Engaging Apps Part II: Creating Your App Development Strategy

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Last month we talked about the range of mobile app features and usage by colleges and universities.  Assuming you’ve now identified your target audiences, you’ll need an overarching development strategy to ensure your new apps are meeting your institution’s needs. Here are some suggestions for moving forward.

WHAT’S YOUR PRIORITY? WHAT’S YOUR BUDGET?

Establishing your mobile app priorities for each audience can help you determine an appropriate budget. Most institutions start with a focus on current students and their needs, adding in alumni and prospective student features as enhancements to the core apps. The first step though, is to define your non-negotiables and stick to them.

You may also want to think about:

  • Developing an integrated strategy that accommodates multiple departments and/or campus units. For example, the Dallas Community College district created a portal from which students could access the individual websites of each college for news, social media and other activity.
  • Saving your university money by creating a single app as opposed to multiple campus platforms.
  • Asking your students what they want and what they would use. Be sure to treat these questions separately as they often result in different responses. Use focus groups or surveys to find out whether students would actually use a new feature.
  • Using the student survey and your own knowledge of marketing resources already in play, focus on high-value features in order to get the most from your development budget.  You may want to minimize the number of apps you are offering.

Overall, your app should make it easy for students to find and retrieve the information they need. The more students use your app, the ‘stickier’ and more effective it is—and the better your investment.

BRAND IT RIGHT

Whatever you decide, it’s important to view mobile app development as you would any other interactive content. The app and its branding should blend seamlessly with your website and other social media tactics. This is essential for effective, sustained engagement and reputation management.

You should also think through the maintenance requirements carefully as you are planning your mobile apps. As with other areas of content—from websites and blogs to Facebook posts—your team’s ability to keep it fresh and constantly improving will win you loyal users and a long-term positive return on investment.

As we know, a consistently superior brand experience drives engagement and nourishes loyalty, regardless of audience. Apps are as individual as the institutions they serve. Yours should share the same voice, visual elements and brand personality found in your other marketing tactics.

Our next blog post will review solutions available at market. Stay tuned!

 

Sources:

Apps Move Up On Campus, By Sherrie Negrea, July 2014, University Business
http://www.universitybusiness.com/article/apps-move-campus

Is Your University or College Mobile App Effective Enough? By Christopher Charlton, August 2014, Tarriff Street
https://tarriffstreet.com/blog/unversity-mobile-apps

Author Victoria Hoshal

Victoria is former director of business development at d.trio. She has over 15 years of non-profit advancement and marketing experience (much of it in higher education), prior to her agency background.

More posts by Victoria Hoshal

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