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Emerging Media for Marketing Leaders Who Get It

May 11, 2009

APU Goes MobileIn my last post, I raised a question I have not seen elsewhere in response to recent studies showing increasing participation rates in social media marketing by colleges and universities.

My question was simply, what in the world are the 39% of marketing and admissions leaders thinking who are not doing any social media marketing, either on a social media network platform or on their website? Don’t they get it?

Given that teenage and young adult prospects for higher education live in social space, it is inexplicable to me that a college would not have a presence in that space. Rather than applaud leaders who get the obvious, I think we should question the ones who are stuck executing pre-web 2.0 marketing plans. Call me in this case a glass is half empty guy, I guess. But I wonder in which markets are these marketing leaders competing?

I wonder because while we pat ourselves on the back for “participating” in social media, the most competitive colleges and universities are going beyond the current social media conversation and are beginning to address other emerging media.

Take Azusa Pacific University, for example. APU is a private university in Los Angeles County with over 9000 students. It is one of four universities in California that I’d point to as shining examples of how to market higher education; the others being USC, Pepperdine, and Biola University.

As the picture above indicates, APU is now accessible on mobile devices. APU is an early adopter of emerging media. They’re heavily in social space (Facebook, iTunes, Flickr, You Tube, Twitter e.g.), and they blog and videoblog on their website, which has just been beautifully redesigned. Now, they’ve entered mobile media. It is a power branding move by them that positions APU very well for students desiring a highly competitive university, and who are either seeking or would welcome a “God First” academic community. But more importantly, they realize that their students and prospects–like their competitors’ students and prospects–are on mobile devices constantly. Other institutions in APU’s market will need to follow suit (expect that soon from APU’s chief rival, Biola), or eventually risk looking smaller, less high tech, and more provincial than ever.

In the 1990s, when the Internet happened upon all of us, we had to reinvent our marketing plans to respond to the new ways in which our prospects and applicants were searching for colleges. We constructed websites, reconstructed them (remember “under construction” web pages?), and changed our promotional strategies to address new prospect behavior. If we hadn’t done so, we would have failed miserably.

The current marketing environment requires a similar proactive response to new technology and changing consumer behavior. Today’s crop of social media are only the beginning. This new era of marketing higher education requires strong leadership to adjust marketing plans and to secure university resources for emerging media. Colleges and universities with marketing and enrollment leaders who get it will be ahead of their competition as new media and new prospect behavior continue to emerge in the years ahead.

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