Friday, December 12, 2008

What Career Are You? Part 2

In my last post I wrote about DU's content solution to a vendor contract for a mini DVD designed to bring leads to our website. (Did I mention this is year two of a legacy contract leftover from a recently departed Admissions head?) Our idea was to host a "career quiz" modeled after the quizzes you see all over the web, hosted on our domain and designed to capture email addresses for our lead database.

In this post I want to tell you how we're doing with that. Remember I said we had about 30 clicks on any of our urls on last year's DVD, and that these resulted in zero apps or visits.

So our goal was easy: Get more results - of any kind - than last year. Although I'd be the first to admit this is a lazy goal, for which I offer no excuses. Anyhow ... here's how things are shaking out so far.

Looking at conversions

The screens on the DVB all have links to our Visit and Apply pages. The quiz itself collects a name, high school grad year and email address before displaying results to the user. Each page of the quiz also contains a contact phone number and website address.

Number of DVDs delivered - 35,000
Number of DVDs in the field, Sept. - Dec. - 20,000
Visits registered - 16
Applications completed - 19
Email addresses collected - 824

Total conversion rate - 4.29%

Which is better than the expected direct mail response rate of .5% to 1.5%. Also, the DVB is still being handed out by admissions reps, so these are just "results so far."

But we won't do this again ...

I have to say, however, that next year I plan to duck out of this contract (it actually is renewed year to year and somebody jumped in and signed us up before we got a chance to show concrete reasons not to). Why?

I haven't calculated ROI on this yet, but here's what I know: We paid the higher ed vendor about $1 each for something we could have gotten much cheaper from our local fulfillment house (if we even decided to make such a thing, which we would not. We could have gotten similar results with the url printed on a frisbee or something). Especially given the fact that all content was sourced by us per the vendor's spec/template. This year we even asked for the specs and designed our own DVD sleeve because we were unhappy with the vendor's design last year.

In addition we took on the task, in-house, of concepting, researching, writing, designing and developing the quiz.

Even if it turns out to have positive ROI in the end, this is obviously not a smart way to work.

And so?

We still have a feeling the quiz is a good tool for generating interest in DU, so we've got plans brewing to put it to work elsewhere. I see a Facebook app in the near future ... Josh? :-)

Other suggestions out there? Leave a comment!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What Career Are You? Part 1

Content can make all the difference

Davenport University works with a vendor that supplies "recruitment solutions" for higher ed admissions, one of these being a "your-school-here" mini DVD to be handed out at college fairs, etc. that are guaranteed to practically flood your website with leads.

Our first DVD, created last year, was five screens of copy and artwork we supplied to the vendor (plus art for the sleeve). It consisted of:

  • Repurposed video and a few photos (deadlines and budget didn't allow us to shoot anything new)
  • Copy with links to "Apply," "Visit" and, most important to a lead form, hosted by the vendor, that we could pull lead data from
We set up dedicated urls for tracking and waited for leads to pour in. None of it mattered in the end, however, because not many of the DVDs got into the field (long story). And from those few thousand that did, we tracked oh, fewer than 20 (yes, 20) 30 visits to any of our pages, including the vendor's lead form. What went wrong? Take your pick:
  • A complicated snafu prevented the DVDs from getting into the hands of prospective students
  • The basic vendor template is boring and to craft anything better would mean a significant upcharge
  • DVDs are just so 1999

If you chose all the above you'd be correct. But we felt like a big problem was also a lack of compelling content.

So this time (we're in year two of a three-year contract) we decided to go beyond the vendor template and create something more. Yes, we still did the five screens of photos, copy and video snips. But we added a twist - something that users of all ages eat up on the interwebs - a link to an interactive quiz hosted off the DVD on the domain.

Introducing What Career Are You?

Go ahead and admit it. You've filled out at least one online quiz in your life. Whether to find a soulmate or the right diet for your body type, we've all done it. If you have a Facebook page, you know how popular quizzes are. And if any of your FB friends are in the same demographic as prospective students, you've seen how these things can spread.

Since DU is a career-oriented university, we thought it would be cool to deliver a quiz that gave prospects an idea of which DU programs might lead to careers they'd be interested in.

A few years back, Admissions had created a paper-based questionnaire loosely based on a Meyers-Briggs type of test that matched personality traits to career choices. So we had the basic structure of our quiz; it just fell to the web team to turn it into something interactive, which they did, using Drupal. Add in fun graphics and a little Flash from designer Josh, and voila! A fun - even useful - quiz.

The "Nexters" quiz, as we call it internally, offers a peek into personality traits and shows the kinds of DU programs that might match particular personality types. The program results are delivered - in exchange for a name and email address - in a sort of tag cloud, with the strongest matches in bigger, bolder type. Of course the results are "just for fun," but they do show the array of DU's programs, along with making some suggestions about what a prospect might be interested in studying.

Next - Part Two: How are we doing?

(If you take the quiz, please type Test after your first and last name so we don't contact you!)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Web 2.0 vs Design

A quick aside from information architecture articles. Something I've been thinking about the past few days.

When I began designing for the web back in '95, I remember how all us 'new media designers' (as we called ourselves back then) thought we had it all figured out. We were ready to throw out all design conventions that came before us as we felt our medium was unique and didn't need to conform to stogy old design standards. Fortunately, for myself, I worked under an art director with 34 years experience in the print world, his name was Jon. Jon, I felt, was unique for an 'old timer'. He didn't feel threatened by us youngsters and even went so far as to want to learn about the web and it's implications on design. So, Jon and I spent the next 8 years working together and I learned the lessons of the past can be applied to current trends. During that time period, throughout the industry, a new design paradigm was created. One which combined the old with the new so to speak.

I think that the Web 2.0 design movement, in some ways, suffers from a similar blindness to the past in regards to design. It suffers from 'me too' sorts of conventions (reflecting, shiny buttons, bright palettes, puffy logos, rounded corners, etc.). It's a badge of honor, and a sort of back office joke, to have a Web 2.0 style site. I do appreciate many of the interface and layout conventions that Web 2.0 has given us. But, I think a lack of vision within the design community, the belief that form should be sacrificed in the name of functionality, and the limitations of CSS2 have caused us to sort of stall in our advancement of web design.

Let's leave behind the notion of what a web 2.0 site must look like. When I do a new layout, whenever adding an element, I always ask, "Why?" Does it serve a purpose of clarifying, advancing brand or adding functionality. If the answer is no, or "cause it looks cool or cause these sites are doing it", then it probably doesn't belong there.

Regarding form vs functionality, I am not advocating making pretty sites in lieu of usable sites. I leave that to the fine artists. But, a concept that is often over looked nowadays is the aesthetic usability effect. The notion that a user is more likely to spend the time to learn a new interface if it is pleasant to look at.

CSS2 has boxed is into a corner, both figuratively and literally. I'm hoping CSS3 allows us to break from some of the compromises needed for web design in the name of cross browser compatibility. Although, I'm not holding my breath on this one.

So, let's move forward ... I'll admit I fell prey to the siren song of Web 2.0 ... it's smooth rounded corners, fun palettes and sexy reflecting logos. Web 2.0 has given us some great new standards in both graphic and interface design, so let's take those standards and move on to the next level.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Information Design, Edu and You

I'm so excited to introduce a new blog team member and brand new blogger, Josh Isaak, web designer and much-esteemed (although he'd probably say much-maligned) colleague. Please welcome him. (And follow him on Twitter too!)

In his seminal work, Information Anxiety, Richard Saul Wurman lays out the basic principles of information architecture. As is often the case with such groundbreaking texts, the challenge lays not in understanding the authors theories and concepts, but in applying them in a practical manner to ones own work. Over the next few months, I will attempt to find that practical application with the field of higher ed and web site architecture.

The basis of of Wurman's work is the LATCH principle. All information can be organized in 5 different ways ...

L - Location
A - Alphabetical
T - Time
C - Category
H - Hierarchical

Let's explore these organization schemes in the context of high ed. This is in no way a comprehensive study of all possibilities, but more of skimming of the surface, to show examples of application. Next post is our first stop on LATCH .... location.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Twitter musings from 'back in the day'

I wrote the following post on my blog Coit Avenue back in April 2007 - about a month after I got my Twitter account. (Ok, yes, there is yet another blog o' mine, mostly used to blog during the 2006 Michigan gubernatorial campaign, but also trying to be a more 'serious' counter to Things I've Seen ... I really need to become more focused in my blogging life.)

Anyhow, at the time I wrote this, far fewer people "got" Twitter. Now that its use is so much more widespread - well, at least your friends, bosses and coworkers have heard of it, right? - it seems fitting to haul this post out and dust it off ...

Why Twitter is about more than telling you what I had for lunch

Stowe Boyd points to this article from USA Today’s Andrew Kantor on the subject of Twitter. I’m struck by Kantor’s willful ignorance of what’s at the core of this social presence app:

Twitter is a bad, bad thing — not just because of what it does, but because of what it says about all of us and our need to be connected. Twitter's whole existence is based on the premise that we aren't yet in touch with one another quite enough.

According to Twitter, you see, we should be in touch every second — every moment. This is madness …

What is madness, I think, is Kantor's oversight of the fact that we already are all connected. It is the nature our world in which everything by design is connected to everything else. It is something our ancient ancestors instinctively knew – and instinctively acted upon, in order to live and continue the species. And, as we’ve gained in knowledge of the world that surrounds us, something we’ve sought after always to understand and express.

We’ve always looked for connection

Speech, songs, stories. Written language that begat books, letters. Printing that sparked the spread of ideas via books and newspapers. And with them the migration of people, both outward across the globe and inward to enclaves of villages, towns, cities. Widespread travel, telegraph, telephone, radio, television – a succession of means for making sense of our center, our connectedness. And then the internet, cellular phones, wireless communication – technology-enabled means for understanding the connections that are.

Don’t you see it? We don't impact the flow that is the universe. These all are just our own small means for tapping it, trying to understand it, living in what already is and always has been.

I’ve been watching a lot of old movies lately – those made in the 30s, 40s and 50s where making a long-distance call was worth a raised eyebrow, a second thought, even among those with means. Even I remember when long distance was reserved for Grandma, and only on a Sunday, when the rates were cheaper, and you hadn’t just seen her the weekend before.

But what is long distance today? A rarer and rarer consideration as I call my friend who is 600 miles away at any time of the day or night. And I fully expect that soon it won’t matter if I’m using “anytime minutes” or not. It certainly shouldn’t. It’s a primitive, holdover construct from what’s fast becoming history.

These are the people we live with

Critics of connection enablers like Twitter seem short-sighted to me. Twitter is just one in a succession of acknowledgements of the connectedness of the universe and everything in it. Of the flow that creates and sustains us all. A claiming of our own existence within that flow.

Overblown? Maybe, with regard to Twitter per se. But just ask yourself: What can you learn and know of the world and your fellow humans from even a short time spent with Twittervision (see how it’s evolving already)? That someone has too many choices for lunch (which is some kind of learning in itself)? Sure. But you can also see there’s an ice storm raging in Northern Europe. That it’s tomorrow in Australia. That someone in Italy, right now, is listening to an American rock song. That many many people speak in languages you don’t understand. That there is life beyond your street that you’ve otherwise had little glimpse of before now, that it’s always been there and it continues, whether you’re asleep, awake, indifferent.

These are the people we live with on this earth, and what they do and think and feel has effects beyond you, and vice versa. Yes, these are early adopters, yes they’re technology-enabled themselves, while most of the world isn’t yet. But the implications are further reaching than we can probably imagine right now. And it’s only the smallest beginning.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The (Recruitment) Long Tail

Late-blogging (not live-blogging) the Stamats Integrated Marketing Conference
The (Recruitment) Long Tail
Brad J Ward
Butler University

The conversation is in the Long Tail

If the conversation - the answers, the dynamic content - isn't there, users (prospects) go elsewhere. (This is why we need blogging at DU)

Having this all on your website makes your job a lot easier-because ...

As participation increases, content increases and engagement increases. The more you can engage, the more likely they are to start/stay

Question on how to find bloggers:
Facebook ad: Do you want the coolest job on campus? Email me. Got 76 responses for 9 spots. Butler pays bloggers $8/hour for 3 hours a week

Cautionary to bloggers: Parents, peers, professors are reading.

Twitter is between the blog posts. It's not the tool for recruiting, but by embedding in the blogs, it enhances

Getting buy-in from the admissions reps has been a struggle (I can bet)

We are in the middle of a huge shift in how we communicate. You need a whole set of tools - not just one-way sell

Social media is people having conversations online

Return on conversation:

monitor the conversation - opportunity to make sure the information out there about you is correct

information in those conversations is ongoing and accurate; authentic, what prospects want to know

Seth Godin - It's not about what you think the (students) want ... it's about creating and assembling a collection of tools that captures the attention of people who truly care

Are you listening? (Get the RSS from Twitter on Davenport University; expand on my Google alerts - DU Panthers, etc.)

The train is coming - What would it look like if you could spend 20% of your time each week on new stuff? Four hours?( that would be so sa-weet I can't imagine. But I need to! )

  • Think niche - where can you really connect with certain kids? target. Become as good at narrowcasting as you are at broadcasting
  • One size does not fit all - no one strategy is the be-all
  • Lose control - you no longer control the conversation
  • Crowd source - example: give video cameras to your bloggers and tell them to go out and have fun
  • Think 'and' not 'or' - think bigger. Facebook AND MySpace
  • Understand 'free' - Most of these tools are; don't pay if you don't need to.
  • It's about relationships not technologies

Check out Class of 2012 research etc. on

****How many apps did you get out of it? It's about the connection (YESSSS)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

IM conversation with a colleague after I got home from #stamats08*

*slightly edited

M: How was the trip?

Me: Great. Met a whole slew of my Twitter friends

M: Were they feathery looking?

Me: Not so much ;-)

M: Any big revelations or ideas?

Me: Yes. I think I want to blog for .eduguru :-D

M: uh huh. Cool. And that helps us or gives you a place to network?

Me: See, here's the thing. The people who presented at this conference are part of my network. And the fact that everyone got to meet each other off Twitter and off the blogs means that network is strengthened. For me the entire conference (well, almost) was in the conversation and dinner and drinks that happened outside the sessions.

This conference produced a whole other conference outside of the presentations - streaming video, videos of presentations, photos, blogging, a #stamats08 Twitter Search (where everyone's tweets are aggregated in real time, even people who weren't there), a Ning group.

THIS is social media - the networking, but most important, the relationship building. Plus it gives us a chance to see and understand what others are doing and what we might do with social media for recruitment, retention, alumni ...

Are you getting this all down?

M signed off
M signed on
M is idle

Hmmm. Did I bore her? (just kidding, M!)