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What’s in store for higher ed web developers?

Predictive web analytics can guide higher ed marketers in charting their course with more certainty
University Business, January 2015
Karine Joly
Karine Joly

If the 10 years I’ve spent observing and analyzing the industry since I started my blog are any indication, there’s one prediction I can make with complete confidence: The new year will have its share of surprises and challenges. Keep these five trends in mind.

Predictive analytics

Reporting on past performance and monitoring real-time activity are useful to demonstrate success. But so much more can be done with digital analytics. Predictive analytics can help college teams make better decisions by forecasting probable outcomes—as has long been done in other industries.

Predictive web analytics can guide higher ed marketers in charting their course with more certainty in an uncertain world.

Based on the data already at your disposal, predictive analytics can also help demonstrate the value of your completed campaigns via intervention analysis.

“With intervention analysis, you can predict what would have happened had a new campaign not been implemented,” says Joshua Dodson, digital marketing strategy and optimization manager at Eastern Kentucky University. By comparing this “past prediction” with the current outcome, you can prove the value of your digital initiatives.

Automation and strategic planning

Students, alumni, donors and other constituents expect to be treated in a personable manner. They will ignore your communications if you make them feel like a number.

Such massive personalization can be achieved only through the integration of strategic planning, a human-centric focus and powerful automation tools. Customer relations management (CRM) systems integrated with social media platforms can help institutions tackle this challenge by automating some steps and powering up smarter personalization. Services such as IFTTT or

Zapier already help many professionals find more time by automating some parts of their work. By connecting different web applications (i.e., Google Calendar, Twitter, Facebook), the services can be programmed to complete simple tasks if predefined conditions are met.

Social media marketing

Facebook and Twitter will launch a pay-for-play business model in 2015. Promotional posts (including for contests) from Facebook pages will be filtered out of the News Feed. Universities might not be hit as hard as others due to the strength of their campus community, but it’s the end of that broadcasting strategy. Twitter is expected to follow a similar path.

What does this mean for you? Social media marketing should require less time but more money to maintain reach. Paying for distribution will make or break social media campaigns, so plan your digital marketing budgets accordingly.

Social media measurement

Social media platforms have understood the importance of providing reliable analytics data to attract more advertisers and demonstrate value. As a result, their analytics offerings have evolved a lot. Social media strategists can now look beyond vanity metrics (fans, followers, etc.).

As social media platforms complete their transformation into digital advertising networks, institutions need to revisit social media strategies focused only on reach or engagement. Social media should be seen as the first step—and not an end in itself—in your digital conversion funnel.

No matter how you define a conversion (request for info, campus visit, registrations, online gift), you have to look further. It’s time to measure the often indirect impact of your social media initiatives on the bottom line.

Growth in online fundraising

The rise of mobile and digital payment platforms means wallets are going digital. With struggling postal services, online giving will soon become the only way to send donations.

Even social media platforms have started to experiment with ways to power electronic payments through “buy” buttons. If Facebook, Twitter and others take note of crowdfunding successes, the “donate” button could be next.

Relying on the engaging nature of social media and its extensive data mining capabilities, savvy university fund-raisers should embrace the digital future of fundraising.

Karine Joly is the web editor behind www.collegewebeditor.com, a blog about higher ed web marketing, public relations and technologies. She is also the founder of www.higheredexperts.com.

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