Universities are now operating in the digital marketplace, whether they offer online classes or not.
Prospective students conduct their research online, checking university websites as well as third-party resources like Princeton Review and US News & World Report. Current students engage with their schools proudly on social media, posting campus photos and retweeting news. Even parents connect digitally to get email updates and stay up-to-date on university policies.
The possibilities for colleges to deliver a superior user experience are magnified in a digital marketplace. According to Inbound Marketing methodology, universities should first attract prospective students and parents to their websites, inform them with killer content, then delight them as students and parents with personalized, timely engagement.
So which colleges are doing this best? We've determined a list of the top 5 colleges based on their mobile and online presence on platforms like their website, blog, social media and mobile apps. Here’s the top five:
5. Harvard University
America's oldest university is certainly adapting to the digital age. Harvard's website features interactive, multimedia content that highlights their research and university news. But what's more impressive is how the university engages with users on social media.
Accoridng to Mashable, Harvard has the best social media presence of any university. With almost 5 milllion likes on Facebook and 656,000 followers on Twitter, it's evident that Harvard is setting the stage for what university social media should look like. They post cutting edge research, university news and fun content to engage with their followers, like this post about their professors:
4. University of Notre Dame
University of Notre Dame’s website is stunning -- that’s why Hubspot’s Best College Websites ranked it as #2. The home page features news stories, photos and high quality content. Visitors are drawn in and provided with high quality content.
Not only that, the website performs well on mobile devices. Whether students view their university’s website on a smartphone, tablet or laptop, it's engaging. Notre Dame also released a mobile app that’s ranked on Modo Labs’ Best University Mobile Apps. The app features indoor maps of onsite facilities, laundry availability, safe ride requests and a virtual campus tour.
3. University of Maryland
This state university has improved its online presence heavily over the years, topping Hubspot's Best Website List. The website is aesthetically pleasing and logically organized. It provides primary and secondary audiences what they need and what they want and is responsive on mobile devices.
In addition to its impressive website, the university has also excelled in engaging students on campus, as illustrated by its ranking on College Express' list of tech savvy campuses. Maryland is setting the stage for innovation across public universities with less widespread interest than the digital giants like Harvard.
2. University of Michigan
University of Michigan is known for a lot of things. You can add its mobile presence to that list.
The university was nominated for a Webby Award in 2014 and also earned the number five ranking for Hubspot's Best Websites. The colorful blue and yellow website attracts visitors with its gorgeous home page, fully equiped with a news slider, social media postings and university information.
It's social media presence ranks just behind Harvard at the number four spot, with about one-fifth as many Facebook and Twitter followers. The unique aspect of Michigan's mobile presence is that it's propelled by digital interests of its student body, like the students' annual Hackathon and mobile app development.
Did you know that University of Michigan and University of Maryland are Fig Leaf clients? See the full list.
1. Standford University
The legacy of Stanford is rich with cutting edge media and technology. Perhaps it's the close proximity and influence from tech giants in Silicon Valley. Regardless of the reason, the list wouldn't be complete without Stanford.
Stanford's mobile app is one of the best univeristy apps on the market -- and it was designed by a Stanford almunus tech start-up, TerriblyClever, which was acquired by Blackboard (a Fig Leaf client). Stanford was featured on College Express' list of tech savvy campuses and Online Universities' list of colleges creatively using mobile technology.
What's most notable about Stanford is its integration with technology groups, like TerriblyClever and Bling Nation (which are no longer in existence), to create a superior experience for its primary audience: the existing student body. Regardless of the digital technology, Stanford excels in driving student engagement online and on campus.
The task of reaching and engaging university audiences is multi-faceted and complex. It's not accomplished by just a website or a mobile app, but rather by a unified experience that makes current students proud and prospective students envious and curious.
In order for universities to improve and excel in the digital marketplace, they need a plan for how to engage with their audiences and a software to help them execute that plan. One thing that each of these leading universities have in common is that they use Adobe Creative Cloud Software to design engaging experiences. Fig Leaf is an Authorized Adobe Education Reseller.