colleges responded to the survey.”

Higher ed leaders, such as Terry W. Hartle of the American Council on Education and Mark A. Luker, vice president of Educause, are concerned. Hartle contacted GAO officials and “was told that that aides to the Judiciary subcommittee had insisted that the GAO collect and report back to the panel on the responses of individual institutions.”
As for Educause, Luker said that organization is alerting its members to the fact that their responses to the GAO survey will not be kept confidential, since the survey materials themselves don’t make that clear.

Good news for blogslackers (like me)

I used to feel guilty about my infrequent postings at this blog. But then I read Eric Kintz‘s excellent post on Marketing Profs — “Why Blog Post Frequency Does Not Matter Anymore” — and the heavy burden of guilt was lifted.

No more scurrying around the blogosphere in search of salient links and quips to post over here. That’s not for me anymore. As Kintz points out, “Daily posts are a legacy of a Web 1.0 mindset and early Web 2.0 days (meaning 12 months ago!). The pressure around posting frequency will ultimately become a significant barrier to the maturity of blogging.”

He then offers 10 reasons why. Here are a few of them:

#1- Traffic is generated by participating in the community; not daily posting – The blogosphere doubles in size every 6 months and cutting through the clutter will become ever more difficult with a new blog emerging every second. Daily posting deals with the clutter by adding more clutter. …
#2 – Traffic is irrelevant to your blog’s success anyway– Unless you specifically target bloggers like Bruce, are a blogging consultant or blog about your latest book, traffic is irrelevant to you. What matters most is whether you are reaching your target audience (which may be narrow and focused), not necessarily how many people read your posts. Engaging with the audience you want to have a relationship with is a much smarter strategy than posting frequently

#3- Loyal readers coming back daily to check your posts is so Web 1.0 – As the blogosphere matures, the number of new readers and bloggers will decrease and loyal readers are going to matter more. I have heard many bloggers tell me that they will lose reader loyalty if these readers come back daily and do not see any new posts. This perception is still very strong although irrelevant. Loyal readers subscribe to your blog via RSS feeds and have new content pushed to them. They will remain loyal because they have subscribed, not because you post frequently.

Now, if only I had an RSS feed.

Recruiting the MySpace generation

Heather Hollingsworth of the Associated Press recently wrote about how schools like the University of Missouri-Columbia, North Dakota State University and Calvin College are using blogs and online journals to help them recruit prospective students. The story succinctly addresses why so many college administrators fear the power of the blog.

“Providing students a less edited view of campus life creates challenges for school officials worried that typos or inappropriate material might harm the school’s image.”

It’s all about the loss of control. And we marketers love to be in control, don’t we.

The story also quotes Michael Stoner, a consultant who works with colleges and universities to improve their electronic communications. Stoner says the risk is worth it. “Enrollment managers and admissions people have had to get used to the fact that they are going to give up some of the control and give it to 17- and 18-year-olds.”