5 Ways to Effectively Balance Student-Work Life

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

Manage your time

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

Stay Organized

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

Check your emails

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

Strategically plan your schedule

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

Leave some time for yourself

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

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

3 Things Higher Education Marketers Should Consider in 2017

Whether it’s the increasing use of mobile devices or Facebook’s unveiling of lead ads, there have been a number of changes to the digital marketing landscape over the past few years. Some of these changes have had substantial impact, and many digital marketers have been scrambling to adjust and align their initiatives in order to remain competitive within the industry. While quick adjustments are often essential, it’s also important for higher education digital marketers to take a step back and conduct a full assessment of the current marketing strategy. With the new year soon approaching, now is a great time for digital marketers to reassess their current initiatives and test out new strategies for 2017. Below, I’ll offer some questions to consider during the review process and highlight a few new strategies to consider for 2017.

Review & Fine Tune

When reassessing your current higher education marketing strategy, you’ll want to consider two key elements: goals and data. If you’re a larger university with a number of initiatives, be sure to keep it simple at first. Perhaps start with the question: Did we reach all of our lead goals that we set for 2016? If no, this is where you’ll want to examine data to uncover where lead goals were missed and why. Outside of lead goals, you’ll also want to consider goals relating to your online presence, such as site visits, followers on social platforms and user engagement. When considering these metrics, examine the data to see if you can identify any trends or patterns to give you an idea where your audience may heading in 2017. For example, a major Q4 increase in traffic to social platforms along with a decrease in site visits could signal that potential students are more interested in reviewing a school’s social identity than they are the traditional web page.

After the review process, be sure to prioritize your goals for 2017 (example: “We’re more concerned with user engagement on social platforms than we are on site visits”), then fine tune your strategy to fit. Questions to consider while fine tuning include:

  • Do we want to reallocate our budget in any areas?
  • Should we remove any marketing initiatives?
  • What social and blog posts were most successful this past year?
  • What sources are most of our leads coming from?
  • Are there new social platforms that we should test?
  • What initiatives are we going to implement to get X number of followers?

When in the assessment and fine-tuning process, you’ll also want to consider recent changes within the industry. Below, I’ll highlight a few of the major changes over the past few years that you’ll want to consider.

Increase in Mobile

Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the use of mobile has steadily increased, largely due to the ease of apps and mobile platforms. Yet up till this past year, desktop was always considered the primary source for reaching potential students. According to a comScore report, that now has changed as users are trading desktop for the convenience of mobile. This change has occurred for a number of reasons, but one of the main driving factors is the refinement of apps. For example, when Facebook Mobile was first released, the platform was congested and difficult to use compared to the desktop website. Yet over the past few years, Facebook and other leading tech companies have placed a major emphasis on attracting the millennial audience who tend to rely heavily on mobile. With this switch in focus, companies upgraded their mobile apps and platforms to enhance the mobile experience with improved configuration and additional perks, such as being able to order a pizza without having to leave the Facebook platform. These improvements have resulted in a 394 percent increase in mobile usage, a number that is only projected to increase in the coming years.  

As a higher education marketer, it’s important to know how the aggregate are leaning in their use of digital media, but it’s equally essential not to confuse the aggregate for your own audience. Be sure to dig through your data to see if you can identify a similar shift to mobile amongst your audience. If so, be sure to evaluate paid search strategies, as well as the content on your blog and social platforms to see if there are any adjustments that can be made so content is more mobile friendly.

Facebook Lead Ads

Mark Zuckerberg has turned Facebook into one of the premier advertising platforms, so it’s no surprise that they are leading the transition to mobile advertising with their introduction of leads ads. Within Facebook’s older advertising platform, clicking on an ad would send users outside of Facebook, which proved to be inconvenient for Facebook and its users. Lead ads changed all of this, making it so users can express interest in a school without ever leaving the Facebook platform.

Here’s how lead ads work: when users click on an ad, a lead form opens up within the Facebook platform that’s already automatically filled out based on what kind of information they share with their Facebook audience. So, for most, clicking on a lead ad would open a lead form with their name, phone number and email, and all the user would have to do is click submit to complete the lead form process. So far, the convenience of lead ad forms have proven to be very successful, dropping the aggregate CPL of one of our programs by about $15, all the while boosting lead volume in the process.

If you’re looking to have a strong start to 2017, now is the time to begin auditing your current strategy and implementing new initiatives where they seem fit. Remember to ensure that your current plan aligns with your overall goals, and don’t forget to examine analytics data to get a better understanding of where your audience may be heading in the new year.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment box below!

 

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

7 Snapchat Accounts Every Marketer Should Follow

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

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

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

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

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University of Michigan: UofMichigan

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

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

 

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Michelle Obama: michelleobama

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

 

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Justin Wu: Hackapreneur

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

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

 

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Dan Knowlton: danknowlton1

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

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

 

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Gary Vaynerchuk: garyvee

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

 

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HubSpot: hubspotinc

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

 

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Morgan Brown: morganb180

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

 

Have a favorite marketing guru you follow on Snapchat? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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

A Guide To Leveraging Reddit For Higher Education Marketers

It’s no secret that social media has become a staple for modern digital marketing, but many marketers often forget to add Reddit to the mix. For those still unaware of this platform, allow me to introduce you to the internet’s most influential users. Although some might wish to write the site off as “just another youth media fad,” it’s not. In fact, since June of 2005, just two years after the origin of MySpace and one year after Zuckerberg’s Facebook, Reddit has become known by its users as “the front page of the internet,” housing over 234 million unique visitors in 2015 alone and nearly 900,000 ever-increasing mini communities or “subreddits.” This isn’t your average social media platform. While Facebook is known for integrating its news with updates from your family and friends, Reddit is a world where originality, wit, and timeliness reign supreme. The tricky part here, however, is that if a Redditor can sense even the slightest hint of click-baiting or cheap sales tactics, they will make sure you know your mistake. In an effort to help higher ed marketers avoid such an awful fate while simultaneously and successfully marketing on a site that hates marketing, here is a quick guide to leveraging the tastemakers of the internet.  

Who exactly are “Redditors?”

Before we get started, as with any marketing effort, you must first understand who it is your marketing to. According to pew research center, the majority these mysterious users are U.S. adults with at least some college education. While 47 percent of the audience is, in fact, international, the remaining 54 percent of breaks down as follows:

  • 67 percent of U.S. adults are male
  • 33 percent of U.S. adults are female
  • 64 percent are 18-29 years old
  • 42 percent have a college degree (compared to 28 percent national average)
  • 40 percent some college (compared to 31 percent national average)

As a result, it doesn’t take much to see that this audience is the perfect demographic for marketers in the Higher Education industry, especially for graduate degrees.

How Reddit Works

Finding the right subreddits to follow

Once you create an account, if you haven’t yet already, the first thing you’ll be prompted to do is to find and follow subreddits. Think of subreddits as the sections of the newspaper. Of course there is always the front page with the most important content, but everything is organized into subcategories like money, entertainment, and world news. The only difference here is that Reddit, again, has nearly 900,000 of these subcategories ranging from “Shower Thoughts” and “Explain Like I’m Five” to “World News” and “Politics.” While it’s nearly impossible to sort through each and every subreddit to find your most important content, Reddit is arguably the best way for content marketers to keep track of all of the most important news without having to read through 50 different news publications.

Pro tip: One way to discover what subreddits are trending over time is to take a quick look at MetaReddit. This site will show you to know precisely which subreddits are trending now and which have had the most growth in the last week and have been trending for the month. Although this will only give you a snapshot view, it’s a much more digestible way to stay on track with trends.

Upvotes, Downvotes, and the Ever-Coveted Karma Points

Unlike Facebook’s reactions or Twitter’s retweets and favorites, Reddit is a system entirely rooted in active voting participation. As you can see below, every post and every comment displays two grayed out arrows to the left of the text.

 

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While it’s obvious the top arrow is the upvote and the bottom is the downvote, they do not correspond with how the content is displayed. Rather the user is prompted to vote whether or not the content adds or takes away from a larger conversation. According to proper “reddiquette,” the official guidelines to participation and conduct dictates that a user’s vote should not be based off an emotional reaction but should rather be based on the importance or relevancy of the a piece of content. Clearly, voting is by no means a clear-cut science, but how you vote is important because upvotes and downvote can give or take away Karma points. Why does that matter? Because karma points determine how frequently, if at all, any given user is allowed to post within a subreddit–or how likely it is that your content or post will be view by others. So for content marketers, consider karma points your new gold.

Pro tip: Upvotes on comments are just as important as link upvotes. Not only does this encourage active participation within each post, it prompts Redditors to actually contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way. This is a perfect way for markers, professors, students, and staff to add to educated discussions and lively debates.

How To Market To Redditors Who Hate Marketers

Now that you have a good idea of who your audience is and user basics, the next step is using the right tools to successfully participate in the sometimes-too-honest community that is Reddit.

Be a Redditor first, and a marketer second

While this may seem daunting and/or time consuming, it’s important to remember that Reddit is a community first and foremost. Because Redditors will not hesitate to call a user out if they sense any foul play, it can often be difficult for marketers to find the right balance between community participation and blatant self-promotion. The first step to finding that balance is to remember reddiquette rule number one: always remember to be human. Would you try to clickbait your friends? Didn’t think so. Your one and only mission should be to become a genuine, well-rounded expert in your field.

For content marketers, this means you’ll need to limit your on-brand content to one every ten posts. This sounds tedious, I know, but in the Redditing world you live and breathe by Karma points, and the easiest way to lose them is to spam, click-bait, or self-promote. Limit yourself to legitimize yourself. No one likes a used-car salesman.

For professors or university staff, this should be quite simple to maintain. Ideally, a user profile should represent the ideas of an individual, so for professors with a wide range of research and expertise in their arsenal, Reddit is the perfect space to create and build discussions as I discuss in the last section.  

The trick to Reddit is understanding the Karma system

Especially if your account is brand new, your lack of karma points is like a college student applying to an entry-level job requiring three to five years experience, and in order to get more karma points, you need to share content. It can be a frustrating system, but it’s not impossible. What’s the secret? Reach out to your subreddit’s moderators. If you go to the front page of any given subreddit, you’ll notice that there are a set of rules for subscribers to follow and just below those rules you’ll find a box listing the moderators. These wonderful people are the creators and/or controllers of that particular subreddit. By messaging each or all of these superstar Redditors, you’ll have an opportunity to demonstrate the value of your content and build a mutually beneficial relationship while avoiding your karma problem. For digital marketing experts in the higher ed field, this is far and away the easiest way to publish your content on relevant subreddits without any time restrictions.

Where to find the best ROI on Reddit

As I’m sure you’re well aware of at this point, Reddit is not the quick fix solution to your social media marketing slump. Instead, Reddit is a space for experts to demonstrate their value and educate the public. It’s also a place for internet trolls and endless cat memes, but for our purposes all of that is irrelevant.

To demonstrate thought leadership and expertise in any field with the Reddit community, content marketers, PR professionals, university professors, and university staff members alike can take advantage of subreddits like Ask Me Anything. Just as it sounds, you simply tell the Reddit community who you are and let the conversation flow from there. Additionally, higher ed marketers can hop over to Ask Reddit to ask users direct questions as a free way to gain insight to their core audience. However, the most important way to get the most return from Reddit is to become a part of the community. Without this, you will miss out on the endless possibilities Reddit has to offer.

For more information on leveraging social media, learn how to use Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter to reach more prospective students.

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

8 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Press Release

As I discussed in my previous article, press releases can be an extremely effective tool when you are looking to promote an event or news within higher education. The potential impact of a press release goes far beyond this though, and should be an essential part of your overall public relations strategy. As defined by Entrepreneur, a press release is “a public relations announcement issued to the news media and other targeted publications for the purpose of letting the public know of company developments.” These short, compelling documents give your university’s latest developments a platform to be seen and discussed within the larger media circuit. However, if you do not include key elements in your press release, it is unlikely to be picked up by your target audience and your reach will diminish. Here I will discuss some key tips for you to consider when writing and distributing your next press release.

1. Make sure your story is newsworthy

Is your press release going to excite those within the industry? Does your news provide value and relate to larger industry trends? These are questions that you should be thinking about before you distribute it to the media. Innovative, exciting developments and research within your university make ideal topics for press releases. One of our clients recently announced they are developing a virtual reality application with the aim of improving mental health care, an incredibly innovative idea that appeals to a several popular media topics. We immediately saw this as an ideal opportunity to help raise awareness about the institution and the cutting-edge work that they’re doing through a press release.

2. Grab attention with the headline

The headline of a press release, as with that of an article headline or subject line within a pitch, is pivotal if you are to successfully pull in journalists and editors. Of course, it is important for your headline to be accurate and give the reader a strong idea of what is to come, but you also want to ensure that it is engaging and makes them want to read on. There are three best practices to follow when writing your headline: 1) Be unique – you need to differentiate yourself from the competition. 2) Be specific – give the reader detailed information to ensure they understand what you are presenting them. 3) Be beneficial – the headline itself must provide a benefit to the reader and show that the information is useful.

3. Include quotes

To increase your validity and credibility, it’s critical to include quotes from at least one high level source who is directly involved in the story. These quotes should provide greater insight and perspective and can also lead to further media opportunities for the expert and institution.

4. Remain relatable

It is important that you do not confuse the reporter or reader with your press release. Therefore, the language used should not be overly complicated, as much of your audience will lack the specialist knowledge required to understand the finest details. If there are terminologies that are complex, then explain these as if you were speaking to somebody who does not work within your discipline. Make the content simple, straightforward, and easily consumable for a general audience. 

5. Stay Concise

A press release should not exceed more than a single page and should only include the most pertinent facts. If the press release leaves them wanting more information, then they can reach out using the contact information provided in the press release.

6. Include a pitch

When distributing your press release, be sure to write a media pitch as you would if you were looking to create a traditional PR opportunity. The pitch is where you can really sell the story and the relevance of it to the publication’s audience and interests. Make sure to paste the press release below your signature as a journalist may not have the time or want to open an attachment.

7. Customize to each target audience (when applicable)

In order to maximize your chance of press coverage, you should tailor the press release to fit each audience when there is more than one. For example, we recently distributed a press release on the topic of virtual reality and mental health for one of our clients. Clearly, there is a both a technology and health angle here. You should be targeting both audiences and should alter the pitch and press release to ensure it relates directly to the industry you are pitching.  

8. Capitalize on link building opportunities

A press release provides you with an excellent opportunity to gain greater brand awareness as well as positively influence SEO. By including a link within your press release that takes the reader to the corresponding homepage or landing page, you will increase the chances of media outlets linking back to your target site which will in turn help to boost rankings. 

 

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

3 Ways Higher Education Marketers Can Leverage the 2016 Presidential Election

We are one month from the first presidential debate, and the 2016 election has already proven itself to be one of the most digitally reported and discussed elections in the history of the United States. In fact, over the past 12 months, Americans have spent over 1,284 years reading Donald Trump related content on social media. As we all know, the internet and social media are changing the way Americans interact with presidential candidates, and this provides an enormous amount of content marketing opportunities. The 2016 Presidential Election creates a variety of opportunities for higher education digital marketers to promote their schools and programs, and I’ve put together three ways that digital marketers can leverage the news cycle to build high quality backlinks. 

Leverage Your Professors

Throughout the election, candidates are asked to provide insight on a number of issues ranging from civil rights to the federal budget to foreign policy. These topics may be the focal point of a professor’s area of expertise which digital marketers can leverage when seeking PR opportunities.

When leveraging professors, it is important that digital marketers clearly articulate the value that professors can provide reporters. Professors are often the thought leaders of their industries and niches and can provide high-level insights that have yet to be published. For example, the release of Hillary Clinton’s Initiative on Technology and Innovation, which places a major focus on investing in computer science and STEM education, provides Circa’s PR team with the opportunity to leverage our engineering, computer science, and other STEM-related professors for articles providing expert commentary on what Clinton’s initiative could mean for the STEM industry, as well as its potential impact on the future of our education system.

Another way to leverage your professors is through HARO. For those that don’t know, HARO (which stands for Help a Reporter Out) is an online service designed to provide reporters with quality sources for upcoming stories and sources with the possibility to obtain media coverage. Those who have signed up for HARO as potential sources receive daily emails featuring a list of reporters seeking quotes or insights for upcoming articles. If an article seems to fit a professor’s area of expertise, all a PR specialist needs to do is respond to the email and pitch the professor by noting the expert angle or insight that she or he could provide to the story.

As campaign coverage continues to gain speed, there will likely be an increase in HARO opportunities with reporters seeking academic or professional insight, so if you haven’t signed up for HARO yet, it is certainly worth exploring.

Create Resources Highlighting the Election

Being one of the key events of 2016, the Presidential Election is a prime time-peg that higher education digital marketers can use in creating resources for their schools and programs. There are a number of different angles to take when creating resources. Some of the most popular include:

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • GIFs

For those that don’t know, visual resources are great for creating informative, yet appealing content, so infographics would be particularly good for highlighting the election. There are a few different ways to highlight the election through infographics, which would include leveraging content on a topic candidates are discussing (Ex. cyber security) or creating an infographic on the election, such as this one on social media and presidential campaigns.

Within the creation process, keep in mind that the main goal of infographics is to build links back to your program, and the best way to build links is to create intriguing content that provides value to the viewer. Sometimes value can come from a unique angle, newsworthy content or reliable statistics; other times it can be through a graph or visual that highlights an intriguing contrast. Either way, be sure that your graphics provide value of some kind so that viewers will be more inspired to share them with their network.

Add to the Social Commentary

Whether it’s a insensitive statement or previously unreleased documents, every day it seems as though there is a new story involving Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And while journalists report the initial story, higher education digital marketers have the opportunity to leverage this content and add to the social commentary. For those that don’t know, social commentary is considered an act of expression that comments and thus expands upon a social issue within society. If this sounds complicated, it really isn’t. In fact, adding to the social commentary can be as simple as sharing a news story or quote on social media platforms and asking followers to share their opinions. Higher education digital marketers could also take this a step further by including a quick quote from a professor on the current political issue.

Regardless of what approach is taken, it is important that a call to action (CTA) is included at the end of the social post. This CTA doesn’t necessarily have to be anything complicated, just something to encourage the reader to share their insight or opinion.

If the election coverage continues to progress at its current pace, there may not be a more consistent time peg than the 2016 Presidential election, so digital marketers would be wise to leverage this opportunity as much as possible for their schools and programs. No matter what approach you take, make sure to clearly position your programs and professors as the leaders within their niche. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to be creative and have fun with whatever method you choose.
Have you been leveraging the presidential election in your digital marketing efforts? If so, what has worked for you? We’d love to hear your insight!

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

5 Ways Snapchat is Changing the Way We Communicate

Snapchat has roughly 26 million users in the United States, with 60 percent of those using the app aged 1334. In May, Snapchat’s dominance was established when it beat out Apple and Facebook applications to top the Apple iOS downloads chart for the first time. If you don’t believe Snapchat is worth your university’s time, consider the fact that 77 percent of college students use Snapchat daily. This app is designed for tech-savvy and content-hungry users. In other words, Snapchat is the perfect application to reach millennials, especially for universities looking to share a different side of their campus and boost interest in their brand.

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

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

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

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

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

 

2. Provides an Inside Perspective of Faraway Places ?

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


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

More on: Leveraging University Events for Your SEO Strategy

 

3. Share the Full Story, Instead of Just Highlights ?

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

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

 

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

 

4. Digital Messages Have Become Personal ?

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

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

Circa Interactive Team Using Snapchat's Lense Feature

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

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

 

5. Bringing News Back into Millennial Life ?

All of this interactive content has lead to journalism becoming attractive to millennials again. A study conducted by Wibbitz found that 40 percent of millennials rely on digital outlets for their news, while 23 percent primarily get their news from social media. Snapchat has jumped on this finding and added news outlets to Discover. An overarching theme in this article is interaction. Millennials love to interact with content, so why not the news? A big step in this new territory occurred when the Wall Street Journal joined Snapchat. Once this media-giant joined the ranks, it was made clear Snapchat is the way to reach a millennial audience. CNN and National Geographic are among the 24 other media companies that have also joined the application in hopes of delivering journalistic content to this demographic.

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

 

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

The Do’s and Don’ts of Student Blogging

Student blogging is an excellent way to get your students involved with working behind the scenes as well as getting real life work experience in the digital marketing, journalism, and communications industry. Running a blog successfully is no easy feat, and student blogging can come with its own unique obstacles and challenges that other blogs of influencers and businesses might not experience. When you are running a student blog, you are not only responsible for creating and publishing content to boost readership; you are employing young adults who are looking to learn and have little experience working with blogs. The purpose of this article is to educate colleges, as well as the marketing directors of those colleges, on the best practices of running a student blog. Below is a helpful list of do’s and don’ts to give you some insight on different tactics or even things you may need to change in your current strategy.

The Do’s

  • Do have a discussion with your marketing team before you get started on any writing. It is entirely possible that your marketing team can even write up a few guidelines to follow.
  • Do find ways to create synergy between the students’ blogging and marketing efforts. One example of this could be to share the marketing content calendar with your students. Make sure that everyone on the blogging team is aware of important deadlines so they can work together successfully to keep processes running smoothly. Another suggestion would be to have weekly meetings where everyone on the blogging team – students and faculty – comes together to discuss the tasks that everyone is working on. Even if it is just a quick half hour meet up, it is good for everyone to be on the same page about what’s going on, so no one is left in the dark.
  • Do give your students an opportunity to provide their insights. This is something important to remember because these students may be able to help you reach future students of the school, as they were just one themselves. Also, providing them this opportunity will give them a sense of pride and authority, which will ultimately motivate them to be more productive and take pride in their work.
  • Do brainstorm different article ideas over a wide variety of topics: opinion pieces, school updates, extracurricular club activities, community news, student or faculty accomplishments, etc. You want to ensure you are not posting too much information on the same topic categories to attract the interest of different audiences within as well as outside of the school. Listen to the ideas of your students. Maybe they can come up with topics that are more out of the box while still being relevant to the school.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t allow bite-sized content similar to what you might see on Twitter or Instagram. That tactic may work for those networks, but keep in mind that a blog is something entirely different and should be treated as such. The blog content on the website should be more substantial with in-depth text and large, clear visuals. If you find that a student is struggling with this and feeling more comfortable with the social media type content, then you might want to consider giving them the opportunity to use their skills on other channels like Tumblr, Snapchat or medium.com to push your existing content.
  • Don’t allow content to be published without an editorial review, including the compliance department. This is a huge no-no. Each and every piece that gets published on the blog should have been edited thoroughly at least twice. This would provide an excellent opportunity to let a student do a preliminary edit before handing it off to the editor for a final check and review. If something gets published and has errors or incorrect information, this will reflect poorly on the school’s reputation.
  • Don’t hide the content too deeply inside the site’s URL structure. Unfortunately, many college websites become so large that sometimes it is easy for content to get buried. If you want blog content to perform successfully, it should be no more than two clicks deep, ideally one click if possible. The deeper your content is, the less important search engines will think it is, and it will become tough for your readers to find it. If you have weekly or monthly newsletters that you send out to an email subscription list, include recent blog posts to keep your readers up to date on new content.
  • Don’t use any images, graphics or videos that you do not have permission to use. It is important to learn and understand copyright laws so that you do not find yourself in any legal trouble. When in doubt, only use content that has a creative commons license with no restrictions or use your original content. Look to your students within the photography and digital design departments of your school to source out this kind of work.

Most importantly, it is key to find the healthy balance of giving your students responsibility as well as maintaining your level of authority over the blog’s entire operation. Always be willing to let them try certain tasks while monitoring their progress and checking over their performance. To be successful in maintaining your blog, you must be able to provide quick and honest feedback in a constructive fashion.

Make suggestions to your students so they can reach their full potential and always be willing to make necessary changes to the blog content when it is needed. Ultimately, the success of the blog will depend on the marketing director and editor in charge.

f91c64abc4dbaa8e6bf536759b968b9b-bpfullThis article is by guest author Chris Hornak, who has been developing digital marketing campaigns for over a decade. He is the CEO and Owner of Blog Hands a service that helps businesses and agencies develop content to tell their story. In his spare time, he loves to play video games and spend time with his friends and family.

A Guide to Understanding Audiences and Creating Personas in Higher Education

First developed in the 80’s by Alan Cooper, a software engineer, audience personas have become a key element to any successful design program or marketing strategy. Initially created to understand how different groups of people use software, personas have evolved to help marketing and advertising professionals target very specific groups of people to deliver the messaging and content they want, expect and respond to.

In the world of higher education, it’s more important than ever to have a clear understanding of who your target audience is and what makes them tick. Competition is as fierce as ever and budget dollars are often hard to come by, so if you want an immediate competitive advantage and a way to run more efficient and effective campaigns, you must know exactly who it is that you’re marketing to. This short guide will help you get started on identifying your target audience, understanding what’s most important to them and leveraging that information to improve your marketing efforts. You’ll be able to use what you learn through this post to:

  • Inform market and prospective student strategies
  • Inform ad messaging and help to establish a common language with target audiences
  • Inform future marketing and sales strategies
  • Inform visual elements of marketing and web design
  • Create audience personas

Initial questions to ask and why

As you begin the audience exploration process, gather three to four key stakeholders to begin crafting probing questions to lead the audience discussion. Marketing, admissions, student services and an engaged faculty member comprise an ideal group of individuals to help achieve this. Each department will provide valuable insight and differing perspectives that will ensure your discussion is well-rounded and thorough.

While some of the questions you need to ask may be specific to the niche or degree area, there are tried and true questions that will help accomplish your goals no matter the program or department you’re working in. Here are eight questions to get you started:

  • What are their problems, pains, and challenges?
  • What is important to them in their personal and professional lives?
  • How do they consume information?
  • Are they active in social networks?
  • Have they previously interacted with your institution?
  • Who or what influences their decisions?
  • What sorts of images and information appeal to them?
  • Do they have the desire, authority and ability to take action?

Some of the answers for these questions may be obvious, but make sure to open up each one for discussion with your group of stakeholders. Each individual will provide a unique vantage point from different sides of your institution, and you’ll most likely find that each question will still receive slightly different answers depending on the stakeholder.

Taking it a step further

To validate or expand what you learn during the initial probing exercise, additional research is required to solidify target audiences and personas. Here are seven ideas to get you started:

  • Analyze your CRM (customer relationship management) platform or Student Information System, such as Banner.
  • Take a look at competitors and similar degree programs – what is their strategy for messaging and imagery? Can you identify who their target audience and demographics are? What can you learn from them?
  • Check magazine editorial calendars in your industry for upcoming topics that signal areas of interest to their readers and your audiences.
  • Conduct surveys, focus groups, and one-on-one conversations.
  • Monitor and participate in social networks.
  • Read industry publications, blogs, and analyst reports.
  • Run a keyword analysis and Google Trends report for relevant topics.

Putting it all together

Armed with deep insight into your audience, it’s time to consolidate the information you’ve extracted to create a handful of very specific personas consisting of no more than five or six. A word of caution: you want to avoid creating more than a handful of personas as your targeting will lack focus and defeat the purpose of the exercise. If you aren’t able to boil your audience down to five or six personas, you’ll need to rinse, repeat and ask more questions until you’ve dug deep enough to get a true sense of who your audiences are. Remember these are audience themes, not specific people. Personas are representative of a group of people within your audience, not one specific individual per se.

Once you’ve identified your personas, it’s time to put them into action. At this point, you should have a well-rounded view of who you audiences are, the content they crave, the messages that resonate with them, what they dislike and what incentives will propel them to take action. You know how old they are, where they work, where they live, their education level, what they do in their free time and what’s most important to them. This information is especially useful when creating social pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns as you would in Facebook, for example. When marketing on Facebook or LinkedIn, segmentation is key, and with detailed persona data this process becomes much easier and significantly more effective than the typical guesswork required without them.

When building out your personas, consider this template as an example:

2016-06-10_12-27-24

Courtesy The Buyer Persona Institute

Key takeaways:

  • Personas will inform all areas of your business and are the foundation to any and all marketing efforts.
  • Involve multiple stakeholders in various areas of your institution to truly be effective in the brainstorming process.
  • Personas are generalizations of your target audience, not specific people. Use them to inform messaging, images and marketing strategies, not direct marketing.
  • Be sure to share your audience and persona findings with each department, as it could also be used to improve their services. For example, student services may leverage this to produce support systems that will help with retention.
  • Marketing on Facebook or LinkedIn? Personas are key. Use them to help carve out very specific audience segments and deliver highly personalized messaging.

 

DSC_0048 reduced 2Clayton Dean is an enrollment management, digital marketing, and business operations expert, leading Circa Interactive’s growth, development, and day-to-day operations. Clayton has successfully assisted dozens of institutions in developing, marketing, and launching degree programs from the ground up. Connect with Clayton on Twitter @circaclayton.

 

How Google’s Removal of Right-Side Ads Affects Higher Education PPC Marketing

On February 22nd, Google rolled out one of the biggest changes to its search engine results page (SERP) by taking out right-side ads and adding an extra 4th position above the proverbial fold line and three ads at the bottom of the page after the organic search results. This was a major change in higher education PPC. With the exception of Product Listing Ads (PLAs) and Knowledge Panel Ads, the right side of the SERP will be completely void of text ads, which lends well to e-commerce businesses since it gives them exclusive access to the now hands-off real estate. 

To the majority of the PPC community, this update cued the onslaught of widespread panic with the speculation of higher CPCs, increased competition, and the squeezing out of SMBs to companies with bigger advertising budgets. So what will happen to visibility? How much more budget will be needed to stay above the fold? CTR? Conversion Rate? More importantly to us, what does this mean for higher education digital marketers and how will this affect our programs’ performance?

Picture1

Now that it’s two months past, we finally have some well formulated insights from our internal data and higher education PPC, and they quickly put to rest the reverberating voices of panic and anxiety. We can wipe the sweat from our brows because this change actually works in our favor!

Let’s take a deeper dive:

Parameters of our analysis:

  1. Data acquired are from 12/22-2/22 vs. 2/23-4/22
  2. Google Search Network only
  3. Includes 19 programs

final

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 4.47.54 PM

Before the update, 64% of our ads were amongst the top 3 positions, and 36% were right side ads with no more than 15% going past the 4th position. After the update with the addition of one more top position, the number of our ads that are now above the fold rose to 83%. What’s interesting to note here is that the update essentially moved up 19% of our right-side ads to the top 4th position since most of them were previously wavering before and after the fold line, averaging between the 3rd and 4th positions. The update was the extra push we needed to convert more of our ads to the top positions without actually having to increase bids by much at all.

Now you’re probably thinking that regardless of 19% of our ads moving up to the top 4 positions, performance will still suffer since 17% of our ads are now pushed to the bottom where visibility is less than that of being on the right side. While you and most marketers are right to think that, most of our ads past the 4th position weren’t doing as well to begin with and now that more of them are in the coveted top positions, we reap the extra benefits that outweigh the negatives.

Let’s take a more granular look at each of our programs’ performance and spend metrics to support my previous statements:

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 4.10.04 PMComparing performance metrics from two months before and after the update, our CTR rose by 6.59% with a 4.70% decrease in CPC. This comes as no surprise since right side ads historically did not perform as well as our top placing ads. In marketing higher education, some of our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include Cost-Per-Lead (CPL) and the Conversion Rate (CVR). As you can see across the board, our KPIs have improved with a 3.3% decrease in CPL and a 2.3% increase in CVR. Again, with the higher average positions and increased visibility on the SERP, it comes to no surprise that our spend metrics have also improved. Not to mention that our quality scores will most likely increase in the long-run.

It would be naive to think that this update had nothing to do with Google’s bottom line, but whichever way you slice it, it’s looking to be beneficial for many other PPC marketers as well as for Circa Interactive here on the higher education side. With an increased emphasis on Highly Commercial Queries, newly formatted ad extensions, and a less cluttered SERP, it’s a win-win for advertisers and search users alike.

Helen Koh HeadshotHelen Koh recently joined the Circa team bringing digital marketing competencies that include creating and managing PPC campaigns for optimal ROI, experience with various SEM analytical tools, and creative processes of pursuing marketing avenues within higher education. She is currently a senior at University of California at San Diego with business consulting and marketing experience from multiple on-campus projects and organizations.