For the past few weeks, I’ve been summarizing the 2011 Noel-Levitz marketing and student recruitment research that is extremely important to the higher ed market. After reviewing their reports last weeks our CEO, Michael Staton, pointed out something:
Focusing on what is true today is not going to help schools position themselves to take advantage of what will be true in the coming years.
Sure mobile, SMS, and social are relatively new to the marketing mix – unlike established channels like email, the most effective techniques haven’t been established and adoption rates are still rising. However, the schools that innovate with these technologies and platforms can give themselves a competitive advantage in the years to come. Last week Peter Leyden from Next Agenda gave a talk at the Inigral office titled “The Next Tech Paradigm Shifts”.
One great thing about having an office in San Francisco is the ability to learn from some of the smartest folks in tech. Peter was one of the original editors of Wired magazine, the Director of the New Politics Institute and helped advise the Obama campaign on digital tactics which led to a “cinderella story” of sorts, bringing social networking to the center of the political world.
One of my favorite graphs from his presentation was the historical adoption rates of communication technologies. Historical technology trends are extremely interesting to watch. Peter often uses history to help advise companies on where trends head in the future. Notice how much the rate of change has accelerated over the past 100 years:
Communication adoption rates are increasing.
Taking a closer look at social networking adoption trends, you can see in the graph below the length of time Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ took to reach 10 million users. Although I’d like to thank Techcrunch for the above below, it’s important to point out the problems with comparing Google+ adoption with FB and Twitter. (Google being well established company with plenty of auxiliary services vs. the built form scratch networks of FB and Twitter)
What does this have to do with higher ed?
In the Noel-Levitz E-expectation summary I wrote last week it was pretty clear the current success rates of social and mobile marketing tactics were perceived as low for admissions professionals. However, just because success didn’t happen this year, doesn’t mean these mediums won’t be extremely important in years to come. Peter predicted Internet would change politics in 1996, but it wasn’t until the Obama campaign in 2004 when it finally “hit”. As John McCain learned the hard way, it’s better to be early to the party than late. According to Peter:
“The future is messy, but you can see where the trends are going and position yourself and your organization accordingly. The next 5 years will be dominated by innovations in mobile, social, and video.”
You can already see the big players in the tech space fight it out with Facebook, Apple, and Google claiming their respective territories in mobile, social, and video. I believe the future of social networking is creating highly relevant communities around interests, affiliations, and locations. You see this with new Google+ circles and geo-location features across platforms.
Keep in mind, it’s not enough to just sign up for a new hot social network or get your school to develop a mobile application. These innovations must be clearly aligned with student needs and institutional strategy. One of the biggest problems I see with schools trying to “go social” is the tendency to treat social networks as items to check off a list. Just because you are signed up for every social platform under the sun doesn’t mean you’re using social media to meet the needs of your audience.
Evaluate and experiment with new approaches, but don’t get lost in the swirl of shiny objects.
The question I wanted to ask Peter during his talk was, with all of this technological innovation, are we really solving any of the world’s biggest problems?
I’d like you to think along the same lines when it comes to your new marketing approaches. What problems are you solving? Are you truly creating a great digital experience, or are you just playing follow the leader?
We’d love love to hear your thoughts on marketing innovation. This week the Inigral team will be at Noel-Levitz in Denver, Stamats SIM in Chicago, and eduTWEETUP in Boston to learn how institutions are staying ahead of the curve and in order to position themselves for the next wave of technology adoption.