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Liz Gross's Top Picks for the 2018 eduWeb Digital Summit

The 2017 eduWeb Digital Summit was pretty epic (looking back on my tweets is making me nostalgic), but I’m salivating over the 2018 schedule. I have a pretty serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out), since I’ll be on the other side of the country during the event—but two senior Sonarians (Ashley Tanner, Strategist and Amber Sandall, Research Manager) will be representing us in sunny San Diego.

eduWeb Digital Summit LogoIn addition to workshops, keynotes, and master classes, the eduWeb Digital Summit is organized into five tracks: Content and Email Marketing, Web Tools and Hacks, Social Media, Using Data and Analytics, Web/Mobile Design and Strategy. You don’t need to stay in the same track for every session, so I chose my two favorites in each track. Warning: this post is long. There is just so much amazing content this year, and even narrowing it down to 13 I left a lot of great content on the cutting room floor—kudos to Joel Renner and Chris Barrows, eduWeb Digital Summit Co-Chairs, for putting together a fantastic lineup.

Campus Sonar blog image for Liz Gross's Top Picks from the 2018 eduWeb Digital SummitGeneral Sessions

These caught my eye based on the presenters alone—key higher ed thought leaders.

Workshop: Crisis Communication with Benson Hendrix

Benson Hendrix is the Social Media Manager at the University of New Mexico. I attended his 2017 session, When Good Tweets Go Bad, Social Media in the Crisis Age and tweeted like crazy. There were so many gems in his talk! He had a fresh, humorous perspective, and a framework that made his work repeatable at other institutions. I’m excited to see his session turned into a workshop. Check it out.

Keynote: Amma Marfo

Amma Marfo combines her years of experience working with students on campus (Emmanuel College, Florida State University, University of South Florida) and an obsession with creativity, humor, leadership, and a freaky understanding of introversion to create an independent higher education career. Amma is a prolific writer, speaker, stand-up comic (yup, that’s right), and all-around amazing person. Get a taste for her work in her blog, The Dedicated Amateur (I recommend 8 Myths about Introverts), or The Imposters, the podcast she co-hosts about creating things. I don’t even know what Amma’s keynote is about, but I know it’s going to be fan-fricking-tastic.

Master Class: The Road to Inbound: Generating Sustainable Prospective Lead Flows and Increasing Student Quality Through Content with Stephen App

When someone asks me about inbound marketing and higher education, I immediately say, “Hey, do you know Stephen App?” When our staff needed to figure out if HubSpot was a good fit for us, I had them call Stephen. He’s an Account Director at eCity Interactive, where he combines his crazy-smart inbound knowledge with his former experience at Temple University (he worked in communications and content in the law school for eight years). I have to assume that the incredibly long title of this master class is probably some kind of inbound SEO voodoo. But honestly, if you want to learn how to reach the best-fit students—the ones who are already looking for the programs and services your campus offers—with well-designed content, Stephen can teach you. And then he can probably recommend a good local beer after class to wind down.

Content and Email Marketing

This was the track I presented in last year! If you check out the slides for Using Social Listening to Uncover Content & Storytelling Opportunities, you might be able to tell that I was sort of secretly working on Campus Sonar back then. Here are my top two picks from this track.

Think Inside the Sphere: How to Create Effective 360° Content

Dominique Benjamin, Digital & Social Media Coordinator in the admissions office at Texas A&M University, is presenting a hot take on a form of content I don’t think we hear enough about. It’s especially valuable on mobile devices—which 1 in 3 students use as their primary device for researching college (source). Whether it’s a 360° image on Facebook, a 360 tour on your website or mobile app, or a virtual or augmented reality experience created with Google cardboard, your campus is a prime candidate for this immersive content tactic. Past research told us admitted students visited campus Facebook pages to see what it’s really like on campus. Even if Facebook falls out of favor with young people, their parents (major decision influencers!) are checking out your Facebook page—what better way to help them explore the look and feel of key campus places?

Making Email Better

I don’t care how boring you might think it is—email is important. And a lot of it is really bad. Natalie Ipson, Media Relations Manager at Brigham Young University, will share tips and tricks to help you improve your emails. Think about it: who don’t you email? This session applies if you communicate with internal audiences, prospective students, families, the media, alumni, donors, sports fans…and even just your fellow #highered colleagues.

Web Tools and Hacks

Don’t read the title of this track too fast. It’s about web tools and ALSO about general hacks. In this track you’ll find web redesign war stories, of course, but you’ll also find sessions about Instagram stories, video, and online learners. Here are my top two.

All the Cool Kids Are Doing It: Instagram Story Inspiration from Top Influencers

I believe that higher education doesn’t spend enough time looking outside our industry. At the same time, we complain how behind we are in certain areas and how we’re slow to adopt new technologies. It sounds like this session might help you jump the curve in a medium that is HOT with teens and young adults (Instagram stories) by looking at the content created by the people who actually influence young people (pro tip: that’s generally not colleges, yet). Lindsey Marcus, Web Content Coordinator at Oklahoma City University, has experience in book publishing, freelance writing, and social media for retail in addition to the work she’s been doing for the last 2.5 years on campus. I suspect she’ll bring an interesting outsider perspective attendees need to hear.

Take Back Your Day with Google Analytics Automation Hacks

You probably don’t use Google Analytics enough. I know I don’t. Campus pros often complain they don’t have enough time to focus on analytics. Well, take this opportunity to learn from Andrew Garberson, Director of Marketing Strategy at LunaMetrics. It sounds like it’s kind of his job.

Social Media

This track is LOADED. Seriously. This post is already too long for me to gush about all the goodness in this track, so I’m only going into detail about two. The two I chose are so good, that they’re also on the docket for HighEdWeb in October. If you’re only going to be at one of those conferences this year, be sure to check them out.

 But, I also think you should have someone from your team attend these presentations.

  • The Power of the Pack by Nicholas Love at NC State (check out my Campus Sonar Live interview with Nick)
  • Help Me, Help You—Building a University Brand Ambassador Program #TheStateWay by Terry Coniglio at Georgia State
  • When the Unthinkable Happens: Preparing for and Communicating Through an On-Campus Crisis by Allison Matherly at Texas Tech

Using an Instagram Story to Help Sexual Assault Victims: Don’t Shy Away From Tough Topics on Social

In February, I was sitting on my couch watching TV and my phone buzzed. It was a DM from Jon McBride, Media Relations and Social Media Manager at Brigham Young University, and it said something like, “Hey you should check out our Instagram story today.” I was absolutely amazed, and I’m stoked that Jon is going to share what happened behind-the-scenes to make the story such a hot topic. Not only was the creative amazing, but they had trained counselors and victim advocates on hand to respond to the dozens of DMs the campus account received in response to the story (it’s pinned to the top of the @brighamyounguniversity Instagram account, labeled “Resources” if you want to check it out).

A Tale of Strategy, Discovery, and Triumph

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Erin Supinka, Assistant Director of Digital Engagement at Dartmouth College is going to tell you how she built Dartmouth’s social media program to support institutional goals with a clear and measurable framework. THIS IS MUSIC TO MY EARS, PEOPLE! Erin and I have been sharing our triumphs and tragedies with each other for years, so I know she’s the real deal.

Using Data and Analytics

The title of every session in this track is just so… nerdy! But don’t think this track is just for nerds. Data should inform most of the decisions you’re making in your work, and if you don’t have a dedicated analyst it’s your responsibility to know this stuff.

Three Chords and You’re A Rock Star: Mastering the Analytics Essentials

This session is brought to you by the analytics dream team of Joshua Dodson, Director of Research and Integrated Marketing at VisionPoint Marketing (formerly Director of Digital Marketing at Bentley and AVP of Digital Marketing at SNHU) and Alan Etkin, Senior Analyst at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. I know Josh and Alan from my time as a student, instructor, and conference presenter at Higher Ed Experts, and I’ve learned a lot from them over the years. These guys know their stuff and are used to working with beginners as well as experts. Bring your questions, pick their brain over coffee or a beer, and just be thankful you get the chance to learn from them.

Understanding the Student Journey: Using Website Data to Understand Your Prospects and ROI

In February 2017 I saw Melissa Rekos, Executive Vice President for Digital Services at Carnegie Dartlet, present about list-based marketing over multiple channels. I didn’t know her yet, but I could clearly see she knew her stuff. 

At eduWeb, she’s teaming up with Matt Hutaff, Director of Digital Communications at the University of La Verne. I suspect they’ll be sharing some of the ninja digital tracking they’re helping their clients execute. Want to know how to tell what an individual student’s experience has been on your website? How about how you can group web activity based on the part of the funnel your prospects are in? Are you desperate to calculate the ROI of a digital or social ad campaign in real, actual dollars? I have a feeling you’ll be closer to answering those questions after attending this session.

Web/Mobile Design and Strategy

Remember when web conferences were just about websites? Now “digital” means so much more. But there’s still a track dedicated to website and mobile design and strategic approaches. Here are my top two picks.

Let Your Audience Do the Work: Capitalizing on User-Generated Content

Your campus experience is photogenic, even if your facilities are not. Just browse through your location-tagged photos on Instagram, and you’ll see what I mean. When you’re sitting on a treasure-trove of user-generated content, there’s no excuse—NO EXCUSE—to go with a “girls under trees” photo on your university homepage. Purdue’s website and social accounts are gorgeous and authentic, in part because of the focus on content from the campus community. Hear from Purdue’s Garrett Bingaman, Senior Multimedia/UX Designer and Ryan Farrell, Digital Marketing Specialist, as they hopefully share some of their secret sauce. Also, this is the point in the blog post where I throw in the obligatory UWSP alumni selfie.

Living in the Moment: Developing a Marketing Strategy for Mobile’s Micro-Moments

Is your digital presence designed to capture attention in the 3-5 seconds someone might stumble across it on mobile? Whether looking for directions, asking Siri a quick question, or taking some time on the train to research a college visit, campuses have the opportunity to seize these micro-moments, which almost always occur on a mobile device. Gene Begin, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Wheaton College, and Vanessa Theoharis, Director of Digital Marketing at OHO Interactive, are sure to get your mental wheels spinning as they dive into this topic.

It’s Not Just About Sessions

I hope you have the chance to check out some of these sessions. Or, if you’re not at the conference, reach out to one of the presenters and see if they’ll share slides or a quick phone chat. But don’t forget that much of the value of an in-person conference comes from networking and relationship building. Writing this post was like a trip down memory lane for me, as I’ve met many of the presenters I highlighted at other events. Some of them are now my close friends. This is why the higher education community, and the conferences we all flock to, is so valuable. There will be hundreds of amazing humans at this event, and I hope you have a chance to connect with at least five that become friends or trusted colleagues. Even if you can’t make it to San Diego, you can follow the #eduweb18 hashtag from home and connect with people virtually.

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The post Liz Gross's Top Picks for the 2018 eduWeb Digital Summit originally appeared in the Campus Sonar Brain Waves blog.

Liz Gross

Liz Gross is the founder and CEO of Campus Sonar. A recognized expert, data-driven marketer, and higher education researcher, Liz specializes in creating entrepreneurial social media strategies in higher education. She is an award-winning speaker, author, and strategist who was named a 2018 Mover and Shaker by Social Shake-Up Show and a finalist on GreenBook’s 2019 GRIT Future List. Liz has more than 15 years’ experience in higher ed and strategic social listening programs. She received a Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education at Cardinal Stritch University, a master’s degree in educational policy and leadership from Marquette University, and a bachelor’s degree in interpersonal communication from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

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