15 11, 2017

These Digital Marketing Tips Can Jump-Start your School’s Enrollment

By | 2017-11-08T13:43:37+00:00 November 15th, 2017|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education|Tags: , , , |

In a recent survey, 51% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 said they could not imagine living without a smartphone. In a separate survey, 78% or high school students said that websites influence their perception of a school. This accentuates the changing landscape and hints toward the future of marketing in the Higher Ed space.

With an increasingly competitive environment, schools are becoming more and more creative when attempting to lure prospective students. We not only need to use our digital marketing budgets carefully, we need to use them creatively, too.

I’d like to share with you just a few ways in which colleges are leveraging digital marketing and social media to successfully jump-start their school’s enrollment.

3 Proven Ways to Boost Enrollment

Social Media can be a great tool for brand awareness and enhancement. That’s just the half of it. Social media can improve retention throughout the admissions funnel as well as to curb “summer melt” (accepted students who never enroll).

Through Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, prospective students can stay on top of the application process. You can inform them of important deadlines and answer application questions. Since the vast majority of students use these platforms on a daily basis, social media can make a real difference in improving student yield.

Blogs are a great way to get the word out on deadlines, too. More than that, it’s a place to share information with all your target audiences including faculty, alumni, athletic boosters and the surrounding community. The reason a blog is desirable in addition to social media is that your content lives here. It is indexed by Google and matures, improving your position in organic search rankings.

It’s important to be constantly adding new content. Make use of this content on your social media channels as well so as to get the most from any new content you create.

The National Student Clearinghouse. This one is more of an overall tip but has digital marketing implications. Purdue University’s Office of Enrollment Management took a closer look at students who chose to attend elsewhere. Through information made available at the National Student Clearinghouse, the enrollment management team was able to identify where these students eventually enrolled. This enabled them to better understand who their competitors are.

Some students are predisposed to attend college in state. There are various reasons for this. However, by examining the behavior of students who have the means to attend anywhere, a school can hone in on its primary competition.

Break down your data, perhaps by state or region. What patterns emerge? The good folks at Purdue were able to determine that students on the East coast were more likely to attend out of state institutions. This was just one of many insights gained through PU’s research.

It’s Our Niche

Beacon has been recognized as one of the top Higher Ed web design and digital marketing firms in the country. If you’d like the kind of insight into student behavior that 20 years of Higher Ed website design provides, we’re here to help. Feel free to contact me with questions regarding your institution’s admissions goals or call a member of the Beacon digital marketing team at 1.855.851.0109.



22 12, 2016

jQuery Social Stream Plugin

By | 2017-06-16T12:42:22+00:00 December 22nd, 2016|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , , , , , |

Adding Social Streaming to your site is a great way to get more traffic and provide engaging social feed updates directly to your users in one area.

If you would like to add social stream to your site, jQuery Social Stream is a great and cost efficient plugin. This is designed with a developer in mind, so if you’re considering installing a hands-free social streaming add-on there are other options, such as Juicer.

jQuery Social Stream has the top rated Social Networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest and much more integrated. There are also 60 feed options to customize each social network display to your liking.

Since it is self-maintained by the developer building the site, it just requires to provide information about API access or specific social network IDs to retrieve the information needed. This is done securely using PHP for the API integration and then the jQuery scripts are simple parameters to pull in the data from the respective social sites. You’ll want to be sure web server handles PHP for the Facebook and Twitter API PHP files.

Source: jQuery Social Stream

19 11, 2015

How to Craft a Social Media Content Strategy

By | 2016-11-18T12:09:54+00:00 November 19th, 2015|Categories: Social Media|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |


It is true that social media can be beneficial to a business, but it can also cause a migraine at the same time. If not implemented properly it can damage your business’ reputation or become a waste of time. Here are some important steps to keep in mind when developing a social media content strategy. This will help keep your content relevant and work to amplify your postings. Some steps to include are brainstorming, research, and determining which platforms to use.


First, let’s start off with brainstorming potential content ideas. These will help build shareable content. In this stage it is important to think broadly about your industry. It is necessary to think about how you can branch out to reach a wider audience. It is a good idea to not have a narrow view of your business when brainstorming content topics at first. Once you build out a variety of topics and ideas you can always go back and decide what fits your brand image. Try to think of all the components that work together to make up your business. For example, let’s say I own a skateboard shop. I might produce content about skateboard maintenance or the benefits of skateboarding. This tactic will help you build a diverse social media content strategy.

Here is a visual representation of my thought process when brainstorming content:

Content Map



Once you have spent time brainstorming, then it’s time to move on to the next phase, research. We want to learn what types of content are performing well in our industry.

In continuing on with our skateboarding example, let’s say I am done brainstorming. Now I have some topics I want to build out content around. It’s time to dive into some content research so I have a better idea of what performs well. This will vary by industry and whether you’re a B2B or B2C business.

When conducting my research, I use several tools to learn what is performing well. For this, I am going to start with a neat and free tool called Epicbeat, which I think is an appropriate name for a social media tool. Epicbeat will help you discover popular content, influencers, and industry insights.

First, I want to enter in the term I will be researching.

Social Media Content StrategyThen, I am directed to a dashboard that gives a quick view of several key factors. These factors will help me find content to re-share and give me greater insight into what I need to create.

Social Media Research Which Platforms? 

The few things I want to get insight into are which platforms are popular and what types of content perform best. Then, I want to know when I should be posting to my platforms.

Social Media Content ResearchRight away I see that Facebook is the most popular channel followed by Vine and Instagram. I also get some other metrics such as average shares per post and a few other engagement metrics which is great. This tells me the type of engagement I can expect from each social platform. I also want to look for what type of content is most popular within this industry.

Now from my research, I know I should focus on Facebook and maybe Instagram as well. This will help get my social media content strategy off to a great start. After reviewing the engagement metrics, I know where I need to be to have an impact. Keep in mind, it is important to start a social media campaign small and scale up. In most cases, it is better to have one or two social profiles than five that you rarely engage with users on.

Content ResearchEpicBeat is nice enough to give me the distribution by content type for skateboarding. This gives me a better idea of the types of content to either begin producing or re-sharing. Right away I see that ‘how’ articles are trending with Listicles, and Interviews trailing. If I skipped this step and ran giveaways and produced guides, I would have missed a lot of engagement. This is why research is so crucial so you are not fumbling around in the dark.

I’m at a great starting point now I have my topics I want to build content around. I also have a better idea of which social platforms my target audience are active on. Now I have a better understanding of the content types I will begin curating. I even have an idea of what I can re-share to my platforms to further encourage engagement too.

Tools make research easier, but you should still browse followers to gain more insight. Look for what they are sharing and engaging with, and news they consider important. This will help you plan your social media content strategy in an effective manner. As an added bonus, I like to use Klout to spot trending content pieces and re-share them with my followers. Only use this platform once you have taken the time to research your industry and build out topics. This can be a great way to find relevant news about your industry.

Klout Content ResearchKlout shows content to reflect the best trending pieces related to your industry. Klout also includes a search function as well so you can do further research. This allows me to take topics I built out earlier and search for trending articles. Another feature like EpicBeat is the ability to find influencers within your niche. You can even research influencers within your industry and see content they engage with.

Klout Content Research Once inside the platform, there is no need to go back and forth between Hootsuite to schedule a post. You can schedule all your content within the platform as well and save some time. Remember, research is the cornerstone of a successful social media content strategy. Taking the time to brainstorm will lead to unique ideas that may not have developed otherwise.

As a side note, you can have a great social media content strategy but without goals you can get off track. Setting goals that impact your business is important when starting a social media campaign.

By brainstorming, researching, and evaluating platforms, you can start an effective social media campaign.

Happy sharing!

2 08, 2013

The Importance of Social Media. Your Questions, Get Answered!

By | 2020-01-29T15:35:41+00:00 August 2nd, 2013|Categories: Social Media|Tags: |

Is your company using Social Media? If not, this post is for you! Here at Beacon, we encounter many new clients who aren’t on Social Media and really don’t understand the importance of it. Since we hear the same questions over and over, I decided to pair up with Liz aka Beacon’s Social Media Guru and get her response to those questions.

Social Media for Companies

Photo Courtesy via Mastermedia by grki

Client Question 1: Why is Social Media important for my business?

Liz’s Answer – This question could be an entire blog post on its own. There are so many reasons why using social media is truly essential to your business! I’ll keep it simple with my top four reasons you need to be using social media:

  1. SEO. I cannot stress this enough. Social media platforms are treated by Google just like any other webpage. Social activity (such as Google+ posts) will appear in SERPs and will allow you to capture real estate that otherwise would have been forfeited to a competitor. Social signals are sent to Google to help determine what pages are being served up in search results. Social media is giving your business the authority Google looks for when ranking pages. I could go on and on (and on…) about how social media benefits SEO- but we don’t have all day.
  2. Traffic. When executed properly, social media drives qualified traffic to your website. More qualified traffic = more leads = more business! It’s as simple as that.
  3. Brand exposure & marketing. Think of each social media profile as a mini marketing machine. The look and feel of your pages should be consistent with your brand’s image. By using social media you’re getting your name and message out there on a broader scale.
  4. Engagement & relationships. Social media allows you to give your brand a personality and connect with your customers in a different way. It opens up a channel of communication that doesn’t exist in traditional marketing, and allows you to engage in back and forth public discussions with your customers. It also gives you a place to showcase your customer relationship management skills publicly.

Client Question 2: If I decided to add my business to a social media site, how do I know which one to add it too?

Liz’s Answer – A lot of our clients struggle with this decision. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, and so many others, it’s hard to know where you should be. More is not better in this case. Social media can be time consuming, and you don’t want to suck all of your resources dry trying to keep up with 10 different social profiles. Choosing social platforms that are a good fit should start with a look at your business. What type of goods or services do you offer and what is your business model? Look at your customer demographic for answers as well. If you’re a wholesale distributor of tires, you might not find Pinterest or Instagram to be a good fit. If you’re a jewelry company, LinkedIn might not be the best use of your time. Find out what types of users are on the platforms you’re interested in and compare them to your business. My recommendation is always to start off small and grow. It’s better to have two robust social media profiles then 10 dismal ones.

Client Question 3: What should I be posting about on Social Media?

Liz’s Answer – Generally speaking, there are two main categories of posts you should be using: engagement and promotion. Engagement posts are meant to drive conversations with your audience. Ask questions, share photos, tell jokes, relay news, etc. Getting your users engaged with you is the first step. Promotional posts are exactly that- self promotion for your business. Once you have your users engaged and interested in your page, you have the opportunity to advertise in front of them. Do not overdo it! You don’t want to bombard your users with sales pitch after sales pitch. There is no magic number to how many of each you should be posting.  Sharing good consistent content is key to keeping your users engaged.

Client Question 4: How will I know if what I’m doing on Social Media is working?

Liz’s Answer – Like any other marketing initiative, analyzing and optimizing is key for running successful social media campaigns. It’s important to track and measure certain performance indicators across each social platform. Read my blog about 5 basic metrics you should be tracking. Look for trends and places for opportunity. Give your social profiles ample time to grow before you decide whether or not to continue expanding. I usually recommend 6-8 months of regular activity before making a conclusive decision on a specific platform.

Client Question 5: What if people don’t leave comments, how can I get them to leave comments?

Liz’s Answer – Sometimes getting your users engaged can feel like an uphill battle. Don’t become discouraged if you’re not getting responses right away. Test different post types and verbiage to see what strikes with your audience. Adding in a call to action such as “Like if you agree!” or “Re-tweet if you’re shopping our sale” to the end of your post can often boost interaction. Time of day can be a huge factor in engagement as well. Your entire fan base won’t see every post you put out there, so pay attention to when your fans are online and when they are engaging with you. Most social platforms have some degree of analytics built in, where you can measure the engagement rate and total reach of your posts by the hour of the day and the day of the week. Check out this post on increasing social engagement.

Client Question 6: How do we keep people from leaving negative comments and how do we handle it if they do?

Liz’s Answer – Social media promotes a very public and direct dialogue between your business and your prospects or customers. Often times this can result in some negative feedback from an unhappy patron. When responding remember to be quick, be understanding, take the conversation out of public where possible and know when to walk away.

Time is of the essence when responding to an internet complaint. Acknowledge your customer’s problem as quickly as possible even if you do not have an immediate solution. Try to resolve the issue off of your social profile by asking the customer to contact you directly. A simple statement such as “Hi Mr. Unhappy. We’re so sorry you’ve had a negative experience with [name of company.] Our customer service department is looking into the issue. Can you please send us a private message and include the best way to contact you? Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make this right!” Usually this will allow you time to actively resolve the issue. However, there are some people that are just looking to cause trouble. Use the same approach, but if they continue to go on, politely exit the conversation. Here’s an example “We’re sorry you feel you were mislead by one of our sales representatives. Our customers are our number one priority and we assure you this was not the case. We hope you understand and choose to do business with us again. Have a great day Mr. Unhappy!”

Use negative feedback to publicly demonstrate your company’s exceptional customer service. Never try to ignore or delete a bad comment- it could anger your customer and cause them to lash out. Remember, people have a tendency to be a little more audacious online since they are not standing face to face with a company representative. I like to call this “hiding behind their keyboards.”

Client Question 7: How do I get people to like our page?

Liz’s Answer – Spread the word far and wide! The first step is to integrate all your social media profiles with each other. Share your YouTube link on Facebook, and vice versa. You can include links to other social pages on each profile. You also want to get your social badges installed and linked on your website. That way, all your site visitors will be able to quickly connect to you on their preferred social network. Include these badges on your email marketing campaigns and in your email signatures. Get  your social information included on all of your direct mail and printed materials. Use your badges and social URLs on your business cards, your catalogs, your coupon, your fliers etc.

Once you have reached out to all your existing customers, you’ll want to look to start acquiring new fans. Sweepstakes, giveaways and contests are a great way to increase the virality of your page. Don’t worry- they don’t have to cost a lot of money! Small prizes or even simple recognition contests will do the trick!

I hope you found this Q&A useful. If there are any questions Liz and I did not address feel free to leave them in the comments below and we’ll answer them!

Background: Liz has been working in digital marketing for over four years, specializing in creating and executing custom social media campaigns for businesses. To find out more about Liz go here or connect with her on Google+.  

26 07, 2013

Embedding the New YouTube Subscribe Button on Your Website

By | 2016-11-18T12:09:57+00:00 July 26th, 2013|Categories: Social Media|Tags: , , |

This week YouTube released an embeddable subscribe button for your website. This neat little shortcut allows users to subscribe to your YouTube channel in just one click.

Follow along for a quick How-To on adding this button to your website. Visit the YouTube Developers Page to begin creating your button.

1. Choose your button style. Currently you can pick from three designs: default, full layout with avatar, and full layout dark.

YouTube Subscribe Options

2. Configure your button. Enter your Channel Name or ID and select your layout. To find your Channel ID, log in to your YouTube account and use this link.

YouTube Options

3. Snag the code and insert it onto your website. When done correctly you will end up with a slick looking one-click subscribe button like this!


BONUS Option: YouTube also outlines an alternative to using the above method. You can dynamically render your button when a link is clicked. See my example below:

Click here to render my button!

Display button here:

Do you think there’s a benefit to using the subscribe button versus a YouTube badge?

PS: Don’t laugh at my YouTube channel! I haven’t started using it yet. But follow me on G+!

16 07, 2012

Forbes Home Page Redesign

By | 2020-01-29T15:34:04+00:00 July 16th, 2012|Categories: Digital Marketing|Tags: , , |

I enjoyed the following article “Inside Forbes: ‘Aha Moments’ From Our New Home Page” this week and thought I’d share a few thoughts/observations:

  • Social media (“The breadth and depth of our home page changed dramatically with the addition of the Most Popular stack“)– We at Beacon are seeing social media become of vital importance in virtually every software development project we are now starting.  If you aren’t considering social media in every customer touch point, particularly your corporate website, you are missing critical opportunities to engage your customer!  Beacon can help, particularly with our “Social Media Marketing” services.
  • Writer profile information (“Accomplished by including the journalist’s photo under all home page headlines. Then, upon roll over, you get an enhanced “info card” about the writer“)– Very cool!  I’m not exactly sure where I’ll recommend this to my non-media clients, but I’m keeping it in mind for just the right opportunity…  Perhaps a roll-over balloon on a university site whenever a professor is mentioned in an article or news that shows their expertise, contact info, etc?
  • De-clutter the home page (“It invites engagement, not the brain freeze caused by home pages with a sea of 400-500 links“)– AMEN!  Though I recognize the politics of the home page are very delicate, it is so important to engage your visitor to click deeper into the site rather than presenting them with hundreds of links and gobs of text content to choose from on the home page.  The writer says that the comments have been 100% positive on this “clean and simple” approach, and I applaud them for accomplishing it!


What are your thoughts about Forbes new home page?  Please share!

2 05, 2012

Social Media Best Practices

By | 2016-11-18T12:10:07+00:00 May 2nd, 2012|Categories: Social Media|Tags: , , , , , , |

Now that we have been practicing for some time, we are aware of good (and, bad) ways to employ social media. Opinions will vary about the “best of the best”. That is the beauty of the web, it always changes. From a book summary I read on social media, here are some of the best practices according to the author at this point in time. This is not an exhaustive, all inclusive list. The basics are covered and should align with your current techniques for using social media effectively.

There are multiple platforms* available for your content and they should be used relative to the target audience. Having likeable content is a fundamental criteria for success. Get your customer to listen to you and then….

  1. Listen first, and never stop listening – You want to know what customers think. Ask and they will tell you. Next, the most important thing to do is listen. Closing the loop by acting on what your customers tell you will prove that you not only listened, but that you understand and can do something about it.
  2. Define your target audience better than ever – There are many tools that allow you to focus on your true demographics for your product/service(s). Define them and determine what will make them “like” your content.
  3. Think – and act – like your consumer – Remember, it’s about them, not you. Don’t sell them; instead, provide content that is of interest to them. Get them talking about topics of interest and find ways to integrate your wares into their lifestyle.
  4. Invite your customers to be your first fans – Word of mouth (WOM) is key here. The more likes you get, the better your credibility. Be clear about your value proposition and define what is in it for them. Remember, there is no value-add if only your employees are interacting with your content.
  5. Create true dialogue with, and between, your customers – Related to listening and being genuine. Get them talking about you to leverage the WOM effect. When your customers share tips and tricks with others, it proves they are engaged. It also saves you from providing customer support directly. Help guide the discussion by acknowledging comments – and, correct where needed.
  6. Be Authentic – Get connected by demonstrating an interest in your customers. Personalize it by including your name.
  7. Be honest and transparent – You can spot a phony a mile away. Your customers can too.
  8. Integrate social media into the entire customer experience – Another fundamental for success and cannot be stressed enough. Make sure everyone who interacts with your customers has the same message and is aware of promotions and specials. Regardless of how they find you, it should be a consistent message. The last thing you want is a disconnect among channels and mismanaged expectations from your customers. If they are online, they can tell their network about you – the good and the bad.
  9. Don’t sell! Just make it easy and compelling for customers to buy – They already found your content and are engaged. Don’t insult them with a bland sales pitch. State the (relative) value proposition clearly and make it easy to “Add to Cart”.

Having a dialogue with your customers is easy using a social media platform. I would add that you keep in mind how you want to be treated. After all, we all are consumers in the end.

*Platforms range from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, FourSquare, LinkedIn, Google+, Blogs, and specialized networks (e.g. flickr, yelp, etc.)


21 07, 2011

Eduweb Bound!

By | 2020-01-29T15:41:53+00:00 July 21st, 2011|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: , , |

Beacon is gearing up for the fast approaching Eduweb Conference in San Antonio.  It will be Beacon’s first time exhibiting at the conference and we look forward to connecting with many clients, prospects and industry peers.  With hot topics like: mobile, social media and HTML5 on the agenda – I’m looking forward to the conversations that will pour out of the sessions into the exhibit floor, coffee lines, receptions and the other networking events.

Should you be at the conference, be sure to drop by table #5 in the Navaro Foyer and say ‘hello.’  With little time to break off into the sessions myself, it will be great to hear your take on the conference content and the ‘big takeaways.’   Also, please help keep those less fortunate (like the exhibitors, my fellow teammates back at Beacon and the others who couldn’t make it) in the loop via #eduweb on Twitter – we’d really appreciate it!   Have a safe trip and we look forward to seeing you all in the Alamo City!

For those not attending – keep an eye out for Beacon at the upcoming Cascade Server User Conference in late September, upcoming North Carolina Technology Association Events as well as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and of course our blog.

19 07, 2011

We Recommend Topsy

By | 2020-02-05T11:06:36+00:00 July 19th, 2011|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , , |

Founded in 2006, Topsy is a real-time search feature for the social web, and if you aren’t using it already to see what is going on with your business or areas of interest, we strongly recommend that you do.  The company’s format is clean and has a very ‘Google’ feel to it.  They use their own algorithm to sort thru all of the social noise to find the most relevant social links from the top social ranking influencers in the social realm.  Topsy is able to determine/rank influences by how much their information is shared or reviewed.  The more people that pay attention to you, the higher you will rank with Topsy.


8 07, 2011

Beacon Technologies Through the Eyes of an Intern – Week 8

By | 2017-08-15T15:59:01+00:00 July 8th, 2011|Categories: Social Media|Tags: , , , , , , |

Eight weeks down, two more to go.  The past two months have really gone by quickly.  I spent some time today reflecting back and what all I have done and learned so far here at Beacon.  I’ve learned a lot, but I realize that there is still a lot I don’t know.  Since this week was the start of a new month, I spent a lot of time this week working on transitioning the accounts I was working on to other members of the WMS team.  This involved some meeting time and talking about what I had been doing, what I planned to do, and what steps could come next.  The other major thing I did this week was to compile monthly reports for the clients I had been covering.  Like I mentioned a few weeks back, that’s not the most glamorous task but it’s really not so bad.  I found it very rewarding to see growth in the clients I covered and to see things I had done start to show results.

The other big thing I did this week was to sit down and map out a final two week plan to help market Beacon itself.  I’m excited to be getting into this since my background from undergrad is marketing.  Some of the things I am going to be doing involve PPC campaigns, setting up various tracking measures, creating possible promotions, and a few other ideas.  This will be fun.

On a side note, I have been doing a lot of work with social media for several clients as well as for Beacon, and the more involved I get, the more I learn.  I’ve always been comfortable with Facebook, but I never really have had much exposure to outlets such as blogs, Twitter, and Foursquare.  That has changed during my time at Beacon.  I’ve learned how to utilize various outlets to accomplish different tasks.  For instance, I’ve learned that using Twitter can be very valuable for interacting with customers and is a great tool for promotional contests.  Another thing I learned is that Foursquare, which is a location based check-in service, is great for driving foot traffic into a business.  The way that is done is by first setting a location for the business within Foursquare.  Then you can set up options where special offers will pop up on someone’s cell phone if they are running the Foursquare app and they are within a specified geographical area of your business’s location.

The final thing I want to talk about relates to social media as well.  The “new kid on the block” is Google+.  I was able to get an invite to join Google+ today.  For those who are unfamiliar with Google+, it basically is a social media outlet similar to Facebook.  There are subtle differences between the two that I have observed, but overall it seems to be more or less the same.  The concept is almost the same as Facebook, and the only real differences at the moment are that Google+ calls features by different names than they are called within Facebook.  I’m not entirely sure if it’s something I’ll stay with but I’m willing to give it the “old college try.”

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