Future of Digital Marketing: 8 Experts Share Their Predictions

With voice search and machine learning on the rise, we reached out to 8 digital marketing experts to get their insights on these developing technologies and share predictions on the future of digital marketing.

Read on to discover insights from industry leading digital marketing companies like Backlinko, Search Engine Land and many more.

 

We Asked Experts in the Field to Share Their Thoughts on the Future of Digital Marketing

 

Future of Digital Marketing - Brian Dean

Brian Dean

Founder & CEO at Backlinko

@Backlinko

 

1. Voice Search

It’s already HUGE. And it’s only going to get bigger.

Already huge: 40% of US adults use voice search once per day.

Going to get bigger: comScore estimates that 50% of ALL searches will be voice searches within the next 2 years.

And I’ve seen this myself. I’ve found myself talking more to my computer and phone than ever before. And as the technology improves, I’m going to type less and talk more.

2. Video

Like voice search, video is “the next big thing” that’s already here. I mean, YouTube is already the 2nd most popular website online (even more than Facebook).

But in many ways, video is just getting started. More and more people are producing videos for Instagram, Facebook and other platforms like LinkedIn. It’s also much easier to create a decent video on the cheap than in the past.

The data backs this up: Cisco reports that 81% of all traffic will be video by 2021.

3. Quality Over Quantity

Blog posts. Images. Podcasts. There’s WAY too much content online.

And people are tuning out: Email open rates are down. Blogs are losing readers. Facebook posts are getting ignored.

In short, people are focusing more on reading, watching and listening to the best stuff.

So marketers that focus on quality over quantity are going to have a big edge over the competition in 2018.

 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Robert Lee

Robert Lee

Co-founder & CEO at Circa Interactive

@CircaRob

 

1. Pullback on Persona Based Targeting Opportunities

It’s been a bumpy road for Facebook over the last six months. With the backlash around privacy concerns and the Russian election meddling, the platform has had to take drastic measures to ease the concerns of Facebook users by providing increased insight into how individuals can tighten up their personal information, while also introducing steps to eliminate some of the platform’s most useful targeting options.

Facebook even launched a large scale advertising campaign apologizing for their missteps and promising improvements into the future.

The most interesting aspect of all of this is the ripple affect spread across other digital environments that have mirrored Facebook in regards to their information collection processes.

Most of these platforms followed suit and many users noticed new alerts pop-up within these environments notifying them of new privacy and information collection policies.

While providing this level of insight to consumers is great, advertisers that rely on these platforms to drive targeted traffic will experience challenges. This could be the last nail in the coffin for more traditional job and skill related segmentation, and force Facebook and other platforms to advance their use of seed-list style advertising.

2. New Web Scraping and CAN-SPAM Regulation

While I can’t guarantee that the government is going to get their act together and move on something like this, having your email address and other contact information online has now become a massive nuisance.

The two elements to this equation are first the ability to crawl websites to acquire users information (which are predominantly done by automated crawls based on search parameters) and the outreach to these individuals via large scale outreach campaigns that are disguised as personal messages.

While this tactic can be very effective when it comes to distributing content and building links, many webmasters are starting to get frustrated with the bombardment as the strategy of automated scraping and outreach becomes more routine.

I personally receive at least 10+ cold outreaches a day even though I continue to opt-out of lists, and while I’m guilty of some of these tactics myself, you can tell a tipping-point is near.

3. Automation and AI

While the same can be said for most industries, automation and more intelligent human-informed (but machine implemented) decision making will continue to eat into the digital marketing job sector in 2018.

While a lot of the jobs that will get swallowed are more fringe digital marketing, strategies such as chat bots and bid-management will continue to advance and replace some of the less technical human-based skill-sets that currently exist.

Content and more specifically copy creation/writing are other elements that could be replaced by machines as technologies become more advanced at producing comprehendible language.

 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz

Executive Editor at Search Engine Roundtable & News Editor at Search Engine Land 

@RustyBrick

 

 1.Voice Search

All the data shows that voice search is growing fast now. Between talking to your phone, your Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s Home Pod and even talking to your car over CarPlay or Android Auto – voice search is the future.

Expect voice search to be a huge area in the near future and with that, you need to figure out how to optimize for “position zero” and handle transactional voice search commands.  Is it all very new now, so stay on top of it.

2. Mobile Search

Google launched their mobile-first index, which means Google will crawl the web from a mobile phone perspective.  Make sure your mobile site is equivalent to your desktop site and that nothing important is missing.

3. Speed

While speed seems to be less and less of a ranking factor today, Google keeps pushing AMP on webmasters.  AMP and PWAs might be the future or might not be, it is hard to tell.  But everyone wants faster sites, so expect more of an emphasis on this.

 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Alexis Sanders

Alexis Sanders

Technical SEO Manager at Merkle Inc., Writer for Moz

@AlexisKSanders

 

1. Mobile Remains Priority

Mobile conversion issues have been at the top of Google’s priorities, heightened by mobile overcoming desktop circa 2014. Google’s highly anticipated mobile-first index is scheduled to launch within 2018.

Accelerated Mobile Pages’ (AMP) have been improving dramatically and I suspect we’ll see more e-commerce case studies emerge in 2018.

Finally, Apple’s Safari will start to feel more pressure to support service workers for Progressive Web Apps (PWA). If Safari beings to support PWAs’ core functionality, it’ll drastically improve their marketability.

2. Web Performance Optimization Becomes Sexy

Websites have been growing in size creating a website obesity crisis (HTTPachive.org shows ~280% growth 2011 v 2017). Sites are going to have determine the right solution mix from their website as multiple remedies emerge (including: HTTP/2, AMP, PWA, CRP, RAILS).

3. We’re Going to Continue Hear About Machine Learning (ML) Victories

Google’s research blog has been publishing a ton about breakthroughs in ML, along with technologies that make ML more accessible to the average human being (think: Kaggle.comTensorFlow, and Facets visualizations). ML offers the potential to better understand multimedia content better.

We’ll likely see more poignant, targeted KG responses and SERPs in these areas. Also, as the training wheel supports for Google’s algorithm, structured data is an important aspect of developing data classification. In 2017, we saw their structured data documentation morph about every quarter.

Google will likely continue to expand structured data documentation. Bing will face more pressure to support JSON-LD, as websites being leveraging the format.

4. Google’s Going to Face More Media Pressure

Google will be at the center of public debates surrounding fake news, data security (against hacking attacks), privacy concerns, and proprietary information. Following this trend, Google will likely ramp up the importance of HTTPS. About 60% of the top 100 sites are on HTTPS already.

5. Conversational Devices and Voice Search

Voice search technology is becoming closer to conversational (within a word accuracy rate that people are willing to deal with). Once the capabilities reach acceptable levels, we’ll likely see a resurgence of chat bots.

I also anticipate seeing a shift in the marketing mindset surrounding fortified content strategies, striking the balance between making content obtainable for voice search and yet not allowing Google to completely “steal your thunder.”

 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Daniel Kempe

Daniel Kempe

Co-Founder & CEO at Quuu.co 

@DanielKempe

 

1. Content Diversification

At Quuu, we are excited to see how content marketing is diversifying, extending beyond articles or blog posts to include video, podcasting, infographics and more.

Companies will really need to adapt to this trend to stay in the game. We’ll see larger companies hiring video producers and graphic designers to collaborate with their marketing teams.

But where it gets really exciting is if you work for a startup; let’s say you’re a one or two-person marketing department, then you’re going to have to learn those skills yourselves.

2. Up-Coming Digital Marketing Tools

Luckily, there are tonnes of cool tools out there to help you create different types of content – without having to enroll in film school! Lumen5 was a big hit with content marketers last year (use it to repurpose your blog posts into short videos for social).

In 2018 I’m looking forward to exploring Anchor. Not only does it allow you to quickly and easily record podcasts from your phone, but it’s also a growing social platform in its own right.

What I’m most excited about are our own new tools, the Quuu Scheduler and Content Recycling tools. We are pushing these out shortly and even more exciting for our users, the price will stay the same.

We just want to make our users even more successful on social media by providing a suite of tools to facilitate, alongside our hand-curated content suggestions.

 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Stephen Panico

 Stephen Panico

Chief Growth Officer at BuzzStream

 

 

1. Google Gets Even More Intelligent

Digital marketing, particularly related to link building, is in an interesting place right now. Despite the penalties that sites have encountered by Google in the past, it seems like there is a lot of information going around right now that suggests that technical SEO and on-page optimization coupled with frankly shady tactics like link-buying are beneficial.

The reality is there is probably a grain of truth to that. Right now anyway.

Unfortunately, while there is some evidence that Google is being a little lax right now when it comes to enforcement of penalties, that can (read: eventually will) change at a moments notice.

The really messed up thing is that the opportunistic SEOs that take advantage of this fact won’t be the ones who are hurt, it will be their clients that get slammed with penalties.

So ultimately, teams that target their promotional efforts toward high authority publications with relevant content are going to outperform their peers, now and particularly as Google continues to get more intelligent (and everyone who has ever bet against that happening has lost big time). 

2. Rise in Uncovering the True Value of a Link

As far as tools, there are some interesting new thoughts on authority metrics that are getting tossed around right now. Effectively, we’re seeing more tools attempt to diagnose the true value of a link, which is certainly one of the most challenging aspects of link building, particularly when dealing with clients.

For example, Ahrefs Backlink Checker attempts to do this by providing a well-rounded dashboard giving full visibility into various aspects of link value, whereas some new metrics such as Verve’s Linkscore offer a proprietary algorithm based on blended on and off site metrics to deduce value. 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Devin Kostrzewski

Devin Kostrzewski

Founder & CEO at Authority Builders 

@Dmak_11

 

1. Back to Basics

I still always come back to the phrase “back to basics.” Despite the ever-changing world of digital marketing, the same basic formula still applies. Create a well-organized website, keep it up to date, and create the best content you can. The results will follow.

There are always new methods, tricks, software and ideologies that build off those principles but without the basic principles, nothing works. Even in my world of off-page SEO and link building, if the domain I am earning links for has improper coding, tags or descriptions then all my effort is for nothing!

If you hire some fancy social media agency who is able to push interaction and traffic to your site but your e-commerce store is not set up properly you likely aren’t going to covert much, adding to your wasted costs/efforts.

2. Digital Marketing Tools Continue to Evolve

As far as tools I need software for tracking SEO metrics and evaluating the quality of links for my clients, I always rely on Moz, Majestic and SEMRush. Ahrefs gets an honorable mention. They are always evolving and provide the best insights for my line of work.

 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Bryan Traficante

Bryan Traficante

Founder & CEO at TrafMarketing

@BTraficante

 

1. Social Media Improving the Impact of Smaller Brands

For social media posting and advertising, I see the biggest opportunities for smaller brands to make an impact if they focus on the user’s mindset and intent of the channel. Social media (especially Facebook and Instagram) is a form of escapism and educational discovery, keep that in mind when developing ads and engaging with your community.

2. Emotional Connections for Increased Customer Engagement

Organic posts (things you share on your wall/feed) should 100% be value first. An example of this would be post videos explaining topics you’re an expert in to educate your followers and documenting the ins and outs of your business and things you’re doing.

Organic posting (and comment responding!) is an opportunity to add human and relate-able elements to your company that people can develop an emotional connection to. Many of whom you’ll come to see as regular consumers of your content and even advocates for your company.

This organic connection then also provides your company leverage for selling in the future because that connection you’ve built produces trust and rapport.

3. Social Media: Advertising

For advertising, there are numerous strategies to deploy especially in the Facebook/Instagram/Audience Network space – which is where I see a lot of awareness and consideration marketing funnel growth for companies. I see good strategy trends moving more toward behavioral targeting.

Here’s a simplistic example: Say you’re a brewery and you have a blog post about stouts. You can target all people who have visited that blog post in the last X amount of days and deliver an ad to them on Facebook/Instagram/Audience Network. These people are obviously more aware of your company and have some form of interest in stouts.

Knowing that, you can custom tailor an ad targeting those people, ensure high relevance by recognizing that interest and then more easily suggest a business action. “Love Stouts? Same here! They’re creamy and delicious! We just tapped our new Coffee Nitro Milk Stout! Swing by our brewery and grab a pint!”

 

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If you have any insights on the future of digital marketing, feel free to share them in the comment section below. Also, if you’d like to join this list, email tyler@circaedu.com with your submission. 

Generation Z: 5 Tips for Engaging The Next Generation of Consumers

Just when brands feel that they’ve finally mastered the art of advertising to Millennials, up comes the next generation of consumers: Generation Z.

Although sharing some similarities to the elder Millennials, Generation Z is far more savvy to brand intentions, meaning digital marketers will find themselves embarrassed if they try to implement Millennial advertising strategies for this younger generation.

So what is it that makes Generation Z different? And how can digital marketers successfully engage with this next wave of consumers?

Introducing Generation Z

The first thing to understand about Generation Z is that they’ve grown up with the internet. With the oldest of this generation being born in the mid-to-late 1990s, Generation Z have spent their lives heavily relying on smartphones and social media to not only connect with their peers, but also brands, businesses and organizations.

Understanding this generation’s heavy reliance on social media is crucial for marketing, as a few wrong moves on social media can prove detrimental to brands and businesses.

How detrimental? Consider that Kylie Jenner, one of the most popular and powerful Gen Z celebrities, cut $1.3 billion from Snapchat’s stock all from a simple tweet.


What this shows is that with this upcoming generation, brands don’t even necessarily need to make mistakes on social media; all it takes is negative publicity to sway the public opinion of Generation Z.

How Much Should You Care About Generation Z?

Being the next group of consumers, brands, businesses and marketers are clearly interested in advertising to this young generation, yet Generation Z should be more of a priority than it already is.

Why?

For one, individuals that classify as Generation Z already make up a quarter of America’s population. This number is growing, with projections stating that Generation Z will make up 40% of all consumers by 2020. Any target audience that makes up almost half of all consumers is definitely worth taking into further consideration.

Secondly, advertisers have yet to establish a solid understanding of this progressive generation. Lazily, some assume that they are a lot like millennials, except even more addicted to screens and phones.

While this might be true in some cases, the reality is far more professional and sophisticated: Gen Z aren’t screen-prisoners, they are screen-operators. Society at large functions within the digital realm, and Gen Z leverage their skills and networks to become full-time managers of their personal and professional brands.

This generation deeply understands digital branding – they leverage it for their personal benefit all the time – and are exceptional at seeing through poor or even tacky advertising, so businesses looking to connect with Generation Z will need to put forth equal effort in understanding who they are and what they are interested in.

Tips for Engaging Generation Z

If you’re looking to engage with the next wave of consumers, here are 5 tips for engaging Generation Z:

1.Use Easily Consumable Content

If you really want to connect with Generation Z, creating easily consumable content is essential.

Studies have shown that Gen Z have an 8 second attention span – compared to the 12 second attention span of Millennials – meaning that brands need to make sure that their message can be consumed fast.

Videos and GIFs have proven to be very effective in making a quick point. Clever messaging is successful as well. KFC’s recent public apology for running out of chicken is a great example:KFCSource: http://money.cnn.com/2018/02/23/news/kfc-apology-ad-shortage

In a situation that could have resulted in major brand damage, KFC were able to save face and generate acclaim from Generation Z and worldwide media outlets thanks to its quick, eye-catching message

2.Provide Value

Advertisers shouldn’t assume that they can trick Generation Z. Being brand ambassadress themselves, this group is smart and tech savvy. They can quickly identify when they’re being advertised to, so don’t try to fool them or waste their time.

If you’re looking to engage with this generation, make sure that your advertisement provides some kind of value, such as offering free items or discounts for taking surveys.

Brands that are able to create a mutually beneficial situation will prove most successful with Generation Z.

3. Pass The Eye Test

As mentioned, Generation Z have short attention spans, so before even considering your message Gen Z will judge your advertisement based on its appearance. If your advertisement doesn’t pass the eye test, expect this generation to swipe right past.

What can you do to help make your messages pass the eye test? Much of it depends on the message you’re trying to send.

That said, don’t be afraid to take chances and create edgy content (see KFC advertisement above) or advertisements that feature a bit of bright color here or there.

If you’re worried and unsure, it maybe a good idea to get some direct feedback from Generation Z. Asking for feedback right from your target audience can help sharpen your content creation skills.

4. How Can You Help Them?

For far too long, advertisers have viewed consumers from the selfish perspective of “How can we get our audience to purchase and need our products or services?”

While taking this approach may have worked in the past, Generation Z is too sharp. Any brand that attempts this approach can expect to be embarrassed and humiliated across multiple social networks.

You don’t want that kind of shame.

Great news: there are alternative perspectives.

If you’re really looking to build trust with Generation Z, you’re entire message should be developed with the approach of “How can we help them?”

Again, Generation Z are savvy. Don’t go through the motions with this. They’ll see right through it.

Instead, take a moment to seriously consider your product, service and message to better understand how your company and its resources can help make your consumers’ lives better.

Thinking with this perspective might be difficult for traditional marketers, but it’ll have a significant impact in the long-term.

5. Expand Your Efforts

On average, Generation Z tend to operate 5 screens at a time. For marketers, this means that your brand and message have to be at multiple places at once.

Brands with big budgets will be able to dominate more traditional advertising mediums, yet that shouldn’t discourage small brands from expanding their efforts to the best of their ability.

Generation Z are all about grassroots resources. Many brands have found success with a very limited budget simply by expanding and enhancing their social efforts.

In fact, sometime  traditional advertising can do more harm than good due to the appearance of trying too hard.

At the end of the day, the more that this generation comes positively interpret your brand and message, the more trustworthy that you’ll seem. And there is no better way to appear trustworthy than to authentically approach Generation Z on their terms from the beginning. So don’t wait until Generation Z grow a bit older. Start making adjustments to your marketing strategies today so your brand and message can better engage with Generation Z and hopefully establish a long-term mutually beneficial relationship.

Interested in learning more insights that could help with effectively engaging the next wave of college students? Check out these articles to get started:

 

Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

 

 

Higher Education Marketing: Why Chatbots are the Future of Communication

Higher Education Marketing experts are projecting chatbots to be the future of communication between schools and potential students. For many universities, improving communication with students has been a key focus. As any applicant knows, the process of researching university programs can be a complicated one. Whether it’s speaking with various individuals and departments, browsing through program pages or finding out the right information for financial aid, the amount of research required to find the right university can be daunting. But what if, instead of having to spend hours researching, all of the information could be presented to you via instant messages?

With emerging chatbot technology, universities delivering information to potential students could be the future of how universities communicate and market to future students. To help explain this developing trend, below I’ll highlight what chatbots are, why they are projected to be the premier form of communication and how chatbots could provide more effective communication between universities and potential students.

What Are Chatbots?

If you’re active on Facebook, you probably have interacted with early forms of chatbots. For those that haven’t, here is a quick overview.

Chatbots are computer programs designed to provide a service to individuals that interact with it via instant messaging. Typically found in social platforms like Facebook or Slack, chatbots have been used to help with a variety of tasks, ranging from ordering pizza, getting a weather report and even offering therapy.

Communicating with chatbots is no different than messaging with humans. In fact, some have found that services provided by chatbots are often more effective and efficient. Because of this, chatbots are projected to have a major impact on the ways that humans communicate with businesses, universities and other service providers.

Why Chatbots?

Chatbots are a fairly simple concept and forms of communicating with robots have been around as long as 2001 with Smarterchild for MSN and AIM. So why is there sudden hype surrounding chatbots?

There are a number of reasons for this, yet the major factor is that messaging apps now have more active users than social media platforms, with messaging apps attracting just over 3,500 million users while social media barely passes over the 3,000 million users mark. What is most interesting about this increase is that users are not just using messaging apps to communicate with friends, they are also looking to connect with brands, share media and even shop.

Almost all higher education universities have social media accounts, yet few have utilized chatbots to connect with students. This means that chatbots provide higher education marketers with a major opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

How Chatbots Can Provide More Effective Communication Between Universities & Students

A recent Gallup study found that messaging is the preferred method of communication for the younger generations, with 68% of Millennials saying that digital messaging had been their primary source of communication. This shift towards texting has resulted in a major decrease in phone calls amongst the younger generation. In fact, many millennials consider phone calls invasive and uncomfortable, especially when they are speaking with someone unfamiliar.

For many higher education marketing departments, phone calls or emails are the primary source of contact with potential students. By using now antiquated forms of communication, universities are missing out on building quality relationships with potential students and developing insights on what younger generations are looking for in a school.

For instance, consider the ease of messaging back and forth with a chatbot whenever and wherever you choose compared with being stuck on the phone with someone you don’t know, asking you semi-personal questions regarding a major life decision. Wouldn’t you be more comfortable sharing accurate and insightful information when you had time to think and weren’t feeling pressured to answer right away?

Another benefit of chatbots that higher education marketers should consider is the relief of financial and organizational pressure. For example, Georgia State University implemented a chatbot strategy to improve communication with students. Having never tried chatbots before, the university was unsure of how quickly students would adapt to the new technology. Yet after only 4 months, 63% of students had used the chatbot platform on a regular basis, resulting in approximately 200,000 messages. Without chatbots, responding to questions would have required a full-time staff of an estimated 10 members. That’s an annual savings of at least $200,000.

With improved communication and the ability to offer schools major financial savings, chatbots may soon be the future of how universities communicate with students. Keep in mind that, as with most advancements, the most benefit will come from leveraging chatbots before they are standard communication protocol. For higher education marketers looking to improve communication and increase enrollment, testing and utilizing chatbots should be under strong consideration, with potential plans in place for upcoming recruitment drives.

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

4 Ways Virtual Reality Could Change Higher Education Marketing

Every major development in technology has provided universities with new ways to tell their story, as well as attract and interact with potential students. Take the internet, for example, which provided colleges with the opportunity to broaden their reach and develop new education methods. Or consider Facebook, where higher education marketers are now able to advertise to potential students based on a variety of factors such as education, interests, jobs and behaviors.

Veteran higher education marketers have experienced just how much these technologies have alerted the industry over the past 20 years, yet recent changes may merely be the start of a monumental shift in the higher education paradigm. One of the driving forces of this shift could be virtual reality, which has the potential to modify numerous aspects of higher education, including how universities attract and educate students. To further highlight just how major of an impact that this developing technology could have, below I’ll examine 4 ways that virtual reality could alter higher education marketing.

A More Personal Brand Story

One of the essential components of effective marketing is a personal brand story. Within these stories, universities will need to answer questions such as: What makes the school unique? Why should I attend school here? What are the benefits of obtaining a degree? The more personal and unique that these brand stories are, the more the university will stand out from the competition.

Lately, universities have been leveraging online videos as a method for telling their brand story. Although these videos have been effective, the limitations of video as a medium can restrict universities from accurately portraying the whole spectrum of experiences that may come with studying at their school or being on campus. For example, consider a popular structure for brand stories where the video takes the viewer through a series of campus experiences, such as cheering at a sold-out athletic event or spending time in the library. Now, consider that story again, but instead of simply staring at a screen, you’re actually at the sporting event hearing the roar of the crowd and sensing the energy in the arena or exploring through the many floors of the prestigious library. With virtual reality, these type of sensual experiences are potentially possible, which would then provide colleges with the ability to leverage all of their resources to develop a brand story that is truly personal and unique to the university. Virtual reality could also personalize the student experience as well, for a brand story could end with a direct welcome from the University’s President in her or his office, along with a quick Q&A session.

Improved Student Testimonials

Program testimonials are a chance for higher education marketers to showcase the value of obtaining a degree from their university, with popular strategies including videos, essays or snippets of comments that highlight the student experience. These testimonials should offer potential students insight on what a program or school may be like, yet most tend to feel extremely generic and scripted, especially considering that these are testimonials for what could end up being a $30,000+ investment.

Virtual reality could assist higher education marketers in improving student testimonials to provide a more honest and accurate representation of the value of a degree. An example of this could be taking a potential student through an intimate story via virtual reality where the observer could directly experience and feel what a former student’s life was before, during and after obtaining a degree (ex. a story that highlights the growth of an individual from working a minimum wage job to becoming an award-winning scientist). These stories will obviously differ for each former student, but the goal here is to provide potential students with palpable content that is not only personal (ex. matches their interests and personality), but also exemplifies how a degree from the university can change and improve one’s life. The more that this change is able to be felt and experienced, the better the individual can infer the value of a degree from the given university.

Virtual Tour

Virtual tours can be a great way for students to develop better insight on the university, as well as the academic experience as a whole. Although similar to the brand story example noted above, virtual tours will be different in that the student will be the one dictating the experience, as opposed to a university attempting to tell a story. Once fully implemented, virtual tours should be able to allow students to explore the university campus, programs and curriculum alongside a personal virtual assistant.

Being a modern take on the concept within “choose-your-own-adventure” novels, each and every virtual tour will be personalized based upon any question or concern that a potential student may have. This is where the personal virtual assistant will be key, as they can converse with the potential student and quickly adjust the tour so that it fits the contour of the viewer’s psyche. This approach may also have the chance to alter the communication process between university marketing departments and potential students, as the virtual assistant, due to it being personal in nature, should be able to increase the volume and quality of information provided by the student (as opposed to bothering students via phone calls or emails). Virtual tours could also make the experience of the potential student more personal due to questions or concerns being answered not via words, but actual experience.

Virtual Classrooms

With virtual reality, the line between an on-campus and online student could become remarkably fuzzy if virtual classrooms are implemented. Within these virtual classrooms, the environment should be so similar that the experience between being in the classroom on campus vs. being in the classroom virtually will be unidentifiable until the off-campus student takes off their virtual reality headset. This means that an online student will be able to fully experience an on-campus class from hundreds, even thousands of miles away. This can greatly improve the online education experience where online students may feel isolated from their peers, instructors or even universities. With virtual classrooms, potential students would also be able to sit in on a class to get a sense of what their higher education experience may be like.

From a marketing perspective, virtual classrooms would provide higher education marketers with the opportunity to market their university’s prestigious campus and award-winning faculty to online students. Additionally, with virtual classrooms, universities would be better equipped to assist with the educational needs of their community, or even showcase sold out lectures and on-campus events to a broader audience with little effort on part of the university.

Although currently in development, virtual reality has a chance to make monumental changes to higher education marketing, as well as the education paradigm as a whole. And as the advancement of technology continues to accelerate, look for the implementation of virtual reality within higher education to come quicker than one may assume.

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

3 Things Higher Education Marketers Should Consider in 2017

Whether it’s the increasing use of mobile devices or Facebook’s unveiling of lead ads, there have been a number of changes to the digital marketing landscape over the past few years. Some of these changes have had substantial impact, and many digital marketers have been scrambling to adjust and align their initiatives in order to remain competitive within the industry. While quick adjustments are often essential, it’s also important for higher education digital marketers to take a step back and conduct a full assessment of the current marketing strategy. With the new year soon approaching, now is a great time for digital marketers to reassess their current initiatives and test out new strategies for 2017. Below, I’ll offer some questions to consider during the review process and highlight a few new strategies to consider for 2017.

Review & Fine Tune

When reassessing your current higher education marketing strategy, you’ll want to consider two key elements: goals and data. If you’re a larger university with a number of initiatives, be sure to keep it simple at first. Perhaps start with the question: Did we reach all of our lead goals that we set for 2016? If no, this is where you’ll want to examine data to uncover where lead goals were missed and why. Outside of lead goals, you’ll also want to consider goals relating to your online presence, such as site visits, followers on social platforms and user engagement. When considering these metrics, examine the data to see if you can identify any trends or patterns to give you an idea where your audience may heading in 2017. For example, a major Q4 increase in traffic to social platforms along with a decrease in site visits could signal that potential students are more interested in reviewing a school’s social identity than they are the traditional web page.

After the review process, be sure to prioritize your goals for 2017 (example: “We’re more concerned with user engagement on social platforms than we are on site visits”), then fine tune your strategy to fit. Questions to consider while fine tuning include:

  • Do we want to reallocate our budget in any areas?
  • Should we remove any marketing initiatives?
  • What social and blog posts were most successful this past year?
  • What sources are most of our leads coming from?
  • Are there new social platforms that we should test?
  • What initiatives are we going to implement to get X number of followers?

When in the assessment and fine-tuning process, you’ll also want to consider recent changes within the industry. Below, I’ll highlight a few of the major changes over the past few years that you’ll want to consider.

Increase in Mobile

Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the use of mobile has steadily increased, largely due to the ease of apps and mobile platforms. Yet up till this past year, desktop was always considered the primary source for reaching potential students. According to a comScore report, that now has changed as users are trading desktop for the convenience of mobile. This change has occurred for a number of reasons, but one of the main driving factors is the refinement of apps. For example, when Facebook Mobile was first released, the platform was congested and difficult to use compared to the desktop website. Yet over the past few years, Facebook and other leading tech companies have placed a major emphasis on attracting the millennial audience who tend to rely heavily on mobile. With this switch in focus, companies upgraded their mobile apps and platforms to enhance the mobile experience with improved configuration and additional perks, such as being able to order a pizza without having to leave the Facebook platform. These improvements have resulted in a 394 percent increase in mobile usage, a number that is only projected to increase in the coming years.  

As a higher education marketer, it’s important to know how the aggregate are leaning in their use of digital media, but it’s equally essential not to confuse the aggregate for your own audience. Be sure to dig through your data to see if you can identify a similar shift to mobile amongst your audience. If so, be sure to evaluate paid search strategies, as well as the content on your blog and social platforms to see if there are any adjustments that can be made so content is more mobile friendly.

Facebook Lead Ads

Mark Zuckerberg has turned Facebook into one of the premier advertising platforms, so it’s no surprise that they are leading the transition to mobile advertising with their introduction of leads ads. Within Facebook’s older advertising platform, clicking on an ad would send users outside of Facebook, which proved to be inconvenient for Facebook and its users. Lead ads changed all of this, making it so users can express interest in a school without ever leaving the Facebook platform.

Here’s how lead ads work: when users click on an ad, a lead form opens up within the Facebook platform that’s already automatically filled out based on what kind of information they share with their Facebook audience. So, for most, clicking on a lead ad would open a lead form with their name, phone number and email, and all the user would have to do is click submit to complete the lead form process. So far, the convenience of lead ad forms have proven to be very successful, dropping the aggregate CPL of one of our programs by about $15, all the while boosting lead volume in the process.

If you’re looking to have a strong start to 2017, now is the time to begin auditing your current strategy and implementing new initiatives where they seem fit. Remember to ensure that your current plan aligns with your overall goals, and don’t forget to examine analytics data to get a better understanding of where your audience may be heading in the new year.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment box below!

 

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

3 Ways Higher Education Marketers Can Leverage the 2016 Presidential Election

We are one month from the first presidential debate, and the 2016 election has already proven itself to be one of the most digitally reported and discussed elections in the history of the United States. In fact, over the past 12 months, Americans have spent over 1,284 years reading Donald Trump related content on social media. As we all know, the internet and social media are changing the way Americans interact with presidential candidates, and this provides an enormous amount of content marketing opportunities. The 2016 Presidential Election creates a variety of opportunities for higher education digital marketers to promote their schools and programs, and I’ve put together three ways that digital marketers can leverage the news cycle to build high quality backlinks. 

Leverage Your Professors

Throughout the election, candidates are asked to provide insight on a number of issues ranging from civil rights to the federal budget to foreign policy. These topics may be the focal point of a professor’s area of expertise which digital marketers can leverage when seeking PR opportunities.

When leveraging professors, it is important that digital marketers clearly articulate the value that professors can provide reporters. Professors are often the thought leaders of their industries and niches and can provide high-level insights that have yet to be published. For example, the release of Hillary Clinton’s Initiative on Technology and Innovation, which places a major focus on investing in computer science and STEM education, provides Circa’s PR team with the opportunity to leverage our engineering, computer science, and other STEM-related professors for articles providing expert commentary on what Clinton’s initiative could mean for the STEM industry, as well as its potential impact on the future of our education system.

Another way to leverage your professors is through HARO. For those that don’t know, HARO (which stands for Help a Reporter Out) is an online service designed to provide reporters with quality sources for upcoming stories and sources with the possibility to obtain media coverage. Those who have signed up for HARO as potential sources receive daily emails featuring a list of reporters seeking quotes or insights for upcoming articles. If an article seems to fit a professor’s area of expertise, all a PR specialist needs to do is respond to the email and pitch the professor by noting the expert angle or insight that she or he could provide to the story.

As campaign coverage continues to gain speed, there will likely be an increase in HARO opportunities with reporters seeking academic or professional insight, so if you haven’t signed up for HARO yet, it is certainly worth exploring.

Create Resources Highlighting the Election

Being one of the key events of 2016, the Presidential Election is a prime time-peg that higher education digital marketers can use in creating resources for their schools and programs. There are a number of different angles to take when creating resources. Some of the most popular include:

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • GIFs

For those that don’t know, visual resources are great for creating informative, yet appealing content, so infographics would be particularly good for highlighting the election. There are a few different ways to highlight the election through infographics, which would include leveraging content on a topic candidates are discussing (Ex. cyber security) or creating an infographic on the election, such as this one on social media and presidential campaigns.

Within the creation process, keep in mind that the main goal of infographics is to build links back to your program, and the best way to build links is to create intriguing content that provides value to the viewer. Sometimes value can come from a unique angle, newsworthy content or reliable statistics; other times it can be through a graph or visual that highlights an intriguing contrast. Either way, be sure that your graphics provide value of some kind so that viewers will be more inspired to share them with their network.

Add to the Social Commentary

Whether it’s a insensitive statement or previously unreleased documents, every day it seems as though there is a new story involving Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And while journalists report the initial story, higher education digital marketers have the opportunity to leverage this content and add to the social commentary. For those that don’t know, social commentary is considered an act of expression that comments and thus expands upon a social issue within society. If this sounds complicated, it really isn’t. In fact, adding to the social commentary can be as simple as sharing a news story or quote on social media platforms and asking followers to share their opinions. Higher education digital marketers could also take this a step further by including a quick quote from a professor on the current political issue.

Regardless of what approach is taken, it is important that a call to action (CTA) is included at the end of the social post. This CTA doesn’t necessarily have to be anything complicated, just something to encourage the reader to share their insight or opinion.

If the election coverage continues to progress at its current pace, there may not be a more consistent time peg than the 2016 Presidential election, so digital marketers would be wise to leverage this opportunity as much as possible for their schools and programs. No matter what approach you take, make sure to clearly position your programs and professors as the leaders within their niche. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to be creative and have fun with whatever method you choose.
Have you been leveraging the presidential election in your digital marketing efforts? If so, what has worked for you? We’d love to hear your insight!

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

5 Tips for Reaching Prospective Students On Twitter

With over 350,000 tweets sent per minute and 500 million tweets sent per day, Twitter is considered by many to be one of the best social networking platforms for delivering quick, instant content. Yet due to the increasing levels of content creation, many higher education marketers have found it difficult to navigate through the “clutter” of tweets in order to find who or what they are searching for. Below, we will look at five different methods that higher education marketers can use for finding and reaching prospective students on Twitter.

Using Search Queries

Although there are a variety of advanced methods for finding prospective students on Twitter, higher education marketers should always start simple before branching out. Twitter offers a solid built-in search platform that works great, yet most people don’t take the time to figure out how to properly use it.

For example, most twitter users have probably seen the search panel at the top of every twitter feed and know that this is a great search option when looking for popular hashtags, keywords or users. But did you know that you can narrow your search even further in order to find people that are talking about your program, school, or even one of your competitors? To do so, you will want to master these search query shortcuts:

  • Username queries – to: and from:
    • To:@circaedu “higher education”
    • From:@circaedu “higher education marketing journal”
  • Geolocation – searching with the parameters near: & within:
    • “digital marketing” near:San Diego within:5 miles
  • Exclusion Filter – place the minus symbol (-) before the keyword/user you want to excuse
    • “digital marketing” @circaedu

Also, if you are interested in automation, I recommend checking out automated Twitter listening services like Twilert, which you can program to send alerts anytime that specific keywords are mentioned.

Make Sure You Actively Use Your Account

As more millennials continue to shun traditional media formats and turn to social media for news and information, colleges and universities are finding it essential that they regularly check their Twitter accounts to answer questions or respond to comments or feedback. The importance of monitoring your Twitter account may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to check their Twitter account on a consistent basis, especially if they have an automated or pre-set tweeting schedule in place.

As a general rule of thumb, you will want to check your account a few times per day. Although there are many studies that highlight when Twitter is most active, I wouldn’t get too caught up on always checking your news feed at the same times each day. That said, some people enjoy making a routine out of checking Twitter – ex. Right before leaving for lunch – so feel free to do what works best for you.

Have a Call to Action (CTA) In Your Bio

Placing a call to action in your bio is an easy (and free) way to attract prospective students on Twitter. But in order to do so, you will want to make sure that you follow this guideline of do’s and don’ts so that your CTA is simple and effective.

  • Do make your CTA a clickable link
  • Don’t put the link in the section for your website URL (put it right in your bio)
  • Do make sure that your CTA is easy to understand
  • Don’t forget to be interesting and engaging
    • Make viewers eager to learn more

By implementing these simple adjustments, you can be sure to increase the efficiency of your CTA and Twitter profile. Also, keep in mind that you can use your Twitter account to log in to other social sites, so with a CTA in your bio, you’ll have the added bonus of attracting prospective students as you navigate other sites as well.

Post Engaging, Sharable Content

Nothing attracts attention more than great content. So to really catch the eye of potential students, make sure the content that you’re posting is something that they – your target audience – would find value in. Also, make sure to continuously test a variety of mediums and adjust to what is working and what isn’t. For example, a recent study by Buffer found that tweets that contained images received approximately 150% more retweets than those that had only text.

Another fairly new medium to try is Twitter Polls, which provide Twitter users the opportunity to garner public opinion on whatever they’d like. So whether looking for quick feedback on a new logo or potential program courses, Twitter Polls provide higher education marketing teams with unique opportunities to generate buzz while getting quality feedback as well.

  • Example:
    • Which course would you rather take: “An Introduction to Augmented Reality” or “The Science Behind Virtual Reality”?

Twitter Advertising  

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A recent Hootsuite study found that advertising on Twitter resulted in leads at one-third the price of other paid channels. Mix that stat with the fact that the social platform has over 320 million monthly active users and it becomes clear to see that Twitter provides higher education marketers with an invaluable opportunity to advertise to prospective students at a relatively cheap price. With Twitter Ads, marketers can boost tweets, promote accounts and even create Twitter Cards that drive traffic directly to your site or landing page.  With a click through rate 8-24 times higher than Facebook ads, advertising on Twitter is something that every higher education marketing expert should take seriously.

As you might have noticed, these tips are not very difficult, but they can produce consistent results. So if you take the time to implement these best-practices and combine your Twitter efforts with tricks for other social media platforms – like Instagram and Facebook – you can be sure to see an increase in your social media presence and performance.

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

How to Leverage Slack to Improve a Higher Education Marketer’s Work Flow

Since its release in 2013, Slack – a cloud-based team collaboration platform – has found enormous success due to its ability to increase efficiency and improve overall organization. Yet at first glance, Slack seems to be nothing beyond a slick instant messaging platform with a few useful tools. While I can understand this assumption, Slack’s power and usefulness for higher education marketers becomes far more apparent the more that marketers explore and utilize the platform. Having used Slack for over a year, we have uncovered plenty of tips and tricks. Below we have listed a few of our favorites that will be sure to simplify the life of even the busiest higher education marketer.

Setting Reminders to Stay Organized

Whether it’s following up with PR contacts or optimizing Google Adwords, there are myriad tasks that fill a higher education marketer’s work week. To remain organized, it becomes essential to set up reminders to make sure that even the smallest tasks get complete. In efforts to establish a reminder system, many often seek a new platform or application; yet, using another service on top of the multiple apps used already has the potential to decrease overall efficiency. Keeping reminders within a platform you already use will simplify the process and increase efficiency both short and long term.

Considering this, I highly recommend using Slack’s internal reminder system. With this, you can not only set up reminders for yourself, but also for other team members and entire channels.

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There are countless examples of where Slack’s reminders have saved me from overlooking a task, so if you are looking to stay organized, I would definitely explore this further.

Slack Channels

Slack channels are essentially forums to discuss a specific topic, similar to a subreddit on Reddit. For example, at Circa Interactive, we have a channel devoted entirely to PR, Infographics, and even one for music that we use to share ideas, articles, or tasks with other team members.

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Yet, these basic set-ups are only the tip of the iceberg for the capabilities that Slack channels offer. A simple step further is creating a channel that automates breaking news so you don’t have to continuously keep checking your various news sources.

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It seems every week we are finding a new way to leverage Slack channels, so start testing these out and configure them to fit your needs.

Utilize the Slack Community

Traditionally, marketers seeking to communicate with peers or potential audiences may rely on social platforms like Twitter or Reddit. But now there is a new alternative: Slack communities. Much like traditional social forums, Slack communities provide the opportunity to speak with those who share a similar interest. For example, there is a Slack community devoted entirely to marketing, and upon joining this community, I can speak with industry peers to get instant feedback on anything from outreach ideas to best practices for following up. There are tons of different communities, ranging from professional topics to hobbies and interests, so I recommend exploring the communities and finding the groups that meet your needs.

Integrate Platforms and Services

When integrating apps, there are two platforms that we turn to: Zapier and Slack’s internal integration system. Whether it’s an organizational tool like Google Calendars or a social media service like Twitter, Slack allows you to fully integrate anything you need into one easy to navigate platform. For example, it’s to waste time in the morning sifting through a Twitter timeline in efforts to stay up-to-date on industry related news. Yet any higher education marketer knows that time is of the essence, and navigating through Twitter’s timeline doesn’t always make for effective time management.

To help solve this problem, you can integrate your favorite Twitter account(s) into Slack. This way, you don’t have to waste time sifting through tweets that might not even be relevant to what you are looking for. I recommend generating a list of a few industries thought leaders that you like and devoting an entire channel just to their tweets. This way, you have the option to not only choose when you check Twitter, but also whose tweets you will be checking.

By incorporating some of these tips, you can be sure to simplify your life and increase overall efficiency. But remember, Slack is continuously expanding, so don’t forget to explore Slack on your own and uncover some of their lesser known features and new additions.

TylerTyler Putz is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

4 Essentials for Innovation in Higher Education Digital Marketing

After graduating college, I left my home state of Iowa and traveled halfway across the country in search of something out West. What exactly – I wasn’t sure. The idea of “just finding a job” didn’t interest me, nor did the idea of saving money (rent is much cheaper in Iowa than California). Therefore, without having a specific job or industry in mind, I decided to base my job search around fulfilling what is most important to me: creativity and innovation. Luckily, I found Circa Interactive, a digital marketing company whose passion is to provide creative and analytical solutions for higher education. Upon joining the team, I have had the unbelievable privilege of collaborating with some of the most innovative, brilliant minds, and through these collaborations, I have made note of four essentials for maintaining innovation within higher education digital marketing.

1. What’s Your Angle?

Our Creative Director, Joe Lapin, is always providing tips on how to write clear and concise pitches for media outreach, particularly by constantly asking, “What’s your angle?” Through his questioning, Joe is illustrating that content–in and of itself–has no inherent meaning; therefore, the job of a writer is to make meaning by positioning content at a unique, engaging angle, especially when you’re asking high quality publications to publish your infographics or other creative content.

In higher education digital marketing, especially on the digital PR and content marketing side, Joe’s question “What’s your angle” is crucial to success. Some of us often forget that our brains are constantly taking angles when they process data or content. And because of this forgetfulness, we sometimes lose sight of our inherent creativity: the ability to choose our angle and shape messaging to highlight certain areas. For example, during my first month with Circa, I was assigned an infographic on bioinformatics. Naturally, I thought the graphic would be great for computer science or bioinformatics blogs. Yet after two rounds of distribution, the graphic had landed only two links. Obviously, I realized that my angle wasn’t working, so our team worked together to come up with a pitch based around STEM education. Through this new angle, the infographic found immediate success.

2. Shape Your Project to Fit Your Goals

Every project, no matter how big or small, has its own requirements. Personally, I like to think of each project as its own unique cookie cutter: each have their various shapes and styles, some of which can be extremely detailed and ornate. For example, as a digital marketer, some projects may require a massive amount of writing (e.g. pitches, press releases, communication with clients, etc.), while others consist more of innovative brainstorming or data analysis.

Sometimes even different stages of the same project can demand distinctly different skill sets. For instance, I’ve observed that the body of outreaches requires a vastly different style of writing than subject line pitches, and in order to maintain innovation, a digital marketer will need to stay as pliable as dough so they can quickly configure their skill set to not only fit but exceed any project’s requirements.

3. Drop the Bricks

Digital marketers can easily find themselves in a funk, especially during extensive outreach for a piece of content that had only a handful of responses. Our team has a phenomenal insight on how to handle these tough situations, as we often tell each other, “Don’t be afraid to throw spaghetti at the wall. If it sticks, great! If not, regroup and throw a new handful.” What we mean here is that you can’t be afraid to try something new (i.e. send new pitches, take a different angle), even if your ideas might not have worked out in the past. You have to drop the heavy bricks of doubt, stress or worry and refresh with something new.

This drop-the-brick concept was an old saying of my former basketball coach. He always told us players that if we made a mistake, just drop the brick and keep playing. If we carried around all our mistakes, then we wouldn’t be free to play at our best because we would be too worried about making another mistake. I’ve notice this same concept transfers quite well into the digital marketing world. Therefore, if an idea doesn’t stick, don’t take it personally. Let it go. Drop the bricks of the past and focus on creating something great, right here and now.

4. Share Your Vision

As digital marketers, a shared team vision is essential to productivity. If team members are unsure why they are doing something, they are far more likely to be uninspired or apathetic. Considering this: Team leaders should establish and share short and long term goals so team members can be confident as to why they are doing even the most menial tasks. Having a shared team vision is also extremely beneficial when it comes to staying focused and finding new ways to solve problems. There may, at times, be opportunities that appear enticing, but if they are outside of the overall vision, they are nothing but distractions that take up time and resources.

The digital marketing field will continue to be governed by the companies that strive to push the boundaries of creativity, innovation and productivity. Therefore, in order to elevate to this level, be confident and flexible. Stay aware of what angle your brain is taking when it is processing information, always try to configure your skills to fit each project and ensure you are communicating with your team to maintain a shared vision. Most importantly, don’t lose your confidence or start doubting. If there are times that you lose focus and doubt your abilities, just drop the bricks, lighten up, and progress forward.

TylerTyler Putz is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.