What Students Say: Mobile Strategy

In higher ed digital communications, mobile usage is a very hot topic. We know an overwhelming number of young Americans rely on their smartphones and tablets for web browsing. Last year, 97% of students have visited a university or college’s website on a mobile device, according to 2014 Social Admissions Report by Chegg, Zinch, and Uversity. And yet, many schools aren’t making the grade.

According to the survey, two-thirds of students said their experience with schools’ mobile sites was “challenging” or “just ok”. They are demanding mobile sites that are easy to navigate and contain the most useful information. So how can higher education institutions improve? We have a few ideas:

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Grading Higher Ed Mobile Efforts

Since our client, the College of Saint Rose launched its mobile site (check it out from your smartphone or on our responsive site tester — it looks fantastic!), we’ve been analyzing how other schools are adapting to mobile technology.  The results, as far as we’ve seen, are mixed. Some universities have sharp, well-conceived mobile sites. They offer the most important information (Admissions, Academics, News, Financial Info, Visiting Info) with a clean, uncluttered design. We love this!

These schools understand that mobile products are essential for higher ed recruiting. Young people are spending more time on mobile devices and mobile browsing. In 2013, 68% of prospective students say they have looked at a college web site on a mobile device, according to a study from higher education consulting firm Noel-Levitz.  To reach prospective students, your school needs to be in the right technological spots.

Unfortunately, many higher ed institutions are lagging behind. They’re relying on their desktop sites to work across platforms. A survey of 200 private and public schools in New Jersey and Pennsylvania showed 70% lacked any mobile products and 50% were seen as have deficient mobile products, either because of inferior technology, poor content or both, according to The Princeton Partners. Those are incredibly disappointing results.

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Follow the Teens

With all the headlines about Facebook, sometimes other social media networks get pushed out of the conversation. A quick look in our inbox reminded @Sanmita why that shouldn’t be. For anyone trying to reach young Americans (that means you, higher education), YouTube deserves your attention.  That’s because teens are spending more time on YouTube than any other social media platform.

In November 2013, 74% of social media users 14 to 18 years old said they used YouTube frequently, compared to 60% for Facebook, according to new data from The Intelligence Group and Emarketer. Those young users are the very prospective students that universities and colleges are trying to reach with their social media marketing.

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Sanmita Welcomes Wheaton College

Sanmita is pleased to welcome Wheaton College as our newest client. The college, located in Norton, Mass., joins Sanmita’s growing roster of higher education clients. Through our new partnership, Sanmita will collaborate with Wheaton’s IT and web teams to evaluate their current systems and processes, and recommend strategies to build a more robust and scalable web platform.

Sanmita will also assist Wheaton with its mobile strategy, including developing mobile apps and responsive websites.

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The College of Saint Rose Mobile Site Goes Live

The College of Saint Rose is sporting a new look these days — at least on handheld devices. On February 16, the college’s mobile site went live, transforming its website into a responsive design that adapts to any screen size.  Sanmita and College of Saint Rose collaborated on the site’s features, and Sanmita developed the responsive design and mobile site. The end result is a functional, streamlined and attractive mobile experience.Picture 3

What’s particularly exciting for us is that the College of Saint Rose’s mobile site uses Sanmita’s Smart Filter plugin. Our plugin can virtually take any website and convert it to a responsive site.  Our Smart Filter plugin works with any content management system (CMS) and can make a website responsive in about one-third the time that it would take to create an entirely new mobile website.  If a client desires, Sanmita can implement the tool and also provide plugin hosting.

Sanmita has already helped major universities like Tulane University, Texas Wesleyan University, and the University of North Texas, Dallas with their mobile web strategies. Want to see how your school’s site would look on a smartphone, tablet and desktop computer? Try our complimentary responsive design testing tool.

For the College of Saint Rose project, Sanmita worked with the school’s existing website and CMS. Although we were unfamiliar with the school’s CMS, we successfully navigated the system with help from the college’s web team to build the new site. Our vast experience with higher education websites means we are up for challenges like this one.

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Student Feedback On Social Media

We all know social media is a fantastic way to connect with prospective students. Young adults are heavy consumers of technology and avid social media users. But how they’re using social media — and where they’re spending their time — changes all the time.

Now there is some fresh data to help guide your strategy. Social media is critical in college searches, with 68% of prospective students saying they social media is influential in their college research, according to the 2014 Social Admissions Report by Chegg, Zinch, and Uversity.

Seventy-three percent of students surveyed say colleges and universities should have a social media presence, but many felt the content available is not relevant.

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Alerts in the Digital Age

Remember the days when a snowstorm was raging in your town and you’d have to wait for news on the radio to hear if your school or work was closed? Social media and mobile devices have radically changed all that. We’re in the middle of (yet) another snowstorm in Ithaca, NY and, early this morning, I received word of our local school closing from 5 sources (text alert, Twitter update, Facebook status, email and a phone call).

Ithaca-area colleges, including Ithaca College, Cornell University and Tompkins Cortland Community College, also used Twitter and Facebook to keep their communities updated. (Oddly, Cornell’s dedicated weather Twitter account @Cornell_Weather was silent on news of the storm or Cornell’s delayed opening.)

Moments like this are another reminder of how technology is revolutionizing alert systems. It is also a good time to revisit your alert policies for weather or security notifications. Here are a few suggestions:

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Key in 2014: Ramp Up Social Media Marketing

Attention marketers: Social media marketing should top your to-do list for 2014. Mobile usage is exploding and social media commands a large share of time on mobile devices. That means fresh opportunities to develop social media strategies and expand your reach.

Just how rapidly is mobile use growing?  In the U.S., adults will spend an estimated 1:03 per day on tablets in 2014, up from 40 minutes per day in 2013 and just 20 minutes per day in 2012. Smartphone usage jumped dramatically too, to an estimated 1:07 per day in 2014 from 43 minutes per day in 2013 and 22 minutes per day in 2012, according to eMarketer.com.

Meanwhile, online computer time is tapering off, down to 2:19 per day in 2014 from 2:27 per day in 2013 and 2:33 in 2012.

Social media is the top activity on these mobile devices. In 2014, social media will command 28.4% of smart phone usage and 19% of tablet usage.

To increase social media marketing, think of fresh ways to engage your users.

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Now Available: Our Responsive Design Tool

Just how ubiquitous are mobile devices?  Take a look around on the bus, a plane or a restaurant, and you’ll see most people using a device. Smart phones and tablets users are untethered and free to browse, shop and share from anywhere. For marketers, this creates opportunities to reach potential clients no matter where they are.

But, when mobile users go to your website, what do they see? Does your website look like a shrunken version of its desktop iteration, with tiny print, crammed navigation and miniscule photos? Or does it adjust, preserving key information and images at a usable size?  If it is responsive to any device, you’re in a great position.

A responsive website automatically adjusts to any screen size and any device. This creates a positive user experience and helps your institution or business improve reach.

Want to check if a website is responsive? Sanmita can help. We’re so committed to responsive design, we’ve developed a complimentary tool to check if any website is responsive. With our tool, you can see how a site looks on a tablet, smartphone and desktop.

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Beyond Facebook: Fresh Plays on Social Media

As our higher ed friends hunker down for finals, we’re looking ahead to 2014. One hot topic: What’s next for higher ed in social media. By now, most schools are firmly established on Facebook and Twitter. So we’re thinking of some of the up-and-coming networks.

Colleges and universities are always looking for fresh digital marketing ideas and social media offers opportunities to connect in fresh, unusual ways. For 2014, consider ramping up your school’s presence on fast-growing Instragram and Pinterest.

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