We’re almost at the end of 2011, and the year-end lists of predictions for 2012 have cropping up on marketing and social media blogs all over the web. CASE gave their own set of predictions in December’s BriefCASE.
The CASE list highlights five potential trends for 2012.
- “Further integration of social media and marketing”
- “Internal convergence”
- “Influence measurement”
- “Further migration of content from print to digital”
Their list pulls some of the best items from a number of other lists out there, but they did not spin it in anyway to relate back to education. I think the items included in CASE’s list have value to education and higher education marketing in particular.
1. “Further integration of social media and marketing”
CASE’s list points back to a post of the Harvard Business Review’s blog that calls the integration “convergence emergence”. Essentially, this is the idea that we’ll see social media being used to create interactive marketing experiences across various channels.
For higher education marketing, this concept will certainly have some impact for those willing to step out of their marketing comfort zone. I see the possibility for social media to be more heavily in the recruitment of students. Social media could be used to make recruitment events more interactive by integrating social media tools into the physical event to solicit input and feedback. One-way admission presentations could become two-way interactive experiences.
2. “Internal convergence”
This point is all about the application of IMC to the current marketing model. The idea is nothing new, but the list compiled by CASE predicts that 2012 will be the year of integration. Marketing silos will cease to exist, and all channels will be brought together to work in unison. This applies especially to social media.
For most of higher education, most channels have been working together for sometime. Colleges and universities have some of the strongest brand identities out there due to this fact. But, social media is still a new member of the marketing mix, and for most it likely functions on its own in support of other marketing efforts. There is an opportunity to let social media take an equal share of the marketing mix, or even take the lead in some campaigns allowing other channels to support.
Because of the decentralized nature of universities, most schools have a number of social media channels being managed by different departments and office on campus. 2012 will be a year for colleges and universities to bring these different channels together by applying an a centralized-decentralized approach. By this I mean that there must by an IMC approach applied to the multiple social media channels maintained by various offices from a central perspective where certain identity standards are upheld. This will strengthen marketing efforts and brand identity. But, at the same time departments and offices must still be able to function autonomously, as they are the experts in communicating with their various audiences.
3. “Influence measurement”
CASE’s list predicts that 2012 will be the year executives will start talking about social media influence and the year we’ll see a proliferation of influence measurement tools like Klout.
Patrick Powers wrote a great post on his blog earlier this month talking about the relative uselessness of Klout for higher ed marketing purpose. This is Powers’ main point:
Klout does a great job of determining the number and reach of the people talking about your brand online, but it doesn’t know if any of these people are actually taking action with your brand because of it.
Powers points out that Klout may be a good tool for benchmarking your school against others in the social media space, but beyond that it holds very little value.
This issue gets back to the problem of social media ROI. It’s something that marketers have struggled with since the early days of social media, and it’s something that still needs an adequate solution. As we use social media more and more in our marketing campaigns, we need tools to track their effectiveness beyond pure reach and influence. Influence is a great thing, but it’s not a end goal.
CASE points out that social media check-in games like Foursquare and SCVNGR are already popular on college campuses. They predict that 2012 will be the year that we’ll see a wide variety of institutions and organizations in all sectors “gamify” their marketing with the addition of levels, badges, and points.
I’m still not sure what the return on “gamifying” the higher ed marketing approach might bring. I suppose that it could lead to higher levels of engagement with a number of audiences. It could be an innovative way to track event attendance and demonstrated interest with prospective students. Or, it could be a way increase alumni participation in events, giving, and volunteering.
5. “Further migration of content from print to digital”
This prediction is all about the rise of the tablet computer. CASE is predicting that in 2012, we’ll see a large number of printed publications move to a tablet platform. From a marketing standpoint, I think that this could be dangerous. While tablet ownership is on the rise, we haven’t yet reached a level of ownership that would allow us to favor the tablet over print.
I think that colleges and universities would suffer especially in the marketing to prospective undergraduate students. Nielsen reported in August that only 7% of tablet users are in the 13-17 age group where most prospective undergraduates fall. Only 10% fall in the 18-24 age group that includes current undergraduates and some graduate students.
In reality, the tablet is a still a pricy gadget. While the potential for using the tablet in marketing is there, the tablet isn’t ubiquitous. We’re still in the early days of tablet usage and ownership. We’re at the point with tablets where we were with smartphones five years ago.
It’s not time to move from print to tablet quite yet.
There’s no doubt 2012 will be a big year for social media and marketing. There is huge potential in the current platforms in use and in the ones that are in development. It will be interesting to see how social media really is integrated into higher ed marketing in the coming year, and what predictions we’ll be making a year from now for 2013.