Blog / 4 Trends and Takeaways from eduWeb Digital Summit

4 Trends and Takeaways from eduWeb Digital Summit

Like any profession, higher education faces a unique set of challenges. As the eduWeb team and I looked at the trends we saw in our own places of work—we were excited about the opportunity to hear from a group of talented individuals at this year’s eduWeb Digital Summit in Colorado.

As the conference came to a close in early August, it was my job as chairperson to reflect on the conference, as well as the conversations and trends that emerged.

eduWeb Summit Top Bio Words final

I thought it would be great to take a bit of a deeper dive into some of the presentations that won “Best of Track” at this year’s conference. Their topics aligned with some of the hottest talking points from throughout the conference.

1. Influence Matters

Influence and the value of influencers are hot topics across social media these days. Understanding your audience, however, has always been an important topic in marketing, and especially in higher education.

That’s why when Jon McBride of Brigham Young University discussed “Identifying, Approaching and Cultivating Digital Influencers,” he speaks to the value of identifying the students who can best represent a university in the digital space.

I found myself going back to my own experiences running student-created video contests at Wilkes University, where I experienced firsthand the value of student-created videos over our marketing department. Influence certainly matters. The students on a campus truly are the rawest and most influential voices, and cannot be ignored.

But on top of identifying student influencers, the efforts must be put into place to ACTIVATE them. It’s not enough to know who matter.  We must, as universities, take the time to work with these individuals to give them the tools they need to succeed in telling their story as it relates to our story as a university!

As students return for the 2016/2017 school year, here’s hoping that universities take heed of the value of influence.

2. Email is Still an Important Communication Tool

Students are still using email. It’s often debated, but according to Ruffalo-Noel Levitz’s 2016 report, over 77% of students say that email is their top choice to receive information!

But students demand high quality emails. They aren’t looking to be hit over the head with information over and over again.

John Thies of Email on Acid discussed 5 Ways To Improve Email Campaigns and shared a few key takeaways that caught my attention:

  • Personalization increased email opens by 26%
  • 50% of all emails are opened on a mobile device (but we all know mobile is important, right?)
  • 43% of users view email without downloading or turning on images
  • And something for all you emoji fans—brands using emojis in their subject lines saw a 45% increase in unique open rates


emojis eduWeb Digital Summit


3. It’s Not Just About Good Design, It’s About Getting It Done Right!

In an age when social media makes the news on a daily basis, your institution’s webpage is still the focal point of the student search process! According to the E-Expectations Report in 2015, 80% of students are influenced by a university or college’s website, compared to 54% who say they were influenced by Facebook.

Currently, universities are trying to keep pace with Google’s ever-changing rules to remain a top search result, meanwhile finding ways to improve the overall experience they offer their visitors.

Having experienced two website redesigns in my higher education career, I know that this can be a daunting task. With today’s consumers demanding a mobile friendly experience—that first impression when you launch your redesign is everything!

Mark Greenfield of the University of Buffalo shared with attendees how to get a “Web Redesign Done Right—The First Time” in his presentation, providing some fantastic insights on how to keep one’s project on track, and what to do once you’ve launched.

4. Act Strategically by Putting More Focus on Data That Matters

Higher Education is often “behind the bar industry-wise,” I’m told. It’s not an unfair statement.

There’s a bureaucratic nature in higher education that has, on more than one occasion, provided an obstacle to the flow of a project. Ask anyone in higher education and they’ll tell you this is true. This is where data can be helpful.

Higher education marketers crave data. Good data allows us to be more strategic and often assists us in obtaining the resources we need!

Thinking strategically can be a challenge for those with limited time, money, and resources, but data can efficiently and effectively provide us with the insights we need to make educated decisions.

Long-time eduWeb attendee Eric Hodgson spoke to this point in his presentation (“Finding What You Are Looking For – Analytic Strategy”).

strategic planning cycle

In particular, his slide featuring The Strategic Planning Cycle (credit to Management Guru) stood out as a valuable resource regardless of whether one works for a non-profit or not.

By focusing your time on tangible and measurable results, higher education marketers will be more effective in delivering value and showcasing the value of their digital efforts.

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