I recently read a post by Chris Brogan discussing the idea that search is social. After initial brain digestion, I began to apply it to my new position to see what I could uncover. I’m realizing that there is much to be learned regarding our customers and how they access information, but also, what they already think of our product.
How do customers decide upon a college beyond price, location and academics? If they don’t know who you are, chances are, they may not be looking for you. But, do they know what you offer, experientially, geographically and in terms of personal growth opportunities? Does your university culture offer something that others do not, and if so, how are you using that to help students decide to attend your school over another? What doesn’t it offer that may leave some students feeling like they are missing something, and yet empower others?
Creating tactics in social media are one thing, but, creating a branded identity that can be applied to a student’s persona is another. Search – and research based on customer segmentation – is a part of this, as its a part of behavior.
What are your thoughts on creating an experience as an identity, and not just a university brand?
2 thoughts on “How Much Do We Know That We Don’t Know?”
Of course, the biggest challenge we have, as a comprehensive state institution, is getting people to decide on an identity or brand (and no, you can’t use the word “brand” in select company). Some faculty call us a liberal arts college, others a research institution, others a professional school. In a way, we are all these things, a floor wax *and* a dessert topping. In terms of communication, I just keep coming back to John Saxe’s Blind Men and the Elephant in terms of how we are everything to everyone.
What would people say is unique about our institution? There’s being on a Great Lake, which many students mention as a draw, but how do you position that as an institutional benefit (especially when you’re getting a foot of snow off said lake)? We’re told that we’re friendly (you betcha!), but again that’s not a reason to choose a school. And yet the real added-value — things like how undergraduates have an opportunity to do graduate-level research — are tough elevator speeches.
More broadly, creating identity for the students who attend is a worthwhile project, albeit one that would be subject to interpretation. Many of our students are blue-collar, first-generation, hard-working overachievers. Personally, I like that identity, as a fan of underdog stories, but it would be a tough sell to faculty who would rather cultivate a best and brightest image.
Q: Do you think such a unifying identity for a college is even possible?
I think it may not be possible for the university as a whole, but it speaks to creating niche marketing segments to speak to. There are many different facets of a large school that could speak to a variety of students but what I worry is that they arent being looked at that way. They’re typecast as majors or clubs or urban, etc. With so much more to expect from a particular institution, I wonder if its a strategy to consider, especially in search, social media, and communities.