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5 Key Takeaways from AMA Higher Ed 2018

Approximately 1,200 of our peers attended the 2018 AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education last week in Orlando. Gratefully, I had the opportunity to attend this conference after Ashley and I presented a four-hour pre-conference tutorial themed “Deconstructing Your Social Media Strategy.” After a few days of networking and soaking up as much information as possible, I I left Orlando and came back to Fort Collins with five key takeaways.

1. Authenticity Over Quality

People just want you to be real with them. Gone are the days when you have to invest countless dollars, hours, and energy into a project of top-notch quality. It honestly might do more harm than good, in the end. Users crave authentic experiences that are raw and unfiltered, a sentiment echoed by the findings of the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer. For content creators, this can feel unnatural and counterintuitive, but the data supports the notion that authenticity eclipses quality.

2. Move Over, Millennials

There’s a new generation in town. Born in 1995 and onward, Gen Z (aka Centennials) is headed to college. They’re hyper-connected, multitask experts, and don’t know a world without technology. Summed up in this conference tweet, “Millennials were told not to meet people from the Internet or get in cars with strangers. Gen Z summons strangers from the Internet to get in their cars.” At least five sessions were focused on strategies for reaching the youngsters who would prefer for brands to act more like humans and less like institutions. Millennials are officially out of the hot seat and can finally eat their avocado toast in peace.

3. Nobody Talks About Snapchat Anymore

Less of a takeaway and more of an observation, I don’t recall hearing the word Snapchat in any session I attended except for the time someone stopped Ashley and I to ask if there was a specific reason we weren’t covering Snapchat in our presentation. The short answer? Instagram. I should mention, however, that after some group discussion it was clear that universities are still having success with students using branded Snapchat geofilters despite the downtrend in engagement with content published by the university. This was my first AMA conference, but I’d imagine that merely two years ago, entire sessions were dedicated to Snapchat. Times have changed, and so must we.

4. Mobile Equal, Not Mobile Friendly

The session I attended on mobile’s micro moments stressed the idea that we really ought to strive for mobile equal instead of mobile friendly. Data indicates that mobile usage is simply too prevalent to ignore the fact that it’s now an essential priority for the design of your content. The session from Gene Begin and Vanessa Theoharis emphasized that one in three of your website visitors are visiting your website on their phones, supporting the growing trend of transitioning toward creating vertically oriented content.

5. Short-Form Everything

tl;dr: Be concise.

This concept even manifested through the conference itself, which incorporated 9×5 sessions (9 presenters, 5 minutes each) to quickly cover a variety of topics without losing interest. Gen Z multitasks on five screens and has an attention span of eight seconds. You have mere seconds to draw in a video viewer, and you risk losing their attention if you don’t place the excitement in the first two to three seconds. Minimize cognitive load to maximize impact.