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As we start the New Year, here are my viewpoints on current marketing trends that impact marketers in the education and special needs sectors.

.com site:

Your best investment for long term is your own .com site because it will outlast other ever-changing platforms/networks. At the foundation of any digital strategy is strong SEO execution. Focus on your own site and make it the first pillar of your digital strategy. Continue to expand and expose more information about the knowledge base in your company, your co-workers.

Mobile:

The desktop is declining as the primary platform to reach consumers with digital communications. People are accessing most of their information on mobile and tablet devices (especially in younger demographics). Your digital efforts/designs need to be evaluated first on a mobile and tablet platform to ensure maximum impact.

Customer service:

This area has long been ignored by marketing and communications departments.  But now the Internet has given individuals strong power to launch effective bashing campaigns to shed light on poor customer service.  At some point these campaigns carry over and affect a company’s reputation (Comcast, Dell and United are good examples). I would urge a strong review by education marketers of the response process and communications provided by the customer service group to make sure nothing is missed and PR/Comms is kept apprised of trending topics and stats. Failure to respond to even a single customer complaint can have a significant business impact.

Open Networks:

New York City venture capitalist Fred Wilson (one of Twitter’s early investors) has long been writing about the threat to current social networks (Facebook, Twitter and others) of a fully open network and methods of communicating that don’t involve proprietary sites.  And where users have full control over their data.

“We think it is possible that an open data platform, in which users ultimately control their data and the networks they choose to participate in, could be the thing that undoes this pattern of winner takes most.”  Wilson recently wrote in his blog avc.com.

My view is you need to keep these concepts of totally open networks and personal ownership of data in the back of your mind as strategy is put together.

Open Science:

This catch phrase is used a lot…but no one has really thought out the full implications of what would happen if all research was open and free of intellectual property (IP) claims.  Higher education institutions where some of this research is preformed are about to undergo a major disruption because of cost structures collapsing from high student debt – giving more fuel to the open science movement. How many young inventors will come out of high school programs unconstrained by previous industrial age mindsets and totally open with their ideas? Given how digital innovation has upended other industries where IP was viewed as sacred and not threatened, this could be a long term business risk.

SEO:

SEO is the critical foundational block of any successful digital strategy. It has always been a best practice to make sure any digital project has accounted for SEO implications. Continue to use external SEO resources to keep current with search engine changes and set high standards for SEO performance.

Disruption by millennials/parent groups:

The power of the crowd manifested through the use of social networks has resulted in major shifts to institutions and governments. The recent ouster of the University of Missouri college president shows what happens when a group of highly motivated millennials use social networks to organize and execute a disruptive strategy. Parents in K-12 schools have been very effective in protesting Common Core testing via specific Facebook groups.

Going forward a company’s challenge is to make sure rapid and appropriate responses can be made when under siege from a well-organized grass roots effort.

Photo and Video usage:

The explosion of photos and videos being shared has really taken off over the last 4 years.  It could be debated of which of greater value—the image or the hash-tag. My vote is for strong visual images.  Adopt guidelines where images that are used are not overtly “stock/advertising slick images” but ones that convey a story or emotion. A primary concern is how the images display on a mobile device. Video assets have significant SEO value, and ensuring they are widely distributed is critical.

Collaborative economy:

Uber and Airbnb have demonstrated how powerful the collaborative economy can become by creating applications that enable direct commerce between users. Neither company owns any physical assets outside of their code base. It is hard to predict how the collaborative economy will impact education companies—but where there are great efficiencies major disruption to established process and business behaviors are often the result.

Follow the work of Jeremiah Owyang at: http://crowdcompanies.com/ for additional insights and current trends in this area.

Our focus next year:

The #1 resolution is to draw on our 20+ years of experience to provide our clients more visibility in the education market.

Wishing you success in 2016.

And one last thing…

What areas of your digital work are a priority for you next year?