Higher Education Marketing: Why Chatbots are the Future of Communication

Higher Education Marketing experts are projecting chatbots to be the future of communication between schools and potential students. For many universities, improving communication with students has been a key focus. As any applicant knows, the process of researching university programs can be a complicated one. Whether it’s speaking with various individuals and departments, browsing through program pages or finding out the right information for financial aid, the amount of research required to find the right university can be daunting. But what if, instead of having to spend hours researching, all of the information could be presented to you via instant messages?

With emerging chatbot technology, universities delivering information to potential students could be the future of how universities communicate and market to future students. To help explain this developing trend, below I’ll highlight what chatbots are, why they are projected to be the premier form of communication and how chatbots could provide more effective communication between universities and potential students.

What Are Chatbots?

If you’re active on Facebook, you probably have interacted with early forms of chatbots. For those that haven’t, here is a quick overview.

Chatbots are computer programs designed to provide a service to individuals that interact with it via instant messaging. Typically found in social platforms like Facebook or Slack, chatbots have been used to help with a variety of tasks, ranging from ordering pizza, getting a weather report and even offering therapy.

Communicating with chatbots is no different than messaging with humans. In fact, some have found that services provided by chatbots are often more effective and efficient. Because of this, chatbots are projected to have a major impact on the ways that humans communicate with businesses, universities and other service providers.

Why Chatbots?

Chatbots are a fairly simple concept and forms of communicating with robots have been around as long as 2001 with Smarterchild for MSN and AIM. So why is there sudden hype surrounding chatbots?

There are a number of reasons for this, yet the major factor is that messaging apps now have more active users than social media platforms, with messaging apps attracting just over 3,500 million users while social media barely passes over the 3,000 million users mark. What is most interesting about this increase is that users are not just using messaging apps to communicate with friends, they are also looking to connect with brands, share media and even shop.

Almost all higher education universities have social media accounts, yet few have utilized chatbots to connect with students. This means that chatbots provide higher education marketers with a major opportunity to get ahead of the competition.

How Chatbots Can Provide More Effective Communication Between Universities & Students

A recent Gallup study found that messaging is the preferred method of communication for the younger generations, with 68% of Millennials saying that digital messaging had been their primary source of communication. This shift towards texting has resulted in a major decrease in phone calls amongst the younger generation. In fact, many millennials consider phone calls invasive and uncomfortable, especially when they are speaking with someone unfamiliar.

For many higher education marketing departments, phone calls or emails are the primary source of contact with potential students. By using now antiquated forms of communication, universities are missing out on building quality relationships with potential students and developing insights on what younger generations are looking for in a school.

For instance, consider the ease of messaging back and forth with a chatbot whenever and wherever you choose compared with being stuck on the phone with someone you don’t know, asking you semi-personal questions regarding a major life decision. Wouldn’t you be more comfortable sharing accurate and insightful information when you had time to think and weren’t feeling pressured to answer right away?

Another benefit of chatbots that higher education marketers should consider is the relief of financial and organizational pressure. For example, Georgia State University implemented a chatbot strategy to improve communication with students. Having never tried chatbots before, the university was unsure of how quickly students would adapt to the new technology. Yet after only 4 months, 63% of students had used the chatbot platform on a regular basis, resulting in approximately 200,000 messages. Without chatbots, responding to questions would have required a full-time staff of an estimated 10 members. That’s an annual savings of at least $200,000.

With improved communication and the ability to offer schools major financial savings, chatbots may soon be the future of how universities communicate with students. Keep in mind that, as with most advancements, the most benefit will come from leveraging chatbots before they are standard communication protocol. For higher education marketers looking to improve communication and increase enrollment, testing and utilizing chatbots should be under strong consideration, with potential plans in place for upcoming recruitment drives.

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.

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.

SEO Link Building Strategies: Three Evergreen Content Ideas

In the world of search engine optimization and ranking factors, the most important correlation to search engine result page (SERP) rankings was found to be the number of backlinks and overall link authority. With over 70% of users clicking on first page results, universities are always looking for ways to get their programs to jump up the rankings. So you may be asking, ‘How can I create content that naturally attracts backlinks and will rise in the SERPs?’ Today you’re in luck because I’m about to take you through the entire process from starting a link-building strategy to developing evergreen content ideas that attract SEO backlinks, but first, we need to understand a few SEO basic ideas before we can fully understand the immense value of evergreen.  

Learning SEO Basics

Before I dive into the world of developing evergreen content ideas, I’d like to lay out a few search engine optimization basics for any of the readers who may not fully know what these terms or tactics mean.

What is link-building?

Link-building can simply be described as a process to acquire valuable SEO backlinks or hyperlinks from other websites to your pages. As a marketer, we see these links as the Holy Grail and let me tell you why. SEO backlinks are a major component of Google’s PageRank algorithm which is considered to be one of the most important factors of Google’s SERP. The PageRank factor measures the importance of content and helps Google determine whether it should rank for a specific user’s intent. It is able to do this by analyzing a web page’s backlink structure as it takes in more factors such as the number of backlinks, link diversity, quality of links and other proprietary information.

 

Here is a quick excerpt from Google explaining their ranking philosophy.

“Google search works because it relies on the millions of individuals posting links on websites to help determine which other sites offer content of value. We assess the importance of every web page using more than 200 signals and a variety of techniques, including our patented PageRank™ algorithm, which analyzes which sites have been “voted” to be the best sources of information by other pages across the web.”

 

Though there are a number of factors that go into the SERP, in order to increase online visibility and improve search engine positioning, your business will need to achieve a higher PageRank. To do this, you’ll need a team focused on creating a tactical digital marketing plan with the essential objective being a SEO backlinking strategy through evergreen content marketing.

SEO Backlinking Strategy

It is important to note that a backlinking strategy is not made up of one technique or skill, but rather a wide range of skill sets including content creation, research, competitive analysis, email outreach and nurturing editorial relationships. The strategy begins by strategically producing evergreen, valuable, high-quality content that’s targeted for high volume search intent and your customer base. The word content has been pounded into our minds for years as digital marketers, but it’s no surprise because that’s what Google search is all about. It is a search engine that matches a user’s intent with the most relevant and quality content possible, such as “what’s the value of an online MED.” Hence, the importance of developing evergreen content ideas to attract SEO backlinks.

What is evergreen content?

Typically, evergreen content is based on popular topics, high volume search terms or niche specific keywords, and is content created with the intent to be informational and provide an instructional viewpoint on your topic of interest. Evergreen content does not lose its value over time and is commonly created for utilization purpose. This means the content is developed with the idea that searchers will reference the content multiple times, which in return increases your web traffic, on-page time, brand awareness and top-of-mind recall for specific niches.  

In order to create evergreen topics, you must first understand the search intent of your target audience and then strategically construct a topic that matches the user’s intent. So stop creating general, boring regurgitated content! This isn’t the Age of Fluff, this is the Age of Information for a reason.

So without further ado, I present to you three types of evergreen content ideas that can be implemented right here, right now.

Types of Evergreen Content:

  • Infographic Visuals
  • Industry Expert Roundups
  • Informative and High Utility Content

Infographic Visuals

Infographics are a fantastic way to build links to program specific pages, which will help increase your overall Google rankings. If you didn’t know already, the number of backlinks linking to a specific page has the strongest correlation with rankings compared to any other factor. This includes domain history, title tags, and optimized keyword pages. When infographics are built with reliable statistics and appealing design, these visuals resources will make you appear as a thought leader within specific industries and enable you to naturally gain links. Evergreen infographics are based on newsworthy, current trends and show in-depth statistics on specific topics that relate to a university’s program curriculum. When a university builds an infographic around trending news stories or case studies, they are able to take what may seem like a complex idea or boring subject and turn it into an easy to understand visualization. Below I have provided some fascinating facts from Kissmetrics on why infographics perform so well in this digital age;

  • High-quality infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than text articles.
  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.
  • Infographics are 40 times more likely to be shared on social networks.

In your opinion, what looks better, Image 1 or Image 2?

Image 1 is a journal study explaining the challenges of storing medical imaging data

Image 2 is a medical imaging infographic explaining the same information.

Image 1

digital imaging journal

Image 2

imaging archives infographic

If I do say so myself, Image 2 is softer on the eyes and helps to break down this complex information so any non-technical reader can understand it. The icons give the viewer a great understanding of what the subject is about without having to read the detailed material.

Now that we understand why publications post these visual resources, the next step is to understand how to build an infographic around a topic that is considered link worthy.  As we discussed above, the best performing infographics are built around newsworthy time pegs and trending current events. To identify newsworthy time pegs, I believe our creative director, Joseph Lapin, has the best approach. He tells our team to consistently look at the front page of the newspaper to find out what editors from top publications, such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, seem to be the major stories in the U.S. and throughout the world. If these publications are putting these stories on their front page, then it shows insight on what topics are most newsworthy while showcasing developing trends within the news curve. Once you understand which topics are repeatedly gaining traction, you can build infographics based on these trending stories and immediately pitch them to publications. With graphics built around such hot topics, they can be leveraged throughout the whole news cycle which can help program pages gain a number of valuable links.

news curve

Infographics should be built using studies and statistics from a number of publications ranging from high-level organizations to niche blogs. Each source should be seen as a link building and relationship development opportunity because the publication you use as sources are very likely to share the infographic with their audience. If we step back and think about this for a second, we can understand why it would be more valuable to have 20 sources instead of 10. In the end, it is a numbers game and the more sources used, the more link building opportunities there are! For instance, Circa Interactive created an infographic on Creative Ways to Make Higher Education More Affordable. In each visualization, sources are included at the bottom of the graphic.

source link building

For each source, an outreach message should be sent to the editor at that site. Here is a real outreach email I used to gain links through from infographic sources.

outreach for source links

Helpful infographic resources:

Industry Expert Roundups

In marketing and communication, a roundup is a term that is used to describe the collection of popular resources that are highlighted to build one article. Expert roundups are no different, except that instead of using popular informative resources, industry experts are utilized to create a comprehensive analysis on a particular subject. Expert roundups are relatively easy to structure and publish, but there is some groundwork needed in the beginning. First, your content creation team will need creatively come up with a keyword rich question that your experts will answer. The question needs to be based on a keyword that your program wants to rank on Google’s first page. This is important because when searchers view your page and see the expert knowledge being freely shared than they are more likely to link back and reference to a collection of experts compared to a personal opinion. Here is a quick example: Let’s say you want to rank for the keyword “future of artificial intelligence” and the blog post title is ‘32 Expert’s Future Vision of Artificial Intelligence’. A great question to ask your industry experts could be “What is one or two major advancements you envision happening within artificial intelligence over the next 5 years?”

Having developed the question, the next step is to scour the web looking for industry experts talking about similar topics in the artificial intelligence industry. You’ll want to create an outreach list that is three or four times the number of your intended expert commentaries that will be placed in your blog. The best way to identify potential experts in your industry is by using Google News and Followerwonk.

followerwonk

I used Followerwonk for this example, a tool that searches through Twitter bios and highlights the top users related to specific keywords. Within the top six results, there are two great artificial intelligence experts who should be added to your list. They are both executives within the big data and artificial intelligence field with a high number of followers. Keep in mind that your intent is to gain a link back and social shares from these experts because you are freely sharing their expertise. We want to show our own personal audiences that we are featured on another site so we can get the recognition we think we deserve.

Once you identify the top industry experts and build your list, it is time to send your outreach message. The outreach message should be a short blurb complementing their expertise and asking them if they would be interested in being featured in your post. If you don’t get a response back from them, follow up a week later and emphasis the benefit they are getting by giving you a quick one to three sentence response.

 

joey outreach


Once you begin to receive responses, structure the blog with the experts who were quick to respond to your question towards the top of the article. This will flatter them because you chose to feature them within your top ten experts. The next focus should be adding the experts who you expect to get a link back from. The best way to actually gain a link is by not directly asking them to link to the article. I know it sounds crazy, but by simply thanking them for their time and expertise, the flattery works a lot better than aggressively begging for a link. When sending the experts the “thank you” message, it is extremely similar to the infographic source email. The main difference in this outreach is to create a pre-populated tweet with in the email so all the expert has to do is press one button to share with their follower base. Free services such as 
ClicktoTweet allow you to create tweets in quickly. Feel free to use my email below as your template.

joey outreach 2

Helpful expert roundups examples:

 

Informative and High Utility Content

Recent studies have shown that longer pieces of content between 1,700 and 2,000 words rank higher in Google position. The average first page results having at 1,890 words.

length of content and rankings

There are a few ranking factors that also correlate with longer posts, which include time on page, more social shares, and lower bounce rates because more users will browse other content on your site. Still, these long post must be made of high-quality content because if not, they are worthless words and filling up cyberspace. That is something Google hates to see. 

What determines quality you may ask? It all comes down to whether the content is informative to the audience and has some form of usability that can be implemented by your readers. According to Brian Dean, one of the top link-building marketers of our time, longer, high utility content strikes a sense of awe into the audience, meaning that when a reader visits a page that has a lot of useful information they understand how much work was put into that post and they are more likely to return to that site over and over again seeking similar content.

brian backlinko quote
Here at Circa Interactive, our team likes to produce a multitude of content ideas because different audiences respond to different types of articles including listicles, how to guides, and in-depth evergreen content. I’d like to show you a recent example of evergreen content that was created by our own Chief SEO Analyst, Tyler Cooper.

The Ultimate Guide to On-Page SEO
This is a great example of high quality, informative content that focuses on a specific audience and the knowledge inside this article can be applied immediately regardless of your knowledge of on-page SEO. In total, this ultimate guide article has a total of 3909 words. Content length has a direct impact on the number of average shares and links a piece of content receives. Moz conducted research on 489,000 text based articles. Here are their findings:

moz content length


As you can see, it is apparent that content length is incredibly important when developing content for your site. So when creating content do not forget these three types of evergreen content that will enable you to build links back to your university pages.


If you found this article helpful in any way do not hesitate to leave a comment below. I would love to hear any feedback you may have about a topic and know what type of evergreen content ideas you use in your organization. Additionally, if you need advice or have questions on link building feeling free to connect with me below.

 

andersonidea

Austin Anderson is a forward-thinking, motivated marketing specialist. Before Circa, Austin ran an e-commerce business and managed online marketing for startups in San Diego. Austin strives to be a future influencer in the world of digital marketingConnect with Austin on LinkedIn and Twitter @andersonidea.

How to Write a Media Pitch (with Examples)

Pitching compelling story lines and sources are the crux of any PR strategy. In the higher education digital marketing space, we leverage the expertise of professors from the programs that we partner with to help increase the school’s visibility, student enrollment, thought leadership, and brand awareness. For us, this is primarily an SEO and link-building tactic to help boost program search engine rankings and visibility. Professors make excellent sources for stories through their unmatched level of expertise and experience in their respective fields, but without the correct messaging and communication strategy, this may never come across effectively to the media when pitching them. Regardless of the industry that you’re in or represent, knowing how to effectively craft a pitch for the media is the most critical step to success in PR and content marketing. Here are some tangible tips and examples that will help you become a PR pitching pro in no time and write a persuasive media pitch.

In this article, I will go over best practices for media pitching in addition to reviewing the most common types of media pitches, with examples below. These include:

  • Initial (cold) media pitch
  • Pitch with an established contact (warm)
  • Personalized pitch
  • Follow-up pitch

How to Structure a PR Pitch

Before we dive into best practices, tips, and examples of PR pitching, I want to go over some of the basics of how to structure a media pitch. Creating a set standard for yourself and your team will not only streamline the process and allow you to be as efficient as possible, but it will also makes training and consistency amongst your team much more feasible. Below I have included the basic outline/structure of a PR pitch. For a more in-depth look, please see my article on how to structure and standardize PR pitching across your team.

  • First, start with the lead. There are two main types of leads that are the most effective when it comes to media pitching. The first is a news peg and the second is a time peg. To learn more about the differences between these two types of leads, read this article.
  • The second part is your call-to-action. This is the action you want your audience to take. Whether it is writing a product review, publishing a piece of content, or conducting an interview, it’s important to make your intention here as clear as possible.
  • Next comes your value proposition. This is a key piece of the puzzle as it will be the meat of the pitch; this is where you can showcase the value of what you are offering and why they should be interested in it. It is essential in differentiating yourself from the hundreds of other pitches they receive.
  • The last piece of the puzzle is your conclusion. This is pretty straightforward and is where you should recap your call-to-action and thank them for their time and consideration.

Create an Effective Subject Line

Subject lines are the first and sometimes only thing that a media contact will see–often times determining whether they will even bother to open your email or not. Ensuring that your subject line is clear, concise, and enticing are some of the most important elements. While many would assume that shorter subject lines work best, especially considering the character restrictions of mobile devices, a report from Marketing Sherpa actually found that subject lines with 61 to 70 characters had the highest open rate. This proves that you shouldn’t spend too much time trying to cut down your subject line, as it can actually be beneficial to have a longer one. While creating a subject line that entices the media to want to open your email should always be the goal, make sure that you don’t use “click-bait” phrasing as a tactic to draw the recipient in as this may leave a bad taste in their mouth and hurt the chances of them opening your future pitches. The last thing you want to do is mislead them or appear spammy.

media pitch subject line

Pitch Using Timely News Pegs or Research

Don’t do yourself the disservice of not using relevant news pegs or research as your hook for your pitch. It’s no secret that the media lives off of news pegs, trending topics, and new research to tell their stories. To increase the chances of someone showing interest in your pitch, it’s important to make their job as easy as possible; it’s a good idea to help to spell out the story for them so that your source or story fits in seamlessly with trending news topics and their target audience’s interests. Reporters and editors receive hundreds of pitches every day, so providing them with a story that their readers will be interested in and offering sources to help supplement that story will make them more compelled to move forward with the conversation. Along these same lines, always try to include hyperlinks to any research or statistics that you reference in your pitch. You don’t want them to shy away from expressing interest or continuing the conversation simply because they don’t have time to do the legwork to track down the sources themselves. When pitching a source for a story, I recommend abiding by this same rule of thumb and hyperlink to their bio page to provide more context and information on their specialities and background in case they’re interested.

Know the Reporter’s Beat

You can have the best pitch in the world, but if it doesn’t align with the reporter’s beat (the types of stories they cover), then it will provide no use or value to them. In fact, it will only blatantly show that you are sending out mass email distributions and aren’t doing the appropriate research and legwork before pitching them. While it’s not always realistic or feasible, personalize pitches whenever possible and mention any related articles that they recently wrote.

Keep it Concise & Know your Story

As I mentioned earlier, media contacts receive hundreds of pitches a day. If you’re lucky enough to get yours opened, the worst thing that someone with very little time can be confronted with is an unnecessarily long pitch. Find out how to say everything that you need to say in a paragraph or less (with rare exceptions). The more specific and focused you can be, the better. It’s also crucial to understand and communicate the story you’re trying to tell and how it aligns with the larger media trends yet provides a unique angle to the storyline. Here’s how our typical pitch is structured:

Following up is Key to Media Pitching

Following up on initial email pitches is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle. This is where most of your interest and responses will come from, so ensuring that you schedule reminders to do so is vital. It’s good to wait around one week until you send follow-ups out; this will ensure that the media contact has sufficient time to get through their emails and respond if they are planning to. If the story is incredibly time-sensitive, it’s ok to follow-up a bit sooner. Similarly, if it is not a time-sensitive story at all, then waiting a little longer than a week is also fine. Include your original pitch at the bottom of your follow-up email to help jog the recipient’s memory and provide more context for them. To see more about how to follow up on a pitch, see my example below.

Media Pitch Examples:

Initial (cold) pitch:

Hi [NAME]

A recent report pointed to the frightening reality that hackers using ransomware on medical devices could pose the biggest–and most dangerous–cyber security threat in 2016, with insulin pumps and pacemakers being some of the devices most vulnerable to these risks. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a leading encryption and cybersecurity expert, DARPA contractor, and professor in NJIT’s Computer Science program. He has been conducting research on security and homomorphic encryption of embedded medical devices and can discuss the severity of this looming threat and the ways that we can leverage new protection techniques against this potentially fatal new cybercrime tactic.

Please let me know if you’re interested. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Pitch for established contact/relationship:

I hope all is well. Thanks again for featuring [NAME] in your article on ICD-10. I wanted to reach out about a new story and source that I thought you might be interested in:

Scientists are reporting a sharp rise in colon and rectal cancers in adults as young as their 20s and 30s, according to a new study by the American Cancer Society. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Ohio University and an expert in colon cancer, who is currently applying principles like fluid dynamics to look at how cancer cells move through the body and how metastasis can be countered. Dr. [NAME] is also researching the potential of liquid biopsies for less invasive cancer screenings and their ability to impact personalized medicine. While increased rates of screenings like colonoscopies among older adults have been considered the reason that colorectal cancer rates have declined overall, they have usually been deemed unnecessary and invasive for younger populations. However, with this new upward trend among young adults, research that Dr. [NAME] is conducting in this field could be the key to reversing these ominous trends.

Please let me know if you’re interested in speaking with [NAME] about the important work she is doing in this area and how it could impact cancer trends. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Personalized pitch

I really enjoyed reading your article, “CBO’s estimates of the revised Senate health bill” and wanted to see if you would be interested in speaking with [NAME] about the impact that this would have on our doctor shortage crisis. When we reduce insurance coverage, we make it harder for patients to address their preventative needs, and therefore create a more sick population with an increased need for doctors who can treat subsequent ailments. [NAME] is the program director and professor of healthcare systems engineering at the University of Central Florida and is actively looking at the most pressing long-term issues facing our healthcare system, such as the doctor shortage crisis, and how we can take steps to address and alleviate such crises. Extended life spans and treatable diseases are straining our already burdened system, and studies show it’s only going to get worse. [NAME] can discuss the complexities of solving this issue and how repealing the ACA will have a direct impact on the doctor shortage crisis.

Please let me know if you’re interested and I would be happy to set something up. Thanks for your time.

Follow-up Pitch

Subject: Re: Just Following Up: Medical Device Ransom is Biggest Cyber Threat of 2016

Hi [NAME],

I just wanted to follow up and see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME] about the dangerous and inevitable threat of medical ransomware.

Thanks for your time. Any feedback is appreciated.

Caroline Khalili
Circa Interactive
circaedu.com

On Mon, Dec 21, 2015 at 6:38 PM, Caroline Khalili caroline@circaedu.com> wrote:

Hi [NAME],

A recent report pointed to the frightening reality that hackers using ransomware on medical devices could pose the biggest–and most dangerous–cyber security threat in 2016, with insulin pumps and pacemakers being some of the devices most vulnerable to these risks. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a leading encryption and cybersecurity expert, DARPA contractor, and a professor in NJIT’s Computer Science program. He has been conducting research on security and homomorphic encryption of embedded medical devices and can discuss the severity of this looming threat and the ways that we can leverage new protection techniques against this potentially fatal new cybercrime tactic.

Please let me know if you’re interested. Thanks for your time and consideration.

 

To learn more about our digital PR services, read here: Digital PR.

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

Mobile PPC for Higher Education: AdWords Call Extensions

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s walk through the steps:

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Do: Leverage news and current events in your pitches

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

Do: Follow up

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

Do Not: Put yourself in a box

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

Do Not: Miss an email

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

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

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

 

Using Online Calendars to Boost Recruitment

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

Your online event calendar

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

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

Why are calendars so useful for higher ed marketers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Myke-for-HEMJ

 

 

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

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.

Facebook Chatbots: The Social Media Game Changer

As with any marketing strategy, keeping communication lines open between a company and its customers is crucial to a successful relationship and high conversion rate. The same principle applies to social media. This is where chatbots have come in to save the day.

Thanks to some rather fancy artificial intelligence technology, chatbots operate by means of a certain set of rules dictated by the Facebook page’s administrator which allows the chatbot to be the first line of communication with a user. While it may sound as if chatbots are the opposite of open, transparent business-to-consumer communication, studies show that chatbot experiences with more engaged audiences are seeing an 80 to 90 percent response rate. Because chatbots are also still in its early phases of integration for most, early adopters have an incredible opportunity to take advantage of the low competition, free tool in a way that works best for their program. Here are a few ways higher education marketers can take advantage of this new, cutting-edge technology.

Why Higher Ed Marketers Should Care

Updated Content Strategy

With most higher education marketing plans, there is a content marketing strategy in place that often includes some kind of social media integration. That integration, however, tends to be passive and the social media user engagement tends to be rather low. Chatbots, on the other hand, give marketing managers the opportunity to personalize content, nurture relationships, and provide immediate value to any given user while driving website traffic without actually lifting a finger – no, really.

Frequently Asked Questions – Answered

Chatbots are also a great way to answer common questions prospective and/or active students tend to ask. As a social media/marketing specialist, you may not know specific university details well enough to adequately address questions without resorting to contacting student services. Rather than harassing student services yourself or complicating the user experience by merely sending the student a different email or phone number, chatbots can help to answer these questions on their own and provide further contact info should the student request it.   

Leadforms Revolutionized

Another exciting benefit to chatbots is the potential end of lead forms and expensive landing pages. While the latter might be a bit of a stretch, chatbots can do away with overly invasive lead forms that make a user feel as if they’re lighting a neon “Please All Spammers Contact Me” sign. Instead, all the information you need for the first point of contact is already there and free to use thanks to basic Facebook profiles. Should the bot need further information (i.e. email, location, phone number, etc.), the user can then provide it as needed rather than blindly subjecting their information to the whims of the internet.

Real ROI

Most importantly, you as a higher ed marketer should care about this tool because, as of right now, click-through-rates and engagement are especially high since competition is low and communication is one-on-one and not lost in a sea of news feed content. Who doesn’t want that?

Creating A Chatbot

This is a lot easier than it sounds. Yes, as I mentioned earlier, it is artificial intelligence technology, but the the process is extremely user friendly. The best part? It’s free.

Before you begin, the most important thing to remember is why your students should care about the chatbot’s information and how they can continue to gain value from it. As with any new marketing strategy, this is far and away the most difficult aspect to keep in mind, but also the most rewarding. One place to start is to find trends in your current Facebook inbox. What questions are most frequently asked? What information is most frequently requested? From there, you can then continue to expand your chatbot’s capabilities.

Here are a couple of tools to get your chatbot up and running:

Chatfuel

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 1.41.39 PM

This particular tool is not only free, but the interface requires absolutely zero coding knowledge. By simply dragging and dropping different “blocks” or rules for your chatbot to follow, this program promises to have your chatbot up and running in under 10 minutes (after a 10 minute tutorial, if you need it).

Botsify

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 1.45.58 PM

Just like ChatFuel, this service also starts for free, includes an entire slew of free integrations, offers unlimited messages, analytics, and paid plans for even more intricate options.

Using either of these sites, you can create:

  • A welcome bot for those who have just “liked” your page and an onboarding message to show the user how to interact with your chatbot.
  • A content distributing tool that sends the user exactly what they’re looking for. If they need a program brochure, contact information for student services, admissions information, links to your university’s blog or articles, or even if they wish to opt-in to a newsletter or content subscription, they can by answering a few simple commands.
  • An appointment generator. Especially if you can coordinate with your admissions team and have them create an open-source appointment page (using google calendar appointments, Doodle.com, youcanbook.me, etc.) you can set your chatbot to ask the user if they would like to schedule a call with an actual admissions counselor!

Chatbot Best Practices

Don’t forget to give people a clear and precise expectation of what you will be sending, how often, and the opportunity for them to also change those options and frequency. The user should be in as much control as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming yet another spammy nuisance that no one will want to be friends with – well, Facebook friends anyway.

Don’t forget to have some fun with it! By giving your chatbot an actual name or perhaps a bit of personality, your students are far more likely to engage and keep engaging.

If the chatbot fails to provide the information the user is looking for, make sure there are fail-safes in place to guide users to the right contact information or web page. Both ChatFuel and Botsify offers ways to do this.

And last but not least: test, test, testing 1, 2, 3. Before you make your chatbot live, make sure you and your team have tested it plenty of times on different devices. Does it work seamlessly with Mac’s? PC’s? iPhones? Androids? Different browsers like Google Chrome, Safari, or Mozilla’s Firefox? If yes, then let the chatbot roam free!

Thanks to the beauties of the internet and artificial intelligence, your university’s Facebook page can come back to life with the least amount of effort on your part – who doesn’t want that?

 

Tami Cruz of Circa InteractiveTami 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.

5 Tips for Writing Ad Copy in Facebook for Higher Education

I remember the days when you needed a “.edu” email address in order to set up a Facebook profile – heck, looking back on it, I remember the act of doing so almost as an indoctrination of myself into the university experience. Over the years, Facebook has evolved into so much more than a place for blossoming academics — it’s become a Social Media behemoth, a staple of our daily lives and a marketing utopia where, according to the New York Times in 2016, would-be students and non-students alike spend on average 50 minutes per day. The increasingly ubiquitous nature of Facebook is in part where the channel becomes so valuable to Higher Education marketers like myself.

The vision and specter of your ads across newsfeeds can be a make-or-break moment in the target user’s experience – it can facilitate a potable, attractive touchpoint for prospective students to consider and/or engage with your brand or degree program. Being a numbers kind of guy, ad copy creative tends to fall low on my totem pole of priorities – that’s why I keep this short list of imperatives taped to my desk.

  1. Know your target audience
  2. Use a strong call to action
  3. Use high-quality images, with as little/much text as required
  4. Use verbiage that transitions effectively between all placements
  5. Introduce Ad Variations, and prioritize relevancy score

 

1. Know your Target Audience

According to an article published by the Pew Research Center in 2016, “On a total population basis (accounting for Americans who do not use the internet at all)… 68% of all U.S. adults are Facebook users” – so it can be said that the chances are high, if you’re seeking prospective students, they are more likely than not to be found somewhere at some time on Facebook. After sculpting this user base into highly-targeted (and segmented) ad sets, always keep at the forefront of your mind who you are speaking to, and be sure to tailor your ads’ verbiage to your audience segments. Creating ads which resonate with specifically targeted individuals will foster a more genuine, personable user experience. It may even bolster your conversion rate and ultimately lead to a lower Cost per Lead metric, enabling greater lead volume within a static budget. High quality, personally relevant content (whether sponsored or organic) lays the foundation for the ultimate goal of student acquisition.

2. Use a Strong Call to Action

A strong call to action is so much more than merely a button you append to the bottom-right corner of your newsfeed ads. One could say that the entirety of the ad you’re creating is itself a “call to action”. After all, your objective is to inspire users to act toward your goal. In addition to tailoring your ads to your target users’ characteristics, this could also mean including a timeframe in order to instill a sense of urgency — such as adding enrollment/application deadlines to your ad copy. Do you have a lead form incentive on your ads’ landing page, such as a program brochure? If so, consider include verbiage that creates a thirst in the user to view that content — for example, “download a FREE brochure to learn more about this award-winning program”.

3. Use high-quality images, with as little/much text as required

Selecting the right image to serve up with your ads can have an enormous impact on click through rates on your ads. While it’s not essential to choose an image that’s visually representative of your product or service, in Higher Ed marketing I’ve noticed that images which feature a campus logo tend to produce more academically-geared results.

Text can also be a great eye-catcher, however you must be careful not to exceed Facebook’s text-to-image restrictions, or your ad may suffer the penalty of throttled impressions — or otherwise might be rejected by the Ads’ interface entirely. Facebook’s Text Overlay Tool is always a great last-stop for your ads’ images before they make their way onto the ads themselves.

Lastly, Facebook recommends an image size of 1,200 x 628 pixels as a best practice for most of its campaign goals – you can approximate this, but beware that your image will need to be cropped in order to fit the display of your ads. It’s also recommended to stay away from images that feature the particular shades of blue and white that comprise Facebook’s color scheme, as these ads can often be overlooked by users fatigued with scrolling through their newsfeed.

4. Use verbiage that transitions effectively between all placements

We live in a multi-device world, so fluency between devices is a must if you’re going to capitalize on user experience.”Keep it short and sweet” is the motto to keep in mind when creating ad copy that will transition seamlessly between placements. This maxim applies equally so within Facebook ads due to the inherent nature of “oCPM” bidding — an automatic ad placement feature where the Facebook API optimizes ad impressions across all of its placements to the maximum benefit of your Cost per Result. This feature relies on the Facebook pixel as well as a standard event (e.g. ‘Lead’) implementation, so you should make sure the pixel is firing correctly before you try it out.

I strongly recommend adhering to character limitations in order to create ads that will look good; no matter where they appear in the gamut of Facebook’s network. If you exceed these limitations you risk truncation, or worse, ads which appear incomplete or misleading. Keep it within these limits if you can:

  • Keep your ad’s headline (the bold title, just below your ad’s image) at 25 characters or less.
  • Your text (the introductory snippet above the ad image) should be limited to 90 characters wherever possible — anything more will be truncated, however the user may opt to “see more” if they so chose.
  • Use a link description that speaks to the landing page — but do not feature critical information in this portion of the ad, as it is strictly truncated on mobile (where the majority of your impression are likely to occur). Instead, opt to have this critical information in your text or headline.

5. Introduce Ad Variations, and prioritize relevancy score

A/B testing is a hallmark of high quality, results-driven marketers, and it should be an integral part of your PPC marketing strategy in Facebook as much as it is in any PPC channel. This means introducing new ad variations on a regular basis for each of your ongoing campaigns and respective ad sets.

Similar to Google’s “Quality Score” metric, which the AdWords system uses to factor ad rank in PPC search results, Facebook holds a similar metric of its own: Relevancy Score. According to Facebook’s documentation, “The more relevant an ad is to its audience, the better it’s likely to perform. Ad relevance score makes it easier for you to understand how your ad resonates with your audience.” Do not be deterred if your ads start out with a low relevancy score — it is not unusual for ads that begin with a 1 or 2 relevancy score to blossom over time into higher relevancy scores are user engagement becomes stronger. Nonetheless, over time, unless performance metrics indicate otherwise (e.g. high lead volume, at a favorable cost per lead), you should consider eliminating ads within any ad set that lag significantly behind their peers.

Leveraging these 5 tips is a surefire way to boost performance in your Facebook Ads. Don’t see one of your go-to tricks listed above? Feel free to list it in the comments below!

 

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