6 Ways to Leverage Student Testimonials in Marketing

Today’s college search consists of visiting hundreds of college websites to find the perfect match. After researching several institutions, prospective students then compile a list of colleges and universities to apply to, but what are the deciding factors that lead them to applying? Is it hearing from faculty members, attending open house events, a google search, or chatting with recruiters? For me, it was how the university utilized testimonials in their marketing.

After graduating from American University with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, I decided to pursue my master’s degree in integrated marketing communications at Georgetown University. Before making this decision, I was a prospective student searching for an online graduate program that had everything I desired and more. Throughout the several months of searching, I experienced various universities retargeting me around the web, sending emails with application deadlines and receiving recruitment schedules to make appointments. Again, it wasn’t the consistent emails, speaking with recruiters or the ads circling the internet that led me to my final decision. It was reading and hearing faculty, alumni and student testimonials.

As a marketer, and twice a prospective student, I want to share with you six key strategies that will help your college or university boost leads and engage prospective students by implementing student testimonials in marketing campaigns.

1. Create a student experience tab on your website and social networking pages

Including a student experience tab on your website and social networking pages provides current students, alumni, faculty and even parents the opportunity to share their success stories. In this section you have the chance to sell your university or college to its full potential by incorporating quotes, videos and blog posts. Make sure to also highlight topics that matter to your target audience, including internship opportunities, graduation rates, employment rates, campus safety, extracurricular activities, as well as students and professors interactions. This will give prospective students a feel for the student body culture and will enable them to apply and make an enrollment decision.

University testimonial example: Berkeley City College created an International Student tab page to help market its testimonials. Prospective students that navigate to this page will hopefully find a relatable experience that will get them engaged and excited about their possible opportunities at the college or university. *Pro Tip: Incorporating photos of your students leads to better results.

 

2. Revamp paid search landing pages to incorporate testimonials in marketing

Paid search landing pages give you, the marketer, an opportunity to sell your university or college with an incentive or social validation. This can be easily done by incorporating short video clips or quotes from students or recent graduates that may pique your prospective students’ interest. It’s also important that you provide trustworthy information along with providing social validation (video or quote) or an incentive, such as a brochure, to further explain your program.

The content you create must meet your prospective students’ initial motive and provide them with a solution. Make sure your content only gives your prospects two options, either to add their information or exit out of the landing page. Keep in my mind that no one sells your brand better than a joyous and lively student or alumni.

University Testimonials Examples from Unbounce

Source: Unbounce

University landing page example: This particular template is from Unbounce. On this landing page it gives prospective students the option to provide their contact information. However, before submitting their information they will see a testimonial quote from a graduating student that may spark their interest even further. 

A second example is from the University of Illinois at Chicago landing page where they’ve attracted new students by marketing testimonial videos. Using video and adding a small description takes the content further in making it personable and relatable.

3. Post video testimonials on social media accounts

When I scroll through my Facebook feed, I’m often attracted to videos. Whether I’m laying in my bed, walking down the street or taking a lunch break, I’m more prone to click on a video than an ad with a graphic. Honestly, I would rather listen to someone speak than sit and analyze an image. In fact, by 2017, video content will represent 74 percent of all internet traffic, according to KCPB. As a result, video testimonials are a great way to build trust and provide prospective students with additional information so they have a chance to learn more about the program you’re advertising.

As a marketer, whether you choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat to advertise your university’s videos, make sure you’re targeting a very specific audience and that you’re using the right social media platform. For example, Facebook attracts an older crowd. According to a BI Intelligence study, Facebook users aged 45-54 represent 21 percent of the total time spent on the platform, which is the most time spent compared to any other age group. Therefore, if I’m promoting graduate school opportunities, I would use Facebook ads to pitch to an older demographic. However, as a marketer, if I’m looking to attract high school juniors and seniors that are researching institutional programs, I would consider advertising testimonial videos on Snapchat. This is a great way to incorporate alumni and current students into recruitment methods to increase brand awareness.

American University social media marketing example

             

University Facebook page example: This example shows American University (AU) utilizing Facebook to engage prospective students and newly enrolled students. In this video, President Burwell starts off by explaining her testimony as a previous college student and later explaining the experience of current AU students and professors. Although, this is not a current student or an alumni directly explaining their experience, as a leader at the University, she is telling her story incorporating professors and current students into the storyline.

4. Specific statistics and photos perceive tangible results and trust

When marketing testimonials, keep in mind that prospective students always need assurance to make sure they’re making the right decision. Research shows adding a face to the name, along with a testimonial text, can increase empathy towards people, even when never meeting them. This will automatically allow prospective students to feel more connected and provides them with the assurance they need.

In addition, if you are sharing a faculty member’s testimonial and they happen to share a statistic, don’t be afraid to also share that with your audience. Statistics help illustrate that your institution is about producing results and lifting boundaries for your students by highlighting the curriculum and opportunities you provide for your students and graduates.

For example, before attending American University, I would attend numerous open house events, speak to recruiters and speak with current students and alumni. Although attending events and speaking with students convinced me enough to attend American University, there was always one statistic that stuck with me, because I would see the same statistic posted on billboards all around Washington, D.C. and the university campus. The statistic read, “92 percent of our graduates are working, in graduate school or both.”

By reading this statistic, I was easily convinced that American University would give me the proper resources and education I needed to succeed. Reading alumni testimonials was great and speaking with current students gave me an in-depth perspective of university. However, reading and keeping that statistic in mind helped me make my final enrollment decision.  

American University student testimonial statistic

Source: American University

University photo and statistic example: In the first example from American University, the statistic automatically sparks a student’s interest. It makes an individual think they too will find success and become apart of that statistic when it’s time to graduate. 

A second example is from Washburn University using alumni to explain what they’ve gained through their education. Again,  marketing testimonials along with photographs will encourage prospective students to start thinking about the long-term impact an institution can have on their careers.

 

5. Improve email marketing strategies and tactics

If you’ve ever submitted a contact form on a university’s website, I’m sure you’ve received thousands of emails reminding you about application deadlines, open houses, scholarship opportunities and upcoming webinars. Looking at all the emails filling up your inbox, how many of them do you see marketing testimonials to share alumni and student experiences? Not many!

One of the best ways to convince a prospective student to attend a university is by making the emails relatable and personable. Instead of sending a generic email explaining the application deadlines, add a video testimonial with a student or alumni explaining why they chose the institution. Make sure the videos showcase internship opportunities, extracurriculars, curriculum and campus culture.

Another strategy for marketing testimonials is to leverage scholarship deadlines and add a written testimonial, with a photo of the student, that explains the situation they were in before receiving the scholarship and how it has helped them to succeed.

Testimonials can also be utilized when advertising webinars. Make sure to implement testimonials from a student that will be speaking during the webinar throughout the whole email marketing campaign. Feel free to also add an incentive when marketing the student’s testimonial by offering a one-on-one opportunity with that student. For example, before choosing Georgetown University for graduate school, I also researched Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing. I actually enjoyed reading the program emails because they always incorporated an opportunity to speak with an alumni or current student about the online program. While attending one of the school’s webinars, an alumni and current student shared their experiences with me and the opportunities the university offered them. Testimonials are your friend when it comes to selling your brand. Don’t run from them. Utilize them to their fullest potential.

University Email Marketing Campaign Example Using Testimonials in Marketing

Source: Northwestern University

“A recent IMC Online graduate, Erin Price, Senior Director of Strategic Planning at Sargento Foods, will be on hand to describe her experiences in the program.” – Northwestern University, Medill Program, Megan Castle

University email marketing tactic: This example from Northwestern University shows the institution marketing their online webinar and telling their prospective students an alumni will be present. Prospective students will be more inclined to attend the webinar because they’re interested in hearing a previous student’s opinion about the program.  

 

6. Use public speaking engagements to collect and market testimonials

During my junior and senior year at American University, my state recruiter would always ask if I could speak at accepted student events located in New York and New Jersey. After giving my speech, I remember taking a deep breath before seeing a number of students rush to me and ask questions regarding my experience, the professors, extracurriculars and student body culture.

I enjoyed connecting with prospective students and helping them make an important decision that will impact the rest of their lives. It was simply the way I leveraged my testimony that impacted their final decisions. As you can see, word of mouth goes a long way. If someone reads or listens to a story they will automatically feel more connected compared to someone just reading facts. When marketing a live testimonial, students may feel more inclined to make a quicker decision.

Here’s another tip – at the end of each event hand out evaluations. As a higher education marketer, this gives you an opportunity to see what you’ve done right and what areas to improve when conducting future events. At the end of the evaluations, feel free to also ask prospective students a question similar to this:

“After attending this event for accepted/prospective students to learn more about the (School Name) experience, how likely are you to enroll at our university or college? (1 – 10)

Also please feel free to leave a comment regarding your experience at the event and your name, so that we can post it on our website and social media accounts.”

Hosting similar events for your prospective students gives them social and tangible proof that everything your institution markets and advertises online is exactly what they will see during face-to-face interactions.

Takeaways:

  • In all testimonials, showcase a problem and provide students with a solution.
  • Student testimonials are a university’s success stories.
  • Always leverage the power of social proof and validation.

“Nothing draws a crowd quite like a crowd.” – P.T. Barnum

 

User generated testimonials are just one piece of Circa Interactive’s conversion optimization services. Convert the traffic you are paying for. Learn how Circa’s established methodologies, with new approaches, will help increase your university’s interest and ROI by visiting our conversion rate optimization services page.

Farah Green

Farah Green is a marketing and public relations specialist for Circa Interactive. She has background experience in both the broadcast media and digital marketing industries. While working at Circa, she has gained experience in higher ed content marketing while also improving her creative skills. Farah’s passion and continual education in marketing helps to enhance Circa’s team.

5 Higher Education Marketing Strategies

Every day universities and colleges are coming up with exciting, innovative courses for the millions of motivated students all over the world. The higher education space is being redefined by innovation in design, delivery and employability for many diplomas and degrees. Education experts have the resources they need to craft, test and rollout cutting edge online degree programs.

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

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

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

1. Instagram Marketing for Higher Education

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

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

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


 

2. Video and Animation in Higher Education Marketing

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

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


 

3. Leveraging Faculty for
Digital PR

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

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

Digital PR examples

 


 

4. Infographics and Visual Resources 

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

infographic example

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

higher ed infographic example


 

5. Virtual Reality and Virtual Tours 

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

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

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


 

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

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

 

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

Follow him on twitter @FredHigherEd

 

 

 

4 Ways Virtual Reality Could Change Higher Education Marketing

Every major development in technology has provided universities with new ways to tell their story, as well as attract and interact with potential students. Take the internet, for example, which provided colleges with the opportunity to broaden their reach and develop new education methods. Or consider Facebook, where higher education marketers are now able to advertise to potential students based on a variety of factors such as education, interests, jobs and behaviors.

Veteran higher education marketers have experienced just how much these technologies have alerted the industry over the past 20 years, yet recent changes may merely be the start of a monumental shift in the higher education paradigm. One of the driving forces of this shift could be virtual reality, which has the potential to modify numerous aspects of higher education, including how universities attract and educate students. To further highlight just how major of an impact that this developing technology could have, below I’ll examine 4 ways that virtual reality could alter higher education marketing.

A More Personal Brand Story

One of the essential components of effective marketing is a personal brand story. Within these stories, universities will need to answer questions such as: What makes the school unique? Why should I attend school here? What are the benefits of obtaining a degree? The more personal and unique that these brand stories are, the more the university will stand out from the competition.

Lately, universities have been leveraging online videos as a method for telling their brand story. Although these videos have been effective, the limitations of video as a medium can restrict universities from accurately portraying the whole spectrum of experiences that may come with studying at their school or being on campus. For example, consider a popular structure for brand stories where the video takes the viewer through a series of campus experiences, such as cheering at a sold-out athletic event or spending time in the library. Now, consider that story again, but instead of simply staring at a screen, you’re actually at the sporting event hearing the roar of the crowd and sensing the energy in the arena or exploring through the many floors of the prestigious library. With virtual reality, these type of sensual experiences are potentially possible, which would then provide colleges with the ability to leverage all of their resources to develop a brand story that is truly personal and unique to the university. Virtual reality could also personalize the student experience as well, for a brand story could end with a direct welcome from the University’s President in her or his office, along with a quick Q&A session.

Improved Student Testimonials

Program testimonials are a chance for higher education marketers to showcase the value of obtaining a degree from their university, with popular strategies including videos, essays or snippets of comments that highlight the student experience. These testimonials should offer potential students insight on what a program or school may be like, yet most tend to feel extremely generic and scripted, especially considering that these are testimonials for what could end up being a $30,000+ investment.

Virtual reality could assist higher education marketers in improving student testimonials to provide a more honest and accurate representation of the value of a degree. An example of this could be taking a potential student through an intimate story via virtual reality where the observer could directly experience and feel what a former student’s life was before, during and after obtaining a degree (ex. a story that highlights the growth of an individual from working a minimum wage job to becoming an award-winning scientist). These stories will obviously differ for each former student, but the goal here is to provide potential students with palpable content that is not only personal (ex. matches their interests and personality), but also exemplifies how a degree from the university can change and improve one’s life. The more that this change is able to be felt and experienced, the better the individual can infer the value of a degree from the given university.

Virtual Tour

Virtual tours can be a great way for students to develop better insight on the university, as well as the academic experience as a whole. Although similar to the brand story example noted above, virtual tours will be different in that the student will be the one dictating the experience, as opposed to a university attempting to tell a story. Once fully implemented, virtual tours should be able to allow students to explore the university campus, programs and curriculum alongside a personal virtual assistant.

Being a modern take on the concept within “choose-your-own-adventure” novels, each and every virtual tour will be personalized based upon any question or concern that a potential student may have. This is where the personal virtual assistant will be key, as they can converse with the potential student and quickly adjust the tour so that it fits the contour of the viewer’s psyche. This approach may also have the chance to alter the communication process between university marketing departments and potential students, as the virtual assistant, due to it being personal in nature, should be able to increase the volume and quality of information provided by the student (as opposed to bothering students via phone calls or emails). Virtual tours could also make the experience of the potential student more personal due to questions or concerns being answered not via words, but actual experience.

Virtual Classrooms

With virtual reality, the line between an on-campus and online student could become remarkably fuzzy if virtual classrooms are implemented. Within these virtual classrooms, the environment should be so similar that the experience between being in the classroom on campus vs. being in the classroom virtually will be unidentifiable until the off-campus student takes off their virtual reality headset. This means that an online student will be able to fully experience an on-campus class from hundreds, even thousands of miles away. This can greatly improve the online education experience where online students may feel isolated from their peers, instructors or even universities. With virtual classrooms, potential students would also be able to sit in on a class to get a sense of what their higher education experience may be like.

From a marketing perspective, virtual classrooms would provide higher education marketers with the opportunity to market their university’s prestigious campus and award-winning faculty to online students. Additionally, with virtual classrooms, universities would be better equipped to assist with the educational needs of their community, or even showcase sold out lectures and on-campus events to a broader audience with little effort on part of the university.

Although currently in development, virtual reality has a chance to make monumental changes to higher education marketing, as well as the education paradigm as a whole. And as the advancement of technology continues to accelerate, look for the implementation of virtual reality within higher education to come quicker than one may assume.

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

The Value in Video

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Finding new ways to attract viewers has always been a challenge in the SEO world. When it comes down to it, ranking a website in the long term is not just about building a large number of links. It’s also about creating high-quality content that will attract links naturally over time. It’s the age-long battle of quality vs. quantity, and it has become fairly clear that the newest contender in SEO is online video.

Do your Marketing Basics

The first step in any effective communications-style campaign is understanding your audience. To ensure effective communication, think primarily about the people you want to view the video. Whether you’re targeting prospective students, student parents, undergrads, or professors, each video will serve a unique and distinctive purpose that should not be transparent throughout your other demographics. By putting yourself in their shoes, you will gain insight into what they want to know and how they want to be addressed. With this in mind, the distribution and formulation of your videos should correlate with each respective goal and message in mind. By appealing to these audiences, a video’s sense of quality will increase which will, in turn, lead to more visibility from an SEO standpoint as well.    Video-Marketing-Strategies

Time is Money

Lets talk about Google for a second. One way that Google recognizes sites that are high in quality is by measuring how long a viewer stays on the page. Obviously, if it is an interesting and high quality site, someone’s going to stay for a longer period of time. A high bounce rate could be an indicator of a lower quality page, while a ‘long click’ — more time spent on a page — identifies a better domain in the eyes of a search engine. Needless to say, video offers an unprecedented opportunity to capture and engage viewers in a way that other forms of media simply lack. Placing program overview videos, digital tours or faculty interviews is a great way of implementing this strategy and can be done at a very low cost.

This is a great example of an interactive campus tour video provided by St. Michaels College:

Allowing the viewer to engage with your site is proving to add more and more value as quality is becoming more targeted.

Video on the SERP

Aside from the added viewing time and quality given to your programs pages, video helps to differentiate your brand on the search engine results page (SERP) through a video thumbnail result. Zappos, for example, created 50,000 product description videos in 2009 and doubled their linking domains. It should be unproblematic to take lessons like this and apply them to a schools program/department. Here is a step-by-step walkthrough for getting these video results on the SERP:

  1. Add keywords in a video title such as “Tutorial”, “Review”, “Explanation”, “Tour”, etc. to help identify/organize content and provide a shortcut to what your potential viewers are looking for. Keep it simple and to the point.
  2. When hosting your videos, be sure to use sites such as Vimeo Pro, Wistia, Vzaar or Viddler. Do NOT use a regular vimeo account or youtube as their domains will rank for your video on their site rather than your own domain.
  3. Embed videos via an HTML5 player with flash fallback. All of the listed hosting recommendations above should include this option.
  4. This one’s important. Surround the video with information. Images, links and text help search engines recognize a quality page, so make sure your video at least comes with a text description. A page with only video content on it can look very thin. An easy way of doing this is to provide faculty bios/pictures or student testimonials.
  5. A video sitemap is the main way of giving search engines rich meta-data about your video. Wistia offers sitemap generation at the price of a $25/month subscription. Refer to this video for further sitemap guidance:

Make it Sharable

Let people spread your content. Placing linked social icons on your video page only facilitates the endeavor to get your video into the world. If you’re looking for the basics I’d recommend getting the code from TwitterFacebook and Google directly or throwing the “AddThis” widget on any page. Additionally, make your video embeddable, so others can throw it up and you can get further SEO value. For a quick guide on getting inbound link benefits from embedded videos, see here.

Social Networking Concept

When it comes to video, as with all other content, quality is key. With search engine algorithms getting tighter and tighter, it’s crucial to stand out not only for branding purposes, but to enhance your algorithmic SEO value as well. Along with these simple steps for recognition, having quality content should provide you with a multitude of benefits that can be translated into both the physical and digital worlds.