Jun 15 2012

Q&A with Must-Read IT Blogger Karine Joly

Internet marketing, social media and the mobile movement are having a significant impact on higher education.

If you are interested in social media, internet marketing and PR for higher education, Karine Joly is the go-to expert. She has more than 18 years of experience and her hugely successful blog is a must-ready for anyone in the community. She was kind enough to talk with us about the some of hottest topics in higher ed.

EdTech: Where do you get your technology news?

Karine: I’m “old school.” I subscribe to 270 RSS feeds, including the big guns (Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, A List Apart, etc.), and most of the blogs about web, marketing, communication and social media in higher education. I keep adding blogs to my Google Reader when new voices pop up in higher education and go religiously through everything they post. Every week, I curate the most interesting resources and posts for my e-mail newsletter sent on Wednesdays to more than 2,500 professionals and executives working in web, communications and marketing offices in universities and colleges all around the world. You can subscribe to the newsletter on my blog. I do also get a fair amount of great tips from my blog and newsletter readers working on interesting projects.

EdTech: If you could use just one social network, would it be Facebook, Twitter or Google+? Why?

Karine: I have accounts and am present on all three, but the game changer for me was Twitter. It’s the way I keep in touch with the higher ed web community, ask questions and even sometimes take a break to exchange a few jokes. I love the immediacy Twitter enables. I was an early adopter in the higher ed web community, so it has really been a part of my work life for the past four years. Since I also teach the capstone graduate online course on social media marketing campaigns for the MBA in Social Media Marketing at SNHU, I still have to use Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. But my heart definitely belongs to Twitter (and my blog, of course!). 

EdTech: What will be the most important technology of 2012?

Karine: It looks like the mobile revolution is finally upon us. It’s been at least two to three years that many (including this blogger) have proclaimed the Year of Mobile, but I think we’re finally there with mobile web analytics data starting to show some significant increase in mobile usage of campus websites. In higher education, the rising multiplicity of connected devices (smartphones, computers, tablets, etc.) used by prospective and current students, but also alums and donors, is also starting to become a real challenge. How do you make sure you provide a good user experience with so many different devices? While I wouldn’t quite call responsive web design techniques (a combo of CSS, media queries and JavaScript that lets you code once for all devices) the proverbial silver bullet, it really looks promising for institutions. Many have actually been flocking to sign up for the 4-week online course on Responsive Web Design for Higher Ed we launched with Stewart Foss, the founder of eduStyle, in January 2012. This is going to be the hot topic at the main web conferences in higher education this year, including PSU Web, EduWeb in July and HighEdWeb in October.

EdTech: Who do you think is leading the way in higher education web marketing?

Karine: This is a tough question because there are actually more than a handful of institutions leading the way. The for-profit college lead-generation websites — that create an unhealthy amount of infographics on anything and everything vaguely related to colleges — have also popularized countless lists of best institutions in social media, web marketing, on Facebook, Twitter and so on, as part of their SEO efforts. And the tactic works, as many institutions listed there end up sharing the news with their wide social media networks. Everybody loves to be recognized (including this blogger). However, I don’t think these rankings are meaningful. Many institutions are busy doing great work reaching out to their target audiences instead of pitching their success to bloggers or journalists. This being said, here are three institutions doing interesting things. I mentioned responsive web design above. The University of Notre Dame has been a RWD trailblazer in higher education with the innovative work on the latest redesigned home page launched in early April. Florida International University has done great work in engaging its campus community through the smart use of social media and online video, among others. I’ve recently focused more on the possible use of free online courses as the next big thing in marketing and communications for higher education as ventures like Coursera and edX have been more in the spotlight since the beginning of the year. After publishing my blog post on the topic, I got a tip via Twitter that Covenant Theological Seminary was currently following this strategy with its associated Worldwide Classroom website.

EdTech: What is the biggest mistake that universities make in their web marketing?

Karine: I’m probably biased on this topic, as I’ve been a huge proponent of the use of online analytics to inform marketing decisions, but I think that the biggest mistake universities make in their web marketing is to spend too little measuring the performance of their initiatives. According to the 2012 State of Online Analytics in Higher Ed survey results, 60 percent of the respondents spend less than two hours per week working on analytics, 27 percent between two and five hours. This is not enough, especially when 97 percent track web data and use the very powerful Google Analytics application to do the job. While the needle is moving in the right direction, as shown by the trends observed in the yearly survey, most institutions still don’t measure adequately their web marketing initiatives.

EdTech: What is the most effective web marketing strategy for universities right now?

Karine: Having one that is tied to institutional goals and responds to the needs of your target audience. I’m only half joking. It’s not as much what you implement, but why and how. The institutions that have a clear integrated marketing plan — not just a web marketing strategy, but a strategy incorporating all the channels that make sense for their target audiences — are and will be successful. In the new “attention economy” we live in, focus comes at a premium and has become the only road to success for institutions, companies and individuals alike.

Check out Karine Joly's blog and the EdTech 50 Must-Read Higher Education Blogs.


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