Posts Tagged ‘viral’

University Funding Cuts: Brand Differentiation

At a time when budgets for primary research, teaching and educational infrastructure are being slashed, it might seem that branding should be a very low priority for higher education institutions. This is certainly true, if branding is viewed as an inevitably expensive and resource-intensive process. This does not, however, have to be the case. A rebranding exercise can give new life to a demoralised institution, helping to refocus staff and students onto their primary goals, and to externally project those goals into the wider world.

Of course, branding can certainly be done in the wrong way. Research suggests that undertaking commercial branding in the context of “not for profit” organisations can create a spirit of harmful rivalry within the sector in question. This can cause a marketing ‘arms race’, in which all institutions increase their spending on branding in order to produce often questionable and intangible benefits (Sargeant, 2009). This was often the case during the economic boom years, particularly within a higher education sector driven by the government target of 50% of young people achieving a university degree. The research above, however, suggests that instead of a traditional high-spend strategy, universities may be better served by leveraging their strengths of creativity and innovative thinking.

One recent example of a university doing just this is the University of California, which underwent a major rebranding exercise in the last quarter of 2012. Taking their starting point as the logo which has represented the university for over a century, the team working on the project aimed to create a modern and instantly recognisable identity for this disparate collection of higher education institutions from across the state. They recognised that, at a time of spending cuts and belt-tightening, it would not be appropriate to launch a traditional branding exercise. Instead, they have attempted to cut through the current image of the university with one new logo, supported by a range of low-cost marketing tools. The rebrand has ensured that discussion around the University of California has increased, and that residents of the state who had hitherto taken the institution for granted are being exposed to its values, its purpose, and its relevance to 21st century California.

In the era of digital communication and viral media, it should be easier than ever for non profit organisations to leverage their existing non-financial resources when looking at branding. There is no need to spend vast amounts of money on marketing if existing staff, students and other stakeholders are consulted about what makes the university attractive to them. Finding out the reasons for existing stakeholders having chosen the institution makes it possible to build on already existing strengths within the brand, whilst building loyalty to the institution and a sense of involvement within its academic and alumni community. It may also be advisable to ask students and staff from other institutions about the existing brand of the university, to better recognise its weaknesses.

Consulting existing stakeholders is only the beginning of leveraging an institution’s existing strengths. In an era of innovative and virtually free online communication techniques, which are often spread through social media and viral marketing, a university’s staff, students and alumni can be significantly involved in promulgating the brand message on which they have been meaningfully consulted. If a rebranding exercise forms a coherent part of a comprehensive strategy which is understood by all stakeholders, a non profit organisation can leverage the kind of support which, in previous decades, would have cost large amounts of money to purchase from professionals.

Existing marketing strengths can include the location of the institution, which often plays a role in the branding of universities (see Chapelo, 2010). It has been found that certain cities, such as Manchester, are broadly considered to be desirable from a lifestyle perspective, whilst others, such as London, offer a cosmopolitan and international experience. The branding efforts of higher education institutions within those locations tend to work in synergy with the existing brands of the city, gaining strength and influence without any additional injection of money (see Walvis, 2003). The local and regional political institutions of such cities have access to significantly greater resources than most universities, and working with the grain of their marketing strategy makes a great deal of sense.

It is also open to academic institutions to reverse the pattern of the marketing ‘arms race’ which was identified above, and instead to work together to strengthen the brands of their particular academic specialisms. This can be done either through the centrally directed efforts of the institutions themselves, or at the initiative of particular academic departments and their natural inclination to work together on specific projects. Rather than promoting one institution over another, universities can advertise the prospect of cooperation and synergy with other institutions as a positive good. No university is an island unto itself, and the marketing efforts of such organisations should recognise this. Weaknesses in a brand can be offset through cooperation with other organisations.

It should now be evident that a branding approach which involves significant investment of financial resource is only one kind of marketing strategy which can be utilised by higher education institutions. Particularly in the current economic climate, it is almost certainly not the best approach for universities to be taking. Instead, such organisations should be seeking to leverage existing positive factors, both in terms of the creativity of their stakeholders, and the existing brand strengths of both their location and their academic specialisms.

References

Chapleo, C. (2010). What defines “successful” university brands?. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 23(2), 169-183.

Sargeant, A. (2009). Marketing management for nonprofit organizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Incoming search terms:

  • institution rebranding exercise
  • atraction image
  • Ri Qi

The 5 Big Reasons Why Tweets Fail to Go Viral

A harsh reality of the Twitterverse is that at any given time, 70 to 75 percent of tweets fall on deaf ears, or as the case may be, on blind eyes. In the never-ending onslaught of messages that is Twitter, you have to stand above the crowd to get noticed.

There are five major reasons that most Twitter users can’t seem to make a tweet go viral. Learn about them, and better yet, learn to avoid them.

1. No Call to Action

Like a good landing page, your tweet should contain a call to action. Something as simple as “RT”—meaning “retweet this”—is preferable to nothing at all.

There are two elements to the call-to-action concept with regards to retweets: the implied call to action, and the explicit. Your explicit call to action, “RT” in the example above, should be short and to the point. Your implied call to action is the value of the tweet itself. A well-written tweet should sell itself to users, urging them to send the tweet along to their friends.

A tweet containing little more than a link has no chance of going viral. You should strive to make your tweet as unique, compelling, and valuable as possible. While this may be obvious, it is all too easy to forget once you find yourself working with only 140 characters.

Keep in mind that Twitter users are constantly bombarded with tweets, and indeed, retweet requests. Stay ahead of the game by demonstrating to your followers why they should retweet your message. Don’t rely on the explicit call to action.

2. Low Quality Link

A power Twitter user, the type that has the kind of following that you can’t wait to tap into, has no interest in sharing a low quality, spammy, or otherwise irrelevant link with their followers. One of the main laws of Twitter marketing is that you should never link directly to a landing page—not if you want others to spread your tweet around for you. Instead, link to well-written, thought-provoking, and valuable content. The page that you link to can contain a link to your landing page, but be careful not to draw unnecessary attention to it.

These are things that big Twitter users do take the time to look at before deciding whether to do you the favor of a retweet or not. Keep this one question in mind when writing your tweet and deciding what to link to: “How will this benefit my followers?” Then, demonstrate to the big Twitter user that you have their concerns and interests in mind.

3. The Wrong Time of Day

A tweet is a very short-lived entity. Unlike Facebook posts, tweets exist in the moment. If your tweet doesn’t get picked up, that’s it. One of the most important things you can do to help your tweet go viral is to identify your target demographic, and then determine when the largest number of those people will be online. For most niches, this means avoiding posting your best tweets in the middle of the night or late in the evening.

Tweet primetime seems to be from around 9 am to 3 pm Eastern Standard Time. Getting them out earlier in the day also gives them plenty of time to be retweeted before tweet volume winds down in the afternoon. If you find yourself in the evening needing to get a tweet out, you may be better off waiting for morning. It is always a mistake to tweet the same messages to your followers multiple times.

4. No Hash Tag

A hash tag is composed of the “#” sign followed by a word or phrase that represents your tweet, it can be your brand for instance. Before you use a hash tag, you should visit hashtags.org or a similar site and see if anyone else is using the tag that you want to use.

Sites like hashtags.org group tweets by hashtag, creating a saerchable database of related tweets. By creating a body of useful tweets on a single subject with a hashtag, you can instill confidence in your followers. A tweet containing such a hashtag is valuable for both you and the people you hope will retweet for you, and hence has a much greater chance of actually being retweeted.

5. The Tweet is Difficult to Understand

Finally, while Twitter is much more laid back on the surface than other networking sites such as LinkedIn, don’t make the mistake of being overly carefree when it comes to spelling and grammar. Your followers and prospective retweeters will judge you based on both.

Your grammar combined with the elements above all come together to form a conclusion about you and your message in the space of just a few seconds. Try to keep any message that you want retweeted at 110 to 120 characters or less. This way, the person retweeting your message may have the chance to add a few words or a hash tag of their own, or an @Reply.

Always keep in mind that a retweet is usually a “you scratch your back, I’ll scratch yours” proposition. Give your followers incentive to retweet your messages, and they will. Ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?”

Top Tips to a More Successful Blog

The success of your blog is determined by the number of visits that it receives from your target audience. Your content needs to appeal to their interests, and they should know where to find you in the first place. Without your readers, you will end up wasting the information that you are posting. Being at the top takes a lot of hard work and creativity, and you should know how to maximise the tools that are available at your disposal.

Here are some tips on how to attract more readers and increase your website traffic:

1. Know Your Audience

You must have a comprehensive understanding of your target audience. Learn about the things that they desire and the type of information that they want to know about. Using surveys is a good way of gathering information about your target market. You can create an online questionnaire and ask for feedback. You can also consolidate comments from previous customers and readers and assess the types of posts that they are more inclined to comment on. Knowing what your readers want will make it so much easier for you to decide what kind of content should be posted on your site.

2. Use Social Media Tools

You need to utilise social media tools to reach a wider audience no matter how good your content may be. Having great content does not automatically gain you a wide readership or audience. Fans need to be able to share your content with their own followers and subscribers using social media plug-ins and share buttons. Most of the major social media tools including Twitter, Facebook and Google+ provide options for sharing.  All you need to do is to make these buttons available and visible on your web page.

3. Capitalise on Hot Topics

Once you have identified the general topics that interest your readers the most, you need to create multiple content revolving around these hot topics. Find different angles or points of discussion that pertain to the same basic concept or idea. If your audience is interested in planting corn, for example, then you can write different articles on how to plant corn, the challenges faced by corn farmers, the biggest misconceptions about corn farming, suggestions on how to maximise corn harvest, and earning from corn farming. The key is writing multiple articles on the same topic without being repetitive.

4. Harness the Power of Emails

It is a known fact that most readers who visit your site will no longer come back for a second glance. There is a big possibility of them losing the original link that they clicked on or simply forgetting about the name of your website. It will be your responsibility to attract these readers to be returning customers. Having them sign up or subscribe to your page using their email address is a great way of encouraging them to come back to your site.  Once they sign up, you will be able to email them links to your latest blog posts on a regular basis.

5. Guest Blogging

Take a look at the most popular blogs in your industry and you will notice that there are multiple writers providing content. There are a lot of advantages to having guest bloggers write for your website. First, it provides variety and fresh ideas for your site. You will also have other people promoting your website as they promote the content that they provide to you. You will also forge strong alliances and friendships with other bloggers and authors in the industry. Lastly, you do not have to provide articles and content all by yourself.

Applying these tips to your blog will improve the chances of increasing and maintaining a healthy traffic of loyal readers. Building your presence online using social media tools and tactics is a great way of boosting your business and gaining more customers.