Ideas, musings and inspirations.

Higher Education Marketing ROI

Marketing ROI formula is easy enough:

Marketing ROI in Higher Education.

However, working with higher education clients for more than two decades has made it clear to us that calculating marketing ROI is challenging, especially in our current era of media fragmentation, device proliferation, and tight marketing budgets. Four reasons why:

Unrealized Attribution of Incremental Gains to Marketing Efforts: Pinpointing a prospect-to-enrolled conversion to a specific marketing tactic is hard because a conversion may be the result of multiple marketing stimuli spread out over multiple marketing channels over a period of few years.

Multi-touch and multi-channel lead attribution models, though available in the form of sophisticated software tools, are not well understood, are difficult to implement, and are simply unaffordable for a majority of colleges. Thus, connecting the dots across a campaign’s multiple components is next to impossible.

Inadequate Support for Source Tracking: The next best alternative to attribution software is to deploy simple source tracking, where source-of-lead signals are passed from digital touch points to the CRM system. This is usually unworkable because most higher education CRM vendors don’t support it.

Fuzzy Understanding of Student Quality and Lifetime Value: Snapshots of current applicant data don’t accurately measure the impact of students over the entire student life cycle — all the way from being a prospect to becoming an alumn. Well-conceptualized brands and well-executed campaigns steadily improve student quality, increase family income, reduce melt rates, grow graduation rates, and enlarge alumni giving rates. The correlation between the characteristics of the incoming class and the long-term value of a student are only understood after a period of several years. However, admissions staff under pressure to “make-the-numbers” frequently aren’t thinking about attracting “right-fit” students.

Use of Best-of-Breed Agency Partners: What makes the calculation of marketing ROI even more challenging is the use of multiple agency partners to optimize various aspects of the admissions funnel. Data is often not shared between agencies, which makes it difficult to connect the dots.

Our recommendation for colleges and universities is to hire an experienced agency-of-record that can brand the college, implement integrated campaigns to attract right-fit students, make sense of the CRM data you share with them, connect as many dots as is possible, and concurrently focus on the admissions, giving and reputation funnels over a period of several years.

We know the perfect place. Let’s talk.

Posted in: , ,

The web is full of designs and patterns, both good and bad, new and old. At times it all starts to blur together and the sites start resembling one another. Periodically I like to see what else is out there, to see what interesting ideas have yet to become the web trend of the month.

The following is a small list of sites I try to visit at least once a week. As a front end developer I might be looking for something different for inspiration compared to a designer or UX specialist. The following sites will offer not only design and development ideas but also challenge the way we view content on the web, for better or for worse.

Site Inspire : Well organized collection so you can easily browse for specific subjects or styles that you are looking for. Mostly leans toward a clean, modern design aesthetic.

One Page Love : Single page sites only, great source for scroll animations and concise organization of content.

Httpster : Similar to Site Inspire, it is organized into types and styles, but I find that the selection is a bit more colorful and playful.

Dribbble : If you are not already familiar with Dribbble, it is a very popular design community where designers share small parts of their work which is then open to feedback from the other members. It is not specifically for web design, in fact it can be sparse at times, but you can easily keyword search for what you are interested in.

Bēhance : Similar to Dribbble, but Bēhance is open to the general public so you might find some more interesting and ‘outside of the box’ ideas here.

Codepen : Looking for something a bit more interactive? CodePen is a community of front end developers sharing things ranging from small ideas to full sites. Similar to Dribbble and Bēhance, but instead of just images, these examples are working code made in HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Not only can you see the code, but you can fork it and learn how it was made without leaving the browser.

Hopefully some of these sites will not only knock some cobwebs off, but inspire you in your next project.

Founded in 1998 by two Ph.D. students at Stanford University, Google has risen to become more than just a household name. Today, Google stands strong as an empire, armed with a vast arsenal of products and devices.

In 2006, we published an infographic showcasing the three most popular search engines in America. It comes as no surprise that even in 2006 Google came out on top as the clear winner. But what you may find surprising is how this data has shifted further in Google’s favor over the last decade.

Below is our original infographic from 2006. The data shows that Google held 46% of the search engine market share, with only Yahoo and MSN proving to be real competitors.

Search Market Share 2006One might argue that in search it was still anyone’s game. But that’s not the case today…

In 2016, Google held a whopping 77.43% of the global search engine market share. And their only American competitors, Bing and Yahoo (who’s powered by Bing), held a measly 12.91%.

 

Search Market Share 2016

 

The chart below compares the data from 2006 with that of 2016:

Search Market Share Comparison

I am a loyal Google user. But I wanted to see if my peers shared my alliance. I posed the question “Do you use a search engine other than Google?” to the team here at Elliance and my 1,017 Facebook friends.

Of the 25 or so respondents who call Elliance home, only 3 people choose to use an alternative search engine. Although, two of the three admitted that it’s a rare occurrence. Their preferences? DuckDuckGo, Lycos and Wolframalpha. (I’ve never heard of those last two either, don’t be embarrassed.)

On Facebook, one friend uses DuckDuckGo another prefers Bing. One user even said AskJeeves, but it’s unclear if his nostalgia was prompted by sarcasm or not.

Interested in learning more about how Google SEO can help grow your business? Email us at info@elliance.com today.

In numerous cases, we as marketers ask those we are marketing to become the voice of the company or institution they represent. Their stories give meaning in a deeply personal way. And, in many cases, we ask those that give voice to the story to be photographed to represent their story.

Nine times out of ten, these subjects are uncomfortable, wary, and uncertain about their image being used, knowing their likeness will be seen by every visitor that comes to the website. Most people are simply uncomfortable being in front of a camera.

So, the challenge for the designer becomes, ‘how do I represent these individuals in the most respectful and truthful manner?’

The environmental portrait

The environmental portrait is just as it says — a photo that represents the subject in their natural environment. Whether it is in their work location, personal home, or a location that is representative of the narrative, the choice to shoot an environmental portrait over a formal portrait shot in a studio adds another layer of credibility and truth to their story. Also, the familiar space is more comfortable for the subject.

The face behind the story

Most recently, we were developing a number of websites that represented three diverse offerings — an insurance company who provides stop loss coverage, a successful liberal arts college business school, and a higher education institution who was creating a dynamic, new, technology-charged powerhouse school.

In each case, we identified a number of individuals who would help tell the story of their representative institution and needed to photograph them in locations that would best represent their personalities and stories.

Plan, then plan some more

Know that ninety percent of a successful environmental portrait is completed before the photo is taken. Logistics including time of day, wardrobe, access to the location, identifying the location, staging the site, and more are required prior to the shoot date to avoid surprises when the subject arrives to be photographed.

Listed below are some hints to follow for a successful environmental portrait photo shoot:

1. Rely on the content to provide the location for the shoot
The content of their story will help to identify the location of the photo in both a visually creative and compelling manner. Allow the location and the environment to frame the subject as the hero.

2. Know your subject
Consider a quick call to the subject to hear their voice, to establish a connection with them, and to learn as much as you can about them before meeting them for the shoot. Share your plans for the shoot and let them know what to expect. Their buy-in is important for success.

3. Visit the site prior to the shoot
Once you think you have identified possible locations for the shoot, arrange for visiting the sites in person prior to showing up for the actual shoot day. Take snap shots of various angles and look at lighting and access to the space. (Share all of this with your photographer.) If it’s not possible to do a site visit prior to the shoot, ask your client contact to do it for you. All they need to do is photograph the possible sites and to share those images with you.

4. Be nimble and have alternate plans
In many cases, weather conditions, lighting, and unforeseen interferences are factors that may undo your best-laid plans. I always suggest having a plan B and plan C in place to be able to pivot quickly without unnerving yourself, your photographer and most importantly, your subject.

5. Hire a qualified environmental portrait photographer
Many photographers are highly qualified to shoot environmental portraits. These are shooters who can adapt to changing conditions and can move quickly about a space. Once you award the shoot to the photographer, engage them in the conversation early on and share with them whatever resources you gathered to enable your photographer to plan accordingly.

Photographers:
1: ©2015 Terry Clark
2: ©2017 Annie O’Neill
3: ©2017 Alisa Garin
4: ©2017 Chandler Crowell

Posted in: , , , , ,

HM Insurance Group Website DesignA few weeks ago, we launched HM Insurance Group’s new website, and the same thing happened with this one that always happens—we delivered a lot more than an insurance company website design.

FIRST, we engaged HM in a discovery process that revealed some business realities we didn’t expect to find. We got insights into the ways their industry is changing and the mindset of their buyers. A clear challenge emerged: How do we distinguish what “Quality” means for customers tempted to commoditize what HM brings to the table?

NEXT we developed a communications strategy that addressed their business objectives, clearly distinguished their value proposition and refocused the company on the stewardship their people provide. It goes beyond the usual website strategy. It’s written to inform all of HM’s marketing efforts.

AND THEN we created a new brand position for HM: “Guarding Financial Health.” These 3 words communicate the higher purpose of their B2B product and service offering.

AND THEN we gave them a recommendation for an open source content management system. Now, Marketing has far more control over the site, benefiting from greater efficiency and publishing speed.

AND THEN we designed a user experience that takes a radical departure from the content- heavy one they used in the past. Instead, we created ways to open doors to new conversations with customers.

AND THEN we developed a comprehensive, Keyword Guide. By baking keywords into all their new website’s pages right from the beginning, we laid the groundwork for greatly improving HM’s Google rankings.

AND THEN we recommended a new approach to blogging that elevates the thought leadership of HM’s senior team in Stop Loss and Managed Care Reinsurance. It will also elevate the authority of their leaders with Google’s search engine.

AND THEN we created a page templating guide that was mapped to their sitemap, so the HM team could easily understand how to construct and write pages.

AND THEN we built a faceted search tool that organizes and filters all their client service digital assets such as forms, pdfs, articles, info graphics and videos by topics and types.

AND THEN we created a warm, and inviting visual design supported with original photography. It gives HM the posture of a leader, puts an accessible human face on all they do and sends all the right messages about the quality they bring to their customers.

IN THE END, Elliance delivered something more just a new website for HM. It was transformative experience that changed internal organizational dynamics, tuned organizational strategy and generated momentum.

And in this case, we also made some new friends along the way.

“Elliance took on a dual challenge to evaluate HM’s brand and positioning strategy and develop a new website that would deliver the brand message. On both fronts, they were great partners. Through the process of senior management interviews, brand recommendations and ultimately the delivery of a website to support the brand, the Elliance team earned the respect and confidence of HM’s marketing team and leadership” said Diane Lewis, Director of Marketing & Communications at HM Insurance Group.

“Elliance was truly a partner when it came to refreshing our website with a better customer experience and updated brand message. They spent ample time working with us to make sure the site layout was appropriate for conveying our company’s message and intuitive enough to fulfill our client’s needs. They welcomed our ideas and input along the way” said Michele Larson, Manager, Digital & Visual Design at HM Insurance Group.

Insurance Website Design Process

Posted in:

Social Media Analytics

The title of this blog, “Find Meaning in Your Social Media Analytics” is kind of broad and could probably be interpreted in many ways. Upon coming across the blog title, one might think it was about discovering a secret way of distilling all that unruly social media web traffic into coherent and meaningful data reports. Others may think it is a blog about some new age digital strategy that will help you find your inner social media analytics chi that simplifies the way you look at clicks, likes and impressions. Although these ideas sound great and might be topics for future AHA blog posts, this one is simply about how to help you locate and find meaning in the social media analytics tools provided in your Facebook and Twitter accounts.  So let’s get started with this simple road map and light overview of the Facebook and Twitter analytics platforms that may help you make more sense of why you are actually posting there in the first place.


Facebook insight analytics Facebook Insights
Facebook analytics is called Insights and can be located on top navigation of your business Facebook page. When you click on the Insights tab you are treated to a myriad of high-level summary analytics for your account activity that covers:

  • Page Views
  • Page Likes
  • Reach
  • Post Engagements and more

Facebook Insight Analytics

You can also drill down and look at the performance of each individual Facebook post to obtain:

  • Published date
  • Post URL and image
  • Post clicks
  • Reactions
  • Comments and Shares
  • and more

Get Your Twitter Tuned Up

There is also the option to click an individual post within the post list and have a full view of the post pop up with analytics in tow.

Facebook insights is a good data gathering tool to help you figure out what type of messaging, content and photos/images are getting the most attention during your Facebook social media campaigns.


Twitter analytics Twitter Analytics
Twitter’s social media analytics tool can be found at analytics.twitter.com.  You will need to be logged into your Twitter account to use the tool. The Twitter analytics dashboard provides a month over month report on your tweets. The dashboard provides a top level monthly summary and a click-to-view individual tweet snapshot which drills down further to analyze the messaging.

Twitter analytics has plenty of charts, graphs and other data to help you design reports for your monthly marketing meetings.  Information that can be acquired includes:

  • Tweets
  • Tweet impressions
  • Profile visits
  • Mentions
  • New followers

Twitter Analytics Tool


In conclusion, there is a ton of rich information and marketing insight that can be gathered from these two social media analytics tools.  You just need to know your way around the dashboards and you will be harvesting analytics like a seasoned data farmer in no time. So, now that you know how to easily find meaning in your Twitter and Facebook social media analytics, go forth, be social and report on it!

Need Help With Your Social Media or Inbound Marketing Tactics?Elliance Digital Marketing Pittsburgh Agency
Are you are overwhelmed in your marketing role and can’t find time to manage your social media or web traffic analytics? Could you use help with content creation or inbound marketing tactics? Elliance has top industry gurus that can assist with SEO, metrics and many other digital services to help you succeed.  Visit Elliance Capabilities to learn more.

For additional tips and information on social media be sure to check out these Elliance AHA and TheEmarketing blog posts:

Tune up Your Twitter for a Successful Social Media Marketing Campaign
Are you social media safe?
Facebook News Feed Algorithm – How posts are getting served up on people’s news feeds
A Facebook Like is Worth What?!!
The Social Media Digital Supermarket
Are Twitter Hashtags Polluting The Social Media Digital Beach?

Posted in: , ,

Social Media Videos of Water Skiing Squirrels

Most of us use our personal social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for just that reason – simply being social. It’s an effortless way to catch up with old friends and for keeping tabs on family – you know, the “My goodness, look at how your kids have grown” moments. At one time or another many of us have also used social media channels for posting videos of our accomplishments, our kids, vacations and yes, the awesome water skiing squirrel.

Even social media assets in the marketing and business realms serve social purposes with the goals of gaining business and notoriety within our manufacturing, higher education, financial banking or other fields of commerce. Most social media channels are online billboards for boosted digital ads in which a company’s message is displayed to targeted audiences. In many firms, social media is the supporting cast to marketing websites or blogs and if you have an energetic and focused social media department then it is easy and simple to make social media payoff. (1) Post a new blog, web content or announce an event (2) Send out thoughtfully crafted social media post(s) with link(s) (3) Most likely your blog, web site or event landing page will receive elevated traffic from aforementioned supporting social media actions and we all look like experts. There is a bit more to it than just those three steps but using social media is definitely a recipe for $uccess if done correctly.

Social Media Grows Up
But now, the times are sure changing. Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have taken their products to a whole new level of social interaction. Facebook is now developing artificial intelligence with robots that talk to themselves and face recognition software that will capture your every blink and smile . Twitter feeds are being studied to forecast future weather and to predict human behavior using a type of pre-crime software similar to the movie Minority Report.  That Tom Cruise – he was sure right on that one!

So, let’s say it again, “My goodness, look at how your social media has grown!” Have a look at what else our favorite social media giants are currently up to and we’re pretty sure it’s trending away from water skiing squirrels.

Facebook
Facebook: Your Face Belongs to Us (theemarketingblog)
Facebook shuts off AI experiment after two robots begin speaking in their OWN language that only they can understand (thesun.co.uk)
Facebook envisions using brain waves to type words (Bloomberg)
Facebook ‘Watch’ Is Like TV, and It’s a Thing Marketers Want (Targetmarketing)
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg For President (The Atlantic)
Facebook News Algorithm – How Posts Are Getting Served Up On News Feeds (fb.com)
Facebook research targets emotionally vulnerable and insecure youth (news.com.au)

Twitter
Twitter can be used as crystal balls to foresee events before they happen (thesun.co.uk)
Twitter brings its TV app with live video to Roku (techcrunch)
Twitter building a 24/7 streaming video service to include the NFL, PGA, WNBA. (recode)
As many as 48 million Twitter accounts aren’t people, says study (CNBC)
Twitter explores subscription-based option for first time (Reuters)
Twitter has gone from bastion of free speech to global censor (businessinsider)

We hope you enjoyed this brief look into the social media wonders of tomorrow.  Choose to learn more about making social media work for you at Elliance.com.

Posted in: , ,

In recent blogs we’ve discussed the many benefits of universities and colleges utilizing Snapchat as a higher education marketing tool — from Geofilters that essentially act as digital billboards to Snapchat stories, which give you raw, in-the-moment exposure to a day-in-the-life at that institution.

But, as of August, there’s a new kid on the social media block — Instagram Stories — and though the idea may have originated from that of its counterpart, Snapchat, they have taken it and run in their own direction, providing unique opportunities for individuals and marketers and winning over users left and right.

In just nine months of existence, Instagram Stories has reached over 200 million daily active users. The last recorded number of daily active users for Snapchat was released in December — reaching 161 million. This speaks volumes to the powerhouse that is Instagram. In months Instagram has measured up to and very-likely surpassed the number of story users Snapchat has garnered over the last six years since its launch in 2011.

use of instagram and snapchat stories

A recent study by Sprout Social shows that between these two social media platforms, Instagram is preferred by 22.2 percent of millennials with over 400 million daily active users, compared to Snapchat, which sits at over 150 million daily active users and is preferred by 15.8 percent of millennials.

The story feature on both platforms has its unique advantages and the concept as a whole has acted as a major influencer for marketers. “It’s so relevant and brings forward this real-time moment for brands to really wrap themselves in,” said Kyra Ulmer, evp of partnerships at Brand Networks.

Where you can utilize either platform for this raw, authentic storytelling, Instagram offers a greater canvas to paint the full picture of your brand.

Instead of having to switch back and forth between the two apps — going from beautiful, thoughtful posts to raw, in-the-moment story feeds, you can now have them both in one place on Instagram. It is the balance between a featured collection of your most important moments and messages of your brand and the realness and genuineness of the moments in between — the daily life of your students, faculty and staff and the day-to-day moments of campus living.

“With the Instagram Stories feature, you have everything you want from a mobile social network. You can edit and upload photos, upload videos, apply filters, send direct messages, advertise, and create content that disappears in 24 hours,” Robert Katai shares in an article by the Content Marketing Institute.

The article also shares six tips for how brands can best utilize Instagram Stories. One of these tips includes short Q&A’s, or “Instachats” as Katai calls them — having audience members direct message questions to one particular specialist and having him or her answer questions using Instagram Stories.

I can see this being a powerful approach to higher education marketing. Having a current student or faculty expert from each school or department, or even admissions counselors, take over the Instagram story for a day and allowing prospective students to ask questions about that school. Because the questions are asked privately through direct message, the specialist or faculty expert can choose to answer the questions they want and ignore any that may be irrelevant or inappropriate.

At Elliance we are always investigating the newest strategies for amplifying our clients brand message through content creation and social media sharing — connecting prospective students and key influencers to institutions.

Posted in: ,

#theStruggleisReal | Designing Search

As a web designer, I walk a fine line between utility and innovation. Every day I’m challenged to create something that users will understand how to use but that’s also beautiful in a way that’s never been done before.

Q: But Krystal, if it’s never been done before how will your user understand how to use it‽

A: They might not understand. And that’s okay. We’ll teach them.

We’re creatures of habit and change can be scary.

That’s why when Instagram changed their logo last year people lost their actual minds. (Or, for the boomers among us, when Coca-Cola thought they were doing the world a favor with New Coke in 1985 and nearly lost everything.)

Doctor Heidi Grant Halvorson explains that “[People] genuinely believe (often on an unconscious level) that when you’ve been doing something a particular way for some time, it must be a good way to do things. And the longer you’ve been doing it that way, the better it is.”

Take search bars, for example. Users know how search bars work. And they expect that each time they interact with them they’re going to function the same way. This is utility.

But utility doesn’t have to mean same-old-same.

Let’s compare utility in web design to Band-Aids. The core design and function of the Band-Aid hasn’t changed since it’s invention in 1920. An adhesive strip with an absorbent center, Band-Aids are by design, very utilitarian.

And over the last 97 years, the company hasn’t modified their products much — mostly because they didn’t need to. To handle a broader range of wound dressing needs, they expanded their product line to include an array of colors, shapes, sizes and fabrics. That’s their  something beautiful that’s never been done before — but for cuts and scrapes.

Search bars are like Band-Aids. They’re utilitarian. We know how the work and we desperately want them to keep working the same way. But much like the Band-Aid, there’s no rule that says all search bars must look the same way.

Over the past few years, web designers have started to play around with placement and size of search fields. See a few examples from a few higher education and other websites. It’s clear that oversized search fields are trending right now.

Ohio Northern Search Bar

ONS Voice Search Bar

CUA Search Bar

The Atlantic Search Bar

Wired Search Bar

Susquehanna Search Bar

By changing the colors, shape, size or placement of the search bar, web designers have married utility and innovation in a way that doesn’t disrupt the user’s expectations, making everyone happy.

Search bars aren’t the only places that web designers are innovating utility. Check back for future innovation and utility articles.

Posted in:

Talent Shortage In Manufacturing

A new generation of talent recruitment is upon us.

Recruitment 1.0: Run classified ads in the Help Wanted section of newspapers.

Recruitment 2.0: Run job postings on third party sites like Monster, Indeed and Jobs.com.

Recruitment 3.0: Take control of your own destiny.

Manufacturers are increasingly challenged by a national talent shortage for the new jobs they’re creating. Instead of relying on tired old ways, Recruitment 3.0 demands a better digital strategy. One that doesn’t commoditize businesses by constantly putting them side by side with everybody else looking to fill seemingly look-alike roles. After all, the best person for your opening isn’t just looking for a job, they’re looking for a better career.

The answer begins with an overlooked part of many manufacturing websites—the Careers and Job Listing pages. Look at yours through the lens of smart SEO practices like optimizing your code, “baking” keywords into your job listing pages, and spreading them with social media share buttons. Every job opening is a door into your website. Every one of your pages is an opportunity to elevate your company in Google search rankings.

Second— A lot has been written about how job-seeking millennials expect their work lives to give them more than a paycheck. They’re hunting for employers that are doing meaningful work. Companies that are making a difference.

This means that your company’s values should not be a secret. They should be lived, celebrated and expressed— The ways your values shape your operations, corporate giving, volunteering, board participation, and the work of your foundation ought to come alive in your website, your social media posts, your media relations and your blog. Optimize all of it for search and like-minded, right-fit talent will find you before they find your competitor.

Lastly, keep in mind that just about everybody has surrendered a whole lot of information about themselves to Facebook and LinkedIn. Now, new employee prospects can be micro-targeted with surround and engage campaigns, that influence them to seek you out.

Talent is in short supply these days. Stop blending in on job aggregator sites, and reclaim your place as “The place to work.”

How?

Turn contemporary search, content and social techniques into an integrated strategy that helps you win the attention of the best people out there.

We can help.

Posted in: