Publications & Products
Volume 1, Issue 10

Finding Metrics that Matter and Learning to Use Them

Many in the community college sector talk about "integrated marketing" but few understand what it means and how it can transform their institution's operations, say a pair of practitioners at a Massachusetts community college.

Robin Duncan"Many folks are making decisions about how they place ads with minimal research information," says Robin Duncan, vice president of marketing and communications at Mount Wachusett Community College. "They're not thinking about how their audience wants to receive information."

Duncan notes that she still encounters marketing professionals at community colleges who believe advertising in the local print newspaper is their best option to reach a target audience.

"You shouldn't just be using newspapers if you're targeting 18-year olds," Duncan says. "Marketing professionals should be trying to get the best bang for their buck out there. They should be gathering data and responding to their audiences in real time where they want to be reached. Some are doing that [in the community college sector], but it's not happening as often as it should."

When Duncan took on her leadership role about two years ago, she focused strategically on how to modernize the college's marketing operations.

"Community colleges are being held accountable more than ever," Duncan says. "When I took over, we needed more expertise in metrics-driven things like new media. Just having a Facebook and Twitter page wasn't enough for us. We needed to create some engagement with our social media networks. We needed someone to report on a regular basis what's working and what's not, who would then be able to help us move and respond in real time."

Duncan recommends communications divisions hire someone who is Google Analytics Certified, understands web metrics and can help translate data into actionable items for an outreach strategy.

Sarah McMasterThat's why Duncan brought in Sarah McMaster, director of new media at Mount Wachusett. She says community colleges should do more "inbound marketing."

"We should have more targeted messages for different groups," McMaster says. "We should be pulling people in when they're interested in us as opposed to simply when we're interested in reaching them. We have to know what time of day and what days of the week there are traffic peaks. We need to get the best reaction."

McMaster advocates what she calls the "80-20 rule." Managers of college social networks should be spending 80 percent of their timing "building relationships"—listening and responding to what their audience is saying to and about them—and 20 percent of their time pushing out information. This, she says, will make the audience more receptive to the 20 percent of outbound communication.

Ultimately, McMaster says it can be easy to get lost in web metrics and fail to understand how to make sense of them all.

"Are you measuring the right things?" McMaster says. "That's the key question. Of course, you know how many tweets you get or fans you have, but are those people interested and engaged in what you're doing? Engagement is kind of a slippery thing to get your hands around. You need to be looking at the success rates of your calls to action or how much your message is being shared across social networks. Are your efforts enticing people to sign up for your event or visit your recruiting page to find more information?"

Next month, Duncan and McMaster will host a CASE webinar about how to use data to improve community college marketing and communications.

This article is from the April 2012 issue of the Community College Advancement News.


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