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. 

 

How to Successfully Utilize Brand Elements Within Creative Assets

Creative assets that successfully include the brand elements of a client can lead to improved overall success. Within higher education, a simple logo can be used on everything from print collateral to football jerseys. A graphic is much more impressionable than plain text and can be used in various sizes and transparencies. Brand elements from the general logo can help market a school without having to repeat the name and serve as a key component in the story. 

How to Retrieve Brand Elements

Most schools have what is called either a “style guide” or “brand guidelines.” Usually a guide can be found under the keywords “marketing materials,” but if that is not easily found then searching “[School Name]’s style guide” on a search engine can also help. Some guides are more refined and thorough than others, but they should include the same basic materials in order to keep their marketing consistent whether the creative is coming from someone working for the university or an outside company.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 3.58.51 PM

The creative guide should include:

  • Logo variations (color, stacked, text-only, etc)
  • Font choices (main text, subtext, and/or paragraph text)
  • Color choices (color codes, primary colors, secondary colors)
  • Photography style
  • Example of print collateral

If these are not available, there is usually an email address that you can contact. Make sure to state why you need the graphics and what you intend to use them for.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 4.00.09 PM

Follow the Brand Guidelines

This style guide offers a broken up version of their shield logo for use in marketing. They also include restrictions that they have on the graphic element so that they can keep control of the appearance.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 4.03.03 PM

I created a landing page for this client and included the broken up shield in white with a low transparency. This added interest into the page without distracting too much from the image, and because it was on brand, there was no need to receive approval for the styling.

tulane_extraheaders_14Some schools can be very strict with their logo use and how they like their graphic elements to look. Always discuss with your contact at the school if it’s okay to alter the element’s color, size, or shape.

Don’t Overdo it

If you overuse the brand element, it may distract from the logo and overload the viewer with the school’s branding. It’s best to keep the graphic simple and something the viewer might only see subconsciously. It can also be useful to experiment with abstraction. You don’t need to show the entire brand element to communicate the brand especially if the logo is also being used.

SoPA concept_v1-2

An image I created for a program here uses just the outline of the shield graphic. For someone who has seen the graphics many times before, this does not come off as overpowering but serves as a reminder. For someone who has never seen the graphics or does not know of the university, this is something they will remember for its unique shape. When this viewer comes across the logo or other marketing ads, they will feel a sense of familiarity.

Try to keep a contrast in size between the logo and the brand element. They should not compete for attention. In my skyscraper ads for the client I included the complete shield icon in large scale while keeping the logo (which included the icon) in a small scale. This works best for ads of this shape since the bold, loud graphic should catch people’s attention.

skyscraper ads_newest-08

Conclusion

In order to keep your design concise you should make sure the brand element is not distracting and doesn’t move your eye to an area of the design that is least important to the hierarchy. In other words, try out transparencies and cutting the graphic off from the edge so that it gives only a hint of the branding. Play around with the different graphics at your disposal instead of simply just placing it in a corner (which might not look bad either). It’s better to play around with the different ways to use it than to place it in one spot for every ad or landing page. Consistency is good, but spontaneity with the graphic can keep things interesting.

 

meGabrielle Brambila is a graphic designer for Circa Interactive. She is a recent graduate from San Diego State University with experience working as a designer for an on-campus entrepreneurship organization. Her passion for illustration and photography inspire her to create something new and unique every day.

Learnings (and Mistakes) that Have Shaped My Communications Career in Higher Education

With almost 20 years on the marketing and communications side of higher education, I’ve learned a great deal from key stakeholders and my brilliant teams. But I’ve learned from myself and my mistakes, too. It’s amazing what can grow from a few blunders, helping you lead a more productive, informed and fulfilling career.

Following are six of the biggest lessons I learned from my own failures:

Communicate with everyone.

During my early years in higher-ed communications, I would communicate with one audience at a time. My approach was not as inclusive; and, I sometimes left out key audiences that needed to be informed.

Lesson learned! As higher-ed marketing experts, identify every possible communication channel to disseminate updates through a mix of university websites, videos, email, newsletters and live discussions, as well as through external media, social media, community partners and education outlets. Different audiences receive information from a variety of sources, so accessibility is important – accommodating the way they are informed. Transparency helps reach key audiences; so they are not only informed, but so they feel part of the conversation.

Delegate, delegate, delegate.

During my first job out of college, I tried to do it all. I wanted to prove to myself and others that I was capable and effective.  So I took on more work than I should, and, eventually, I started missing details – and I was not being very effective (and didn’t feel very capable). While I had good intentions, I was missing deadlines, making mistakes and feeling overwhelmed.

Delegation is important to a successful outcome. Your team is just that… a team, and delegation empowers all team mates to have a role and to feel involved in project success. When the right mix is involved, work gets done more efficiently and successfully. Delegation is a great way to coach and mentor, as well.

Give back – and Get Back.

In my early career, prior to getting involved in higher education, I was stuck, frustrated and not learning very much in my job. I was craving professional development and new challenges, and I made a mistake by waiting too long to satisfy this craving.

Then, I got involved with the American Cancer Society as a volunteer. With the sole intention of giving back to the community, I actually “got back” so much more from this experience.  Volunteering gave me the professional development I needed, while enhancing my communication and leadership skills.  Most importantly, I met a board member from Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver), and that introduction led me to higher education and long-term communications role at my current organization. So, expand your community, and more will come.

Course Correct.

We’re familiar with the expression, “Life is what happens while we are busy planning it.”  Well, the same holds true with our careers. I wrote a plan for a previous president, and then I got so focused on sticking to the communications plan — and then I missed a few opportunities.

While it’s important to have a plan, I also learned that it’s helpful to step back, evaluate, adjust and course correct when new opportunities develop – and challenges occur. I now accept that plans often need to be adjusted, and that’s a good thing.

Listen to All Stakeholders.

It’s easy to isolate yourself and your team in your work. I’ve done that many times, and learned the hard way about isolated thinking. Big mistake!

Learn from stakeholders from all sides — from students to donors to staff members to the community, as they all have something to teach you. They wear different hats and can collaborate and add perspective to university outreach and strategies.

Model and Mentor.

In my early years, I wanted to show my bosses and leaders that I could figure it out by myself.  While sometimes I could, I also found that I made some mistakes along the way and that I could have benefited from some extra guidance.

Eventually, I started working with a mentor who taught me new leadership skills. In return, I mentor students and professionals, to help them grow in their careers and foster new partnerships. After all, higher education is about teaching others, and it’s important to mentor and model throughout your career.

We can learn from so many teachers and leaders in higher education, including ourselves.  So embrace the blunders, and celebrate the lessons. There’s plenty to learn from our slip-ups!

About the Author

As the Chief of Staff and Vice President of Strategy for Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver), Catherine B. Lucas, APR, redefined MSU Denver’s brand in the higher education marketplace; spearheaded the legislative approval process to offer master’s degrees; and led the name-change transition from “college” to “university.”  She has earned a reputation for brand and reputation management, collaborative decision making and community engagement. 

13 Higher Education Marketing Conferences in 2018

With the online marketing landscape evolving quicker than most can keep up, successful digital marketing professionals work to stay on the cutting edge of technology and trends.

We can count on seeing immense changes from year to year. In 2017, we’ve seen significant updates and changes to marketing and social platforms across the web such as new features on Instagram and Snapchat, as well as marketing platform updates on Facebook and Adwords.

Highlights of the trends with the most influence that pushed digital marketing forward in 2017 were:

  • An ever-increasing focus on the consumer experience. Marketers are finally grasping that the consumer shapes the journey we create for them.
  • Analytics have more precision and power than we’ve ever seen before. The amount of data and the types of information you can gather from it is unmatched compared to previous years.
  • Data-driven executives are more sought out than ever. As companies aim to connect the vast amount of channels and consumer touch points, they must have leadership that understands and supports the sophisticated technology to make these goals attainable.
  • Better video content and more of it. Expect to see this increasing in the near future, with augmented reality taking the frontline of content.
  • Marketing companies turn into digital marketing companies. It isn’t enough anymore to maintain relevance outside of the digital world as a business. CMOs and CTOs are shifting their teams to think digital-first.

The Higher Ed Marketing Journal has shed light on a handful of these changes and trends during 2017 through valuable insights, including:

Additional trends to watch out for in 2018 include the boom of online video in social platforms, artificial intelligence and deep learning becoming more relevant in our everyday lives as it gets further ingrained into the technology we access to. There is also the continued growth of smartphone users in emerging markets, and the evolving power of Facebook advertising.

Digital marketing is more critical now than ever before in higher education and will only increase over time. Marketing higher education is multidimensional, as it expresses an institution’s brand while also educates potential students on topics they may already have a predisposition about, or are not fully informed on, such as online courses.

Experimentation is where a lot of marketers for higher education have been over the past few years, but with all of the tools and technology available to digital marketers come 2018, it is time to hone in available data and make strategic decisions to push universities forward towards growth.

To better understand where marketing is heading in the field of higher education and to realize opportunities for synergy through networking, a number of higher education marketing conferences are in place for 2018.


The 2018 Carnegie Conference

This student recruitment focused conference comes to Orlando in early 2018 and is designed for marketing professionals and staff at all levels of an educational institution. Aside from valuable insight from industry experts and carefully crafted presentations, the 2017 Carnegie Conference is taking place at Walt Disney World and includes exclusive access to backstage events.

When: Jan 17-18, 2018

Where: Orlando, Florida

Website: http://www.carnegiecomm.com/resources/the-carnegie-conference/


Traffic and Conversion Summit 2018

The Traffic and Conversion Summit is highly beneficial for all digital marketers. In 2018, there will be a large focus on conversion breakthroughs in a variety of different channels. If you are running any kind of paid campaign in higher education,  you need to make your way to San Diego for this information-packed conference.

When: Feb 24-28, 2018

Where: San Diego, California

Website: https://trafficandconversionsummit.com/


2018 CASE Social Media Conference

To stay up to date on the latest trends in social media, higher education professionals are attending this valuable conference in Spring 2018. This conference is appropriately named Social Media and Community and offers insight into strategic storytelling and social engagement in the realm of higher education. Hosted at the Hyatt Centric in New Orleans, this conference is designed for enrollment professionals, alumni engagement professionals, administration, and more.

When: March 14-16, 2018

Where: New Orleans, Louisiana

Website: http://www.case.org/Conferences_and_Training/SMC18.html


Digiday AI Marketing Conference 2018

If you love innovation, then the Digiday AI Marketing Conference is right up your alley. Here, marketers will learn how artificial intelligence can assist in the digital marketing world. Learn about how AI can assist in things like content creation, customer service (can be applied to the enrollment process), and internal data organization. The use of artificial intelligence in marketing is not far away, so it’s best to stay ahead of the curve.

When: April 11-13, 2018

Where: Santa Barbara, California

Website: https://digiday.com/event/digiday-ai-marketing-summit-2018/


The Adobe Summit 2018

Become an expert in being an experience-led business. Known as one of the largest digital marketing conferences today, the Adobe Summit offers more than 250 sessions and labs across specialized tracks to choose from with hands-on learning using Adobe’s marketing platform. Make connections with other digital marketers in your same space and industry all while learning cutting-edge digital marketing and trends for the future.

When: March 25-29, 2018

Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

Website: https://summit.adobe.com/


Digital Growth Unleashed 2018

This conference should be of interest to all those who are in higher education marketing based on its tagline alone – “Optimizing The Complete Customer Journey.” As marketers we all know that getting students to our sites is only half of the battle. At Digital Growth Unleashed you will learn how to create the most compelling user experiences and how to get the most out of each user. Not only will you learn the best tactics, but you will also be introduced to emerging technology that will help you along the way.

When: May 16-17, 2018

Where: Las Vegas, Nevada

Website: https://digitalgrowthunleashed.com/


SMX London

Digital marketers continue to hone their skills in search marketing and search engine optimization and the SMX London conference in 2018 is a powerful tool for further their education. Created by Search Engine Land, this international conference is sure to impress with a variety of workshops, expos and cutting-edge presentations. SMX London is located at 155 Bishopsgate on Liverpool Street in London.

When: May 22-23, 2018

Where: London, England

Website: http://marketinglandevents.com/smx/london/


SMX Advanced

This fast-paced digital marketing conference put on by Search Engine Land is designed for experienced marketers. If you are looking to skip the basic questions and dive head-first into some fast-paced sessions, this is the conference for you. Here you will learn a wide range of cutting-edge SEO and SEM tactics that will help advance your expertise.

When: June 11-13, 2018

Where: Seattle, Washington

Website: https://marketinglandevents.com/smx/advanced/


Vidcon

If you haven’t noticed, videos are becoming more and more popular in the digital marketing world. In higher education, it’s quite common to run into them on landing pages and as ads on social media. Learn the ins and outs of creating videos for the internet at this unique conference. Attending Vidcon will likely put you two steps ahead of your competition.

When: June 20-30, 2018

Where: Anaheim, California

Website: http://vidcon.com/


2018 eduWeb Digital Summit  

In Summer 2018  comes the annual eduWeb Digital Summit which offers tracks for any type of higher education professional. These tracks range from email marketing to data analytics, to mobile design and strategy. A variety of valuable workshops and networking events are offered to attendees to this innovative conference located at the Westin Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego.

When: July  23-29, 2018

Where: San Diego, California

Website: http://www.eduwebdigitalsummit.com/


Content Marketing World 2018

If you’ve spent any amount of time in digital marketing, then you likely know how important content marketing is. The Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland is jam-packed with speakers who are experts in content marketing. Here you will learn everything you need to know to build a content marketing strategy that will grow your school’s program or client’s program and inspire your audience.

When: September 4-7, 2018

Where: Cleveland, Ohio

Website: http://www.eduwebdigitalsummit.com/


HighEdWeb

In Sacramento this fall, higher education professionals can attend the HighEdWeb Annual Conference with keynotes from Tatjana Dzambazova and Felicia Day. The four-day conference is chalk full of creative workshops and well-planned track sessions including Here There be Dragons: Navigating the Faculty/Staff Divide and Shattering Silos: Sharing Science on Social. Don’t miss out!

When: October 21-24, 2018

Where: Sacramento, California

Website: https://2018.highedweb.org/


2018 Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education

Late 2018 promises to deliver the annual Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education which brings together a large group of higher education professionals and exceptional keynote speakers. This yearly conference offers a host of valuable networking opportunities with like-minded professionals.

When: November 4-7 2018

Where: Orlando, Florida

Website: https://www.ama.org/events-training/Conferences/Pages/2018-Symposium-for-the-Marketing-of-Higher-Education.aspx?tab=home&CalendarDate=12%2f5%2f2017


Converge 2019

Converge 2019 is an annual higher education recruitment and inbound marketing conference that hosts a number of interactive workshops and handpicked presenters from institutions such as Harvard, UNC Chapel Hill, and Temple.

When: Feb 19-21, 2019
Where: Atlanta, Georgia

Website: http://convergeconsulting.org/converge2017/

 


Want to know which conferences Circa Interactive is attending this year? Ask us in the comments below or Contact Us Here.

Special thanks to Frederic Lee for his contribution to this post. Follow him on Twitter @FredHigherEd

Education Market Research Tips for Programs in Higher Ed and K-12

What is Program Market Research?

The goal of program market research is to understand the competition, demand, and trends for specific programs or courses within a university or K-12 environment. Program market research can also provide insight into how a program or course should be designed based on current and future demand, in addition to how it should be positioned from a creative standpoint within the larger education market. This type of analysis can provide much more confidence to an organization that a program will be successful once launched.

Why is Higher Education Market Research and Program Feasibility Important?

The world of education has only gotten more competitive over the last ten years. With the rise of for-profit education, in addition to the adoption of online learning and MOOC’s, education has become both more accessible and more competitive. Prior to launching a new degree program or course, schools must complete a stringent market research analysis in order to ensure success.

Why is K-12 Market Research Important?

Completing market research for K-12 environments is important as it can shine light onto not only what is in demand from a course perspective, but also how it should be delivered. Classrooms continue to advance in regards to what medium subjects are delivered to students in, and keeping up with trends around how information is consumed by adolescents can be demanding. Market research for K-12 can ensure that the right programs and courses are created, which will in turn deliver education in a mode that is successful.

What is the Market Research Process?

The market research process can generally be broken down into three core sections, with each focusing on the three core principles of competition, demand, and trends.

1. Primary Research

Through a combination of qualitative strategies (focus groups and stakeholder interviews) and quantitative research, information is gathered around education drivers as well as large data sets upon which to formulate and execute plans. We follow a research trajectory that begins with qualitative findings that, in turn, inform cogent, useful surveys. We partner with an Ivy League university’s Survey Research Center to manage data-gathering efforts from hundreds or thousands of stakeholders to provide quick, efficient, and illuminating data with which to make decisions about online programs. Primary research tools include:

  • Surveys
  • Focus Groups
  • On ground program data

2. Competitive Analysis

Understanding the competition is an extremely important step in determining program viability. While understanding program demand is important, many times the barriers to entry and the cost to compete are too high to warrant an investment. Benchmarks are generally used to determine how a program or course stacks up compared to others, and can be a good way to determine ROI. Competitive research tools include:

  • Google trends data
  • Google keyword planner data
  • Keyword Spy (analyze competitors paid advertising strategies

3. Secondary Research

Looking to outside resources for insights into program demand can help ensure success. Compiling and analyzing data from existing resources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, local/state/regional agencies, IPEDS, job search web sites, and accrediting bodies can determine benchmarks and requirements, as well as short and long term labor market demands.

What Are the Best Market Research Tools?

There are a wide array of free and low-cost tools that are available to individuals looking to complete market research around a program. The following are just a handful of what is available:

  1. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/ – Insight into consumers via surveys, trends over time in search queries, and benchmarks for display related efforts.
  2. https://adwords.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/ – Understand the cost-per-click and search volume around core keywords that your potential audience might be searching.
  3. http://fedstats.sites.usa.gov/ – Centralized location for federal government data including insights into career and education data.
  4. https://www.surveymonkey.com/ – Complete surveys of core stakeholders and faculty.
  5. http://www.pewresearch.org/download-datasets/ – Large data sets to help provide insight into potential program target markets.

How Can Market Research Inform What to Introduce?

The insights acquired from program market research can shine light onto what programs to introduce based on demand and current competition. Insights from BLS data and other job related data can help to determine what types of degree programs are going to be, or are currently, in demand based on career data. Google trends and keyword data can inform how saturated a market is and can also illustrate how much it will cost from a marketing perspective to enroll a student.

How Can Market Research Be Used to Define Marketing Strategy?

The competitive analysis that is performed during program market research will also focus on the brands of the competition. With education continuing to get more competitive, having a brand that is unique in the market can help to attract students and lead to more organic PR. Insights from this analysis and internal stakeholder interviews will provide insight into what the creative messaging should be for the programs in addition to  what markets to enter and which demographics to target.

By completing a thorough program market research initiative, universities and schools will enter the program creation process more informed about what should be introduced and how it should be positioned within the market. This type of information will help to ensure program success and will also provide upfront insight into costs and metrics, which can prove to be instrumental during the planning and budgeting phase of a new launch.

 

Robert LeeRobert offers a decade of demonstrated digital marketing expertise, and he has provided results to clients both within and outside of higher education while working as an analyst, team lead, and director. He has planned and implemented digital marketing campaigns for a number of large universities throughout the United States, and he leads Circa on all aspects of client strategy. Before founding Circa Interactive, Robert led digital marketing teams at the higher education organization Embanet.

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.

5 Tips for Writing Ad Copy in Facebook for Higher Education

I remember the days when you needed a “.edu” email address in order to set up a Facebook profile – heck, looking back on it, I remember the act of doing so almost as an indoctrination of myself into the university experience. Over the years, Facebook has evolved into so much more than a place for blossoming academics — it’s become a Social Media behemoth, a staple of our daily lives and a marketing utopia where, according to the New York Times in 2016, would-be students and non-students alike spend on average 50 minutes per day. The increasingly ubiquitous nature of Facebook is in part where the channel becomes so valuable to Higher Education marketers like myself.

The vision and specter of your ads across newsfeeds can be a make-or-break moment in the target user’s experience – it can facilitate a potable, attractive touchpoint for prospective students to consider and/or engage with your brand or degree program. Being a numbers kind of guy, ad copy creative tends to fall low on my totem pole of priorities – that’s why I keep this short list of imperatives taped to my desk.

  1. Know your target audience
  2. Use a strong call to action
  3. Use high-quality images, with as little/much text as required
  4. Use verbiage that transitions effectively between all placements
  5. Introduce Ad Variations, and prioritize relevancy score

 

1. Know your Target Audience

According to an article published by the Pew Research Center in 2016, “On a total population basis (accounting for Americans who do not use the internet at all)… 68% of all U.S. adults are Facebook users” – so it can be said that the chances are high, if you’re seeking prospective students, they are more likely than not to be found somewhere at some time on Facebook. After sculpting this user base into highly-targeted (and segmented) ad sets, always keep at the forefront of your mind who you are speaking to, and be sure to tailor your ads’ verbiage to your audience segments. Creating ads which resonate with specifically targeted individuals will foster a more genuine, personable user experience. It may even bolster your conversion rate and ultimately lead to a lower Cost per Lead metric, enabling greater lead volume within a static budget. High quality, personally relevant content (whether sponsored or organic) lays the foundation for the ultimate goal of student acquisition.

2. Use a Strong Call to Action

A strong call to action is so much more than merely a button you append to the bottom-right corner of your newsfeed ads. One could say that the entirety of the ad you’re creating is itself a “call to action”. After all, your objective is to inspire users to act toward your goal. In addition to tailoring your ads to your target users’ characteristics, this could also mean including a timeframe in order to instill a sense of urgency — such as adding enrollment/application deadlines to your ad copy. Do you have a lead form incentive on your ads’ landing page, such as a program brochure? If so, consider include verbiage that creates a thirst in the user to view that content — for example, “download a FREE brochure to learn more about this award-winning program”.

3. Use high-quality images, with as little/much text as required

Selecting the right image to serve up with your ads can have an enormous impact on click through rates on your ads. While it’s not essential to choose an image that’s visually representative of your product or service, in Higher Ed marketing I’ve noticed that images which feature a campus logo tend to produce more academically-geared results.

Text can also be a great eye-catcher, however you must be careful not to exceed Facebook’s text-to-image restrictions, or your ad may suffer the penalty of throttled impressions — or otherwise might be rejected by the Ads’ interface entirely. Facebook’s Text Overlay Tool is always a great last-stop for your ads’ images before they make their way onto the ads themselves.

Lastly, Facebook recommends an image size of 1,200 x 628 pixels as a best practice for most of its campaign goals – you can approximate this, but beware that your image will need to be cropped in order to fit the display of your ads. It’s also recommended to stay away from images that feature the particular shades of blue and white that comprise Facebook’s color scheme, as these ads can often be overlooked by users fatigued with scrolling through their newsfeed.

4. Use verbiage that transitions effectively between all placements

We live in a multi-device world, so fluency between devices is a must if you’re going to capitalize on user experience.”Keep it short and sweet” is the motto to keep in mind when creating ad copy that will transition seamlessly between placements. This maxim applies equally so within Facebook ads due to the inherent nature of “oCPM” bidding — an automatic ad placement feature where the Facebook API optimizes ad impressions across all of its placements to the maximum benefit of your Cost per Result. This feature relies on the Facebook pixel as well as a standard event (e.g. ‘Lead’) implementation, so you should make sure the pixel is firing correctly before you try it out.

I strongly recommend adhering to character limitations in order to create ads that will look good; no matter where they appear in the gamut of Facebook’s network. If you exceed these limitations you risk truncation, or worse, ads which appear incomplete or misleading. Keep it within these limits if you can:

  • Keep your ad’s headline (the bold title, just below your ad’s image) at 25 characters or less.
  • Your text (the introductory snippet above the ad image) should be limited to 90 characters wherever possible — anything more will be truncated, however the user may opt to “see more” if they so chose.
  • Use a link description that speaks to the landing page — but do not feature critical information in this portion of the ad, as it is strictly truncated on mobile (where the majority of your impression are likely to occur). Instead, opt to have this critical information in your text or headline.

5. Introduce Ad Variations, and prioritize relevancy score

A/B testing is a hallmark of high quality, results-driven marketers, and it should be an integral part of your PPC marketing strategy in Facebook as much as it is in any PPC channel. This means introducing new ad variations on a regular basis for each of your ongoing campaigns and respective ad sets.

Similar to Google’s “Quality Score” metric, which the AdWords system uses to factor ad rank in PPC search results, Facebook holds a similar metric of its own: Relevancy Score. According to Facebook’s documentation, “The more relevant an ad is to its audience, the better it’s likely to perform. Ad relevance score makes it easier for you to understand how your ad resonates with your audience.” Do not be deterred if your ads start out with a low relevancy score — it is not unusual for ads that begin with a 1 or 2 relevancy score to blossom over time into higher relevancy scores are user engagement becomes stronger. Nonetheless, over time, unless performance metrics indicate otherwise (e.g. high lead volume, at a favorable cost per lead), you should consider eliminating ads within any ad set that lag significantly behind their peers.

Leveraging these 5 tips is a surefire way to boost performance in your Facebook Ads. Don’t see one of your go-to tricks listed above? Feel free to list it in the comments below!

 

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

5 Ways to Effectively Balance Student-Work Life

Being a student and working a full or part-time job on top of that requires discipline and dedication to both work and school. Balancing school and work, while managing to have a life outside of the two can be overwhelming at times. As a current college student and employee struggling to find the perfect balance, I have stumbled across several tips and tricks that have helped me balance school and work while remaining relatively stress free.

Manage your time

It sounds obvious, but this is one of the most challenging aspects of being a student and an employee simultaneously. The first step to time management is resisting the temptation to plant yourself in front of the TV and completely relax after a long day. Set aside some time each night to do homework or stay on track with a work deadline. Google calendar, the calendar on your cell phone, or a good old fashion planner can keep deadlines in one place and help with prioritizing projects. Electronic calendars are especially useful because alerts can be set to let someone know when a deadline is approaching. When you figure out how to use your time, make it known to your boss, colleagues and professors so there is a mutual understanding of how you will be allocating your time.

Stay Organized

There is a reason that organizational skills look good on a resumé. Staying organized while being busy is harder than it seems, but it makes a difference. The more organized you are, the more likely you are to meet deadlines and ace classes. I like to use apps, websites and a day planner to keep my affairs in order. Apps like Evernote, If This Then That, and Dropbox can help you stay organized with everyday tasks and work related tasks. Evernote helps with keeping to-do lists, notes and ideas all in one place. Ifttt (If This Then That) allows you to keep all of your favorite apps, like Spotify and Google Docs, in one place. Dropbox gives users a space to keep files, photos and docs, while also making it easy to share large files with other dropbox users. There are also many apps available that can be extremely helpful for college students struggling to stay organized.

Check your emails

Even if you only work part time with your school schedule, set aside at least 15 minutes a day to check and respond to emails. This is especially important for anyone that works directly with clients. Making yourself readily available to a client can be the difference between a successful business relationship and one that fades out quickly. Boomerang, a gmail extension, is an extremely helpful way to organize your emails. It allows users to schedule an email to be sent at any time and “boomerang” an email back to their inbox after a certain period of time as a reminder to follow up with a client or colleague that has not responded to an initial email.

Strategically plan your schedule

When planning your school schedule, make sure to leave time gaps that allow you to go into work. Going into work in the morning and school in the afternoon can be a good option. I try to plan classes for a few days during the week and go into work the other days as a way to keep the two separate. Keeping work and school days separate helps me stay better organized, but it’s all about finding out what works for you personally. Try to avoid overloading particular days. While freeing up certain days may seem tempting, having extremely busy, stressful days can lead to burnout. Make sure you are not biting off more than you can chew. Check with your employer to see if and when they can accommodate your school schedule.

Leave some time for yourself

In the midst of a stressful schedule, the easiest way to stay sane and relaxed is to remember to leave time for yourself. Get your homework done early and work on those project deadlines a little bit every night. Procrastination will only leave you stressed out and burned out. Get a little bit of work done every night and follow that up with an hour of doing something you love before bed, such as going to the gym, seeing friends, or just laying in bed and binge watching tv. Finding a way to manage your time, stay organized and stay stress free can be difficult, but once you figure out what strategies work for you, balancing work and school won’t be a problem.

Shannon black and white 2 Shannon is a senior at the University of San Diego studying communications and visual arts. Working as an intern with Circa Interactive, she has gained experience in higher education content marketing, digital public relations and creating content for various clients’ social media. Shannon’s creativity and passion for public relations and content marketing has contributed to Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value. 

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.