New media, new strategies?

Here’s an article I have just written for an online newsletter produced by Stamp Consulting…

(Aside: I’ve known Rosemary Stamp for many moons. We both used to work for universities beginning with W, and therefore were neighbours at lots of careers fairs. Oh, the chats we had…)

DJ John Peel once said that everyone should have their own personal radio station. In a way this has happened – the web-enabled population can transmit words, pictures, sound and video easily and quickly. New virtual spaces exist where people can form relationships, build communities, be entertained – including the whole bundle of new forms tagged as Web 2.0.

All of this is interesting to talk about – but is it actually important? Are we talking about the equivalent of CB Radio or the advent of television? I would argue that Web 2.0 needs serious strategic consideration because of its impact on three areas:

Reputation

Word of mouth is enriched and amplified by the new online channels. Thoughts and opinions about a university are shared with a circle of contacts and made available for anyone to find on the web. Staff can enhance their profile by blogging. Aspects of university life are discussed on forums, given star ratings… Deciding how to influence this involves some strategic decisions, e.g.: Try to monitor the blogosphere? Encourage ambassadorship into the social networks? Create your own networks alongside the popular ones that students are already using?

Media mix

Scarcely a day goes by without an article appearing indicating the share of time given to Internet use in contrast with ‘traditional’ media. If this is where people are then logically this is where marketing messages will find them. This has implications for the media mix, requiring us to rebalance resources not just between newer and older media, but also between university-created web pages and the facilitation of user-created content. And be prepared to revise this assessment frequently.

Community

Building relationships is a key aspect of marketing, and Web 2.0 offers a new toolbox for this. Our Hi site is one example – using blogs and forums to encourage potential students to talk to existing students, staff and each other. This approach involves strategic consideration of risk among other things.

Added to this is the need to plan how to meet and exceed the expectations of our audiences. Delivering information through the users’ channel of choice, real-time responses and a rich and engaging online experience for every market segment – all of these and more are easy to say, but have profound implications for resources, budgets, staff development and working practices.

Those are some issues. We can continue the discussion on my blog [ie here!] – where else?