Blogger Outreach Emails: Persuasive Writing Techniques

As we all know, how something is phrased is often more important than what is actually being said. If you leverage blogger outreach emails as part of link building tactics, chances are you’ve repeatedly tested phrasing to uncover the best subject lines and attention getting pitches. Words jump out at us for various reasons and play on our most primitive instincts and hard-wired responses revolving around emotion. With a better understanding of the power specific words have on human psychology, marketers can use persuasive writing techniques to create new opportunities while having fun testing out key words and phrases in our outreaches.

In this article I will present a few techniques for making your email marketing copy more persuasive and interesting to read.

Using 4 Effective Words

With only a short amount of time and text to capture the attention of a busy reader skimming through emails, it is important to carefully select the words used in a pitch and subject line. Even the most simple words can have a profound effect on our interest in a topic. Below are 4 basic words impacting psychology that you should include in your outreach.

You

Humans are rather narcissistic by nature, so it is easy to understand the importance of this word. We love to read topics that are centered around ourselves or addressed to us specifically. As opposed to making a message seem vague or generic by writing in third person, the use of “you” helps draw the reader in and make it more about them.

Because

Studies have shown that using the word “because” in email correspondence is over 31% more effective when seeking compliance, compared to leaving the word out. “Because” provides a sense of reason and ethos. You are not only telling a person about what it is you are trying to convey, but also why it is important while providing a reason to believe you. In the case of link building, it provides a more persuasive request and adds to the credibility of the pitch.

New & Free

These two words are addressed together because they both speak to the concept of loss aversion. In email outreach we may not necessarily be selling something, so leveraging this word targets the drive in people to acquire something new and for little to no cost. Using words like “new and free” are important because, for lack of better words, it creates a sense of fear of missing out (FOMO) and pushes people to take advantage of what you are requesting, i.e. sharing you link.

The Use of Sensory Words

Research shows that words related to texture activated areas of the brain were more likely to be impactful, even if their use was not related to any actual physical sensation. With our inboxes full of messages to filter through, we are likely to only respond to the ones that strike us as important or appear more memorable.
Using language that taps into any of the 5 senses: taste, touch, sight, sound or smell is likely to help the description of your message seem more tangible and realistic. Sensory words used in email pitches creates a more impressionable experience for the reader.

Storytelling and Striking an Emotional Chord

Incorporating short stories in your email pitch helps make your message more interesting and emotionally accessible, but more importantly, it makes the reader feel as though they can relate to the situation. This helps foster a sense of connection between the reader and the sender while breaking down barriers we create from being bombarded by pointless emails on a regular basis. Since there isn’t a great deal of time to impress the reader, you don’t want to lose their attention, so keep it short and sweet. Incorporate this storytelling method in an area that seems credible, perhaps like a statistic.

Let’s take a look at this example from a pitch aimed to create awareness about the rising cost of high school athletics:

“High school sports participation is at an all time high, but so is the cost, with some parents paying over $650 per child to participate in interscholastic athletics. High school sports offer a variety of long term benefits for kids, from scholastic performance to successful workplace skills later in life. With many families unable to afford the rising costs of athletics, our youth are at risk for a variety of negative impacts.”

While this aims to strike an emotional chord with parents, coaches and teachers, it also works for readers as a whole. No one wants to see youth negatively affected and it make even the average reader feel a sense of emotion and urgency to help by painting a picture of what is at risk for youth.

Our tendency as educated humans is to interact with one another using our “new brains” or more sophisticated language, however, it is in our “old brains” where the majority of our decisions are made. This part of the brain can be triggered using some of the most basic, yet powerful words and phrases for a more persuasive outreach.

16Keilah is a graduate of the University of Idaho. Working as an intern with Circa Interactive, she has gained experience in SEO and higher education content marketing while cultivating her creative skills. Keilah strives to become a future influencer in the digital marketing world.

Mobile PPC for Higher Education: AdWords Call Extensions

In higher education search PPC marketing, call extensions can be a valuable asset, enabling prospective students to speak with an admissions or enrollment advisor with just a single click. Within the modern PPC marketing mix of search and social PPC campaigns, mobile traffic often accounts for the majority of paid-click user sessions; the terminus of this ongoing mass exodus of users, from their desktops to their smartphones, remains to be seen. As our friends at Unbounce put it back in 2015, “[every year] since 2009, it’s been declared that whatever year it was must certainly be the year of mobile.” Nearly a decade later it’s a sure bet, no matter what year it is, now is the time to be revamping your mobile student acquisition strategy. Today’s blog post is part 1 of my series on Mobile PPC for Higher Education: AdWords Call Extensions.

Why should you make call extensions part of your higher ed search PPC strategy?

  • AdWords call extensions would enable users to call directly via your Google Search PPC ads
  • Phone call inquiries can be an indispensable asset in student acquisition, as many would-be students are actively looking for a specific program to enroll in, and speaking to an enrollment advisor at this moment could make or break that individual’s decision
  • The AdWords API likes it when you use every extension you (appropriately) can
  • You can set Call Extensions to show only when your representatives can take calls
  • Conversion tracking is easy to set up

In lieu of these facts, I find it’s usually in the best interest of most higher ed PPC accounts to implement AdWords call Extensions.

One important thing to remember whenever you’re dealing with (any) extensions in AdWords: when there are multiple extensions at different levels (account, campaign, or ad group), AdWords will elect the most specific to be used. In other words, when you add extensions to an ad group, those extensions show instead of your campaign (or account-level) extensions. Similarly, campaign-level extensions override account-level extensions.

Let’s walk through the steps:

  1. Find a suitable number for prospective students to dial when inquiring about the respective program(s) you’re advertising — typically an Enrollment Advisor, or an Admissions Office hotline
  2. Open your AdWords account
  3. Go to Tools and then Conversions. Select +Conversion
  4. Select Phone Calls and opt for the 1st option (“Calls from ads using call extensions or call-only ads”)
  5. Create your Call Conversion Event, naming it something besides “Calls from ads” — as this is the default call reporting conversion metric AdWords has by default (and it will be difficult to discern between them if they have the same name). You do not necessarily need to assign a value to these conversions, but regardless I recommend setting the call length to 30 seconds and opening the conversion window to 60 days; the other settings can remain at their default
  6. Navigate back to your AdWords account home screen and select the campaign (or ad group) from which you’d like to start receiving phone calls from prospective students
  7. Go to the Ad Extensions tab (hint: if you can’t see it, click on the down-arrow to the right of the viewable tabs – you’ll be able to enable it here)
  8. From the View menu, select Call Extensions
  9. Select +Extension
  10. Select +New Phone Number and enter the number you obtained in step 1
  11. Leave Call Reporting as is (“on”), and leave Device preference unchecked (unless you have mobile-dedicated ad groups)
  12. Open the +Advanced options and select +Create custom schedule – populate this with the hours during which your representatives will be available to receive calls
  13. Check Count calls as phone call conversions and select the conversion event you initially set up in step 5
  14. Click Save

You should be ready to start receiving calls from prospective students! Repeat the steps above and add up to 20 call extensions to each account, campaign, or ad group.

 

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.

 

6 Do’s and Do Not’s of Digital Public Relations

In the competitive field of digital public relations, it is a constant struggle to create pitches that stand out to your desired audience. Reporters and editors of high level publications are drowning in a sea of pitches and emails each day and don’t want to receive the same boring pitches every day. In order to succeed as a public relations specialist, it is imperative that your campaign stands out among the rest. There are several ways to ensure that you make your mark. Here are 3 do’s and 3 do not’s of higher education Public Relations.

Do: Have a unique voice while understanding what the publication wants 

To make an impression in the world of public relations, you have to offer something unique to your audience. If you are pitching clients to high level publications, odds are the editors and reporters have a lot of pitches coming through each day. If there are submission guidelines, look at them. These will help you determine what exactly the publication is looking for in a pitch. Once you get an understanding of how publications take pitches or articles, be sure to make yourself and your client stand out by offering a unique voice or stance on a topic. Emphasize the new angle or insight that your client has to offer in your pitch. Give the publication a new way to think about something that’s being talked about, and offer your client as an asset to this new angle.

Do: Leverage news and current events in your pitches

When crafting a pitch, use a topic that has buzz around it. Grab a story from the news, and see how your client can offer insight into the topic and provide a new angle that the publication is missing out on by not speaking to your client. This creates the opportunity for your client to be involved in a conversation of relevant, newsworthy story, while still offering their expertise. Using a relevant news peg also have a better chance of catching a publication’s attention if you have an interesting subject line that mentions a time sensitive topic.

Do: Follow up

This point cannot be stressed enough. If you miss a follow up, you’re missing a second chance to be seen by a publication that may have missed your first email, but would have otherwise been interested in your client. Most of our success in digital PR results from follow ups. Be sure to change your subject line to something along the lines of “Re: Just Following Up: [insert subject line]” to draw attention to the fact that that there has been prior correspondence. This little trick is a sure fire way to get more eyes on your follow up and original pitch.

Do Not: Put yourself in a box

It is easy to get stuck in the obvious within public relations. As a professional, it is your job to think outside of the box and find a new angles that can make your client stand out. Being able to look at news pegs through a fresh lens can help find new angles for all topics and clients you’re pitching. If you work in a PR team, don’t be afraid to ask for a brainstorming session to break you out of your box. Our digital PR team goes on walks and has regular PR brainstorming meetings to go over the news and find new angles to pitch our clients. These practices break us out of reading stories and taking them at face value. It also allows us to find different ways to pitch our clients’ expertise.

Do Not: Miss an email

Always be the last to respond in any situation. This seems pretty self explanatory, but if a pitch gets several “no thanks” responses, don’t just leave them in your inbox. I know it feels like a rejection and no one enjoys facing rejection, but your job is communicating. Respond, and thank them for their time, or even try to figure out why they said no. Who knows, you may even be creating relationships with these contacts just by responding to their “no’s”. People will have more respect for someone that takes the time to thank them, or tries to get a better understanding of what they want in the future, even after they turned down your pitch.

Do Not: Take a “maybe” as a final answer

Many responses to pitches are along the lines of “I don’t cover this exact topic”, or “I’ll keep this in mind for next time”. These aren’t explicitly “no’s”, and as a communicator, it is your job to figure out how you can use these “maybe’s” to your advantage. Here’s the perfect opportunity to be strategic in your communication skills. If they don’t cover the topic you pitched them, find out what they do cover. Find out what they are currently looking for, and see if you still have something to offer. This will help you tailor your pitches to that person in the future and create better relationships with your media contacts.

 

Using Online Calendars to Boost Recruitment

Higher education marketers often balance a number of responsibilities and objectives as they aim to continually attract more students to apply and attend their university. Despite the new technologies that can enhance their work, some marketers continue to spend precious time and resources on old school recruiting efforts, leaving them little time to experiment with new tactics. One of the easiest ways to boost your recruitment efforts is through online calendars. We don’t mean your traditional Outlook calendar that shows you a monthly view and makes you click on each day to see what events are taking place. We’re talking interactive event calendars, with a standalone page dedicated to each event, that incorporate lively event content, social sharing capabilities and deep analytics with little effort.

Your online event calendar

Event calendars are a great way to share a representative sample of the activity happening on campus. For current students wanting to know what’s happening on campus, they can simply check the online events calendar for times, dates and details. A well created event calendar will also allow them to leave comments, upload images of an event and interact on social media with fellow students, lending to the collaborative community feel that’s essential to campus life.

Prospective students will find a wealth of information at their fingertips when accessing a school’s online event calendar – they’ll be able to get a sense of on-campus activities, such as academic lectures, social and athletic life, volunteer opportunities and everything in between. Prospective students can see the events that have taken place throughout the year and pinpoint particular events that may pique their interest during their time at university. This holistic view showcases what is unique about the campus.

Why are calendars so useful for higher ed marketers?

These calendars highlight the events on campus and allow for both current and prospective students to look online and find information on upcoming events.

An efficient online calendar is filled with rich content, which can play a major role in SEO efforts. For instance, a 30-day grid view — which lists simple event information such as name, date and place — is meant to remind you when and where the event is taking place, not to sell you on the actual event itself.  An interactive calendar allows a school to showcase their brand and their investment in students by offering both overall event snapshots and individual event landing pages. This allows for more event content that visitors can click on for more information, providing the opportunity for a larger number of keywords and page views. Better visibility creates more, engaged visitors,  and thus increases the time visitors spend on your school’s website. The amount of time a visitor spends on a site plays a factor in how search engines use their ranking algorithms – so the longer students are engaging with your events and event content, the better it will be for your SEO.

When there is a considerable amount of social engagement around your events, search engines infer that your website offers valuable information because it’s popular and engaging with users online. Utilizing online calendar software that can provide immediate metric reports, specifically on the social media activity around a particular event, and having access to the real-time knowledge of this data will allow you to optimize your event marketing efforts, ultimately benefiting your SEO.

The access to data is also a benefit to marketers, since online calendar technology allows them to collect back-end analytics on their master calendar, including attendee geography, trends and social media activity. From decision-making (looking at trends to understand which types of events, times and locations work best for your school) to audience insights, collecting data on how your audience views and acts on an event listing can help you make smarter event decisions. Many calendars will integrate with your current marketing tools – like CRM and registration platforms — allowing you to get a better snapshot of your overall marketing ROI.

What about an online event calendar makes an impact on your school?

Event content – it’s the information that accompanies an event listing. This includes everything from the date and time to the event image, metadata and RSVPs. In the case of colleges and universities marketing themselves to prospective students, event content can showcase things like faculty, campus scenery and landmarks, famous alumni and student research.

Online event calendars promote university events to a wider student audience, attract additional traffic to the site and ultimately expand the reach of your recruitment marketing to anyone with online access – and that’s a win for both students and higher education marketers.

Myke-for-HEMJ

 

 

Mykel Nahorniak is the co-founder and CEO of Localist, an event technology company. In this role, Myke defines the vision and growth of the business and Localist products. Myke serves as a mentor at 1776, a DC-based incubator, is an angel investor with K Street Capital, and is an executive coach.

6 Free Keyword Research Tools For Beginners and Experts

When it comes to digital marketing, keyword research plays a big part in implementing an effective SEO strategy. Google and other search engines are evolving and becoming smarter in evaluating the best search results for the searched terms, so it’s no longer enough just to write content for blog posts, products, services, etc. without doing proper keyword research. Otherwise, content will be lost in the 20+ search engine result pages and nobody ever will find it.

If you are beginner and can’t afford any of the paid keyword research tools, then you’re probably wondering, “What is the best free keyword research tool?” If so then you’re in the right place. Below, I’ll share my top six favorite free keyword research tools and how to incorporate them in your content marketing.

Soovle

Soovle is a great keyword research tool for beginners. It’s simple to use and will not take a long time to gather the keywords list to use for your blog post. Soovle provides autocomplete suggestions from the major search engines: Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Ebay, Youtube, Bing, Amazon, and more. Since its not a very advanced tool, I would suggest combining Soolve with another tool to get more information for your content. Since this tools provides data for multiple search engines, it can be a great option for someone who is looking to sell products on Ebay or Amazon.

Interface of Soovle keyword research tool

 

Google Trend and Google Suggest

 Google Trends

Consider Google Trends as your inspiration for finding the next hot topic. By simply entering the keyword in the search bar, Google Trends provides over five years of data for that keyword and helps in identifying if that particular search term is still relevant for the consumer/reader. Google Trends is also popular for being a very customizable tool. It allows you to search for multiple terms at the same time, and data can be filtered by the country, period of time, different categories, and the type of search.

Google Trends not only analyzes historical data for the particular search terms, it also shows the interest by subregion and related queries. It’s a great way to identify if the content you’re planning to produce will be relevant to the audience you are trying to reach.

Google Trends Interface

 Google Suggest

Google Suggest is another tool that is popular within the marketing industry and well known by frequent users of Google. To use Google Suggest, simply start typing keywords in the Google search box, and Google Suggest will autofills the search box with keywords that other people are looking for or they are related to your search query. It’s perfect for generating insights on popular search queries relating to your search term.

Google Suggest Interface

Keywords Everywhere

The Keywords Everywhere extension is a free keyword tool that can be easily installed on either Chrome or Firefox. Keywords Everywhere shows Google keyword search volume, cost per click, and competition data of keywords on multiple websites including the ones mentioned above Soovle and Google Suggest. With this extension you will no longer need to wonder which keywords to choose for your content as all the necessary data is presented.

Keywords everywhere extension on Soovle

Google Suggest Keywords Everywhere extension

SERPs

SERPs is a fast and simple to use tool that is great for the beginners and experts. It provides related keywords for the searched term, volume, CPC, and value. SERPs shows all of this data on one page, allowing you to filter the results with secondary keywords and add them to the “Saved Results List,” which is downloadable in .csv format. Although, SERPs is a good tool to use for daily content creation, I would recommend taking their provided data on CPC and Value with a grain of salt by confirming the volume and difficulty with another keyword research tool.

SERPs keyword research interface

Answer The Public

Answer The Public is a very unique keyword research tool that provides questions containing the searched keyword. It can be very helpful for those looking to understand what people are asking for, what they are looking for, and what questions they have about that searched term. With such valuable insights, Answer the Public offers writers the opportunity to create content that could answer all of these questions. If the writer’s content is relevant, it might even be featured in the rich snippets in Google the next time someone searches for similar answers. This kind of content could provide great value for the business in every stage of the buyer’s journey. Answer the Public also includes results with prepositions for the long tail keyword opportunities and is friendly to Keywords Everywhere extensions mentioned earlier.

Answer the Public Interface

LSI Graph

LSI stands for latent semantic indexing. LSI keywords are keywords related to the searched term that are semantically linked. If incorporated into your SEO strategy, then LSI keywords can increase organic traffic and improve rankings. By incorporating longtail keywords and semantic keywords to your blog posts, the content becomes more user friendly and sounds more natural than just trying to use all the high volume keywords.

LSI Graph keyword research interface

Knowing how to choose and use keywords can help to increase organic traffic for your website. Although paid tools tend to over more advanced options, beginners, firms without big budgets and experts looking for alternatives can benefit from free keyword research tools.
If you now feel inspired to write some blog posts about your university but are not sure where to start, keep reading to find out 3 tips for finding blog topics for universities.

 

Martyna's headshotMartyna is a graduate from Vilnius University in Vilnius, Lithuania. With 2 years experience in digital marketing industry, Martyna adds in-depth understanding of on-page and local SEO to the Circa team. Her passion and continual education in SEO initiatives help contribute to Circa’s expanding higher education digital marketing presence.

 

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.

PR Pitch Strategy: 4 Must-Do’s When Pitching Your Professor

Crafting a pitch that reinforces a professor’s value to a spectrum of audiences is no simple task, but in order to do so PR professionals must first put forward the effort to develop a strong client relationship. Whether they are new or an existing professor, understanding their background and industry is paramount for any PR pitch strategy to work. Gaining new opportunities for a professor is a culmination of tactful communication, organic chemistry, and an understanding of a desired outcome on both ends. The art of a pitch can only begin by first refining a PR professional’s interpersonal skill set.

Here are some important tips that need to be taken into account before pitching your client:

Establish Trust: Why Should Professors Believe in Digital PR?

It’s no secret that the foundation to any relationship is trust, so how can trust be secured? Assuring a client that they can expect increased visibility and an increased level of brand awareness for their program is step one. By providing case studies of past successes, a client can better gauge what to expect as they place their public image into the hands of those in PR. For example, a PR professional should promote their accomplishments and mention what notable publications they have succeeded in getting other clients published in. We have the responsibility of knowing what it is we are able to accomplish and should communicate those abilities to our clients. Alternatively, we must be as transparent as possible when it comes to how our team operates when guaranteeing a PR pitching strategy that a professor can believe in. Once a professor is on board with the pitching strategy, PR professionals must strive to demonstrate a consistent work ethic in order to prove that they are reliable.

Be Informed: Know Your Professor and Their Field of Expertise

Before writing a pitch, a PR professional must do their research. Engage in a discussion about what the Professor’s strengths are, making it clear that the end-goal is to showcase them in the best light possible. A vital part of our higher education digital PR pitching strategy is to leverage the expertise of professors and create quality backlinks to boost program organic rankings. But before learning how to write the perfect media pitch, you must familiarize yourself with your client’s persona, their work, and how they want to be represented as experts in the public sphere. Start with an initial interview that delves into the client’s background and ask them to open up a discussion on what they are passionate about. What research are they currently conducting? What do they feel is their biggest accomplishment to date? These types of questions are crucial to ask before moving forward with your pitch.

Targeting Publications: Know Your Professors Audience and Goals

After discussing a Professor’s needs and assessing what topics they can speak on most confidently, it then becomes the PR professional’s responsibility to pitch them to a publication. Depending on a key element of the pitch, specifically the news peg or time peg, certain outlets may find more value in a professor’s commentary than others. Can the professor provide insight on a subject that is more specific to an industry-related audience, or will their knowledge be more appealing to a broader audience? In the SEO sphere, utilizing a browser analytics extension tool such as the MOZ bar can help those in PR determine a publication’s website metrics and traffic. This would allow for the targeting of publications we know would bring more visibility to our client. We want nothing more but to make a professor as relevant as possible to those willing to listen. Being able to match these to the desires of the professor can also add to the successes and opportunities gained.

Rule of Thumb: Show Appreciation

A professor’s time is incredibly valuable and they will have spent countless hours conducting research within their respective fields. They are trusting agencies to execute good PR on their behalf and undoubtedly deserve gratitude for giving those in PR the opportunity to do their job. And let’s not forget the journalists and editors. They too are constantly juggling a multitude of projects and we must be sensitive to how we approach pitching them our professors. A simple “thank you” after scoring an opportunity can facilitate the growth of a relationship which in turn can present more opportunities for clients down the road. As PR professionals, we celebrate the success of our professor’s being published. Successful PR is not automatic, and it is important to take pride in any goal that has been achieved.

Aren Fikes is a recent graduate of Humboldt State University and budding multimedia journalist. During his time at Circa Interactive, he has grown exponentially while taking his first steps into the Digital PR and Marketing Realm. He hopes forge a career path that enhances his passions for storytelling, digital content creation and marketing in the near future.

 

 

Facebook Ads Tips and Tricks for Boosted Posts

 

Getting started with advertising on Facebook can be intimidating–especially for those with lackluster experience or an otherwise narrow purview of Facebook Ads. However, Boosted Posts are a great avenue for such individuals to get started, enabling them to utilize many of the channel’s advanced targeting capabilities–such as Interests, Fields of Study, Income Level and Job Titles– without the necessity of knowing all the ins and outs of Facebook Ads’ user interface. Ready to boost your first post? Follow these Facebook ads tips and tricks for boosted posts:screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-4-05-34-pm

Select the post you wish to promote and click “Boost Post” in the bottom-right corner to get started

This will open a lightbox window, wherein you can adjust the settings (e.g. the target audience, budget, and duration) of your boosted post.

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-4-25-34-pmFirst, select the target audience you wish to reach. This can range from people who like your page (in addition to their friends, if you so choose) to custom audiences you have saved in Facebook (for useful tips on creating custom audiences, check out part one of my Custom Audience series “Improving Your Facebook PPC Results with Remarketing”) to people you can choose through targeting (e.g. interests, age, location and gender). Unless you have a saved audience in mind, or otherwise wish to only reach users who have liked your page (as well as their acquaintances), go ahead and select “People you choose through targeting” and hit the blue “edit” button to the right of this option.

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Select your target age and gender (not shown) and proceed to selecting geographic locations. Note how on the city level of geo-targeting, you can adjust the radius of targeting by up to 50 miles.

Search for interests which you would like to target–I’ve selected “facebook advertising” as an example–and click “Save” to set your audience.

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Next, enter your total budget and select a post duration of one, seven, or 14 days. If you have the Facebook Pixel implemented on your site and it’s configured appropriately (for more info, see “7 Tips for Maximizing Facebook Ad Performance“), then it will be a good idea to select your pixel here before boosting your post. Lastly, confirm the payment method you wish to use for this post, and you are finally ready to hit “Boost” in the lower right corner. That’s it!

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Once boosted, you can view how many people your post has reached by finding the post in your newsfeed.

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Once the boosted post has run its course, you can elect to boost it again if results are favorable. You can also drill down into the results, which can help you optimize your target audience for future boosted posts.

Knowing the approximate age and gender of the user base that is engaging the most with your post can help inform audience optimization for future use.

Knowing the approximate age and gender of the user base that is engaging the most with your post can help inform audience optimization for future use.

Next time on Facebook Ads Tips & Tricks: Best Practices for (traditional) Newsfeed Ads

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.

21 Tips for Improved Facebook Page Engagement

You’ve already established an attractive Facebook following. Now you just have to funnel them to your website and landing page. But before you start begging your followers to click through, it’s important to create a well-rounded approach and connect with your audience so you can really make the most of your Facebook page. For the sake of degree programs, especially those online, maintaining a strong social media presence can be vital for success. A large majority of this youthful audience will likely be using Facebook multiple times per day. The following are a few of my favorite tips for improved Facebook page engagement:

 

1. Never publish a post without images

Include images in every Facebook post. Text doesn’t grab someone’s attention nearly as well as an image does. Facebook posts that contain images generate 104% more comments, 54% more likes, and 84% more click-throughs on average. Make sure your images are extremely relevant to your brand and consider including custom text or other elements using free online apps like canva.

facebook-image

2. Include a creative CTA

Guiding readers to make a decision through calls to action is a tried and true method of marketing success.  However, words like “check out,” “see,” “read,” “like,” and “follow” are often overused on Facebook. When you’re promoting your school/brand, get creative and write something unique. For example, if you’re linking to a university curriculum page, consider using something like “Take a peek at our diverse curriculum.” It never hurts to dust off a thesaurus for help here.

 

3. Post around your followers’ schedule

There’s a running myth within social media marketing about the best time of day to post. The truth is, the only perfect time is the one that works for your specific page. Use Facebook’s page analytics to determine when your followers are online and strategize the best time of day to post. After checking the insights tab, click on “posts” to find a graph that will look like this:

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4. Use events and holidays to your advantage

Whether it’s an academic conference or national cat day, you need to use events and holidays to your social advantage. Create a calendar of events and help your social team stay on target. Create posts leading up to big events as well as content on the day of.

5. Shorten text

The click-through rate on Facebook text that is roughly a paragraph in length is two to six times lower than posts that are close to 40 characters long. Keep posts short not only to maximize engagement but also to easily transfer the content over to your twitter feed.

length-of-a-facebook-post

6. Use a ratio for external vs internal content

I’ve found that an effective way to maintain a healthy content balance of sharable material vs. promotional pieces is dependent on the ratio between the two. You can come up with your own ideal ratio, but I’ve found that sharing content from your own site 30% of the time is ideal, while you should focus on sharable, entertaining content 70% of the time. Keep in mind, content that isn’t about you must be high in quality as to give your followers entertainment, information, and value. This really comes down to the fact that if you promote and advertise too much, people will lose a sense of value and find you to be too self-promotional.

 

7. Experiment with hashtags

A recent finding by Buzzsumo claims that engagement with Facebook posts decreased due to hashtag use. However, there are also several case studies supporting the benefits of hashtag use. Create your own or tap into trending topics, but most importantly, experiment with hashtags until you’ve learned more about how they impact your specific content.

 

8. Use video

While it’s time-consuming to film and edit video to post on your social channels, video has really proven itself to be the guiding force behind the future of social media engagement. Videos that are directly embedded on Facebook generally receive over six times the engagement of those directing followers to YouTube, so make sure you upload your videos natively to Facebook instead of hosting them on third party applications. The advent of live video has a lot of people talking as well. One way to take advantage of this would be a live Q&A, where prospective students can ask questions directly to a live administrator.

 

9. Ask questions

Asking questions is a simple and straightforward way to spark dialogue on your Facebook page. Questions can be added onto most posts if you think of a creative way to include them. Research provided by Buzzsumo has shown the effectiveness of question posts on facebook in the below bar graph.

interactions-on-post-types

In addition to this visualization, they noted that posts with questions AND images resulted in an average of 616.7 interactions, while posts with questions and without any images only received 144.45.

Here are some example questions to get you thinking:

  • Get specific: What’s your favorite ___?
  • Ask something controversial: Do you think/what is your opinion on ___?
  • Highlight an upcoming event: Are you attending ___?
  • Take advantage of time-sensitivity: Today is ___, how are you celebrating/recognizing it?

 

10. Know when to use organic audience targeting

While targeting a specific audience can potentially limit your overall reach, it is a great way to target specific follower segments when you have the right content. Not to mention, unlike Facebook Advertising, it’s completely free. Knowing when and how to enable organic, custom audience targeting can help you dial in on certain demographics, but don’t use it for just any post.

 

11. Recycle good content

Scroll through your post analytics in the Facebook pages backend and look for posts that received high engagement rates. Consider reposting or boosting them to recapitalize on their success. Make a note of the types of content that received high engagement. Did the posts have high visual appeal? Were they covering a specific topic? Use this information when building out future content.

 

12. Respond to comments and messages

You’ve probably heard this countless times, but you should ALWAYS respond to comments on your media or messages in your page’s inbox. Even if it’s a simple “nice” on one of your posts, thank them for it. Engaging with your audience is a great way to show that you are a real person behind the Facebook Page, which is vital to engagement success.

 

13. Post every other day

Kissmetrics recently analyzed the science of social timing and found that 1 post every 2 days will achieve the most likes on Facebook. Additionally, they found that the most sharing done on Facebook happens on Saturday.

 

14. Boost already successful posts

It’s surprising to see what $5.00 can do. Don’t dig too far back into your posting history. (I’d recommend nothing past the last two weeks.) If you see a recent notable post stand out, however, consider spreading it out to more people by adding on a couple bucks.

 

15. Schedule content

Even if your audience is on Facebook at 6:00 a.m., that doesn’t mean you have to be online, early in the morning, writing posts. Simply schedule posts ahead of time, on your own agenda, so you can stay in front of your audience when they’re online. Scheduling can help organize your strategy, and it’s native within Facebook and simply requires you to click on the dropdown icon next to “Post.”

 

16. Show them your humorous side

Lightening the mood can provide a great break from all the academic, industry content you would normally push through a scholarly Facebook news feed. Show your audience your funny side and they will be more enticed to come back to your page.

 

17. Link to good articles

It’s perfectly acceptable, and even expected, to link to content you didn’t publish. Facebook users enjoy consuming content on other websites. However, don’t just link to the first article you find. Make sure the article’s publisher is a reputable, established brand. I don’t recommend linking to any untrustworthy mom and pop blogs, which aren’t as credible as industry verticals, academic journals, or major media outlets. Additionally, there is a resounding preference for the length of external content. As you can see in the graph below, provided by Buzzsumo, Facebook users mostly like to get involved in articles anywhere from 1,000-3,000 words in length. (This article is 1,676, right in the sweet spot.)

best-length-of-an-article

18. Choose sharable words

As noted in tip 3, selecting the right linguistics can have critical consequences on engagement. Below you can find informative charts on the most and least sharable words on facebook. Graphs are provided by Dan Zarrella of Hubspot who analyzed 12,000 articles shared to Facebook.

most-and-least-sharable-words

19. Engage with other pages

Consider getting involved in the community via social media. By giving a shout out to a local cafe or store as a great study area, you can potentially tap into a new audience segment. Mention specific pages in your post headline by using the “@” symbol.

 

20. Integrate with instagram

The same Buzzsumo study (previously mentioned) also points out that images uploaded to Facebook from instagram received a 23 percent increase in engagement.

instagram-images-to-facebook

21. Help people, don’t sell to them

Instead of bluntly explaining the benefits of your degree program, address a problem and offer a solution. This can be applied to any business online. For example, a working mother may not think twice about getting her masters due to time restrictions. Luckily there are flexible, online options. Genuinely helping your audience can provide an increased reason for them to click through to your site or landing page.

This covers a large majority of the tactics that I personally use to assist university brand’s account engagement. One of the most important things to keep in mind when building out content is that the human connection is invaluable on Facebook. Treat your audience like the guests that they are, don’t ignore them, and give them a valued reason to interact with you. If you have any other tips or tricks that you use to boost page engagement, feel free to share them below.

 

Jordan OpelJordan Opel is an accomplished, creative professional. He is responsible for managing and enhancing organic social media activities for our various clients. Additionally, as the leading graphic designer, he contributes to a significant portion of Circa Interactive’s creative endeavors through motion-media design, illustration, and content-creation experience.

 

 

5 Tips for Reaching Prospective Students On Twitter

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

Using Search Queries

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

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

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

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

Make Sure You Actively Use Your Account

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

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

Have a Call to Action (CTA) In Your Bio

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

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

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

Post Engaging, Sharable Content

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

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

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

Twitter Advertising  

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

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

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