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

World Emoji Day: 3 Innovative Ways to Use Emojis In Digital Marketing

Happy World Emoji Day! Today is the day to celebrate the small, expressive images that the world uses to communicate every single day. Whether we want to communicate that we want a fast food lunch, 🍔 🍟 🤤, or to remind your friend not to cry over spilled milk, 🚫 😢 🍼 💦, emojis are a simple and fun way to get your point across.

On Facebook alone, over 700 million emojis are used every day in Facebook posts. If you think that emojis are only exclusive to a few countries, think again. There’s a reason that today is World Emoji Day. In fact, in honor of World Emoji Day, Facebook has revealed the top emojis broken down by country.

Chart of the top emojis used by each country.

(I personally love that all of these top emojis are positive. They’re either laughing, celebrating, or sending some love.)

Emojis were first invented in 1999, but not widely adopted until 2011, in part due to the increase in social media use. Emojis are so commonly used that linguistics experts in the United Kingdom claim that Emoji is now the fastest growing language in the UK!

Celebration emoji with confetti.When is World Emoji Day?

World Emoji Day is celebrated annually on July 17 because this is the day displayed on the calendar emoji: 📅

July 17 is used for the calendar emoji because that is the day that iCal premiered at the MacWorld conference in 2002, and  Emoji Day has been celebrated on July 17 since 2014.

Since then, big names like Facebook, TIME Magazine, and even the Empire State Building have joined in on the fun and celebrated World Emoji Day.

Examples of big names celebrating World Emoji Day.

Source: Facebook.com, Facebook.com/EmpireStateBuilding, Time.com

According to Brandwatch’s recent report, The Emoji Report, the volume of tweets containing a brand name and an emoji has grown by 49% since September 2015. The biggest brands in the world have recognized that 95% of humans online have used emojis and implemented the language into their marketing efforts. Let’s take a look at some examples of these emoji campaigns and how you can use emojis in your digital marketing efforts to help appeal to the next generation of consumers.

Using Emojis to Appeal to Generation Z

Generation Z is the next generation of consumers and higher education students. Compared to Millennials, Generation Z has an even keener eye for advertising strategies that are trying a bit too hard to relate. Keep in mind here that Generation Z is projected to make up 40% of all consumers by 2020.  That’s right, almost half of consumers will be made up of people born between 1995 and 2010. So how can you use emojis correctly to connect with this large chunk of the market?

🎥 Video

Video is definitely the king of content. Pair video with the use of emojis (or Memojis in this case) to help get your point across and you may have a wildly successful piece of content. One of my favorite examples of using emojis in an entertaining and attention-grabbing way comes from Snoop Dogg and Hims.

Snoop Dogg is a top influencer himself, but his Memoji is even more attention-grabbing. Emojis are even used throughout the video when he refers to ‘playas’, ‘cribs’, and talking about how much money you’ll save.

Next time you create video content, especially for social media, consider how emojis might play a role. What topic can you use emojis to explain? They can be used as a modern version of the audience cue card to let your viewers know when to laugh 😂, cry 😢, or even ponder 🤔 a topic you are discussing.

📧 Emails and Press Releases

While emojis are the most popular form of social media communication, they should be used wisely. One example of going overboard with emojis comes from a 2015 Chevrolet press release:

“Words alone can’t describe the new 2016 Chevrolet Cruze, so to celebrate its upcoming reveal, the media advisory is being issued in emoji, the small emotionally expressive digital images and icons in electronic communication. Try and decode this news or watch for the decoder at 2 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. #ChevyGoesEmoji”

2015 Chevrolet Press Release written exclusively with emojis.

Source: Chevrolet

Did you read the press release? Did you understand it?

The major takeaway from this PR blunder is that emojis, while they are used by almost everyone, should be used sparingly – especially when communicating your brand’s important messages.

Emails and press releases remain the more formal forms of  today’s communication. That being said, emojis can positively impact your email marketing campaigns. According to The AppBoy Emoji Study, open rates for emails containing emojis in their subject line have increased 15% year-over-year.

As I’ve said, emails are a professional form of communication – meaning that less is more. Using an emoji can help your subject line and body copy cut through the dullness of an inbox. For example, using a ❤️ in the subject line of a Valentine’s Day campaign will help your email stand out from the rest.

It can be extremely easy to go overboard with emojis in the body copy of an email. Instead, pick one or two emojis to help highlight key points throughout your copy or drive attention to your call-to-action.

For example, Circa’s upcoming webinar email campaign could look like this:

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

📲 Social Media

Social media was in fact the catalyst for the immense popularity of emojis. That being said, brands must be more creative than ever when using emojis in order to appeal to the largest audience possible.

One innovative use of emojis that I’ve witnessed is in Facebook and Instagram ads – especially in higher education. What better way to appeal to the next generation of students than by using emojis that inspire them to take the next step in furthering their education? 👩‍🎓 👨‍🎓 🎓 📜

Facebook Ad for Tulane University's Masters of Social Work program that uses a muscle emoji.

When Circa’s PPC and creative teams worked together to created a new paid social campaign for Tulane University’s Master of Social Work program, they wanted to implement a fresh and standout tactic: Emojis. In this case, they’ve followed the rule of less is more. By adding the 💪 emoji the ad not only catches their audience’s eye, but effectively emphasizes the feeling of empowerment and resilience – the exact emotions they are looking to coerce from their audience to inspire them to continue their education in social work.

When using emojis in social media ads it is important to follow the same rules as emails. Use emojis sparingly to highlight keywords and phrases or call-to-actions.

There are more than 2,800 emojis at your fingertips. What will you say? 🤔 Share your emoji marketing ideas with me in the comments below! I’d love to hear how you or your agency is using this new form of communication to spice up commonplace marketing tactics.

GIF of different combinations of emojis with different hair colors, hair types, and skin colors.

Source: Apple

Audrey-for-siteAudrey is an account manager and Social Media Lead at Circa Interactive. She currently manages multiple high profile social media accounts, including Circa Interactive’s own social media presence. As a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and a past president of their Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, her passion for innovation and connecting like-minded individuals is driving Circa’s social media strategy into the future. Connect with Audrey on Twitter: @audgepauge93

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. 

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. 

 

5 Higher Education Marketing Strategies

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 diplomas and degrees. Education experts have the resources they need to craft, test and rollout cutting edge online degree programs.

However, without adequate marketing, student enrollment numbers often struggle to meet and exceed expectations.

That’s why higher education institutions are bringing on board creative communication and marketing professionals to keep their institutions and programs visible and desirable. Unique higher education marketing strategies help raise awareness of courses and programs while bringing in new students and resources needed to sustain online programs.

Institutions are moving beyond the traditional brochures, magazines and billboards and are instead pushing resources towards appealing to the constantly evolving digital marketing landscape. There, they can have wider reach and greater potential in rapidly increasing their program’s visibility. Below are five key areas that savvy higher education institutions have explored to creatively market their programs and reach a wider array of prospective students and other higher education actors.

1. Instagram Marketing for Higher Education

Sample instagram adAny serious marketer will not ignore a worldwide, 700 million plus user base that has gained a lot of popularity with younger users in particular. With massive reach and increased interaction, Instagram offers higher education institutions a chance to showcase their best programs, campuses and profile their notable alumni.

When it comes to sharing photos of new events such as recruitment drives, faculty-student interaction, innovative programs and community activities, Instagram has become the top app. Schools have a chance to showcase their brands, engage students and reach out to prospective international students using features such as Instagram Stories.

The allure of Instagram is mainly driven by the simplicity of use, as long as higher education institutions can post great, well-curated photos for various updates and events. With the increased photography features of so many phones, institutions can even get photos from students in their own day-to-day activities and interactions and share on their Instagram handles with quite satisfying results. Great campus photos during different events and seasons can keep an institution visually present among the great number of prospective students who are always on the prowl for their next diploma or degree.


 

2. Video and Animation in Higher Education Marketing

ezgif.com-gif-maker (1)Video is a proven way to popularize courses, programs, campuses and advertisements for higher education institutions. It’s known to have a greater impact than text, and there are many channels available today for institutions to share their videos. These include You Tube, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

Strategically crafted videos and animations can be leveraged to reach target demographics for schools and their degree programs. Creative marketing professionals use powerful visuals, branding and storytelling to create videos that speak to their audiences. Through the social marketing potential of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, video and animation advertisements can be a highly successful component to any marketing strategy. The best part? These creatives can be backed by ROI metrics through careful monitoring and reporting.


 

3. Leveraging Faculty for
Digital PR

A university’s faculty expertise is a critical component of a successful higher education marketing strategy. Faculty are researchers and thought leaders in their industries, and can greatly increase the effectiveness of campaign execution in many ways. By leveraging a professional Digital PR team with a keen understanding of the media landscape and PR pitching, faculty members and their research can be carefully pitched to target digital publications in order to share and boost professors’ personal brands as well as increase program and university brand awareness.

When leveraged correctly, Digital PR proves beneficial in other ways such as: building program visibility in search engines, creating program website traffic, and increasing student enrollment. Potential publications and websites for Digital PR opportunities are vast. These are only a few of the places that Circa Interactive has landed features and bylines for our clients:

Digital PR examples

 


 

4. Infographics and Visual Resources 

Infographics are powerful visual representations of data that are used in a variety of ways across industries. In higher education, they are a useful tool in providing career and industry statistics to help admissions teams, such as this graphic created by Villanova’s Analytics program. As seen below, this method of providing job growth and salary statistics is much more consumable and visually pleasing to the online reader than a list of bulleted points or a dense paragraph.

infographic example

Savvy internet marketers in the field of higher education also use infographics to build high quality industry backlinks and traffic to a program’s website. By leveraging professor research and reputable industry sources, fascinating visual resources can be designed, such as this compelling infographic from Ohio University that tells the story of how football concussions have paved the way for innovation in the forms of concussion diagnosis and prevention.

higher ed infographic example


 

5. Virtual Reality and Virtual Tours 

Virtual reality opportunities within higher education are increasing more than ever. A team of professors from Central Missouri State University, University of Missouri, University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Arizona have created a virtual collaborative learning network with a goal of researching and studying the intricacies of the Harlem Renaissance. The possibilities of virtual reality are endless with the classroom as EdTech and digital advantages continue to grow.

This crossroads of virtual reality and higher education applies directly to marketing strategies. Not only can universities gain interest through their in-class virtual technologies, but virtual reality is increasingly being used in the admissions process. A large number of institutions have fully implemented virtual tours that allow prospective students and their parents to explore campuses from afar. Companies such as Campus Tours offer panoramic virtual reality tours inside buildings and around campuses.

For example, USC offers an exclusive 360-degree game day campus tour:


 

Great ideas, but how do I execute these higher education marketing strategies? 

Reach out to an experienced, proven digital marketing company that focuses strictly on higher education marketing. Our team is happy to help and walk you through our services to find effective solutions to your unique marketing needs.
Contact us here

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FreddieFrederic has five years’ experience in higher education content marketing and search engine optimization. Working with Circa Interactive, he has gained valuable experience in paid search, analytics, SEO strategy, and client management. Frederic excels in process optimization, strategic content marketing, and implementation of daily dad jokes. 

Follow him on twitter @FredHigherEd

 

 

 

6 Ways Social Media Changed the Way We Communicate

There are currently 2.8 billion social media users worldwide. This means that over a third of the world’s population is using some form of social media to communicate, making social media marketing an imperative tactic for boosting leads for higher education programs. While social media is a commonplace platform for communication today, have you ever considered how significantly social media changed the way we communicate?

Our world as we know it has transformed from the start of text messages to the first years of Facebook, to today’s temporary stories. But how has social media changed society and what does this mean for higher education marketing? Let’s take a look at what each of the most used social platforms have contributed to our new way of communication and how you can utilize them in your higher education marketing campaigns.

The Top Social Media Platforms Changing Communication

Facebook is seen as the most predominant social media platform and it has the numbers to back it up.

The Facebook logo.With 2.01 billion monthly users, and 88 percent of 18-29 year olds using this platform,Facebook should always be a top priority for higher education marketers. Facebook is a pioneer in today’s social world. Allowing people to connect with anybody, from their best friends to distant relatives, as well as share their personal thoughts, pictures, videos, blogs and links. The addition of Facebook Chatbots has also opened up a whole new world in customer service and digital marketing.

Learn more: Adding Facebook Chatbots to Your Social Media Strategy

 

Twitter is a fast-paced network that allows users to share information instantaneously –– in 140 characters or less.

The Twitter logoWith 328 million monthly usersand 36 percent of 18-29 year olds using this platform, it can seem like the next best way to reach potential students. Take into consideration however, that nearly 79% of Twitter accounts are located outside of the United States. If this doesn’t affect your digital marketing strategy, then Twitter can still be a lucrative platform. Just remember that the most important aspect of marketing on Twitter is the hashtag. Don’t know how to find the best hashtags to get your content seen by your targeted audience? Try TrendsMap or Keyhole for real-time tracking by industry and locale.

Snapchat has led the way in “temporary” social media, allowing users to share content that can only be seen for 24 hours at most.

Snapchat CommunicationThis social media is only available through a mobile app and boasts roughly 166 million daily users. If you don’t believe Snapchat is worth your university’s time, consider the fact that 56 percent of 18–29 year olds use Snapchat daily. This app is designed for tech-savvy and content-hungry users. In other words, Snapchat is the perfect application to reach millennials, especially for universities looking to share a different side of their campus and boost interest in their brand. If you’re looking to learn more about Snapchat marketing, check out these 7 Snapchat Accounts Every Marketer Should Follow.

This Facebook-owned, social media platform has doubled its user base to 700 million monthly active users in just two years.

Instagram logo
How did they do it? By creating a Snapchat clone all their own. Instagram is hugely popular among younger generations, with 59% of 18-29 year olds using the app. In order to grab their attention, Instagram created similar features for their stories, like filters and stickers, but implemented it in their own unique way. Thanks to a social media-savvy audience and visual platform, Instagram Stories has become an integral part of this social media app. Along with announcing its one year anniversary, Instagram Stories now has 250 million daily users (Stories alone is surpassing Snapchat’s 166 million daily users). Want to capture more student leads using Instagram Stories? Check out this article.

Now, enough with the statistics. The most important thing to understand is that no matter what platform you look at, social media as a whole has informed and shaped millennial culture through gifs, sound bites, chats, brief moments, and temporary flashes of content. Let’s take a look at how all of these social media thrills are affecting the way we communicate.

How Social Media Changed the Way We Communicate

1. Created a Sense of Urgency and a Need to Share 📲

Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has created a place to share anything from genius shower thoughts to favorite songs. The catch is: are you sharing too little or too much?

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have manifested the need to constantly broadcast our lives on the internet. Twitter is most famous for this after becoming known for celebrities sharing what they ate that day or if they were tweeting from the bathroom. After this oversharing trend faded, social media became a bit more tolerable for the average user. From then on, nobody could avoid Aunt Vicky’s vacation photos or Kim Kardashian’s famous behind “breaking the internet“. The need to share and be shared has grown immensely. Fast forward to today’s most used social media apps, and you will discover the type of sharing we do today is much different. 

In basic communication, humans transmit information and receive instant feedback. The integration of texting, messaging and emailing, however, has enabled senders and receivers to sit and dwell before responding. Instagram Stories and Snapchat have changed the game by making messages and content available to view for only 24 hours. In order to remember what was said, or seen, and reply appropriately, the user must reply as soon as they’ve opened it. In effect, these temporary messages take away the ability to dwell and create a more real-time form of communication.

Social media has created a way for people to constantly update and share content with their friends with little effort. Whether it is posted forever on a timeline or a couple seconds in a Snap, a picture is worth a thousand words and social media has created the perfect medium to share these visual stories with friends.

2. Provided an Inside Perspective of Faraway Places 🌍

Social media has enabled people from all over the world to share their story. Besides the internet essentially connecting the world, Snapchat was the first to really give people an inside perspective of foreign places. With the addition of live story streams and Story Explorer, users are able to get a peek of what life in other cities, states, and countries is like. Snapchat in particular, regularly features cities from around the world and features them on the app with a live feed of Snapchats from people in the selected city. For example, tapping on the “Rio” feed instantly transports users to the lively city in Brazil and provides a peek at life through the eyes of everyday citizens.

Besides cities, live feeds are perfect for sharing events. From a higher education perspective, this is the ideal platform to share student events, football games, community outreaches, and more. Snapchat provides universities the unique opportunity of sharing experiences from a wide array of the campus population. By utilizing a live feed, or a Snapchat account altogether, a university is now able to show prospective students what life on campus is like from a student’s point of view. The students who Snapchat their experiences  are nurturing their connection to the university and sharing student stories on Snapchat can result in higher student interest, and help prospective students to determine if a school is a right fit for them.

More on: Leveraging University Events for Your SEO Strategy

3. Shared the Full Story, Instead of Just Highlights 📖

It has already been a year since both Snapchat and Instagram announced the next generation of storytelling: Memories and Stories. These social media channels enable users to not just share the best picture out of their daily experiences; it encourages them to share the full story. Through Instagram, Facebook, AND Snapchat stories many users channel their creativity to share their day from the moment they wake up, to the moment they go to sleep.

Instead of uploading  a few photos on Facebook or posting a 140 character tweet on Twitter, universities can utilize Snapchat and Instagram to complete their “social story”. Using a mix of video and pictures, a university can share a campus event from beginning to end. A great  example would be using Snapchat to share a graduation weekend with their audience. The university can not only share captured moments of graduates but of the ceremony, award banquets, speeches, and more. By sharing moments in this way, a university can create a sense of community and become relatable to current and prospective students.

4. Made Digital Messages More Personal 🎨

Customizing content doesn’t just mean choosing how long a picture is able to be viewed or writing a caption to accompany the picture. Snapchat and Instagram have taken storytelling to the next level by encouraging users to draw, write, sticker, and filter their pictures to add a personal touch and have fun doing it! The newest Snapchat and Instagram features enable users to interact with the content they view and share.

Both Snapchat and Instagram have upgraded the average selfie. Now users can transform into a myriad of animals, characters, and even other people using these smart filters. The most popular example of a filter would be Taco Bell’s Cinco de Mayo filter that transformed users into actual tacos. Taco Bell was able to market, create brand awareness, and even set a new record by using Snapchat’s features to engage and interact with their customers.

 

An example of Snapchat Lenses used to take selfies. Another way social media changed the way we communicate.

Snapchat lenses and Instagram filters allow users to share personal messages with a fun twist.

 

A university could create a Snapchat filter for a football game that would engage students in attendance and encourage them to share their stadium experience. By creating an interactive university brand, prospective students are shown the campus community and current students will feel more engaged and a part of their school’s conversation.

Snapchat’s Discover features channels for a group of brands to broadcast their own content. These brands are lucky enough to be able to market themselves by engaging their audience and creating a conversation through interactive content. Another ability users have when using Discover is being able to directly share their favorite pieces of content with their Snapchat friends. Instead of having to explain and describe what was so funny, simply holding a finger on the screen allows users to instantly show their friends why they are laughing.

5. Brought News Back into Millennial Life 🗞

All of this interactive content has lead to journalism becoming attractive to millennials again. A study conducted by Wibbitz found that 40 percent of millennials rely on digital outlets for their news, while 23 percent primarily get their news from social media. Snapchat jumped on this finding and added news outlets to Discover.

An overarching theme in this article is interaction. Millennials love to interact with content, so why not the news? A big step in this new territory occurred when the Wall Street Journal joined Snapchat. CNN and National Geographic are among the 24 other media companies that have also joined the application in hopes of delivering journalistic content to this demographic.

Besides Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter have also played important roles in making the news more accessible and attractive to millennials. Twitter features “trending” hashtags that often highlight important national and global events. The website and app also highlight an array of news updates, events, and hot topics through their “What’s Happening” portion of their landing page. Facebook also joined the journalistic movement by creating their own “Trending” section that highlights trending stories ranging from politics to science and technology. Facebook has taken this movement one step further and just debuted a section specifically for Trending News on its mobile app.

 

Trending News Section on Facebook's Mobile App

The new Trending News section of Facebook’s mobile app.

 

6. Provided the Ability to Broadcast Moments –– Live 🔴

Facebook Live became available to the public in April 2016 and instantly changed social media as we know it. At first it began as a way to innocently share even more with your friends, but then it became increasingly used for serious matters. Facebook Live has ended up revealing a lot about our society, from police shootings to a look at the increasing rate of opioid overdose deaths. On the positive side, it has created a launchpad for these more serious conversations to be had. Thanks to these Facebook Live videos, these controversial moments are not just being talked about, but also building momentum behind creating a positive change.

Besides changing the way we communicate major events through video, Facebook and Instagram Live have also opened up new marketing potential for universities. Similar to how a university can utilize Snapchat and Instagram Stories, higher education marketers can use the Live feature to engage both current and potential customers by sharing university events in real-time! Live allows your audience to jump right into a graduation, special concert, or collegiate event and get a real sense of what life on campus is like from a student’s point of view.

Today’s social media has undeniably transformed our means of communication, created new opportunities for brands and universities and even brought personality back into a digital world.

Circa Interactive has created innovative social strategies for a number of universities, schools, and individual degree programs. If you would like Circa to create a more targeted strategy focused on interaction and lead generation, please visit our social media marketing services page.

 

Audrey-for-site

 

Audrey is a digital marketing and social media specialist at Circa Interactive. She currently manages multiple high profile social media accounts, including Circa Interactive’s own social media presence. As a graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and a past president of their Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter, her passion for innovation and connecting like-minded individuals is driving Circa’s social media strategy into the future. Connect with Audrey on Twitter: @audgepauge93

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.

Why Snapcodes Are the Future of Higher Ed Marketing

Snap Inc. has been a publicly traded company for over a month now and is starting to feel the heat. Facebook recently unveiled their own version of the “stories” feature that utilizes smart filters resembling Snapchat’s popular “lenses.” Instagram has also been competing for a slice of Snapchat’s 150-million active users, adding their own “stories” feature in August of last year. Since then, Snapchat story views have declined by roughly 40 percent. So what has Snapchat created to stay ahead of the competition? Snapcodes.

Snapchat has reinvented the QR code and made them accessible for businesses and users alike, opening up a whole new advertising medium. Snapchat had already implemented this technology for users to easily add each other as friends on the social media app but have taken it a step further and allowed both users and brands to create snapcodes that direct users to a custom URL. While only 21 percent of American smartphone users reported using QR codes, Snapchat’s take on this technology is more promising because of their immense base of users, and, unlike QR codes, users don’t have to download or use another app to take advantage of them.

Now that snapcodes are becoming increasingly popular, let’s take a look at how snapcodes can be used to reinvent your higher education marketing strategy.

Snapcode Marketing Ideas

Desktop has traditionally been viewed as the primary source for reaching potential students, but higher education marketers need to consider that 2017 is the year of mobile. In fact, mobile-only internet usage is being driven primarily by Millennials, with 21 percent abandoning desktop computers altogether. Additionally, Snapchat is reportedly reaching 41 percent of 18 to 34 year olds in the U.S. daily. Add this impressive reach with the interactive aspect of snapcodes and you have the perfect avenue for higher education marketers to engage potential students and generate more leads.

Snapcodes For Digital Marketing

Instead of adding a plain, boring URL at the bottom of an advertisement, brands can now add a snapcode that stands out and grabs the audience’s attention. A custom snapcode can be created in under a minute from a mobile phone or desktop and can be used in television ads, on posters, as stickers, and more. The possibilities are endless.

Snapcodes for Rocky Horror

Credit: FOX

The first instance of snapcode marketing was used during The Rocky Horror Picture Show live television event. Rocky Horror is known for its audience participation, making it a prime choice to feature the first snapcode used on television. Snapcodes were used between the show and commercials to lead the audience to exclusive Rocky Horror content as part of Snapchat’s “Snap to Unlock” campaign. Sprite, Uber, and NBC Universal have executed “snap to unlock” marketing campaigns as well that unlock special edition Snapchat lenses, geofilters, and product websites.

Rocky Horror and Uber may be slightly different from higher education, but universities can engage their own audience in similar ways by placing snapcodes in the bottom corner of a television or digital signage advertisement, sending viewers to the university’s landing page or even lead page. Television viewers tend to tune out commercials, but the interactive qualities of a snapcode are more likely to engage them and keep their attention on your brand.

Snapcodes For Print

With all of this digital talk, don’t worry if your university still uses mailers, posters, flyers, or even billboards as part of their marketing strategy. Snapcodes can still be utilized for print! In fact, snapcodes will help bridge your print advertising into the digital world.

Snapcodes for NBC Universal

Credit: NBC Universal

NBC Universal created a “snap to unlock” campaign for their movie The Girl on the Train that was seen on billboards across the country. They made sure the add was mysterious, intriguing, and featured an extremely large snapcode to ensure people weren’t confused about what to do next. Once a person scanned the snapcode they were given access to special geofilters that promoted the movie and sent to the movie’s website.

When potential students come into contact with a higher education flyer or poster, snapcodes will make it easier to lead them towards your website and further down the funnel. Whether it is a special event, lead page, or promotional video, the snapcode will lead them there with ease.

How To Make Snapcodes

Now that your creative juices are flowing and you understand the potential of snapcodes, let’s make one.

Step 1:  Head to Snapchat.com and click on Snapcodes in the top menu. Enter the URL you want the snapcode to direct to and click Make a Snapcode!

Step one: How to make a snapcode

Step 2: Brand your snapcode by adding a custom image.

*Pro tip: Make sure your image is smaller than 400 x 400 pixels so it fits within the ghost.

Step Two: How to make a snapcode

Step 3: Download your snapcode and start your new digital marketing campaign!

Step Three How to Make a snapcode

Circa Interactive's custom snapcode

Thought of a new way to use snapcodes for your marketing strategy? Let me know in the comments below!

Audrey-for-site

Audrey is a recent graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. With a background in journalism, public relations, and graphic design, Audrey lends both creative and analytic skills to the marketing team. Her passion for innovation and connecting like-minded individuals is driving Circa’s social media strategy into the future.

Facebook Chatbots: The Social Media Game Changer

As with any marketing strategy, keeping communication lines open between a company and its customers is crucial to a successful relationship and high conversion rate. The same principle applies to social media. This is where chatbots have come in to save the day.

Thanks to some rather fancy artificial intelligence technology, chatbots operate by means of a certain set of rules dictated by the Facebook page’s administrator which allows the chatbot to be the first line of communication with a user. While it may sound as if chatbots are the opposite of open, transparent business-to-consumer communication, studies show that chatbot experiences with more engaged audiences are seeing an 80 to 90 percent response rate. Because chatbots are also still in its early phases of integration for most, early adopters have an incredible opportunity to take advantage of the low competition, free tool in a way that works best for their program. Here are a few ways higher education marketers can take advantage of this new, cutting-edge technology.

Why Higher Ed Marketers Should Care

Updated Content Strategy

With most higher education marketing plans, there is a content marketing strategy in place that often includes some kind of social media integration. That integration, however, tends to be passive and the social media user engagement tends to be rather low. Chatbots, on the other hand, give marketing managers the opportunity to personalize content, nurture relationships, and provide immediate value to any given user while driving website traffic without actually lifting a finger – no, really.

Frequently Asked Questions – Answered

Chatbots are also a great way to answer common questions prospective and/or active students tend to ask. As a social media/marketing specialist, you may not know specific university details well enough to adequately address questions without resorting to contacting student services. Rather than harassing student services yourself or complicating the user experience by merely sending the student a different email or phone number, chatbots can help to answer these questions on their own and provide further contact info should the student request it.   

Leadforms Revolutionized

Another exciting benefit to chatbots is the potential end of lead forms and expensive landing pages. While the latter might be a bit of a stretch, chatbots can do away with overly invasive lead forms that make a user feel as if they’re lighting a neon “Please All Spammers Contact Me” sign. Instead, all the information you need for the first point of contact is already there and free to use thanks to basic Facebook profiles. Should the bot need further information (i.e. email, location, phone number, etc.), the user can then provide it as needed rather than blindly subjecting their information to the whims of the internet.

Real ROI

Most importantly, you as a higher ed marketer should care about this tool because, as of right now, click-through-rates and engagement are especially high since competition is low and communication is one-on-one and not lost in a sea of news feed content. Who doesn’t want that?

Creating A Chatbot

This is a lot easier than it sounds. Yes, as I mentioned earlier, it is artificial intelligence technology, but the the process is extremely user friendly. The best part? It’s free.

Before you begin, the most important thing to remember is why your students should care about the chatbot’s information and how they can continue to gain value from it. As with any new marketing strategy, this is far and away the most difficult aspect to keep in mind, but also the most rewarding. One place to start is to find trends in your current Facebook inbox. What questions are most frequently asked? What information is most frequently requested? From there, you can then continue to expand your chatbot’s capabilities.

Here are a couple of tools to get your chatbot up and running:

Chatfuel

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 1.41.39 PM

This particular tool is not only free, but the interface requires absolutely zero coding knowledge. By simply dragging and dropping different “blocks” or rules for your chatbot to follow, this program promises to have your chatbot up and running in under 10 minutes (after a 10 minute tutorial, if you need it).

Botsify

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 1.45.58 PM

Just like ChatFuel, this service also starts for free, includes an entire slew of free integrations, offers unlimited messages, analytics, and paid plans for even more intricate options.

Using either of these sites, you can create:

  • A welcome bot for those who have just “liked” your page and an onboarding message to show the user how to interact with your chatbot.
  • A content distributing tool that sends the user exactly what they’re looking for. If they need a program brochure, contact information for student services, admissions information, links to your university’s blog or articles, or even if they wish to opt-in to a newsletter or content subscription, they can by answering a few simple commands.
  • An appointment generator. Especially if you can coordinate with your admissions team and have them create an open-source appointment page (using google calendar appointments, Doodle.com, youcanbook.me, etc.) you can set your chatbot to ask the user if they would like to schedule a call with an actual admissions counselor!

Chatbot Best Practices

Don’t forget to give people a clear and precise expectation of what you will be sending, how often, and the opportunity for them to also change those options and frequency. The user should be in as much control as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming yet another spammy nuisance that no one will want to be friends with – well, Facebook friends anyway.

Don’t forget to have some fun with it! By giving your chatbot an actual name or perhaps a bit of personality, your students are far more likely to engage and keep engaging.

If the chatbot fails to provide the information the user is looking for, make sure there are fail-safes in place to guide users to the right contact information or web page. Both ChatFuel and Botsify offers ways to do this.

And last but not least: test, test, testing 1, 2, 3. Before you make your chatbot live, make sure you and your team have tested it plenty of times on different devices. Does it work seamlessly with Mac’s? PC’s? iPhones? Androids? Different browsers like Google Chrome, Safari, or Mozilla’s Firefox? If yes, then let the chatbot roam free!

Thanks to the beauties of the internet and artificial intelligence, your university’s Facebook page can come back to life with the least amount of effort on your part – who doesn’t want that?

 

Tami Cruz of Circa InteractiveTami is one of our in-house social media gurus with a passion for content marketing and public relations. After earning her degree in communication and marketing from the University of California, San Diego, her dedication and multi-faceted skillset for creative marketing strategies has led her to become a crucial team member driven to expanding Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value.

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.