Education marketers have been slow to adopt wikis, blogs, social networks, and virtual worlds. There are valid reasons for this (see below), but it is time for us as an industry to begin embracing these tools. In this series I’m going to explore the industry context, the gestalt, and some concrete ideas to help you get started down this path.
Over the past year I have been asking people “what is the first thing you do in Amazon after you make sure you have the product you were seeking?” The almost universal answer is that people scroll down to look at the user generated comments. This is the power of Web 2.0 at work – what your peers have to say on a subject is far more important than anything a company might say.
There are two primary reasons the education industry should be employing Web 2.0 tools:
1. The education industry is going through huge change driven in large part by technology substituting for older ways of doing things. In this time of transition staying close to your customers and their shifting priorities is going to be a requirement. Web 2.0 tools are some of the most effective ways to create a real two-way dialog with customers – what I have elsewhere called Socratic Marketing.
2. Our customers are becoming accustomed to using these tools everywhere else in their lives. If we don’t keep pace we run the risk of becoming irrelevant.
So if these clear needs are out there why haven’t we seen more of this in education? There are three reasons that come to mind:
1. A key factor is the concentration of decision making at the district level that we have seen in the past few years due to NCLB. Without a need to reach broad numbers of teachers companies simply see this approach as a lower priority.
2. Some of it has to do with the inherent conservatism of education and the spillover of that mindset into the companies that serve them.
3. Finally, most of those setting budgets and priorities at the larger education companies are digital immigrants to the world of Web 2.0 – it is unfamiliar, vaguely threatening, and will require learning new ways of thinking and acting. It is easier to keep doing what you are already doing.
Of these three reasons only the first is a valid “marketing” reason not to do it. The other two are just excuses for holding back. If your product truly touches just a few people at the district office then this may not be the path for you (on the other hand with 14,000+ districts it may still make sense). But if your products are in the classroom or serving a broad network of people across a district then you should begin to think about how you can tap into the power of that network.
Next in this series – 5 core concepts for marketers for working in a Web 2.0 world.