The Power of Storytelling: Use Story to Create Your Digital Brand Strategy

In an ever-evolving digital and technical world, the marketing game has changed considerably. However, content still remains king in digital marketing. Businesses are now needing to go above and beyond to properly connect to audiences.

Being able to craft compelling copy, utilize language, and put together words with effective storytelling techniques will win attention for your content. When stories are delivered right, it can attract consumers and easily grow an audience.

A new marketing mindset is transforming how we sell and do business, making it necessary to utilize story to captivate audiences and develop brand awareness.

The power of story lets consumers go on a journey and connects meaning on new levels. By building brand trust, and creatively communicating, consumers are more willing to follow your mission. A developed marketing and branding strategy allows content to be seamlessly interwoven and written with a purpose to strengthen brand identity.

Before developing a search engine optimization strategy and taking initiative to rank in Google, digital marketers need to properly develop a cohesive internal brand story and craft a well thought out digital marketing plan and content strategy.

At Circa Interactive, we love to use creative storytelling to help marketing initiatives for higher education. Our education marketing strategies focus on storytelling to improve the enrollment lifecycle.

Develop your content marketing strategy with the power of storytelling:

The Power of Storytelling

Know Your ‘Why’ and Include it in Storytelling

Before executing a content plan, establish a personal and professional ‘why’ behind what you’re doing, and know what you wish to accomplish. Without knowing your ‘why’, you’re missing the heart of storytelling. Stories are developed in order to educate and communicate an idea. Your ‘why’ gives insights to your audience about what you stand for and is the underlying reason you create what you do.

The ‘why’ fuels everything; the story you tell, brand strategy, the digital plan, the clients you take on, and more. Always consider how your business purpose impacts people, clients, and society on a larger scale. Connecting to the ‘why’ fuels new passions and drives more meaning and success with everything you do.

At Circa Interactive, we created a story for American University that showcased education and directly spoke to our ‘why’ of inspiring people to get educated. We appealed to prospective students utilizing history and made a story with visuals that people can connect to and care about.

American University’s School of Education’s mission is to better society and build a stronger democracy by creating an equal access to an excellent education.By playing on the theme of education, our team was able to create a story using the theme “Raise Your Hand” to invoke emotion and create a call to action for those that are inspired to make a difference in education.

Tell Your Own Story to Develop Your Brand

When scripted correctly, the story and content created can communicate a brand’s motives, values, and perspectives. Your brand’s story delivers transparency and builds trust through the values portrayed. Psychology tells us people are more interested in investing in businesses and brands they stand for and can relate to. Therefore, it’s vital businesses develop their story in addition to helping clients develop better stories.

A brand’s unique story is what ultimately wins consumers over. Getting clear on your company’s internal purpose and values can effectively help people connect to who you are and what you’re doing. People always want to know who they are buying from and what they are supporting. It’s imperative brands take time to develop their story and clearly brand themselves well.

When done well, branding builds the foundation, structures your story, and becomes the backbone and DNA of your whole business. You can gain followers, supporters, connections, and new relationships easier by sharing your story and letting people know why you do what you do. Your brand’s overall image, and the passion behind it, creates more success and gets you known.

At Circa, we wanted to improve how we showcase ourselves, so we rebranded our website and took efforts to better convey who we are, what we do, and share more about the people and ‘why’ behind our brand:

Circa Interactive's New Branding

Create Killer Content and Tell a Story That Is Appealing

In a world that is filled with distractions and media overload, brands need to go the extra mile to be seen. It’s imperative their content strategy aligns with a bigger story in order to stand out. Utilizing storytelling to showcase who you are, your passion, the characters behind the brand, and your ultimate purpose, and more, builds brand trust.

The power of story in content creation genuinely conveys to audiences what you’re about and why others should connect with you. Be willing to write in clever, unique ways and consider how it adds value. Garner more engagement by educating consumers through storytelling and sharing your own authentic story.

Long term ROI is made possible by consistently knowing what you’re putting on the web, how it’s assisting clients, and promoting yourself. The content shared and the stories told online correspond directly to the audience you attract and profits you can create. Let your content speak to audiences in creative ways and develop a strategy that can gain lifelong followers. Marketing becomes more efficient and seamless when developed with intention and a cohesive strategy that integrates the power of storytelling to showcase your whole mission.

Circa Interactive works with higher education clients, and we create informative content and infographics to attract audiences and interest prospective students. Our informative infographics educate others and highlight relevant topics that can promote our Universities and educate audiences.

This infographic from American University Online correlates directly with education and has informative information that relates to higher education. The content is interesting and connects American University’s mission of an equal access to education with the trending subject of futuristic education technology.

Credit: American University School of Education Online

Power Your Story and Brand Strategy with Creativity

To be effective in digital marketing, businesses need innovative employees who can intuitively connect content, images, and meaning. Creative thinkers will lead the future of marketing by using storytelling techniques effectively. Without empathy and the ability to unite words and media in artistic forms to catch eyes, you’ll miss out on making a connection with your ideal target audience. Successful marketing campaigns are able to leave consumers with something to remember and evoke deeper meaning that speaks to their desires and connects to their ‘why’.

Take risks with content and be willing to alter strategies. Write your message in meaningful ways and consider what you want your reader to learn. Think beyond what others are doing, form a perspective, and utilize creative thinking to solve problems and innovate. Ask yourself what you can do to be different and get noticed. By shifting ideas of what marketing is, companies can expand their efforts through adopting new tactics, and creating killer content with a thoughtful strategy that makes an impact.

Beyond Powerful Storytelling, Connection Matters

Storytelling adds value and inspires people. All communication efforts serve to convey your story, convey your underlying ‘why’, and highlight your brand. Always remember the problem you’re solving, the audience you are striving to connect to, and the ‘why’ behind your actions and words. Hold values that emulate your internal brand’s story and stick to them. People are ultimately attracted to brands based on how well they can live their story, and have integrity in aligning with it and sharing it well.

Let your mark on the digital world be one of meaning, connection, and exquisitely crafted digital content that shows your brand, educates, and inspires. Your story matters. Make sure you are able to write it well, share it so others can connect with it, and engage successfully.

Circa’s creative director, Joe, and the co-founder, Clayton, share their insight about storytelling and ways to use story to connect to audiences in higher education:

The Power of Storytelling Full Webinar

 

Kali Bills from Circa Interactive

Kali is passionate about digital marketing strategies and loves to utilize her creative and analytical skills in businesses. She studied business marketing and minored in photography and graphic communication at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Kali loves studying storytelling, writing, and utilizing her communication and artistic skills to educate and innovate. She currently helps Circa Interactive in content strategy and analysis, and works on the SEO team. Connect with Kali on LinkedIn.

5 Tips for Engaging with Reporters on Twitter

With two thirds of Americans using social media to get their news, it’s no surprise that those who report the news also utilize and participate in social media. With a news feed updating almost non-stop, the design of Twitter uniquely positions itself as source for breaking news and is therefore an ideal platform for journalists. Additionally, the site allows journalists to stay up-to-date on new developments within their beat and creates a space for dialogue and feedback on news. When engaging with reporters on Twitter it is important to remember that while they may be an authority and leader within their subject matter, they are people just like us with interests and opinions, so it is best to keep it real. However, when engaging with journalists with the intent to pitch a product or idea, there are certain best practices that may help you stand out. Here are 5 tips for engaging with reporters on Twitter:

Set-up a professional account

If your goal is to engage with reporters on behalf of your company or client then setting up a new professional account allows you the freedom to cultivate a social presence free from worry of past tweets re-surfacing. You should choose a profile picture that is professional and is easy to see, and have a straightforward bio. It should be immediately clear who you are and what your goal is by hovering over your name. If you would rather not set up a separate account for fear of losing some of your personal flair, that is ok, but when mixing work and personal time it is important to be more mindful. This includes what profile picture you choose and how you describe yourself, as well as what you say and tweets you ‘like’. Expressing interests is good, liking or Tweeting inappropriate statements while also wanting to be taken seriously, is not.

Research the expert

What is your end goal for engaging with journalists on Twitter? What do you want them to cover? With your end goal in mind, mindfully choose who to follow. If you work for an agency and want to engage with reporters from varying beats, then Twitter lists is a helpful tool to utilize as it allows you to categorize reporters and stay up to date on what reporters covering that topic are talking about.

Learn the art of lurking

Before jumping in and engaging with reporters you know nothing about, it is best to start slow. Ease into your engagement. Follow the reporters you want to build a rapport with to first see what their interests are and what they’re writing about. Become familiar with them by learning what they like, both professionally and personally. You might find you have something in common that might not be immediately obvious from their job title or beat.

Engage softly, build a rapport and pay it forward

Once you feel comfortable initiating engagement, begin by taking small steps such as favoriting or retweeting them before progressing into retweeting with comment or responding directly. Once you do begin engaging directly, provide positive feedback, resources, or pay it forward by sharing their article in your other networks. These small engagements will notify them and start to put your name and profile on their radar.

Pitch them

Once you’ve built a rapport with a journalist then start to test the waters by responding with a pitch or asking if you can DM them to talk more in depth.

In summary, when engaging with reporters on Twitter you should keep it real. The first step is to simply engage with what they’re saying, either by liking their tweets, chiming in to add to the conversation or responding with feedback to an article they wrote. The key is to slowly build a relationship. When you Tweet at them your name will pop up. Once you’ve established a rapport when you email them they might be more apt to open your pitch because they recognize your name. Depending on the relationship you’ve built and how often that reporter uses Twitter you might find that you can DM them and send your pitch via Twitter instead of email.

Lindsey is a public relations expert who joined the Circa team in January 2018. She currently manages media relations for professors from multiple universities, in a variety of disciplines, helping connect them with relevant opportunities to increase their thought leadership and program exposure. Graduating with honors from Virginia Tech with both a bachelors and masters in Communication, Lindsey understands how to bridge the gap between academia and the media in order to facilitate and support the spread of credible news. Lindsey has obtained media placements for professors in outlets such as The Washington Post, Forbes and Scientific American. Connect with Lindsey on Twitter: @lindsey_baumann

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.

 

Circa Linebreak

 

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.

 

Circa Linebreak

 

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.

 

Circa Linebreak

 

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.”

 

Circa Linebreak

 

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.

 

Circa Linebreak

 

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. 

Circa Linebreak

 

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.

 

Circa Linebreak

 

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. 

Using AI to Reach Students and Increase Enrollments

Webinar: How Artificial Intelligence Will Change the Way Universities Engage and Enroll Students: August 7th, 11AM PST.

It’s no secret that competition among higher education institutions is at an all-time high. Even though prospective students are always on their phones, they rarely answer them. What used to be a good strategy for reaching prospects doesn’t work as well anymore for colleges. This generation of students expects instant responses and personalized experiences. With higher education institutions struggling to fund, staff, and scale these kinds of marketing services, reaching students is becoming harder than ever. With this in mind, how can colleges and universities leverage technology that will help them more effectively reach their prospects?

Well, it is now time to implement Artificial Intelligence and Chatbot technology into your marketing strategy. You’ll more effectively reach students while simultaneously relieving your overburdened staff and better utilizing your already-tight budget. With students today being used to getting information instantaneously at all hours of the day or night, they expect to have easy access to institutions in the same way that they have easy access to their friends on social media. By giving a Chatbot the task of quickly and easily interacting with prospects, students get the personalized and instant experience they’re looking for. You’re also ensuring that your school stands out in their minds during the school selection process. Chatbots can become a crucial part of your story telling, and you can use this technology to bring top level prospective students to your virtual doorstep.

Here’s how:

On Tuesday, August 7th at 11AM PST, join Circa Interactive’s Joseph Lapin and Clayton Dean, and Jason VanLue from Zaengle, to learn how your institution should implement Artificial Intelligence and Chatbot technology to improve enrollment efforts and enable you to share your unique story with the highest quality students.

Registration: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_k-dYNgm-TeqB8023vXEjHQ

What You’ll Learn:
  • Understand the current and future opportunity of Artificial Intelligence and its place in higher education.
  • Learn why chatbots and AI-driven platforms are going to change the way we engage with prospective students.
  • See how you can scale your team with the help of intelligent engagement.
  • Understand the cost savings associated with leveraging this technology.
  • Learn how AI can help connect with students on an emotional level.

“By 2020, the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse.” –Gartner.

Register now to learn how to grow your institution with innovative AI technology!

Circa Interactive is the premier digital marketing agency in higher education. Since opening in 2011, Circa Interactive has helped more than 60 degree programs increase lead flow, build brand awareness,and generate more students. To find out how our services could help your institution, please email clayton@circaedu.com.

 

5 Social Media Stats on Demographic Targeting in 2018

Both social outreach and higher education are now more than ever about ensuring a best-fit match between students and a college or university. What works for one family or one type of student might not work as well for another. That is the overarching theme behind today’s social outreach. In other words, your branding strategy should be about creating an experience that will make prospective students and their families say “this is where I need to go to college”.

To get to that point, you’re going to have to determine what the most effective social media platforms are and which of your channels is going to deliver the highest return on investment.

Create Compelling and Visual Content

The average Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat user is squarely between the ages of 18 and 24. That’s the demographic that you’ll want to be targeting for both under and post-graduate. Instagram is obviously extremely visual, and it allows you to put a lot of influencers on the platform and have those influencers promote your branded content. Nearly a fifth (18%) of prospective college students said they checked their favorite college’s Instagram page multiple times in a single day.

Snapchat is another useful social media platform to target on because it allows you to engage that 18-24 target demographic with day-in-the-life narratives on what it’s like to attend university. Studies also show that up to 65% of visual content is remembered by prospective students after three days. That’s a lot of time for your message to percolate.

Retargeting is Going to Be Vital

The average American uses three of the eight major social media platforms simultaneously. Unlike applying for jobs or internships where LinkedIn and Google+ might be enough, effective outreach to prospective college and university students needs to incorporate a multi-channel branding strategy.

Retargeting is an extremely powerful way to ensure multi-channel branding.

Called remarketing by some, retargeting is a cookie-based digital marketing strategy that lets you market more often to prospective college students who have already shown an interest in your institution.

That obviously makes for higher marketing ROI and it simultaneously lets you broaden your impact across major social media platforms.

Certain Ethnicities Use Certain Sites

Nearly half (49%) of hispanics in the United States used Facebook-owned WhatsApp compared to about 15% for whites and 20% for African-Americans.

The high percentage of hispanics using WhatsApp hints at a broader trend in social media marketing.Prospective college students are resoundingly using social media and digital communication like email, messengers, and text to find out about potential colleges and universities. Seventy six percent of prospective college students said they used email often to find out more about a prospective college or university.

Target Where the Young People Are

88% of 18 to 29-year-old young adults are on social media, and when it comes to higher education marketing Facebook is still the go-to place. Facebook’s advertising options and custom audiences features work well with higher education marketing.

Creating compelling content that is consistently shared and liked while allowing prospective students an insider’s look at what’s happening on campus is a great strategy to put into motion. 

Pinterest: Microtarget on the Right Platforms

Fifth and final surprising stat: In a recent survey over 40% of women said that they used Pinterest regularly. There’s a pretty large gender disparity here since only 16% of men used the platform. The Federal Education Department has been documenting the fact that women have steadily been outpacing men in terms of college aspirations for quite some time. There are now literally millions more women opening acceptance letters and choosing to go to college than there are men doing the same. Projections from the Federal Education Department say that the number of women choosing college will continue to be much higher than men for the foreseeable future.

About 55% of prospective undergraduate students are women, and another very interesting finding when it comes to higher education marketing and Pinterest is that 70% of Pinterest users are female. As it turns out, men and women use Pinterest differently as well. Women use the social media platform as a wish list and men use it more as a shopping cart. Put another way, your social outreach to prospective college students on Pinterest should come from a place of allowing prospective students to warm up to the idea of going to your college or university.

Studies show that women use Pinterest as a way of motivating themselves and finding a source of lasting inspiration.

Letting prospective students know how their future goals align with your college or university through your outreach on Pinterest is therefore a very good idea and is a great way to better your demographic targeting. 

Farzin joined the Circa team in January of 2018 as Director of Paid Media. Prior to his current role, Farzin managed multiple digital marketing teams for a number of nationally recognized Digital Marketing Agencies. In 2005, Farzin cofounded The Patient’s Guide a web publishing company serving healthcare providers. His company was acquired by IAC Publishing, the company behind ask.com – Investopedia.com – About.com – Dictionary.com and The Daily Beast. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Social Psychology and his master’s degree in Evolutionary Anthropology from California State University, Fullerton. 

7 Tips To Revolutionize Your Cold Email Marketing Strategies

So, you’d like to boost your sales or generate new leads, but your opt-in email marketing strategies just aren’t cutting it. Somehow, you find yourself with a list of leads, or “prospects”, that you’d like to reach out to for the first time but aren’t sure how to build the right process to get them to take an action. The following cold email tips can help drive a response while keeping the reputation of your domain safe. 

What is a Cold Email?

Cold emailing, or “email outreach” is here and it can boost your lead generation. It is the process of reaching out to an individual or organization that you haven’t interacted with before and requesting that they take an action. As long as you play by the rules, this can open up the door to a large number of targeted prospects.

An important piece of cold emailing that is often overlooked is how difficult it can be and how many technical aspects must be considered before you get the results you’re hoping for. For anyone interested in cold email outreach, here are six tips to get you started.

Cold Email Authentication and Trust

First and foremost, become familiar with CAN-SPAM laws and best practices. In short, you must always allow your prospects to unsubscribe at any time and must honor their request. But, it’s good to know that an unsubscribe link counts as a link. As we’ll discuss later on, you’ll learn how your recipient’s email servers will look for the amount of links in your emails. So, an alternative is to leave a quick note at the bottom of your email, letting know people know they can unsubscribe. Remember, you need to include your name and an address too.

Second, you need to authenticate your domain, otherwise known as whitelabeling. Your recipient’s email server has filters, like a gatekeeper whose sole purpose is to keep the user safe. So, when a server gets an email from johnnymarketing@university.com, but sees that it was sent through a different server, it will get suspicious and might potentially block you or mark you as spam. You are a stranger, after all.

This is where you need to go to your email provider’s sender authentication settings and begin the process of authenticating your domain. Your email provider will have instructions, with specific codes that you will need to enter into your website manager and go to your DNS settings. Authenticating your DKIM and CNAME is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your emails are actually going through. But just so you know, some individuals have very strict servers, and even then – you might not be able to get through.

Another helpful tip is to authenticate through one of the biggest platforms, Google Postmaster Tools. This is an extra set of steps to help Google trust your emails when you’re reaching out to their users. Once authenticated, you can also see their reporting on your spam rate, domain reputation, and more!

Cold Email List Sizes

Third, understand your needs and the differences between Shared IPs and Dedicated IPs. Shared IPs are what your email provider probably has you in, unless you’re sending over 100K emails a month. These are pools of users who circulate IPs as they send their emails. Sometimes, there might be a user in your pool who acts poorly, and damages the IP pool you’re in, affecting your deliverability. It’s very normal, and happens all the time. If you are sending in high volumes, then you might want to consider getting a dedicated IP; a private IP that only you operate out of. This route also means learning how to warm up your IP.

Building a Quality Cold Email List

Fourth, make sure you have solid lists of prospects you’re reaching out to. If your email marketing strategy is targeting unvalidated, unrelated prospects – you will not get the responses you’re looking for and maybe even fall into some account trouble. How to find relevant prospects can be an entire separate post on its own, so for now let’s assume that you already have a list of prospects that are relevant to whatever your outreach is proposing. But, the key point after you have that list is to validate. The more bounces you get back, the less credible you seem. Basically, picture the ISP as security guards who observe everything on the internet. When they see bounced emails, they connect the dots and assume that you’re sending out mass email to people you don’t know. Tools like NeverBounce and BriteVerify will help you weed out the emails that are going to bounce.

Cold Email Segmentation and Drip Campaigns

Fifth, it’s time to create a campaign. Whatever platform you use, if at all, it’s important to come up with a gameplan to your email marketing strategy. Create a timed schedule of emails; sending out X amount of emails every X minutes, to a limit of X emails per day. You can see how this is starting to sound more and more calculated. If you have a domain gmail set up, then you need to remember that if you send a bulk list of emails at once, or even near sending 2,000 emails a day – you’re going to get on their radar and might end up in Google Jail.

It’s important to make sure that your emails, even if segmented, have intervals between them. Personally, I don’t let my emails go out within 100 seconds of each other. This way, Gmail can see my time stamps and see that my emails are not going out within the same minute. No matter how close in time, the timestamps are different for each email.

It’s helpful to create a campaign that runs through about two to three weeks, with five to six follow up emails being sent until the prospect responds. Your time range might change, but the name of the game here is to intermittently follow up on your prospects to let them know you’re interested to get in touch with them, without harassing them. This might mean adjusting how far apart you sequence your follow up emails. But it’s really all about getting a response first.

Writing a Cold Email That Will Get a Response

An important note here, the ISPs keep an eye out on the volume of emails you send out, but also closely watch how many people respond. It’s a big litmus test of trust. The thinking goes, if person A knows person B, then logically, person B would respond. So, follow up emails are incredibly important. Although you must always give people the option to unsubscribe or be taken off of your mailing list – you should have a high priority on getting a response, even if that response is to no longer be contacted.

Sixth, it’s time to start writing out your email copy. This part can also be an entire separate post in of itself, so I’ll stick to the basics. Keep it short, keep it friendly. If you are going to include links, make sure your links are branded or white labeled.Try to limit your emails to no more than one link. You want to sound like a real person, having a friendly conversation. Do not sound formal, remember that you are in the most basic sense asking a stranger to do a favor.

Cold Email Testing and Tracking

Seven, remember that any kind of tracking is going to show up on your prospect’s radar. For any first touch email, I turn off all forms of tracking. Open/Click tracking often works because your email provider embeds a hidden html image in your email to track. But, images are huge red flags for servers.

Last, it’s important to monitor your emails and data. In addition to honoring your unsubscribe requests, this is a good step to see where your emails are ending up, using tools like GlockApps. Take time each week to send a few tests to analyze and monitor how your emails are performing, if you’re inboxing, and to see if you’ve ended up in any blacklists.

These 7 tips cover a not so brief guide to cold emailing! Remember that each strategy must be adjusted to your goals, what works for me might not work for you at all. But, the basics are always going to be the same: be trustworthy (authenticate everything), be to the point (quick, simple copy with to the point pitches), and be friendly (don’t harass, write conversationally, honor what they say).

Best of luck!

Charlie recently joined the Circa Interactive team and helms our email and outreach strategies. Charlie is a graduate of Biola University and spent prior years as a digital content strategist and copywriter. He is a passionate, strategy-minded marketer that develops our link-building efforts.

15 Higher Education Digital Marketing Strategies for 2018

Every day, universities and colleges are coming up with exciting, innovative courses for the millions of motivated students all over the world. The higher education space is being redefined by innovation in design, delivery and employability for many degree programs. Education experts have the resources they need to craft, test and rollout cutting edge online degree programs. That’s why higher education institutions are bringing on board creative communication and marketing professionals to keep their institutions and programs visible and desirable. Here at Circa, we utilize unique higher education marketing strategies that help raise awareness of courses and programs while bringing in high quality students that enable online degree programs to flourish. 

Innovative PPC Strategies

Andrew Glasser and Farzin Espahani

The possibilities for higher ed marketing are seemingly endless when it comes to PPC. It is by and large the most immediate method for generating high-quality leads while broadcasting your brand to qualified individuals, ultimately turning clicks into prospective students. In Search, PPC is a hotbed for student acquisition, with degree-seekers constantly turning to Google and Bing to help them decide their career/academic path. Within Social, PPC offers increasingly advanced tools which we can use to hone in on subgroups of your target audience, fostering lead growth in the student acquisition cycle while simultaneously nurturing your Brand’s reach.

When it comes to paid advertising on social platforms, we notice a clear trend for universities who are marketing online graduate degree programs: All the ads are the same. The ad copy makes it clear that the program is flexible and completely online, and the visuals often convey a happy working professional looking satisfied in their new role. In 2018, it is our focus, mission, and purpose to ensure that colleges and universities make a commitment to standing out from the crowd by showcasing their true story. Students understand that they have basic needs in their degree program, but in 2018, millennials need to have a connection to something bigger. It is important for universities to look at their missions, ideals, and unique value propositions outside of online, flexible, innovative curriculum to begin conveying the information that matters to a student’s personal journey.

Mobile Optimized Search Ads

Studies continue to show that mobile devices are the go-to option for searching the internet. In fact, mobile devices are used more often for searches than desktop computers.  The average person checks their phone 150 times a day, the average time spend on a smartphone is 177 minutes per day, and amazingly, the average mobile session is 70 seconds. This means consumers are using their phones all day, every day, but in short bursts of time. By bidding higher for mobile devices in Google Adwords and Bing ads while utilizing mobile optimized ad extensions we can increase the CTR significantly.

Managed Placements And Interests

Managed placements is a good strategy when there are specific websites that you think are related to specific program or university where can be visited by a potential student. For example for an online MBA program, we want to place our display ads on education related websites and focus on pages relevant to higher education and career advancement. This will help us to make sure our ads are shown to those more likely to click on the ad to learn more.  

Facebook Retargeting Campaigns

The beauty and effectiveness of retargeting allows you to reach out to users who have already showed interest to your brand or program and to get them to re-engage with your brand. This is a slow but steady and cost effective strategy that converts more students compared to traditional targeting, since users are more likely to engage with ads from brands that they know. The best way to achieve a winner retargeting strategy is to start with a brand awareness ad to simply introduce your brand. Then running a retargeting campaign that shows new ads to those who have already engaged with your previous ad.

Fundamental SEO Strategies

Tyler Cooper

Every month, hundreds of thousands of prospective students are logging onto their computers, opening up Google, and trying to figure out where they should earn their degree. If your website’s SEO strategy is not up to par, chances are you’re missing out on the vast majority of these leads. While you can use Google AdWords to show up for these results, you’re going to be paying a premium for each click. When you rank organically, there is no cost per click. When looking at this from an ROI perspective, the value of SEO is undeniable. Having a large search presence means more organic traffic, more leads, more applicants, and more students. If SEO is not a part of your digital marketing strategy in 2018, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.

Link building

Link building is undoubtedly the most important aspect of your SEO strategy. In order to compete in competitive markets such as higher education, your website will need a steady stream of high-quality and relevant backlinks. There are a number of link building strategies. You can read more about those here.

On-Page SEO

In order to get the most out of your link building campaigns, it’s extremely important that your on-page SEO is in place. Make sure you all of the content on your website is properly optimized for search. This includes keyword rich title tags, relevant meta descriptions, keyword density, optimized header tags, internal linking, and much more.

Technical SEO

While this may require assistance from a web developer, it’s important that your site is technically sound so that it can be properly crawled by Google. The easier it is for Google to crawl and understand your site, the more your website’s pages will be shown in Google’s search results. On the other hand, if your website is full of technical errors, your search rankings will almost certainly suffer. Some things to look for when performing a technical SEO audit are: 404 errors, missing/broken XML sitemaps, slow page load times, duplicate content, irrelevant/thin content, and more! Use a tool like Screaming Frog to identify some of these common issues.

Website Content Strategies

Frederic Lee

Creation of website content (articles, infographics, data visualization, and more) is an essential aspect of any search marketing strategy. The primary reason being that Google favors websites with fresh content. With this in mind, a strategy of continuous creation and publication of content is important for website visibility in Google’s search results. In addition to creating fresh content, here are three core strategies to get the most ROI in this content.

Traffic and Rankings Focused Content

Through careful keyword research with an emphasis on target long-tail variations of your core keywords, content can be created with the best opportunity to rank in the search results. Keyword clusters/pods can be established in order to streamline content creation and may cover many keyword opportunity areas surrounding a long-tail variation. Upon completion and distribution, this content may rank for competitive keywords and either bring in large quantities of industry traffic, or a lesser, more valuable flow of conversion-focused traffic.

Conversion Support Focused Content

Depending on your business goals, conversion support content have a goal of providing detailed information about your product/service and industry. This content is designed to speak directly to individuals in the sales funnel. Through paid and organic social distribution and careful placement on your website, these articles are designed to be a strong touchpoint in the sales process.

Social Signal Focused Content

A portion of the Google algorithm involves having positive social signals pointing towards your website and content. Articles and graphics can be created with this exact goal in mind. A detailed analysis of your target audience and how they interact on social network is a key first step. This content must give them a reason to share and engage. Upon publication, strategic social sharing and promotion can help kick start this content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other relevant networks to your industry.

Creative Digital PR Strategies

George Bradley and Joseph Lapin

In the higher education industry, digital public relations is an important approach for any SEO strategy. Here at Circa, we believe that the faculty are one of a university’s greatest assets, yet in general, many higher ed marketing companies are not utilizing these key stakeholders. By leveraging traditional public relations strategies for the digital world, digital PR not only influences brand awareness and thought leadership for universities, but it also allows us to create high level media opportunities for our professors in publications such as the Washington Post, The Hill and HuffPost. Not only are the professors being placed here, but we are obtaining backlinks to our program pages. This directly influences organic traffic that leads to conversions and new students. In collaboration with on-page SEO elements, content marketing, and other link building strategies, digital PR helps bring prospective students to a university and serves as a significant contributor to a diverse link profile for an authoritative website.

Relationship Building

Professors and reporters/editors are the two key relationships that should be built as part of a higher education digital marketing strategy. By building trusting relationships with faculty, you are able to gain an understanding of their research and passions and also create opportunities that are specifically focused on their expertise. Relationships with reporters can also prove to be greatly beneficial. When you have a reporter who trusts you, they are far more likely to respond to your pitch and come to you for a quote from one of your faculty members.

Creative Pitch Writing

Pitching compelling story lines and sources are the crux of any PR strategy. In the higher education digital marketing space, we leverage the faculty expertise to write pitches that relate to current trending topics in the news. There are often four key components to a pitch, and these are the lead, call to action, unique value proposition, and conclusion. You can find more information on how to write these pitches here.

Stay on Top of the News

Having access to and critically understanding the latest news is imperative because you want to stay ahead of the curve. There are various ways to understand what is happening throughout the world, and you should consider each method to be as important as the next. Understanding stories in the newspaper and tying in our professors is the perfect way to begin the pitching process. All of this comes back to understanding your professors and the people working on relevant stories within the media.

Organic Social Media Marketing

Audrey Wills

In 2018, social media is an imperative part to any digital marketing strategy –– especially for higher education. To put the importance of social media marketing into context, take a look at the graph below. When the Pew Research Center began tracking social media usage in 2005, less than 8% of 18-49 year olds in America used at least one social platform. Today, over 75% of 18-49 year olds are active on at least one social media site, meaning social media is the optimal medium for reaching higher education’s target audience.

While the growth in social media usage is a good thing in the world of higher education digital marketing, this increased usage leads to users being inundated with ads and content marketing. So much so that at the beginning of 2018, Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize content from user’s inner circles. Thus, making it even more difficult to get content in front of your target audience –– organically at least. So what tactics can you use to ensure you continue to reach your audience and boost enrollment? Let’s take a look.

Know Your Platform

As mentioned before, Facebook changed their algorithm in the beginning of 2018 to prioritize content from a user’s family and friends. This means that whenever you post content, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you need to post content that best suits that platform.

Facebook’s algorithm favors content that people want to engage with. Think: would I share this with my friends? Content that is made for Twitter should be concise, yet informational. Let your followers know what you’re sharing and why. Do some research and identify the most active hashtags for your industry and use them throughout your tweets to help increase your reach. When creating content for Instagram, think visuals first, and make sure you have an eye-catching graphic that will grab your follower’s attention and get them to stop scrolling.

Keep up-to-date on social media marketing by attending a conference: http://circaedu.com/hemj/13-higher-education-marketing-conferences-in-2018/  

Live Video

One tactic that all social media algorithm’s love is Live Video. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter enable you to leverage live video to interact with prospective students. My favorite tactic for utilizing live video is hosting live Q&A info sessions to address general program FAQs and provide prospective students the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers in real-time. Hosting a series of Q&A info sessions that address different areas of your program. To give students a better feel for your program, have different team members host each session. Anyone from an alumni, a current student, a faculty member, or even dean are perfect candidates to provide their own perspective and create a connection with the prospective students.

Chatbots At Your Service

Social media has changed the way we all communicate, and chatbots are taking our new forms of communication one step further. Chatbots provide a modern way for students to get questions answered instantaneously. Implementing chatbots into your recruitment strategy can help your admissions team speed up the enrollment process by weeding out unqualified candidates, answering questions in seconds, not hours, and even following up with potential students to ensure they finish their applications before the enrollment deadline.

Circa Interactive is the premier digital marketing agency in higher education. Since opening in 2011, Circa Interactive has helped more than 60 degree programs increase lead flow, build brand awareness,and generate more students. To find out how our services could help your institution, please email clayton@circaedu.com. 

 

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.

 

 

How to Use Digital PR to Influence Organic Rankings

Public relations has always played an integral role in helping businesses and nonprofits to achieve their goals. But in today’s search-engine-reliant world, digital PR know-how has the potential to explode organizations’ visibility before the eyes of prospective customers. Unfortunately, too few PR pros understand how backlinking and search-engine optimization (SEO) work, and their importance in achieving their clients’ aims. By way of providing an introduction to this complex and rapidly evolving aspect of PR, I’m going to offer some insight into how we’ve helped enhance the visibility (and improved the bottom lines) of our clients.

Why Should PR Experts also be SEO Experts?

At Circa, our clients are institutions of higher learning, and much of our work involves elevating our clients’ professors and teachers as thought leaders. We do this, in part, by using traditional PR skills and tools to reach out to publications to arrange interviews with these professors and publish their content. Not only does this achieve the goal of increasing brand awareness, but it also accomplishes an increasingly critical goal for any successful business in the digital age: improved search engine visibility and rankings.

Our clients share a straightforward goal: to enroll more students into their university programs. In order to achieve this goal, they need to increase their brand awareness, and increasing awareness requires accomplishing two very specific tasks: showcasing the university’s value and also boosting its digital presence. By following our specific link-building strategy, we not only establish more credibility among our target audience, but we also rank higher in relevant keyword searches conducted by prospective students. Our strategy is one that could apply to any business that relies on PR to increase its overall brand awareness.

How to Leverage Digital PR to Gain More Digital Visibility

In the digital world, links are critical. Links help to boost a webpage’s rankings and ensure that search engines like Google recognize the page as genuine and credible. In the past, it was possible to buy or acquire links of little relevance from low quality websites in order to achieve a high search-engine ranking. That’s no longer possible. These days, web pages need to feature a select amount of natural keywords and links from other viable and relevant sites from high quality sources. The focus is quality of links. Acquiring these types of links can be challenging, especially since it requires establishing relationships between various content sources. However, this is a task that PR professionals are naturally equipped to tackle.

Using traditional tactics, PR professionals can actually generate significant digital results for their clients. For instance, a PR pro can pitch a reputable publication or website—one that’s relevant to the client’s specific interests—with the hopes of landing interviews or media placements. Once the PR professional is able to successfully land an interview or place a client-written byline in a publication, then it’s up to the PR professional to also achieve the crucial end-goal of acquiring the link to the desired webpage within the media placement.

Obtaining a link back to a desired page can be challenging depending on the publication, but it is certainly possible in many instances. Oftentimes, the best way to gain a link is through commonsense approaches. For example, a PR professional can ask a publication to link back to a specific site as a means of attribution. Additionally, the link shouldn’t be overtly self-serving—it shouldn’t take a viewer to a landing page, for instance, that pushes them to purchase something. Instead, the link should feature valuable, useful and relevant content.

If the client is a college, for example, and a PR professional is able to arrange an interview with one of the college’s professors to appear in a publication, then the link placed on the interview page should take the viewer back to the program’s homepage, giving the viewer a chance to learn more about the institution and potentially sign up for more information. This type of link placement strategy is fairly effective: the client receives a form of attribution and a natural link, but the publication won’t feel that it’s promoting the institution in an obvious or attention-grabbing way. When it comes to placing links, it’s all about common sense: PR professionals should use their networking and communication skills to ensure that their clients are properly attributed within the specific content.

The Data

In our experience, using expert commentary and byline opportunities coupled with keyword-based search campaigns and SEO-optimized webpage content efforts has helped to generate impressive results for our clients. For instance, our expert commentary efforts in publications like the Huffington Post resulted in over 2,000 social shares and 10 backlinks for one client, and the University of Wisconsin saw program inquiries jump by 33 percent because of our use of SEO-optimized content efforts .

In short, PR professionals can use their tried-and-true PR tools to not only boost their clients’ brand, but also influence search engine rankings. As long as PR professionals are willing to remain flexible and adapt to the demands of the digital world, they will be able to leverage their valuable communication skills to generate their desired results.

joeJoseph Lapin M.F.A. is an author, creative director, and journalist, and his writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Narratively, Salon, Slate, and more. He is a former adjunct professor at Florida International University, and he has worked on PR campaigns for Ernst & Young, Brentwood Associates, and more.

5 Tips for Effective Client Communication

In the marketing industry, understanding how to deliver desired results for your clients is crucial to a successful business relationship, but a study shows that 46 percent of employees regularly leave meetings not understanding the next steps. Below are a few helpful communication tips that will ensure that both parties always leave a conversation knowing how to proceed, making discussions with clients more productive and effective.

Ask the right questions

In any communication setting, the person asking the questions is the one that steers the direction of the conversation and ultimately has control. The trick here is making sure that you are asking the questions that give you a better understanding of what your clients are feeling and what they want. Questions that prompt yes or no answers will not further a conversation, but rather put the client in a corner where they cannot fully explain what they are feeling. Deploy ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions that require a more elaborate response than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. For example, “how can we improve the illustration?” will get you much further than “do you like the illustration?”, because it requires a more detailed explanation of why the client satisfied or unsatisfied. Knowing how to frame your questions will also help resolve any problems or conflicts between you and your client. You can gain a better understanding of how your client feels about the work and how you can improve and grow in the future. Here are some other great ways to stage questions that will help you get to the root of a problem: https://wavelength.asana.com/develop-effective-communication/

Set the tone from the start

Make sure your style of communication is professional, yet personable. You want to show your client that accomplishing their goals is paramount, while simultaneously establishing an air of trust among both parties. Additionally, don’t be afraid to use informal conversation as a way to build the relationship. Make it known that the relationship is conducive to constructive criticism and feedback and that both parties are free to openly share their thoughts, ideas and opinions. Setting this tone will make collaboration easy and will keep the clients happy.

Be empathetic

 Show your client that you understand their concerns and recognize that they are human. If a client is upset about something, or seems like they are having a bad day and are taking it out on your work, refer to tip number one and start asking questions tailored to their concerns. Make it known that you are here to listen to their concerns and that you want to help them solve problems. You can also use “it seems” phrases to show the client what you’re understanding from their communication. By doing this, you are relaying your understanding of their problem, while also allowing the client to hear the tone that they are emitting. For example, if a client gets upset and says, “I cannot quite work out this illustration” and provides no other feedback, you can say “it seems like you want changes to be made to the illustration. How can we change the design to better suit your goals?”.

Do your homework

Preliminary research is not only useful for current clients, but also potential clients that you may be trying to court. Go into a weekly client meeting with new, potentially useful resources and a knowledge base of what your client has wanted in the past. Following the same idea, step into a potential client presentation with solid knowledge of their business and a strong idea of what their past work looks like. Be as prepared as possible. This shows the client that you truly care about their goals and are ready to help accomplish these. As a higher education marketing company, our public relations team leverages professors within our client’s degree programs in order to land media opportunities. We interview the professors before doing outreach on their behalf in order to get a better understanding of their passions and expertise, but before the interviews, we research the professor and tailor our interview questions to their individual work and interests. This establishes a rapport with them from the start, and they appreciate that we do not waste their time by going into the interview blind. Doing your homework upfront is a time-saver for everyone involved and shows the client that they are important to you.

Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone

In the digital age, much of the communication that occurs in a business setting happens via email or through some other digital medium. While this is convenient and generally effective, studies show that face-to-face communication is much more productive in terms of accomplishing one’s goals. While face-to-face communication with clients is not always possible in a digital company like ours, a phone call is the next best thing. Having a spoken conversation can solve problems and demonstrate a sense of urgency on your part to resolve an issue. Additionally, It is much faster and a more direct way to get to the root of a problem or miscommunication, leaving less room for things to get misinterpreted in the midst of a client crisis. Good old-fashioned speaking often gets the job done better than an instant message ever could.

 

Shannon black and white 2 Shannon has been contributing to the growth of the Circa team for nearly two years and recently graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in Communication Studies. Shannon’s creativity and passion for public relations and content marketing has contributed to Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value.