Esports. Is it a game changer for UK education?

Staffordshire University Business School has become the first British University to launch an esports degree. The course focuses on the business and culture of esports from developing teams, communities and a fan base to hosting esports events.

Staffordshire University has invested heavily in new facilities as part of a £40m transformation of its Stoke-on-Trent campus and academics feel the University is well placed to plug into rapidly growing sectors like esports which is the practice of playing video games competitively over the internet or via networked computers in venues and stadiums.

Already Staffordshire University has responded to the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment’s (Ukie) white paper on esports by introducing a module on esports in their Games Degree.

Back in January, Dr Fletcher, Head of the Games and Visual Effects at Staffordshire University said:

“The module which is available to students on our Games Studies course is a fascinating branch of cultural studies. It looks at the national, and international market for esports, and the cultural aspects that drive it as well as the darker side of cheating and doping by esports players. Games designers are growing up and that brings with it new trends in gaming which comes with its own set of ethical dilemmas.”

Other countries around the world have recognised esports as part of the curriculum for some years.  In South Korea, where the first esports association was set up 17 years ago, they have been accepting esports players onto their sports programmes for four years. At the Asia Pacific University in Malaysia, students can complete certificates in League of Legends, DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. In Norway,  the Garnes Vidaregaande high school pupils can opt for esports and can study for up to five hours per week, they focus not just on game play but also combine physical exercise in the mix.

One thing all these esports educators have in common is an agreement that esports provides a vast amount of transferable skills to the participants.

Top skills for esports:

  1. Teamworking
  2. Resilience
  3. Stamina
  4. Problem Solving
  5. Communication
  6. Endurance
  7. Decision Making
  8. Leadership
  9. Critical thinking
  10. Analytical

The students on Staffordshire University Business School’s BA (Hons) esports will also have classes in event management, digital marketing, the legal side of esports and streaming techniques. This will make sure that when they leave university they’ll have all the right skills to prepare them for a great career. With huge growth predicted in this area there are lots of job opportunities.  Many recruitment agencies, like Odgers Berndston have set up separate divisions to deal with esports careers and there are even some new sites that have sprung up like ‘esports Careers’ who are currently listing almost 500 vacancies.  The British esports Association lists over 12 career paths on its website, here are a few:

  1. Shoutcaster/host
  2. Coach/analyst
  3. Journalist/content creator
  4. PR/Marketing executive
  5. Community/social media manager
  6. Broadcast/production crew
  7. Event manager

To find out more about esports at Staffordshire University Business School visit the website staffs.ac.uk.

Rachel Gowers MBA
Associate Dean
Staffordshire University Business School

 

A new and rapid way of marketing – Digital Marketing

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Whilst supporting businesses, I’m often asked “What is Digital Marketing”, and frequently people think it’s just social media marketing, for example marketing via Instagram or Twitter.  Digital Marketing encompasses much more than this, so in this article I’m going to give a brief overview of digital marketing and discuss some key points about how to make it effective for businesses.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing unlike the traditional means of marketing, encompasses marketing of products or services through the numerous available electronic media. It presents marketing of these products/services in such a way that the channels and methods utilized will enable the service provider or product manufacturer to analyse, survey and review marketing trends, and therefore know what is working effectively. This part is very important, marketers must prove, with data, that each part of their digital marketing is working and providing a Return on Investment etc.

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If done correctly, Digital Marketing can put customers in control, drive brand loyalty, reduce the selling cycle, build your brand, and it should be measurable and cost-effective.  The key areas Digital Marketing encompasses are:

  1. Social Media Marketing (SMM) These days, most people are on some form of Social Media e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Periscope etc. Social media marketing, involves using these platforms to gain website traffic or improve brand awareness and customer service. These platforms usually have analytics and a particular target customer base, e.g. LinkedIn for business people to network and also find employment. Therefore, each of these platforms can be used in a targeted way. As with any marketing tool there are good and bad ways of using them, for example, response rates can be shown to be higher with videos and pictures rather than just text. With good content curation, readers will share your social media with their networks and in effect become advocates. Readers are more likely to look at Social Media from friends than direct marketing from organisations, so it can be one of the most cost effective forms of marketing.  If this sharing becomes widespread it’s known as Viral Marketing. An example is the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, ALS did not invent the challenge but it became widespread and included Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates taking part.
  1. Website design Website designing is the process of gathering ideas and concepts, and the implementation of these concepts for the purpose of creating content on web pages or the internet, for the benefit of end-users to utilize and get the necessary information with any web browser. However, done properly it is much more than this. The website has to be easy to use and navigate, pleasing to the eye, and work in such a way that it gets results. The website design includes the website layout, colours, font, multimedia, interactive features and compatibility e.g. being mobile compatible. An organisation I have worked with, 6 Towns Radio, in some months can have over 60% of their website visits via tablets and mobile phones (see 6townsradio.com). Websites such as blogs can be developed in such a way that they can have a high SEO ranking and be monetised to earn income e.g. via affiliate marketing.
  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO), is using a range of tools and techniques, so that ideally your website appears at, or near the top, of the not-paid for (organic) area of the search engine page, when people do an online search for your product or service. This is so that you can drive online traffic to your website and create awareness about your products. It involves the web-site and web-page design, words you use on your page, keywords terms, number and quality of web-sites linked to your page, how often it is updated and developed, etc, and being structured in such a way that search engines understand and rank it ideally higher than competing websites. On top of this, it has to be done without diminishing the value of what you have to offer.
  1. Pay per Click (PPC) is a way of buying visits to your sites rather than attempting to earn them through SEO. This is because PPC is a medium where marketers adverts should appear near the top and/or side of the first page of a search result and they will pay for every click made on their advert. The advantage of PPC is that if done correctly it can create instant results, the dis-advantage is that once you stop paying you stop getting results, whereas good SEO will carry on working. Creating an effective PPC campaign involves research, content curation and continually testing the results.
  1. Display advertising (banner ads) As technology advanced, advertising began to take new forms with the advent of digital advertising techniques. Essentially, it entails the use of ads that can be in form of text, video or audio for advertisement purposes on a website. With increasing sophistication of mobile apps and technology, banner advertising can be geo-demographic and person specific so that these become very targeted.
  1. Email marketing The electronic mail set the initial trend for internet advertising and even though many predictions have talked about the decline in its usage, it can still be a very cost-effective form of marketing. Email marketing can be a vibrant means of communication and helping a business to grow, by employing a very direct and cheap marketing means of sending newsletters and other types of information to a target audience. Online systems such as Email Servers and CRM systems can automate the subscription, sending, un-subscribing etc. of emails, for example auto-responders can send out targeted emails on a timed basis or automatically respond to an enquiry. Increasing concerns about receiving unwanted emails (Spamming) will soon mean that that you need to be able to demonstrate that customers have subscribed to your emails and they are not on an exclusion database, similar to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), but for emails.
  1. Content Curation I’ve put Content Curation as a separate topic as it is a key factor in all of the above topics and in today’s digital world, content rules the space. Generally, content marketing cuts across infographics, webpages, podcasts, videos, books, eBooks, apps etc. It is a technique used for the creation and distribution of invaluable content in a consistent manner to a target audience. The aim of spreading the content and feeding it to the target audience is usually so that they can take some actions e.g. buy a product, apply or subscribe to a service etc. Content curation can take a company near bankruptcy and change it into one of the worlds most powerful brands as demonstrated by Lego who have developed an  interactive customer friendly website and even have Lego based films so customers are happy to watch, what is effectively, a very long advert.

Screenshot of Lego website

As mentioned a few times above, a key point is that if you are involved in marketing you need to be able to prove, with current data, what you are doing so that you can improve upon it.

When marketing via social media, websites, etc. you need to monitor and review:

  • which platforms your customers are using,
  • when they are using them, e.g. which days and what time,
  • how are they using them, e.g. a casual look or actually interacting with your marketing and using them as part of their decision-making to purchase,
  • And how this all links together to make a purchase, in what is known as the customer funnel.

If you do not use data you could be wasting your time and money marketing in areas that do not work, for example marketing on Twitter when your customers are using Instagram and Snapchat, or, marketing to potential customers on Snapchat during the working day when they typically use it early or late in the day and weekends.

An area that I get involved in with businesses and Social Enterprises is something called Conversion Rate Optimisation where we can improve the number of customers visiting and purchasing products/services. Typically this includes :-

  • checking and mapping how you are marketing and how your customers are using the internet;
  • measuring what customers are doing with your marketing, e.g. via Google Analytics or Facebook Insights;
  • testing via split-testing to improve results (also know as A/B testing),
  • continuing to test and improve customer conversions and the size of purchase.

As we can monitor and improve online and see instant results, it has led to a form of marketing called Growth Hacking. This is where we undertake and monitor rapid experimentation across online platforms to find the most effective and efficient ways to engage and grow a business customer base. It should develop long-term sustainable growth, not just short term profit.

The above and much more is covered in MSc Digital Marketing Management and BSc Digital Marketing Management at Staffordshire University.

 

Paul Dobson BSc(Hons), DIT, DMS, MSc, MA, MBA, PGCHPE, FHEA, FCMI, MAM

Senior Lecturer in Digital and Strategic Marketing – Staffordshire University Business School

Email: P.M.Dobson@staffs.ac.uk

 

The Six S’s of Social Success

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For the third month running Staffordshire University Business School’s social media presence has dominated the rankings in EduRank, the Education sector’s digital benchmarking platform. There’s been some serious online activity going on to get us there; Undergraduate Business Course Leader, Angela Lawrence, shares our Six S’s of Social Success, to let you into the secret of how we did it:

1. Spice It Up!
They say variety is the spice of life, so we like to spice things up with lots of different types of post. Everyone knows that pictures and videos go down well on social media platforms, but daily streaming of Facebook Live or Periscope is just going to bore followers. Our posts mix business news, staff and student news, education sector news, trending videos and yes, Facebook Live and Periscope from time to time too. All with a common business thread, to attract followers who are eager to see what we’ve got to say each day

2. Seamless Scheduling
We scoff at the cry “but I don’t have time to be posting on social media!” Regular feed is made easy by scheduling your posts, whether by adopting a social media management tool such as HootSuite or by using the simple scheduling tool available on Facebook pages. Half an hour a week and you can schedule an interesting post for each day; then supplement these with emerging news and trends, as and when something newsworthy arises.

3. Share the Load
It’s only fair that everyone contributes towards our social media presence; after all it belongs to students and staff alike. So we recruit student social media “gurus” who adopt a channel, be it Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram, then focus on contributing to that channel from time to time. The job of maintaining an engaging social media presence shouldn’t have to be onerous for a select few, neither should it adopt the same tone of voice; freshen it up with views from different angles!

4. Say it Again
Quite simply, repurpose the good stuff! Our Mothership, Staffordshire University social media, posts some great content; as do the Student Union, the Student Guidance team and other schools within the university. So why reinvent the wheel? If it’s relevant to our Business audience, then we repost it on our Business channels…simples!

5. Sound it Out
There’s nothing quite like keeping your ears to the ground. Follow the blogs and websites that are going to create interesting posts for your platforms. If you’re using a Social Media Management tool then you can set it up to do this for you. Klout is one of our favourites; not only does it measure our social media presence and suggest posts of interest, but it tracks how retweets, likes and shares change our Klout score, helping us to identify the posts that work well.

6. Shareability
We won’t baffle our audience with academic gobbledygook; we just say it as it is. Social media should be conversational, interesting and fun – it’s not the place to post your 10,000 word dissertation! It’s all about understanding Social Media Etiquette and maximising the shareability of your social messaging. The more shares, the higher the exposure and the higher you climb the rankings. So make it a conversation that followers want to join in on.