In a landscape full of great quality content, strategy is everything for higher ed content.
If tools should never come first, you always need a few good ones to make things happen with the content your higher education institution needs to create and produce.
That’s why I asked the 12 higher ed speakers of the 2018 Higher Ed Content Conference to tell us about their favorite content tool(s).
Google Analytics for Tia Linder, Assistant Director of Online Communications – Fordham University
My favorite content tool is Google Analytics because it allows us to measure the effectiveness of our content. Web editors have access to their metrics so they engage with their website performance. Before editing content or redesigning pages, we first look at our analytics because it not only tells a story about content but it also tells a story about our visitors. Website analytics lets us know if we are reaching and meeting the needs of our target audience.
Google Analytics for Aaron Baker, Digital Analytics Lead at Harvard University
My favorite tool (for just about everything) is Google Analytics, though some wouldn’t call it a content tool. It can be very useful when you give it even more information about the content you’re writing and how you intend for it to be used. In the case of news content we add content category, word count, and tons of interaction data to add more dimensions to Google Analytics, which is just a fancy way of saying we get more context about our traffic and engagement data. We use it by sharing stats for all stories with everyone so we all get a better idea of what works. Our goal is for content to be SEO friendly, look good and read well on social, all while telling an amazing story. No pressure, right?
Via Marketing Project Management for Danielle Sewell, Director of Marketing & Communications at Coker College
Honestly, my favorite content tool is probably our marketing project management system. I know that sounds a little odd, but it really has been a gamechanger for our small-but-mighty marketing team. We use a product called Via that allows us to organize our workflow, communicate with one another and our internal clients, monitor our time more effectively, and keep track of which team members are working on particular aspects of collaborative projects. So much of content development requires more than one specialist. It’s not at all uncommon for a writer, a graphic designer, and a photographer to each have a hand in a single project. Via provides a centralized home for all pieces of the puzzle.
Other than that, I’m a huge fan of UnBounce landing pages. Attaching a landing page with a custom URL to our marketing materials, both in digital and print formats, lets us direct our audience directly to an inquiry form or a downloadable piece of content. It streamlines information for the viewer so they don’t get lost down the rabbit hole of our full website, and it gives us an incredible tool for measuring the reach and impact of our content.
Air Table for Jeff Stevens, Assistant Web Manager at UF Health
AirTable has quickly become my favorite tool for content execution and planning. It’s an incredibly flexible tool that can be used to build databases for various workflows and processes and allows for collaboration and approval sign-offs. With Zapier, it can be used to integrate with a variety of additional applications and tools. We’re currently using it for content audits, migrations, and for our social media editorial calendar at UF Health and it has improved the communication process around these projects immensely.
VoiceOver for Erika Forsack, Social Media Strategist – Virginia Commonwealth University
From an accessibility viewpoint, I have to say VoiceOver. It’s so helpful and critical to check your work once you create it with a screen reader, to see how folks with different disabilities interact with it. No download needed – it comes built in to all Apple and Android products. I think going forward accessibility is a major part of the puzzle when creating content that we will all need to consider. In addition to that, just working toward using more inclusive language (using person first language is a big one) and photos. My most used tool by far is Google Drive. I don’t know if this one really counts since there are so many things to do with it, but I have lots of moving parts in my projects and Google Drive allows me to create folders to house spreadsheets for metrics, editorial calendars, folders with images and so on. For content creation, Photoshop and InDesign are my go-tos but Canva can be nice in a pinch. I also like to use Afterlight 2 and Snapseed for editing photos on the go.
Final Cut Pro X for Sonja Likness Foust, Director of Social Media and Content Strategy at Duke University
I end up using Final Cut Pro X a lot in my job, even though video isn’t really in my job description. Having a few video editing skills really helps me to right-size content for my different social media channels. I can quickly resize a horizontal video to vertical for Snapchat or Instagram Stories, or add captions for an Instagram feed video, or even put together a moving slideshow for YouTube or Facebook. Of course there are other video editing tools out there, but I find Final Cut Pro X to be really intuitive and quick for projects that have a fast turn-around.
Sprout Social for Lindsay Nyquist, Director of Digital Communication – Fort Lewis College
I only get to choose one? Well, my most used and most useful tool is Sprout Social, our social media management tool. I use it to monitor branded and non-branded mentions and to schedule content for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Google+. My interns also use it to schedule content, so I can preview their messaging before it goes live and correct language, typos, or concepts that are off point. But a close second is Canva, a super easy-to-use graphic design tool. Even though I have a background in Art and experience in Photoshop, sometimes Canva is just more fun and helps spark new ideas!
Canva and Picktochart for Carol Duan, International Social Media Specialist at Boston University
Based on my experience on Chinese social, I found that when talking to an audience with varying proficiency in English, creating infographics can be an effective way to get the information out. It is a great solution to address confusing topics or highlight data-heavy content without overwhelming your audience. Thus, I’d highly recommend the online design tools Canva and Piktochart, both provide many engaging templates and are very easy to use. We’ve been creating dozens of graphics using these two tools. The most popular infographics we’ve created are graphics highlighting rankings and admissions stats.
Canva for Krista Boniface, Social Media Officer at the University of Toronto
I’m totally biased, but my favourite tool as a whole fits in the palm of your hand. Of course, that’s your mobile phone and all of its app potential.
Within that phone, I think Instagram is a great tool to build ephemeral or evergreen content. As Instagram Story features become more engaging each and every day (hello polls and GIFs!) there so much room for experimentation. Our student audience is tinkering on the app as much as we are, and when we meet them there and create relatable content, we’ve found engagement to be high. In fact, Instagram has become the best engagement tool in our social media roster.
Creating storyboards to plan out the flow and points of engagement within your Instagram Story before you even start is super helpful. To up the ante for your Instagram Stories, I suggest you use content tools like Canva (first heard about this tool from Erin Supinka’s #HESM17 presentation), Boomerang and Hyperlapse to add intrigue and polish. Once you find that sweet spot of a template that works for your audience, it’s a game-changer. Plus you’ll have so much fun testing it out, you’ll want to make more and more!
Photoshelter for Amanda Waite, Creative Communications Director at the University of Vermont
Right now, my favorite tool is our newest: a Photoshelter account for keeping photo and video assets organized and accessible to our office and those around campus who need them. Thanks to naming conventions and custom collections, it’s so much easier to quickly find and download the photo or video clip you need — way faster than digging through external drives and email or waiting on a colleague to be able to share their assets.
His imagination for Andrew Cassel, Social Media Admin at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
My favorite content tool is my imagination! I like to make and engage with GIFs so I try to make cool GIFs. I love to improve the lives of my audience so I try to imagine myself in their shoes as a user and create/curate content that would excite me to see it. Adobe products, online creation tools, all those things are only as useful as what starts out as an idea in my brain. After I have the idea I first see if I can make that idea fit in to the social communication strategy I’m working with. If it doesn’t – bye bye idea. But if it does… yay! Make more!!
The Hemingway App for Conny Liegl, Senior Designer at California Polytechnic State University
The Hemingway App has been indispensable for my work, especially as the library is planning a website content overhaul. The online tool helps to demonstrate readability to stakeholders, i.e. we can demonstrate how understandable any piece of writing is to our audience. The Hemingway App is free, and makes it easy to identify sentence structures or words that are too complicated for the readers. It also signifies the use of passive vs. active voice, which helps to create more engaging content.
A conference focusing on higher ed content?
The Higher Ed Content Conference(now available on-demand!) is a must-attend event for higher ed content professionals and teams looking for new ideas and best practices.
Read below what a few of your higher ed colleagues who attended the past editions of the Higher Ed Content Conference say about the experience.