I'm sure the majority of readers will have seen the University of Bedfordshire absolutely everywhere in the past few weeks.

Firstly, we actually managed to go 'viral'! Personally I don't much care for the phrase and it's definitely true that if you're trying to 'go viral' then you most likely will fall at the first hurdle. Our particular experience all started with a news story focusing on the work of one of our Applied Linguistic Professors, Stephen Bax. His research has made him the first professional linguist to crack the code of the 600 year old Voynich manuscript using an analytical approach.

The Voynich manuscript - for
years many people thought
the writing could be nonsense
Obviously, this is a pretty big deal and also has a great appeal to fans of Indiana Jones and suchlike. However, we didn't quite realise what a large impact this work would have on a worldwide scale. On Thursday 21st February, after sharing the story on our social media channels as usual my team noticed a sudden increase in the amount of social shares. We then had a look at our website analytics to discover that we were averaging new 400 visitors a second!

This was mainly due to the story being picked up in America and shared on Reddit (a site which allows users to vote the top stories to the front page). This proved to be only the beginning as Professor Bax begun his media tour by appearing everywhere from the BBC to the New Scientist and the Daily Mail.

Needless to say we sprung straight into action, posting Google Ads next to blog mentions, recording sentiment/traffic sources and ensuring we were capturing all the buzz to report back and get maximum publicity of the story. To date we have received (and still growing):
That is one MASSIVE spike in traffic!
It dwarfed our usual (quite impressive)
amount of visits in no time
  • Reddit: Over 3,000 user comments 
  • Facebook: 37,000 likes 
  • Twitter: 7538 individual mentions 
  • Unique news story page views: 363,037 
If you do a quick Google search you'll see we're still getting mentioned!

The second big event for us was being awarded with the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Research. This was presented by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in recognition of the University's applied research into child sexual exploitation, influencing new safeguarding policy and practice. Our input into the presentation day was again monitoring social media mentions and getting the story seen by as wide an audience as possible. We also liaised with the Royal Communications team to ensure consistency of message and for supply of the footage from the prize giving. Time was of the essence here and we were able to get the video edited and online within an hour of receiving it:

Our new Luton campus library
In other news, we've been liaising with our friends in Learning Resources in order to put together an internal and external marketing plan for our new library. We have a vested interest in this as not only did I used to work in that department but it's being built on top of where our offices used to be! It's going to look pretty impressive as well and will really reinforce our current remit of improving the student experience.

I've also reinstated our Web Working Group meetings where all power users of our CMS can get together to share best practice and have their input into our web strategy. Historically I've really enjoyed these and it also gives us a chance to showcase all of our latest developments which many feed into the goals of each department.

Finally, I've been asked to present at the Inside Government 'Future of Higher Education Marketing Conference on 29th April (my youngest son's first birthday!) with my colleague Sarah from the Marketing Team. The focus of this will be our Prospects Best Website win with the title 'Enhancing Postgraduate Student Recruitment Through Developing a Digital Presence'. Definitely right up my street but I'll have to bring my 'A' Game judging by the quality of the other speakers on the agenda!
Everyone has an opinion!
In the haze of interviewing for new staff (I've been on three panels this week) I thought it was about time that I authored a new post! At the moment it seems we've got loads of mini-projects on the go and I'm trying to get these signed off so we can focus on some big web developments and improvements. A lot of the ideas for the latter have stemmed from our Web Strategy meetings. I've had to be very careful to ensure that, from now on, all decisions and developments are informed by our target audience. The last thing we want is a room full of middle aged men deciding on what's cool! That's why I've started properly organising some focus groups with our feeder colleges, some proper user testing and usage analysis. Stay tuned for the results..

Another thing the team have been working on has been data capture for our latest Postgraduate virtual event. Previously, we've helped get the the event up and running but this time we wanted to 'gate' it to ensure we had some meaningful leads afterwards. This did mean a drop in attendance (people are quite wary before giving away their contact details) but hopefully will mean we can send them some useful follow up material to show them the benefits of becoming students with us!

A campaign
skyscraper advert
Another series of mini-projects has been evidenced in our 'pre-clearing campaign' which runs until June. In the past, this has mainly been to showcase our open days but I have now put together a full plan of activity (with budget) to highlight the great reasons why students should choose us over our competitors. The bulk of this has been through Google AdWords and we have three adjacent campaigns running (branding, under recruiting courses and new courses). As I usually handle all of this myself it's been a great opportunity to get the team trained up in AdWords and share the burden courtesy of our friends at Jellyfish. One thing we do have is a generous training budget!

An example campaign landing page
We've created bespoke landing pages for every subject area and with the new addition of student blogs have plugged these in to each page using a great little RSS tool I found called Feeder Ninja.

We also have been creating the usual radio adverts, MPUs, leaderboards and skyscrapers and a full content strategy for social media. Promoted Tweets are working particularly well for us and our account managers there have been great at advising on our choice of content and ways to track our campaigns - the platform is developing daily!

There has still been time for the odd little improvement to our website though and we got the jquery accordion up and running. This is something which I've previously used on a personal project for my brother in law and already is being utilised by our power users across the University.

That's about it for now. Finally, my quest to get my professional profile seen across the entire internet was helped by Spectrecom Films, who asked if I could do an interview for their February 2014 sector report (included below!) We're also in the initial stages of another exciting new project with them so I should have something to report back on that very soon. Enjoy! ;)
Click for a larger version. From the photo it looks like I live in our student halls!
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