Live from ConfabEDU: Content in the age of personalization

Content in the age of personalization, by Matt McFadden


  • Why personalize?
  • What is personalization?
  • Savvy Shoppers
  • Examples off Campus
  • You’re the Future

We are not unique (content strategists, higher ed organizations, etc), but what if delivering personalized content was the new unique?

What is personalized content?

The delivery of content that is useful and compelling to an individual user and will move them to action quickly.

How can we get personal?

  • We could be reactive (using analytics to inform strategy)
  • We could be proactive (use personas, location, referrals, behavior, and tech to build content before a user gets to your site)
  • Design, UX, and well thought-out content

Why don’t more organizations personalize?

  • Don’t have the tech
  • Don’t have the resources
  • Don’t have the data

And, higher ed audiences don’t want to be marketed to.

Trends (from NCES)

  • In 1995-1996 16% of students came to school undeclared (looking for a path)
  • In 2007-2008 that went to 5%
  • In 2011-2012 that went to 1.7%

They may have an idea of their major in mind, but the trend is that more and more people are choosing a school based on:

  • I want to study something I love
  • I want to get a career after college
  • I want a high quality degree

Here’s the problem: we (higher ed) sells rigid, 4 year, expensive degree paths to people who are used to free, tailored, a la carte experiences.

Great UX principles

These are present cross-industry. Oscar (for healthcare) is a great example:

  • Cut your content in half, and then cut in half again
  • Write like a human being
  • The UX needs to be fast – speed to relevant content is key
  • Make the questions conversational, not confrontational
  • Use momentum and add more details as the user needs it

How do you Personalize?

  1. Write the story first
  2. More choices = indecision
    • Don’t get too bogged down by tons of key words and variations
  3. Limit decisions for the content managers as well
  4. Hold off on heavy content until it’s really needed
    • Let the momentum build with transactional content

Take the time to listen and think.

  • Listen to your users
  • Build a taxonomy – categories and site architecture – before personalizing

Four big takeaways:

  • It’s easier to be personal by saying less. Write small, and like a human.
  • Don’t try to build a million personas. Strike a balance of 6-10.
  • To solve a real problem you need to write the story first.
  • You’re probably closer to personalization than you think. It’s ok to be reactive while you build towards being proactive.

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