Last week, I went down to Austin, Texas, to attend HighEdWeb 2011, the annual conference hosted by the Higher Ed Web Professionals Association.
Aside attending several excellent sessions and networking with my peers in the field, I also had the honor of presenting a session entitled “Carrying the Banner: Reinventing News on Your University Website.” (You can watch the video, read a recap or view the slide deck.) I was honored and humbled to receive the Best of Track (Content) and Best of Conference awards, as determined by audience feedback. Thanks for the opportunity and the honor, HighEdWeb!
Enough about me. Here are a few of the highlights I took away from the conference:
- Mike Petroff of Emerson College presented “Customer Service and Social Media: You Can Do Better,” in which he exhorted us to “Stop treating your customers like one-night stands.” We need to build relationships with them, and social media provides many avenues through which to do that. We can’t buy reputation through social media; we have to earn it. We need to listen better, crowdsource more thoroughly, engage more deeply. As Petroff put it, “we need to out-care the competition.”
- Brad Mitchell and Sara Clark from Missouri State showed off their smart homepage approach, feeding in content from multiple campus-wide sources as a means of making the homepage a destination and solving the problem of everyone wanting to be on it. They have firm criteria over what content is included and a sophisticated back end that guards against outdated sources, flooding of the feed by a single source and broken links.
- There were several sessions on accessibility, including a keynote by Shawn Henry from the W3C. This is important. It’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a need-to-do.
- I stretched my brain in a technical session on APIs presented by Erik Runyon and Jeremy Friesen of Notre Dame. Even as a content person, I can get behind these key takeaways: commit to the openness of your data, create relationships with other developers on campus and encourage others to commit to open data.
- Jeff Stevens of the University of Florida used Robocop (among other examples) to illustrate how we need to get smarter about alumni engagement (or any specific audience, really). Drawing from examples such as Kiva, Kickstarter, Groupon, even Farmville, as well as a wealth of research on generational differences and donor profiles, he made a strong case for how we need to look beyond the default models and find newer, arguably more effective ways to make them ask, make it social and, echoing Petroff, build relationships.
- Doug Beck and Roger Wolf of the University of Central Florida presented on “A Utility Belt Approach to Mobilized Content.” “You don’t need to ‘do mobile,’” they said. “You need to mobilize your content.” The best way to do this is to ensure your content is a viable data source, computer-readable and able to be adapted for multiple uses.
- Seth Meranda of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln dove into the mystifying realm of social media analytics and how to measure the bright and shiny. While there are lots of stats associated with social media, it is important to have an objective in mind. Social media is a tactic, and objectives define tactics, so if you want to gauge how successfully you are achieving your objective, your social media efforts need to tie directly back to them. “Just because you can measure it doesn’t mean it matters,” Meranda cautioned. He also talked about the importance of tying social media links to campaign tagging via Google Analytics.
Other great sessions (some I attended, some I did not):
- What Content Strategy Really Means for Higher Ed
- Make Quality Content Count with Web Analytics
- E-Expectations 2011 – Online Expectations of Prospective College Students and Their Parents
- Using WordPress to Power Your Institution’s Entire News Presence
- Beyond Blogging: Create an Integrated Online Student Ambassador Program
- Crisis Communications on the Web
- The Future of Location-Based Services and their Role in Mobile
- Cornell’s Digital Well: A social networking repository for marketing information
- The Politics of doing IA for Higher Ed
- Herding Cats: Web Governance in Higher Ed
- Lead the Horse to Water and Make Damn Sure it Drinks: How to Lead Successful and Transparent Projects
- Engaging Your Global Audience with Real-Time Campus Event Coverage
- What Colleges Can Learn From the Insane Clown Posse
You can read recaps of many more of the sessions via LINK, the Journal of Higher Education Web Professionals.