What Cision’s 2017 State of the Media Report Tells Us About the Future of PR

With the media landscape constantly evolving, it’s essential that all PR practitioners are aware of current trends and shifts in order to remain at the forefront of their industry. In practicing digital public relations, it is particularly important to be aware of how journalists’ preferences are changing to better engage their growing online audience. Cision, a media communications database, recently released the results of their annual State of the Media Report, which surveyed more than 1,550 media professionals about their preferred practices, biggest challenges and trends to be mindful of. Here are some of the key takeaways from this report.

Know the journalist’s beat before you pitch

According to survey results, 51 percent of journalists reported pursuing a story because of a displayed knowledge of their work, a 16 percent increase from last year.State of the Media ReportBut how can public relations practitioners accommodate these preferences in a practical way?

  1. Create specialized pitches for industry-specific publications and research each outlet to find one reporter that is most likely to pursue your pitch. This way you’re targeting niche publications in a strategic and efficient way.
  2. Create a master list of reporters you have already established relationships with for each industry. This will not only make your life easier when trying to find specialized reporters, but they will appreciate you respecting their beat.
  3. Take one reporter from a few top publications out of your media list and do the necessary research to really personalize those pitches. Maybe reference an article they recently published or trend they often write about. By doing so, you’re showing a vested interest in them and establishing yourself as a quality resource. Even if you may not land an opportunity that time, it will build the foundation for a lasting relationship. Who knows, they might reach out to you again for a similar story in the future.
  4. Take advantage of resources like Help a Reporter Out (HARO), where reporters post story ideas and request reputable sources for them. By using this database, you have the opportunity to find specialized story topics that will leverage your expert sources while increasing your chances of successfully landing an opportunity.

Get creative with multimedia

With the news shifting to become shorter and more interactive, journalists are searching for elements to use in their stories that will both entice and engage readers. Nearly 70.5 percent of survey respondents reported almost or always incorporating multimedia into their stories, and they ranked the type of multimedia that they value the most as follows:

  1. Photos
  2. Social Media Posts
  3. Videos including YouTube
  4. Infographics
  5. User Generated Content – Videos Photos
  6. Web Polls
  7. Live Stream / Blogging Embeds
  8. Data Interactives
  9. Animated .gifs

Photos, social media posts and videos come as no surprise as the most integrated multimedia elements in stories, but this presents a major opportunity for infographics. Infographics are useful to not only support a pitch with facts that are presented in a captivating way, but they can be used as a lead for a story as well. But what if certain reporters don’t accept infographics? It never hurts to ask what form of multimedia they prefer to receive and make note of that so you don’t keep pitching them with content they’ll never use. Respecting and valuing their preferences will pay off because knowing what they commonly utilize for their stories will make them a great resource for future opportunities.

Provide valuable and differentiated resources

Journalists are constantly being pitched with press releases and new story ideas, and while survey results show that this is their most valued resource, it’s essential that PR professionals find a way to break through the noise and stand out with their pitching ideas. One way to do this is to tie the lead to something trending in the news or to an upcoming event, which we refer to as news and time pegs. This not only shows that you did your research, but that you are stepping in as a valuable resource by providing a fresh perspective to a bigger story. Expert interviews and story sources were ranked as the second most valuable resource to journalists, so make sure to constantly check resources like HARO for these specialized opportunities. Finally, always be sure that you are presenting ready-to-publish content that helps establish yourself as a credible source. This means going through your pitch and checking for accuracy, grammar and AP style, and being sure that each hyperlink works.

 

Ariana HeadshotAriana is a soon-to-be graduate of San Diego State University and current member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). As a journalism major with an emphasis in public relations, she brings both traditional training and fresh ideas to Circa as their digital public relations and content marketing intern. Her creativity and passion for storytelling contribute to Circa’s digital public relations presence.

 

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.

7 Snapchat Accounts Every Marketer Should Follow

Social media and communication (as we know it) were changed forever when Snapchat launched in September of 2011. After gaining popularity among millennials, Snapchat has grown rapidly and now boasts over 150 million daily users, passing Twitter’s daily usage of 140 million daily users. It seems that almost everyone is using this app to communicate with friends, catch up on the latest celebrity gossip, and even read the day’s headlines, but are they using it to its full potential?

Read more: 5 Ways Snapchat is Changing the Way We Communicate

Besides sending funny pictures to friends, this service can also be used to stay up on the latest trends in marketing. There are hundreds of companies, entrepreneurs, marketers, and other successful business men and women who actively share tips, tricks, and their own experiences. After following a number of Snapchat accounts and actively watching, I’ve put together a list that every marketer should follow.   

*Pro Tip: Take a picture of any of the Snapcodes next to their name using Snapchat to automatically follow their account!

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University of Michigan: UofMichigan

The University of Michigan is a prime example of how a university can implement Snapchat into their own digital marketing campaign. After launching their account in February 2014, they became the second university on the platform. Michigan attracts current students to their account by utilizing Snapchat to show off lesser known areas of campus, highlight student exhibits, and hold interactive contests and activities. Prospective and incoming students are given the chance to interact with the university through their #AskUMich campaign that answers questions and addresses concerns utilizing the chat feature. Overall, Michigan’s account is an exceptional account to follow for inspiration on how to create interactive campaigns for any digital marketing venture.

Learn more: University of Michigan’s launch and overall Snapchat marketing strategy

 

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Michelle Obama: michelleobama

First Lady Michelle Obama is an unexpected person to see on Snapchat because she is the wife of the President after all. Her joining Snapchat is similar to how the Kennedys were the first Presidential pair to be shown on television. Michelle Obama is the first, First Lady to utilize a social media platform like Snapchat. The First Lady created an account because more than half of 13 to 34-year-olds are using the app. Working with this younger generation has been her main focus while in office so she decided it would be the perfect medium for her to communicate with them. Besides giving her followers a behind-the-scenes look at her life in the White House, the First Lady has utilized the application to promote her Let Girls Learn trip to Liberia, Morocco, and Spain this past July. This specific marketing campaign is a prime example of how to broadcast an event or trip through Snapchat. FLOTUS built up hype surrounding her trip using the application by regularly speaking on the subject and sharing details of the trip. Once she was traveling, she gave her followers a look at the lives of the girls she was there to help and made it feel as if you were there with her through photographs, interviews, and videos of the discussions held in each country.

 

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Justin Wu: Hackapreneur

Justin Wu is the founder of Growthly and an avid user of Snapchat. Jason gives his followers an inside look at what life is like during the early stages of a startup. From big meetings to his downtime coming up with new ideas, Justin provides tips on presenting, growth marketing, and creating a successful startup. Jason recently went to the WSJD Live and Snapchatted the entire event. He held interviews, asked for commentary from his followers and held a live follow up discussion on Snapchat after the event. Wall Street Journal even had Justin cover the WSJD Live event for their Discover page!

Check out: Justin’s coverage of his whole WSJD Live Journey

 

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Dan Knowlton: danknowlton1

Dan Knowlton is the co-founder of KPS Digital Marketing and author for Social Media Examiner. Dan’s Snapchat provides followers with a variety of marketing tips, industry updates, and a look into the life of an entrepreneur. Dan recently attended Get Social Kent and actively snapped his experience at the event. Dan shared helpful digital marketing insights from keynote speakers, gave an inside look of the event, and introduced key marketers at the event by holding interviews with them, asking about their marketing goals for 2017. Dan is an avid Snapchat user and provides a lot of insight on how to utilize the app to grow your own business.

Check out: Dan’s insights on Using Snapchat to Grow Your Business

 

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Gary Vaynerchuk: garyvee

Gary Vaynerchuk is the CEO of VaynerMedia and an established social media guru. Gary uses his Snapchat account to help teach others how to become successful in digital marketing through motivational snaps and valuable marketing advice. He encourages his followers to interact with him and send any questions they have about entrepreneurship, marketing, or growth hacking and will answer their question on his story. He continues this campaign across all of his platforms with #AskGaryVee. Gary gives his followers a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a CEO and all the hard work he puts in to accomplish his goals.

 

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HubSpot: hubspotinc

HubSpot is an inbound marketing software company. HubSpot’s social media strategy is a prime example of how companies can utilize Snapchat to show off their culture, educate their followers, and even help recruit new talent. In fact, HubSpot held a recruiting event via Snapchat this past July! In lieu of a resume, they asked hopeful applicants to teach them something in 60 seconds or less. By taking their recruitment completely digital, HubSpot was able to recruit from a specific audience and create a test that would result in employees that were the right fit for the position. Besides finding new uses for the application, HubSpot’s Snapchat is perfect for finding inspiration for your own company’s account.

 

morganb180-snapchat-code

Morgan Brown: morganb180

Morgan Brown is the COO of Inman News and is a 15-year startup marketing veteran. Morgan provides innovative tips on growth and productivity and shares examples to help illustrate his points. He also invites his followers to ask him any marketing and growth hacking questions they may have. Through his interactive use of Snapchat and sharing real-life examples to his followers, Morgan is able to educate his audience and truly show them how growth works online.  

 

Have a favorite marketing guru you follow on Snapchat? 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.

5 Ways Snapchat is Changing the Way We Communicate

Snapchat has roughly 26 million users in the United States, with 60 percent of those using the app aged 1334. In May, Snapchat’s dominance was established when it beat out Apple and Facebook applications to top the Apple iOS downloads chart for the first time. If you don’t believe Snapchat is worth your university’s time, consider the fact that 77 percent of college students 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.

This app alone has informed and shaped millennial culture through soundbites, chats, brief moments, and temporary flashes of content. Here I will discuss how it has begun to transform the way we communicate.

1. Creates a Sense of Urgency and a Need to Share ?

In basic communication, humans transmit information and receive instant feedback. The integration of texting and emailing, however, has enabled senders and receivers to sit and dwell on content before responding. Snapchat has changed the game by making messages available to view only once. 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.

In true millennial fashion, Snapchat utilized emojis to further encourage a timely back-and-forth conversation. Snapchat added an array of badges and rankings that encourage you to consistently interact with friends. From becoming a best friend of another user to earning awards for sending snaps, a Snapchat user is constantly encouraged to keep sharing. One example of this quest for badges is the ?  emoji. By keeping a conversation going for more than a day Snapchat will recognize the streak and add a ?  emoji next to their name.

Snapchat has created a way for people to constantly update and share content with their friends with little effort. A picture is worth a thousand words and Snapchat has created the perfect medium to share these visual stories with friends.

 

2. Provides an Inside Perspective of Faraway Places ?

Snapchat has enabled people from all over the world to share their story. 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 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. Share the Full Story, Instead of Just Highlights ?

Snapchat enables users to not just share the best picture out of their daily experiences; it encourages them to share the full story. Many users channel their creativity to share their day from the moment they wake up, to the moment they go to sleep.

Just last week Snapchat announced the next generation of stories: Memories. Users will now be able to save their snapchats and combine them with other photos on their phone to create custom stories that they can then share with their Snapchat friends. This new feature allows users to completely customize their content and share their experience from their own perspectives.

 

Instead of uploading  a few photos on Facebook or posting a 140 character tweet on Twitter, universities can utilize Snapchat 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. Digital Messages Have Become 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 has 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 features, similarly to  Lenses and Discover, enable users to interact with the content they view and share.

Lenses is Snapchat’s upgrade for 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 Lense 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.

Circa Interactive Team Using Snapchat's Lense Feature

A university could create a Lense 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. Bringing 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 has 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. Once this media-giant joined the ranks, it was made clear Snapchat is the way to reach a millennial audience. 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.

150 million people visit Snapchat daily, yet a Discover channel may only get 1 million views a day. Snapchat has announced new updates will occur in an attempt to fix this and bring in more ad revenue. While this application has begun to deliver newsworthy content, we will have to wait and see how this feature evolves. All of this aside, Snapchat has undeniably transformed our means of communication, created new opportunities for brands and universities and even brought personality back into a digital world.

 

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.

5 Instagram Tips for the New Algorithm-Based Newsfeed

Instagram recently announced that they will be rolling out a new algorithm-based newsfeed that will move away from the current chronological one to a more personalized one. This change is similar to the way that Facebook changed their feed back in 2009. This means that the posts that show up at the top of your feed, regardless of when they were uploaded, will be determined by the type of content that you are engaging with the most. The main motivation behind this switch is the finding that, on average, 70% of content is never seen by users. Instagram is therefore hoping that a more customized newsfeed will help to ensure that the 30% that is seen, is the best and most relevant. As Instagram stated, “To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.”  

Now that the dependability of a chronological newsfeed is out the window, you may be wondering how to keep your brand’s account from slipping through the cracks. To help you master the new Instagram feed and make sure your content is still seen by your target audience, I’ve compiled a list of five key takeaways that every marketer should be aware of.

 

1. Without chronological order, brands will now have greater international reach

The upside to this change is that it is going to make it easier for brands to go global and be seen by new audiences. In fact, 75% of Instagram’s audience is outside of the United States. By eliminating the restrictions that varying time zones can bring, your chances of reaching an international audience will grow stronger. This means that no matter when you post, if your content is on brand and appeals to your target audience, it will have a greater likelihood of being seen.

 

2. Organic reach will be more difficult–brand your account and encourage followers to turn on notifications

It is important to remember that Instagram is a visual platform. The picture itself is what grabs the user’s attention. To maximize organic reach, you will need to translate your brand into the pictures that you create for your account. Use a palette of colors, special shapes, or even select filters that you can regularly use to keep your content consistent and recognizable.

Harvard Instagram

Harvard University showed off the famous turning of the leaves in Boston through implementing these style techniques. They build brand awareness by using a fall theme, use recurring colors of orange, red and green, and even utilize video to show off their beautiful campus.

If you don’t know where to start, remember that learning from trial and error is the best method. Try new looks and styles of pictures and see what your audience responds to. If you find something that provokes a positive reaction, be sure to integrate it into your strategy moving forward.

Another way to increase engagement and ensure that you are discoverable to new users is by using relevant hashtags. Hashtags will now be more important than ever if you want your content to be searchable and seen by the right audience. Many Instagram users and brands are already starting to use the hashtag #turnmeon to ask their followers to turn on notifications for their posts. This strategy will increase the likelihood that your that content is still seen by instantly alerting followers when new content is posted.

Learn more about engagement with these  4 Ways to Boost Your University’s Social Media Engagement.

 

3. Influencers are set to become even more influential

Influencers are essentially walking billboards. They range from average users on Instagram with large social media followings and brands of their own to world-famous celebrities. By creating relationships with these influencers, you are able get your product or brand in front of new audiences with an added layer of credibility and endorsement. In fact, a recent Experticity study found that influencer recommendations carry 22 times the weight of a recommendation from an average customer. Because influencers have substantial followings, they also have high engagement rates. This means that their content will be pushed to the top, based on the way the new algorithm works. In other words, if you don’t have an influencer to help promote your content or have naturally high engagement rates on your own, your content will most likely be pushed down further on the newsfeed.  

If you already work with influencers, it’s even more important to ensure the content they are producing stays consistent and includes the right messaging. Establish quality control by creating templates for them to use. These could be used for visual and written content, but make sure they are able to still add their own personality! You don’t want their endorsements to appear scripted.

If you don’t already have relationships with influencers, then it might be a good time to start doing some research. Use resources like Buzzsumo to find the top influencers in different niches. Keep in mind that these individuals typically come with a price tag, so evaluate this strategy to determine whether it makes sense for your brand. If the answer is yes, then having an influencer on your team will help expand your network, get your content seen by a larger audience, and increase lead generation.



 

Coe College invited professional soccer player, Abby Wambach, to speak with their soccer team and a select audience. Abby posted about her experience there, tagged Coe College, and even used their hashtag #kohawks. This endorsement from Abby is a powerful one, especially to prospective college athletes.

On the other side of influencers, Michigan University took it into their own hands to announce a new partnership with professional NASCAR driver, Jeff Gordon. They branded the picture with their logo, included their school colors, and used the hashtag #GOBlue to build brand awareness in connection with Jeff.

4. The number of followers you have won’t be as meaningful

It’s hard to tell how confining the new algorithm will be, but when it comes to reach, things will definitely get more complicated for brands. The total number of followers your account has won’t be as important as it once was, especially as people start to follow more accounts. Because the algorithm will favor higher engagement over a large following, it is important to focus on who your audience is and what they like. Create content that will appeal to them and continue to engage with them. The worst thing a brand could do is stop engaging with their fans and turn to buying followers for help. Many services will promise the accounts they are selling are active, but these accounts will not ‘like’, comment, or share your content. Having dead accounts following you will actually do more harm than good as it will ruin your engagement statistics.

Learn how to create unique, engaging content in my recent article: 6 Tips for Boosting Your Instagram Presence

 

5. Instagram is becoming more expensive for brands

There is no doubt that the new Instagram algorithm has an ulterior motive. With no chronological order and the potential for a smaller organic reach, more brands will turn to Instagram advertising to make sure their content is seen. This will likely lead to handing over more cash, which a lot of small businesses might not have. If this is the case, make sure to assess your analytics. Is your online store, website or blog actually getting traction directly from your Instagram account? If it is, then advertising is probably the right choice for you. If your brand does not see any value from Instagram, try out a different platform that may be a better fit for your marketing needs and goals.

Learn how to target and create the right ads for your audience with these 7 Tips for Maximizing your Facebook (and Instagram) Ad Performance.

Need more Instagram tips? Want to learn more about social media marketing? Let me know what you want to learn about next 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.

Three Common Mistakes Higher Education Marketers Make and How to Avoid Them

As marketing experts, our job is to work tirelessly to understand market habits and trends in a way that allows us to effectively position our university’s strengths to align with those very trends; however, we often forget that market research reports and conversion charts are more than just numbers. While these resources are, of course, extremely important facets when making any decisions in our field, too often we forget the humanity behind those very reports and what drives them. Using research from Chet Holmes, esteemed corporate trainer to greats like GNC and Estee Lauder, and his book The Ultimate Sales Machine, here’s what you and your team can do to make sure your messaging has the greatest impact on the right audience.    

1: Target More Than Just The Active “Shoppers”

According to Holmes’ extensive research, every program, product, and service has an ideal audience that   is broken down into 5 segments.

Prospective Students Stats

(source: The Ultimate Sales Machine, Chet Holmes)

The first 3% are students who are active in their pursuit of a higher education degree. The second 7% aren’t as committed as the first 3%, but they’re open to the idea of pushing their career to the next level. The next 30% are people who A) have no idea that they need a higher diploma or B) are unaware your university or degree program exists. This group is your “unconscious” market. Then, there’s the next 30% that knows both that they need a degree to get where they want in their career and that you offer that program, but the need isn’t their top priority. It’s simply something they want “sometime in the future.” And finally, we have the 30% who will just never be interested. Unfortunately, pursuing the final 30% would result in a colossal waste of time and money, but the good news is that the remaining 70% is free game.

SOLUTION: Even though 3% have made it their priority to actively seek out a way to change their lives for the better, every other university is angling to enroll those same students into their program as well. This is precisely why the remaining 67% cannot be neglected, but the challenge will not go without struggle. Awakening the unconscious will take more than a nudge. Mobilizing the aware but uncommitted will take more than a suggestion. Solving this is, of course, much easier said than done, but this article will guide you to find new ways to mobilize your otherwise inactive 67% of potential students to enroll.

2: Hone in on only one Student Profile for each Targeted Campaign

When setting the various targeting parameters for any given ad campaign, you’re usually given a set of checkboxes or drop-down lists. First, they start out fairly generic: location, check; age, check; gender, check. Then, the good stuff: education level, check, check; profession, check, check, check; interests, check, check, check, check, check. The problem with this strategy typically stems from the crippling desire of not wanting to miss a single community that might be interested in your school. What’s worse is that this same strategy is likely forcing your ad copy to fit the needs of a broad set of compiled personalities and interests. Not only does this approach water down the extraordinary features your program has to offer, but it robs the potential student of the intimacy and inspiration they crave to push their career to the next level.

SOLUTION: Strive for intimacy. To achieve this, you need two things. The first is an effective egoic label: a label demonstrates both what a person identifies with and role they serve within that label. For example, the strongest egoic label is “mother.” Not only is it a word that many women intensely identify with, but it also demonstrates their role and function within a family. Egoic labels can come from a number of different categories like vocation (entrepreneur, professional women, doctor), nationality (American, Canadian, Mexican), relationship (mother, married, single), or even ownership (homeowner, dog owner, mac owner), but what’s important is that only one is chosen per campaign.

The second thing you’ll need is your egoic label’s symptom. For example, working mothers who struggle to make ends meet with their hourly job tend to have “symptoms” like the following: not enough time, don’t make enough money, or, the most common symptom of any egoic label, hate their job. You can use simple verbiage that taps directly into these symptoms.

Take Snickers for example. They may not have names on every candy bar, but when you see “Grouchy,” “Feisty,” “Sleepy,” or “Rebellious” written on the wrapper, the candy bar is no longer selling the chocolate inside; it’s selling a cure to the symptom the consumer self-identifies with. By turning Snickers’ “grouchy” into “mom who hates her job,” your marketing will allow your reader to self-select themselves. Rather than tirelessly working to get your prospective students to say “okay, I’ll check out your university,” you’ll have marketing that allows them to opt themselves in by inspiring them to say “this was made for me!” All too often, it’s easy for us as marketing professionals to forget to look beyond the analytic reports and trending topics and see our job for what it is – inspiring and motivating people to better their lives, their jobs, and their happiness with the knowledge and expertise you know your university can provide for them. Which brings me to my next point:

3: Show Your Prospective Students Value Immediately  

All too often I see ad campaigns float across my Facebook feed begging their reader to “check them out!” The reality of this rhetoric, however, is that the reader, or a prospective student in this case, has little to no incentive to need what you’re offering. By not presenting an immediate value that your hopeful student can both immediately benefit from and use, a much too large margin of error can occur. Campaigns should never be a space for bragging about how excellent your university is; it should create a space where working professionals can A) recognize that they have a “symptom” that needs to be solved, B) understand clearly the long-term benefits in pursuing your degree program, and C) show them what service or resource they can take advantage of immediately which can change their “maybe later” answer to an outright yes.

SOLUTION: Several simple ways of accomplishing this could be a free consultation from one of your university’s advisors, a free (easy-to-grasp) whitepaper, or perhaps an exclusive free webinar. The point here is that your potential students will see, perhaps unconsciously, that your university is willing to put in as much effort in educating them now as they will be when they’ve enrolled and started classes.  

What we, as marketing professionals must remember is that marketing materials aren’t just a compilation of research. It’s a message to an individual that they don’t have to be unhappy with their job, boss, or even their career path all together. We must remember that enrolling a student isn’t just another tally to add to the books, it’s an individual who has committed to creating the change they crave. It’s those 2AM problems that keep us awake at night that should be the forefront of any marketing strategy. If we can recognize these problems and effectively illustrate how we can help solve them with our services, then we’re much more likely to break through the clutter and speak to the audience who wants to listen.

Tami Final for SiteTami 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.

 

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

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

Setting Reminders to Stay Organized

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

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

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

Slack Channels

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

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

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

Utilize the Slack Community

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

Integrate Platforms and Services

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

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

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

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

The 2015 Higher Education Marketing Journal Year in Review

Here we are, back to work in 2016. The Higher Education Marketing Journal (HEMJ) had a momentous 2015, seeing a double in the number of subscribers. We are working to continue to create engaging and actionable content in the coming year to exceed the growth we have seen in the past few years. It has been a productive year at Circa Interactive, and we are happy to highlight our successful posts and content from 2015.

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Our HEMJ subscribers range from university marketing departments and leadership to some of the top digital marketers in the industry.

To highlight our successful HEMJ posts from 2015, I’ve separated them into the following categories:

  • Organic Social Media
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Digital PR
  • Student Generation
  • Online Learning

Our content team has built upwards of 30 articles this year describing various facets of higher education Internet marketing. The following are links to our popular posts in case you missed them!

Organic Social Media

Boosting Social Media Image

As the online education industry continues to grow, we’ve seen an increase in demand for a strong social presence for university programs and colleges. Social programs across various platforms work to dish out information surrounding degree programs, faculty, current students, alumni, and the larger program-specific industry. Regardless of the social platform, imagery is essential for engagement. Our head designer, Jordan Opel, describes how to create a custom image to build awareness for a university event.

Speaking of spectacular imagery, is your university program on Instagram? There are endless content ideas to share through this platform such as current students, research equipment, faculty highlights, and more. Our very own Audrey Willis offers six tips to boost your university’s Instagram presence.

Once your social platform is established and content created, the next step is to build engagement. Tami Cruz offers four strategic tips to boost your college’s social media engagement. Want to know who’s killing it at content and engagement? Public relations manager Caroline Khalili shares her five personal must-follow university social accounts.

Social Media Marketing

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When it comes to student acquisition in higher education, social media marketing is an increasingly valuable tool. The potential audience size and very detailed targeting features allow for effective spending of marketing budgets. Our paid search manager Andrew Glasser paves the way in this category with an insightful post into maximizing Facebook Ad performance.

With the growth in targeting abilities and tracking, Facebook has become a very strong contender for marketing dollars in higher education. While Andrew dissects the account specifics, our lead designer, Jordan, works on the creative front of Facebook advertising with this well crafted post describing how to construct a Facebook promoted post.

Just as important as Facebook advertising in higher education is the limitless abilities to target potential students through Linkedin’s robust marketing platform. Earlier this year, our CEO Robert Lee laid out his insights into Linkedin’s targeting with his post, “5 Ways to Target Potential Students with Linkedin Paid Ads.”

Facebook and Linkedin advertising have been open to the public for a few years now, but a more recent addition to the marketing field is Pinterest advertising, which opened reservation-based Promoted Pins on January 1, 2015. Our digital marketing intern wrapped up his time at Circa with a walkthrough of driving students to a university with Promoted Pins.

Whether you are pushing your social media marketing budget toward Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest or the various other platforms, our paid search manager has you covered. Here’s Andrew’s powerful marketer’s guide, “A Higher Education Marketer’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization: Paid Social.”

Digital Public Relations 

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We are happy to have introduced our newest service offering to our higher education clients in 2015: Digital Public Relations. This tactic combines traditional PR, SEO, Branding, and Student Acquisition and is a powerful strategy in the current online marketplace. The newest member to our PR team is George Bradley, a digital marketing specialist out of the UK. By creating content for a variety of degree programs, George is on the forefront of industry news and his latest post offers his top four online tools to discover content for a university PR strategy.

A valued tool that our PR team frequently leverages to pitch programs, professors, and content to journalist and editors worldwide is CisionPoint. Cision has recently merged with Vocus and is a database of contacts and outreach platform that is leading the future of digital PR. Don’t have experience with Cision? Our social media and PR intern Sarah Song put together a step-by-step beginner’s guide to Cision at the start of 2015.

Content Marketing

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Content marketing has proven to be a valuable tool in digital marketing. Within the realm of higher education, there is a wealth of opportunity to produce consumable and engaging content to appeal to large audiences. Here at Circa, we create many different styles of content including videos, whitepapers, professor profiles, and infographics. Our marketing director and content marketing specialist, Frederic Lee (yours truly), put together two round-ups of his favorite higher education infographics in the industry: best health infographics and best business infographics in higher education.

We also released our very own infographic titled, “Creative Ways to Make Higher Education More Affordable.” This graphics aims to shed light on the opposite side of the college tuition rise debate by showing examples of ways universities are saving money. Take a look and feel free to share!

Student Generation

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When it comes down to it, we are in the business of student generation. We aim to match potential students with the appropriate university program to meet and exceed their goals. Our COO, Clayton Dean, offers a decade of experience in student generation and shared his knowledge through two priceless posts in 2015.

Clayton’s first post is helpful for those university marketing departments who are struggling with where to push their marketing dollars. He offers two powerful ways to generate more leads on a limited budget. His next post points out a far too familiar scenario: A potential student visits your landing page, fails to convert, and goes on their way never to be heard from again. To tackle this issue, Clayton lays out 5 Reasons Why Setting Up Retargeting is Essential for Your Higher Ed Marketing Strategy. In addition to our COO’s valuable student generation posts in 2015, we published a contributor post from Josh Haynam, co-found of Interact. In this article, Josh introduces leveraging quizzes in higher education lead generation.

Online Learning 

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The Higher Education Marketing Journal covers a large scope of online marketing tactics and strategy. Some of our most successful posts are high level articles about the online education industry and are written by our most experience contributors. CEO Robert Lee offered his insights on a market feasibility study to understand demand for an online program while our top contributor, Scott Levine, built two powerful posts that demonstrated his expertise in the industry.

Scott’s first post lays out a prescription for success for online nursing degrees and acts as a guide to those looking to push an RN-BSN online. Scott’s second post is a clever remake of Stephen Covey’s, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” By applying this post to the higher education industry, Scott created, “The Seven Attributes of Highly Effective Online Degrees.”

More to Come in 2016

As we pave our way into the New Year, expect to see consistent content being added to HEMJ from our variety of employees and contributors. If you’d like to see us tackle a specific issue relevant to you, don’t hesitate to comment below or send us a message here. We wish all of our subscribers the best in 2016!

Follow me on Twitter for more updates: @FredHigherEd

FreddieFrederic Lee has four years experience in higher education content marketing and SEO. 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 management of Circa Interactive’s successful internship program.

 

5 Marketing Trends in 2016 to Boost your Digital Strategy

Throughout 2015 digital marketers experienced rapid changes to the industry and were forced to rethink their strategy based on evolutions in mobile optimization, advertising localization, and content marketing. Now that we’re heading into 2016, it’s time to start adapting digital strategies in higher education to anticipate the upcoming trends to stay on the cutting edge, and there is no sign that digital marketing will slow down. For instance, digital marketing budgets increased by ten percent in 2015, and two-thirds of marketers expect a continued growth in 2016. So how can you stay ahead in 2016? Here are five marketing trends in 2016 to boost your digital strategy.

Growth Hacking

 Growth hacking is usually referenced alongside Internet startups, but this concept can be used in higher education, too. When a university’s main objective is to grow its online program and list of prospective students, it’s absolutely necessary to dedicate a team of digital marketers to focus on discovering new innovative avenues that push the boundaries of traditional marketing to increase organic growth. While most marketers know innovation is necessary, the Gartner CMO Spend Survey mentioned that only ten percent of marketing budgets are dedicated to innovation. If you want your business to stay ahead in this evolving industry, then this number will have to increase. 

Digital Marketing Trends in 2016

The key to success in growth hacking is looking at old marketing practices with a fresh perspective and then testing their viability through experiments. It’s a lot like being a visitor at an art gallery, gazing at paintings that have stood the test of time, yet you see something that 99 percent of the other viewers never saw: a new story–a new path. For instance, many marketers see influencers, forums, and guest posts useless in their marketing plans, but this perspective is flawed because they are looking through the same black-and-white lens like the marketers before them. By understanding the dynamics and structures of search engine algorithms, growth hackers can innovate and find untapped resources that bring in high quality prospects.

Creative Link-Building Strategies

During the last few years, I’ve heard “Content is King!” used over and over again. To an extent, this is a valuable and true expression for digital marketers, because high quality content that turns viral and produces an abundant source of traffic is fantastic, but understanding how to create content that naturally builds links comes as a challenge. When an original source of content is referenced and backlinked, the site’s SEO value will significantly increase over time. Many link-builders are still resorting to massive, non-engaging email blast hoping to convert a mere two percent of their outreaches leaving the remaining 98 percent out for the wolves and creative go-getters. One question remains: How do I reach the remaining 98 percent of unresponsive outreaches? I consider Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko, to be one of the web’s best backlinking experts. His diversified link-building strategy revolves around utilizing guest posts, link roundups, helpful resources, and high quality keyword-based content. In order to stand out in front of the competition in 2016, marketers will have to find a way to use their pre-existing content to build backlinks along with creating new content around high traffic keywords that customers are actively searching.

Helpful Resources
Backlinko:Upside Down Guest Post
Moz: Link Building Category

Video Ads – Everyone says it, but it’s TRUE!

Video advertisements grew substantially in 2015. AOL’s sixth annual State of the Video Industry report mentioned that US digital video ads grew by 42% to $7.46 billion in 2015, and by 2019 this number will reach $13 billion. Even though Facebook’s autoplay feature came into the market during 2014, I believe 2015 was a major year for video testing in most digital marketing and SEO agencies. With traditional advertising falling by the wayside, now half of all marketers are reallocating their advertising budgets from television to branded digital videos. Google’s TrueView video ads have changed the advertising landscape with over 65 percent of Trueview campaign contributing to a significant lift in brand interest. This trend will only continue as Google and Bing adapt by bringing video advertisement into your search engine results. Industry sources have reported that Google and Bing are already testing these ads in their search engine results.

Hypertargeting

Facebook advertising recently introduced Flex-And/Or-Exclusion targeting that will become one of the greatest advertising tools for marketers in 2016. You could say that Facebook knows more about their users than they know about themselves, and advertisers can reach their target audiences like never before. Now you’ll be able to target or exclude individuals who match up in one interest, demographic or behavior group at a particular time instead of a catch-all group.

By using the detail targeting parameters, a marketer is able to target any person who is labeled as a college graduate, but they must have an interest in both advertising and management and not one or the other. In order to ensure the highest quality prospects in a recent campaign, I decided to target students who are prepared and interested in receiving their MBA by excluding any individuals who are graduating from 2017-2020.

Marketing Trends 2016

This year will be all about specific hyper-targeting, and with a rise in ad personalization, an increase in conversion rates should result in an overall lower cost-per-acquisition.

Helpful Resources
Facebook Detailed Targeting
7 Tips for Maximizing Facebook Performance

Keywords Optimized for Voice Based Search

The biggest change over the course of this year will be keyword and content optimization for voice recognition commands. As Apple’s Siri, Google’s Now and Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistants merge into the search engine process, marketers will have to shift their thinking to match how people are searching for answers verbally compared to text-based search. There is a fine line with how people search verbally and physically. SearchEngineWatch.com examined the number of question keywords that appeared in search queries like “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “how.” Their study found a 61 percent growth in these phrases year-over-year with “who” phrases with the largest increase at 134 percent and “how” phrases up 81 percent respectively.

When developing future content, marketers need to be specifically structuring topics around (who, what, when, where, why and how) based questions in order to properly connect with the searcher’s request. Optimized voice-based content will focus on being the top indexed question by Google with the main objective of creating ease-of-use in the user’s experience. Let us know what trends you’ll be watching in 2016. 


AustinAustin Anderson is a forward-thinking, motivated marketing specialist. Before Circa, Austin ran an e-commerce business and managed online marketing for startups in San Diego. Austin strives to be a future influencer in digital marketing, and he is a member of the Entrepreneur Society, Junto Global, and has won two business research awards while attending SDSU.