Education Market Research Tips for Programs in Higher Ed and K-12

What is Program Market Research?

The goal of program market research is to understand the competition, demand, and trends for specific programs or courses within a university or K-12 environment. Program market research can also provide insight into how a program or course should be designed based on current and future demand, in addition to how it should be positioned from a creative standpoint within the larger education market. This type of analysis can provide much more confidence to an organization that a program will be successful once launched.

Why is Higher Education Market Research and Program Feasibility Important?

The world of education has only gotten more competitive over the last ten years. With the rise of for-profit education, in addition to the adoption of online learning and MOOC’s, education has become both more accessible and more competitive. Prior to launching a new degree program or course, schools must complete a stringent market research analysis in order to ensure success.

Why is K-12 Market Research Important?

Completing market research for K-12 environments is important as it can shine light onto not only what is in demand from a course perspective, but also how it should be delivered. Classrooms continue to advance in regards to what medium subjects are delivered to students in, and keeping up with trends around how information is consumed by adolescents can be demanding. Market research for K-12 can ensure that the right programs and courses are created, which will in turn deliver education in a mode that is successful.

What is the Market Research Process?

The market research process can generally be broken down into three core sections, with each focusing on the three core principles of competition, demand, and trends.

1. Primary Research

Through a combination of qualitative strategies (focus groups and stakeholder interviews) and quantitative research, information is gathered around education drivers as well as large data sets upon which to formulate and execute plans. We follow a research trajectory that begins with qualitative findings that, in turn, inform cogent, useful surveys. We partner with an Ivy League university’s Survey Research Center to manage data-gathering efforts from hundreds or thousands of stakeholders to provide quick, efficient, and illuminating data with which to make decisions about online programs. Primary research tools include:

  • Surveys
  • Focus Groups
  • On ground program data

2. Competitive Analysis

Understanding the competition is an extremely important step in determining program viability. While understanding program demand is important, many times the barriers to entry and the cost to compete are too high to warrant an investment. Benchmarks are generally used to determine how a program or course stacks up compared to others, and can be a good way to determine ROI. Competitive research tools include:

  • Google trends data
  • Google keyword planner data
  • Keyword Spy (analyze competitors paid advertising strategies

3. Secondary Research

Looking to outside resources for insights into program demand can help ensure success. Compiling and analyzing data from existing resources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, local/state/regional agencies, IPEDS, job search web sites, and accrediting bodies can determine benchmarks and requirements, as well as short and long term labor market demands.

What Are the Best Market Research Tools?

There are a wide array of free and low-cost tools that are available to individuals looking to complete market research around a program. The following are just a handful of what is available:

  1. https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/ – Insight into consumers via surveys, trends over time in search queries, and benchmarks for display related efforts.
  2. https://adwords.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/ – Understand the cost-per-click and search volume around core keywords that your potential audience might be searching.
  3. http://fedstats.sites.usa.gov/ – Centralized location for federal government data including insights into career and education data.
  4. https://www.surveymonkey.com/ – Complete surveys of core stakeholders and faculty.
  5. http://www.pewresearch.org/download-datasets/ – Large data sets to help provide insight into potential program target markets.

How Can Market Research Inform What to Introduce?

The insights acquired from program market research can shine light onto what programs to introduce based on demand and current competition. Insights from BLS data and other job related data can help to determine what types of degree programs are going to be, or are currently, in demand based on career data. Google trends and keyword data can inform how saturated a market is and can also illustrate how much it will cost from a marketing perspective to enroll a student.

How Can Market Research Be Used to Define Marketing Strategy?

The competitive analysis that is performed during program market research will also focus on the brands of the competition. With education continuing to get more competitive, having a brand that is unique in the market can help to attract students and lead to more organic PR. Insights from this analysis and internal stakeholder interviews will provide insight into what the creative messaging should be for the programs in addition to  what markets to enter and which demographics to target.

By completing a thorough program market research initiative, universities and schools will enter the program creation process more informed about what should be introduced and how it should be positioned within the market. This type of information will help to ensure program success and will also provide upfront insight into costs and metrics, which can prove to be instrumental during the planning and budgeting phase of a new launch.

 

Robert LeeRobert offers a decade of demonstrated digital marketing expertise, and he has provided results to clients both within and outside of higher education while working as an analyst, team lead, and director. He has planned and implemented digital marketing campaigns for a number of large universities throughout the United States, and he leads Circa on all aspects of client strategy. Before founding Circa Interactive, Robert led digital marketing teams at the higher education organization Embanet.

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

 

 

 

3 Creative Ways to Attract Prospective Students to Your College

Higher Education Marketing Challenges

Today in the United States there are approximately 5,300 colleges and universities. With such a large number of schools, todays higher education market has become as competitive and  challenging to navigate as ever.  Traditional marketing techniques are no longer sufficient to attract new students. It is now crucial for colleges and universities to understand and market the importance of innovation, social responsibility, and new technologies to attract the current college-bound generation.

Who is a prospective student?

To effectively attract new students, it’s important to first identify prospective students. There are two types of prospective students– those who are aware of your school and those who are not. Initially the goal is for both types to choose your college/university. And even if the goal is the same, the approach should be slightly different.

What are prospective students looking for?

1. Students aware of your institution most likely have a list of schools and programs they are interested in. The first place they will seek more information is the school’s website. To remain effective, Higher Education website should be:

  • Mobile friendly – most of the times the first interactions with the website happens from mobile devices. Having an easy to navigate mobile friendly website is a key not only for a user, but also for search engines.
  • Easy to navigate – colleges and universities websites usually are quite large and complex. By making sure the website has a clear navigation system with the most important pages no further than 3 clicks away from the home page a search box, and a request form on the homepage provides an easier flow through the website and a better user experience.
  • Informative – when creating content, schools should not forget who they are trying to reach. The content should focus on the reader and provide insightful information, tips, and best practice guides, news and other. In other words, always consider what a student wants to know rather than what an institution wants to inform a student.

2. The next group of students to consider are those who haven’t decided on their top 10 schools and still are looking around. To increase brand and program awareness there are a few things colleges and universities should do.

  • It’s not a secret that Pay-per-click (PPC) is a great channel to use in order to introduce new prospective students with schools and their programs. It works exactly the same way when new brands and businesses want to be found by customers. Google Adwords, Bing, Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram are main channels to go for. By creating a strategic lead generating PPC campaign, universities can increase the number of students signing up for programs or seeking more information.The only drawback of using these channels is the cost.
  • Higher education institutions should also make sure their websites are optimized for on-page SEO.

New ways to attract prospective students

There are many ways to reach future students. Traditional methods such as high schools visits, educational fairs and print material are still very useful way to market colleges and universities.  However, these methods might not be enough to make a university stand out among competitors. To reach prospective students where it will make an impact requires a tailored approach to the incoming students media habits.

  • Snapchat –  not merely a popular social app, Millennials are now using Snapchat as a form of news or following beloved brands. According to Lendedu, an online student loan marketplace, 58% of college students are checking Snapchat first, Instagram second and Facebook last. Snapchat reached a high interest and popularity not only among  users, but also brands and colleges. For example, in July 2017, The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay sent the acceptance announcement to the student via Snapchat with animated video confetti.

Schools can create their own geofilter that allows students to use it when they are on the campus or at specific events. These type of filters appear on the user’s display allowing them to get a closer look at the real life of that school. It promotes brand awareness, as well as serves as a great advertising for school. Snapchat opens a door to promote the schools the best way possible. It can show the unique personality of the school and create a connection with current students, as well as help them keep in touch with alumni.

  • Live Videos –  Blogs and other written content are still relevant and very important for digital marketing. Schools should use as many ways to interact and connect with millennials. Live videos are a great way to do so. It allows viewers immediately engage with current events. A lot of higher education institutions already publish various content to Youtube, but live streaming that functions similar as Snapchat could support the interaction with potential students and alumni right here and right now by showing schools’ events, lectures and other creative content.
  • Influencers – From the recent study millennials rely on word of mouth more than other adults when researching consumer goods. This study could identify millennials trusting only honest and true opinions by the people they respect and look up to.Today there are so many influencers in various areas starting from entrepreneurs to style blogs. Higher education institutions should keep relationships with alumni and try to follow their journey after the graduation. By keeping close relationships with influencers is a way to attract their followers to the school. Schools should organize panel style meetings with influencers where they could share their experiences with audience and answer their questions. This type of relationship would promote different school programs and brand awareness.

Millennials tend to choose brands that have a clear voice, character and are creative. With today’s technologies, social media platforms and apps there are endless ways colleges and universities could promote their school and program, as well as show their personality to prospective students.

 

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

6 Ways Social Media Changed the Way We Communicate

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

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

The Top Social Media Platforms Changing Communication

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

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

Learn more: Adding Facebook Chatbots to Your Social Media Strategy

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Social Media Changed the Way We Communicate

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

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

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

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

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

2. Provided an Inside Perspective of Faraway Places 🌍

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

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

More on: Leveraging University Events for Your SEO Strategy

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

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

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

4. Made Digital Messages More Personal 🎨

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

5. Brought News Back into Millennial Life 🗞

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

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

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

 

Trending News Section on Facebook's Mobile App

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Audrey-for-site

 

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

Mobile PPC for Higher Education: AdWords Call Extensions

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s walk through the steps:

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

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

 

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

 

4 Ways Virtual Reality Could Change Higher Education Marketing

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

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

A More Personal Brand Story

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

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

Improved Student Testimonials

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

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

Virtual Tour

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

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

Virtual Classrooms

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

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

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

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

Why Snapcodes Are the Future of Higher Ed Marketing

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

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

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

Snapcode Marketing Ideas

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

Snapcodes For Digital Marketing

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

Snapcodes for Rocky Horror

Credit: FOX

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

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

Snapcodes For Print

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

Snapcodes for NBC Universal

Credit: NBC Universal

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

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

How To Make Snapcodes

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

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

Step one: How to make a snapcode

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

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

Step Two: How to make a snapcode

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

Step Three How to Make a snapcode

Circa Interactive's custom snapcode

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

Audrey-for-site

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

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.