Monday, January 25, 2010

Fantasy ad buying

My husband loves playing fantasy sports. He bids for players, monitors their stats, makes changes to his rosters, and follows their games, even if they don't play for his regular favorite teams.

This past year, I've had the chance to experiment with online advertising. Not traditional banner advertising (though we've done those, too), but targeted text advertising through Google Adwords and Facebook. Like fantasy sports, this kind of advertising allows you to also bid for keyword placement, monitor stats, and make changes throughout your campaign.

While I'm far from an expert in these channels, here are a few of my takeaways from the experience:
  • Check out your competition. And by competition, I mean the other organizations who are advertising for your keywords. Are they groups you want to be associated with from a branding standpoint? For example, a Google search on "law schools" yields paid advertising from unaccredited online institutions, which an ABA-accredited school wouldn't want to be mistaken for. However a search for "online masters library science" yields a combination of universities from the for-profit, public and private-nonprofit sectors. Related conclusion: Niche degree programs seem to have a better balance of programs with decent reputations.
  • Remember why users are in that channel. Why do people use Facebook? To connect with others. Why do people use Google? To find information. If you're trying to build your social networking communities, then Facebook may be a natural fit. If you're hoping to drive people to your Web site to learn about your programs, Google would be a more logical choice. Last year's study by Noel-Levitz on prospective student use of social media indicated that students generally don't use Facebook to research schools, so save yourself some trouble and find a more appropriate advertising medium.
  • Prepare to be vigilant. Unlike traditional advertising, Facebook and Google ads are prioritized based on a pay-per-click bid amount. Your bid rate is compared with what other advertisers are willing to pay and has a direct correlation to the number of impressions your ad will get. This amount can fluctuate daily, but there are other reasons to pay close attention to your campaign's analytics. In Facebook, you can run similar messages and compare the click-through rates on them. These results can help not only to inform your decisions on which ads to run in Facebook, but also to let you know what messages resonate more with your target audiences. In combination with my other research, these details have helped me develop more relevant messages for our other marketing efforts.
When done strategically, online advertising can be an exciting addition for your marketing mix. Few other media can provide such tangible details about the effectiveness of your work. Plus, because the ads are paid on a pay-per-click basis, the online providers provide ample resources to help you improve your campaigns.

Who knew that ad buying could be so much fun?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The High School Musical generation goes to college

Have you caught the latest trend in higher ed marketing? The kids who grew up loving High School Musical are now in college, and undergraduate institutions have taken notice. It seemed to start with the international "University LipDub" project, whose most famous one-take, student-produced video came from the University of Quebec at Montreal (more than 4 million views on YouTube):

Students and PR offices at other universities have followed suit with their own lipdubs of varying quality. Last month, John Hopkins offered their own twist by producing a musical video to thank its donors:

The award for most overproduced university video goes to "That's Why I Chose Yale," released on YouTube last week. You'll need to block out 16 minutes to watch the complete musical, which includes a cameo by Brian Williams:

While I can't ever imagine this happening at my law school, I also never would have predicted the Ivy Leagues getting in on this trend. So will graduate and professional schools (or our students) be joining this bandwagon in the next few years? Is this a phase that students will outgrow, or is it a permanent element of pop culture?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Free ways to monitor your brand online

Composite sites that search several sources in one swoop:
Search your institution's names on these sites and use the RSS feed on the results page to create your own alerts:
Some of these may seem repetitive, but I find that by monitoring them on a personal portal (such as MyYahoo or iGoogle) makes them fairly easy to scan through for differences. It's also good to incorporate a saved Twitter Search through your preferred Twitter posting tool (mine is TweetDeck).

If you truly want to become the "Big Brother" for your institution, you can research prospective student forums or sites where students can rate your faculty or other aspects of campus life. Just try to keep things in perspective—the Air Force Blog Assessment chart is a handy tool for deciding if, when and how to respond.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Favorite free online resources for higher ed marketing

Need to hire a photographer in another geographic area? Check out the College/University Editors directory of recommended photographers or another from the University and College Designers Association.

Want to check out other schools' style guides? Check out the UCDA style guide index.

Wondering what your Web site looks like in other browsers? Visit or find out which ones you can test or emulate on your own machine at the

Can't keep up with the acronyms that frequent texters or retired military colleagues are using? Go to to see every possibility.