For those of you who haven’t noticed, Michael has picked up our office Twitter account and has started tweeting out some interesting tidbits. Follow @tamuwww to see some of the ideas that are affecting the projects that we’re working on.
This morning we launched the new iTunesU website. This is our spash page and training hub for the university iTunesU storefront. The project started as just a quick facelift to put the site into our content management system, introduce responsive design, and refresh some content, but it turned into a larger project fairly quickly.
The design team came up with a completely new page look modeled on our Twitter and other social media pages. It will serve as a master template for additional sites coming down the pipe that are related to social media.
We didn’t stop there, though. Since the entry page was getting a major overhaul we decided that the university’s iTunesU store needed one as well. We therefore created and uploaded a new set of album covers and other artwork to bring the site inline with our other offerings.
As we said yesterday, August was one of our most socially-responsive months, particularly our Texas A&M News and Information website. The 290 visits from Twitter to our article Students Understanding Of The Equal Sign Not Equal included a record 167 referrals on Aug. 14 from the Twitter home page. At 1,578 visits, Facebook was one of our top source of traffic as usual. And as we said, we received thousands of new visitors from Slashdot, Digg and Reddit in response to articles such as the ones about equal signs, the Gulf oil spill, and the 2011 U.S. News and World Report rankings.
Other sites that linked to our “equal sign” story, and the visits they brought in:
The “equal sign” story brought in more out-of-state visitors than any other story. 9,376 New Yorkers visited the A&M home page last month.
For most of these visitors, the bounce rate exceeded 90%; that is, nearly all these visitors left our sites after reading one news story. But after all, that’s what they came to do. The News and Information home page only had a more typical 52.22% bounce rate – half of these visitors wanted to keep reading.
Within a few days in August, Texas A&M News and Information was Slashdotted, Dugg and Redditted at record levels. On Aug. 13 alone, 12,773 visitors viewed our university’s news stories. Several social media outlets reached our list of top referring sites for the first time.
The most popular stories for visitors from these social media outlets were Students’ Understanding Of The Equal Sign Not Equal (20,981 visits, our 3rd most popular landing page overall), Gulf Oil Spill Gone? Not So Fast (9,606 visits, 7th place overall), and Texas A&M Fares Well In 2011 U.S. News Rankings (6,125 visits, 12th place overall). (Of course, the Texas A&M home page remained the most popular content by far, with more than one million views last month). Other news stories received most of their traffic from the usual sources: direct links, Feedburner, Facebook, Google searches, and the university Google Search Appliance.
On Aug. 8-9, we received several thousand visits from Digg because of links to Gulf Oil Spill Gone? Not So Fast. The Digg story brought in 3,006 visits, plus another 1765 visits when it reached the Digg home page.
The fall has begun, and our expectations for the mobile site have been exceeded. We are nearing four thousand uses a day. The majority of those uses originating from Bus Routes, followed by Dining. Our mobile site, maintained and developed by Jeff and I, has dozens of features. From multimedia, to news, to student services, we have been releasing new code weekly. With over twenty separate web applications developed and deployed, our attention to detail has now come down to numbers. What statistics drive mobile edu? With potential for growth in all of our services, we have now started to realize that we need to pick our battles and attack the areas that will provide the most growth. Taking a look at the graphs I have made up, you can see that the majority of students are interested in student oriented services, not news and not multimedia.
When aiming to build a mobile website for your university or school, the numbers show that students seek information that makes their day-to-day routine easier. What does that mean for Texas A&M’s mobile website? More focus on the student, and less on what’s currently cool elsewhere. On another statistical note, I thought I would share what operating systems are utilizing our mobile site.
Several months ago, Apple products were leading 75%. Today, Apple products are still dominating the scene, but are followed much more closely by Windows, BlackBerry, and then Linux/Android. In terms of our mobile website those numbers suggest we prepare our site for more than the standard iPhone resolution and make sure we cover the much larger devices influencing these rises, like the new series of Droids and BlackBerry’s. We also need to compensate for desktops and laptops using the mobile site, which is also why we see such high numbers for Mac and Windows.
34% of devices accessing the mobile website are actually desktop and laptop class devices. Which brings on another question. What is our target audience? At first we thought we were developing a mobile website for phones, now it looks like we are developing a convenient website for smartphones and PC’s. The data suggests that students would rather find the information they need on a website that is plainly laid out without having to search a large website over for links. Scenario: I am at a lab on campus, or in a class on my laptop, and I’m hungry. Will I remember to visit dining.tamu.edu for a list of where to eat and times? Or will I remember seeing “Dining” on the list of links on mobile? If it were me, I’d pick the one I knew had what I was looking for, because its most convenient and gets straight to the point. No advertisements for new dining meal plans, pictures of other students eating food I wish I was eating, just the data.
So if you are currently developing or planning on developing a mobile website for the edu-verse, consider your audience. Are you just going to be making a mobile website for phones, or a central knowledge point thats easy and utilized past the mobile audience? Jeff and I have joked about it numerous times, making a site that has a bunch of links to everything a student might need (For those who choose not to remember domain names). It looks like we may be heading in that direction after all.
Yesterday I posted what I felt were the most important elements that I took away from the eduWeb conference and how we should use those to refresh our larger web strategies. Today will be less structured, simply posting what I saw as good one-off ideas without a grand scheme.
- Users will draw a parallel between your website and the university as a whole; since the web is now the primary way prospective students interact during the decision-making process you can very easily loose a prospect at first glance.
- People come to a site to accomplish a task, make it easy for them to do so. Branding should hilight the page, the page should not be about the branding campaign.
- You are what you publish. Most people will leave a site and not come back if they have a negative experience with it broken links, blurry graphics, bad navigation, bad search results, etc.
- Make page photos relevant most people don’t care what the XYZ building looks like, despite being on almost every university admissions page.
- Expectations shape perception. If the user has a pre-conceived notion about something on your site, that will often be more powerful than the information you are trying to portray.
- We run on byte-sized first impressions; online attention span is such that if the first glance isn’t positive the user will go elsewhere.
- Know your audience and don’t try to be all things to all people. Each university has an identity and is not necessarily right for all people. Be authentic and realize that someone who doesn’t fit into your campus culture probably will be better off if they go somewhere else.
- Cut the barriers of communication. 1 picture = 1,000 words, and video is 24 frames (pictures) per second.
- For-profit institutions like U of Phoenix spend up to 45% of their entire budget on marketing. The traditional university spends 2%.
- Allow customers to be agents of your brand. Social media is a two-way conversation, so we should be letting customer-generated content do as much talking as we do ourselves.
- When responding to a controversial topic, do so immediately. Being late in getting your message paints you as not understanding the medium and allows others to frame the debate.
- Integrate your social media efforts – The only place for silos is on a farm
- User experience is the key, so talk to them using terms they are familiar with, which is often not the language that the university office in question prefers. Be real, not administrative. If your tone is too formal you will come across as not understanding the medium and your efforts can wind up backfiring on you.
- Social media isn’t a place you go, it is an extension of your self. Your likes and such identify who you are and identify with. Users want to be a part of a community.
- Social media doesn’t matter. People matter. Make a real connection. Focus on the message, not the platform or medium by which it is delivered.
- As social media usage goes up, its efficacy goes down. As it becomes more pervasive and more universities do it, you cease to stand out by being there. 90% of all universities now have a Facebook presence, saying you’re there doesn’t mean as much anymore.
- People don’t like being told be authentic and honest and allow them to make up their own mind.
- The user IS mobile, not just HOLDING one.
- Building a mobile website is not the same as making your website mobile. Just as web content is different from print, so is mobile different from web. Customize your content.
- Brands should focus more on the overall consumer experience rather than contemplate choosing a mobile web site or native application.
- It does not matter whether a brand offers a mobile site or application. What matters is that consumers are engaged in the content.
- Native applications for delivering static content are dead or dying. Use the website for that. Use apps for high profile projects, intense graphics or animations, and projects that tap into the mobile device’s hardware (camera, GPS, etc.)
Last week’s eduWeb conference was great. Social media and branding dominated the official presentations, while social media, content management, and mobile dominated the individual conversations taking place. Between the track presentations and talking to other web marketers and developers I picked up several new tips and got a better understanding of the trends that are taking place in the online world. I’ll pass along several of those over the next few days. I’ll start with the most important observations, ones that I think we as a university need to address and improve upon.
- Our social media effort is still siloed, with each medium remaining separate and distinct from the others. We should create a mashup social media aggregation site that brings in elements of all of our social media elements into a single page view, and gives an anchor point from which we can market all of our social media efforts. Interest in one then gives exposure to the others. As well as physically combining the social media outlets, we should also unify the message being presented rather than “broadcasting noise.”
- Similarly, we need to create one overall online strategy that includes social media rather than treating it as a separate effort. Social media is not a strategy unto itself, it must exist as part of a comprehensive online effort. A few relevant quotes that condense the thought:
- Your .edu site is the foundation for ALL of your online activity
- You should make your .edu address as ubiquitous as your university logo
- Your website is the belly of the starfish, social media is the legs – social media should feed the website, not be the heart of your strategy
- An integrated online strategy also implies the unification of branding across all sites. That is something we arent necessarily doing well. As we develop each site we need to not only take into account the needs of the project itself but also how it fits into our overall online efforts.
- We have lots of events on campus that feature prominent people. Make events more than just an entry in your campus calendar. We know about them ahead of time, so we should prime the pump on Twitter conversation even before the event takes place. Regularly announce Twitter hashtags before major events to set the stage for online conversation.
- Changes in the mobile have been occurring faster than in any previous technology on the internet, and the adoption rates are still accelerating. What we have in place must be constantly re-evaluated to make sure it does not become obsolete as trends pass us by.
- As smart phones have become widely owned and used, native apps as a method of delivering mobile content are being left behind as web shops aggressively pursues mobile web sites. If we want to remain leaders in the field we need to constantly re-evaluate our mobile strategy, and in particular shift our focus away from the app vs. web delivery medium issue and onto improved content and user experience no matter how it is provided. App development still has a place, but it should be focused on the high-profile features that cannot be replicated by web apps (i.e. things that leverage the phones hardware such as GPS, camera, etc.) rather than being used to deliver basic content.
- We should investigate and start aggressively using QR codes to give a pop to our print marketing. These are nice shortcuts that allow us to extend print ads by adding an online element.
- While making a mobile website is not the same as making a website mobile-capable, the proliferation of smart phones means that we must begin including mobile views in all future websites we create.
If you visit the A&M Facebook page and you’re not already logged in, or if you aren’t already a fan you’ll get a default “landing page” that we’ve developed and put online.
Landing pages are getting more and more use from retailers (Gap, Best Buy, Coke, etc) wanting to make a splash with visitors and get them to “like” their page. You’re also beginning to see this with universities as well. While many are still defaulting to the wall for non-fans, there are some that are beginning to build these splashes.
For us, it’s a mix of trying to get these folks either further into the A&M Facebook page (clicking on the Facebook wall sticker, or the fan photos link) but we also realize that some of these are going to be parents of current/future Aggies or future Aggies. We want to give them a quick and easy way to get to the info they need to help them as they make important decisions. So all of our links across the top jump to pages within the tamu.edu webspace.
Jenni and I must have looked at over 200 different retail and university fan pages and we’ve noticed a lot of retailers are adding video, so we added the video spot in the middle which also highlights our “It’s Time” campaign.
So how’d we do this? › Continue reading
For those of you who might have started to update their Facebook pages to include Google Analytics as I mentioned a few posts ago, let me point out a followup article from the same folks at Webdigi. This one gives a method that will allow you to track interactions and classify them according to whether they were made by fans or non-fans.
This can be an important concept because it allows you to get a firm picture of who is actually interacting with your page. I haven’t added this to our sites yet, but I would be interested to know what the results would be. This would solve once and for all the question of just how important a site’s number of fans really is.
Last time I mentioned that I had given a presentation on Facebook to the Brand Council and that one of my points was to install Google Analytics and combine it with the information Facebook already provides to get a better idea of your site usage. One of my other points was that you must actually look at and use this data rather than just passively collecting it and never looking to see what it shows. So here is a brief rundown of President Loftin’s Facebook site and the analytics behind it.
I didn’t get analytics installed for the launch of the site, which might actually be a good thing since the initial traffic spike of the first few days won’t skew the numbers. While our total number of visits is in the acceptable range, the graph of number of visits vs. time shows a clear pattern. Most of our traffic is generated on Tuesdays, the day that Dr. Loftin’s weekly report goes out. The fact that each successive Tuesday has so far seen more and more hits is an encouraging sign.
I’d like to go more in depth, but the fact that we’re still collecting the first round of data is hindering a proper analysis. As we collect more data I’ll get any trends that we find posted for your information.
To follow up on the gifts application that we added to Dr. Loftin’s Facebook page, I’m happy to say that it has been moderately successful. In the week that it has been online 830 different Aggie gifts have been sent. At least a few people have been heavy users of the application because 5 of the 11 hidden gifts have been unlocked. By far the favorites have been the bow ties, so we will continue to add special bonuses to keep the interaction going. This does, I believe, serve as clear evidence that adding ways of interacting with our social media sites increases their value.