Adapting and Adopting Integrated Search Tactics in 2013: Part 1

At the end of every year, futurists, marketers and speculators alike propose their forecasts. Though these missives offer delightful musings about what's to come, they invariably focus on what is new and trendy. Buzzwords abound. But these terms are often devoid of substance for the professional who has to achieve very direct and specific goals at the end of the season. In this series of posts, I'll cover some of the most hyped terms in the marketing industry and offer a pragmatic response for the enrollment management professional responsible to making critical budgetary and marketing decisions.

Marketing concepts that will make their appearance or expand in the coming year are 1) social media insight 2) real-time marketing 3) context and 4) big data and 5) mobile marketing. While the promise of these terms can be exciting, if they do not create understandable, predictable and actionable insight they fail to assist industry leaders in discerning successful paths from less profitable avenues. Here I'll define some of these terms to help you assess the considerations of implementing them in your integrated search marketing programs.

Social Media Insight
Social media insight is the application of data from social media interactions into the university marketing mix. Online and public conversations about a school are particularly useful in reputation management as well as improving yield. Monitored engagement amongst students on Facebook pages can provide valuable insight into when, where and why students decide to attend a university.

Various tools and resources exist for monitoring, gathering and analyzing data. At a minimum, free analytics tools within Facebook, or open tools like SocialMention provide a window into activity that is occurring on, around or about your institution. More advanced tools like Inigral provide a robust platform for accepted student Facebook activity.

"Content is King" has long been the mantra of Inbound Marketing professionals. And rightly so, search engines crawl and index content on websites and use it to serve up results to search queries. By putting the power to find information in the hand of consumers, companies like Google shifted the balance of power towards the buyer. Users could now make decisions on their own time. This means, of course, that colleges and universities have to take common questions into consideration as they develop their websites and blogs.

But now, the context of student and parent searches is also relevant. At the most tactical level, mobile technology has changed where and when people consume content. This means that websites and other communication formats must be designed for different screen sizes. Responsive design is one such solution to this new factor.

At a more strategic level, marketers have to consider the "streams" of information that are flowing across desktops, laptops, phones and tablets. Much of this information is found, as in the results of a search. But a great deal of content is also shared. In order to be contextually relevant, content marketing professionals must strategically orchestrate their posts so that they cross their audiences' path at the right place and time.

Addressing the coming challenges of 2013 can be a daunting task, but can also be very satisfying if performed successfully. What marketing programs will you be implementing in the coming year?