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.

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.

A Guide To Leveraging Reddit For Higher Education Marketers

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

Who exactly are “Redditors?”

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

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

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

How Reddit Works

Finding the right subreddits to follow

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

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

Upvotes, Downvotes, and the Ever-Coveted Karma Points

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

 

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

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

How To Market To Redditors Who Hate Marketers

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

Be a Redditor first, and a marketer second

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

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

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

The trick to Reddit is understanding the Karma system

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

Where to find the best ROI on Reddit

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

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

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

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

3 Ways Higher Education Marketers Can Leverage the 2016 Presidential Election

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

Leverage Your Professors

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

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

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

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

Create Resources Highlighting the Election

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

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • GIFs

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

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

Add to the Social Commentary

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

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

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

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

How to Reach Prospective Students Through the New Instagram Stories Feature

Instagram has rapidly grown to nearly 500 million monthly users worldwide and is projected to continue its growth at a steady rate. With this many monthly users and roughly 55 percent of them being ages 18-29, Instagram is the platform that higher ed marketing experts should be targeting. The addition of Instagram’s new feature, Instagram stories, allows for more opportunity to engage with followers and prospective students. Much like the Snapchat story feature, users post content that will disappear after 24 hours. This 24 hour time frame provides the opportunity to post as much content for your program as you would like, without the worry of cluttering your Instagram profile. If you don’t know how to use the feature, there are easy step-by-step guides available. 

 

insta story

 

The Difference Between Snapchat Stories and Instagram Stories

What sets these two seemingly identical features apart? Unlike Snapchat stories, Instagram stories can be watched regardless of whether or not an Instagram user is following an account. The explore page feature on Instagram uses an algorithm to show users content that they will be most likely to enjoy. It also suggests profiles that are similar to those that they are already interacting with. For example, based on my Instagram activity, it’s easy to see in the photo above that a lot of food accounts have made their way onto my explore page. This page also shows users which accounts the people who they are following are interacting with. Basically, if a user or their friends are engaging with higher education profiles, then it is more likely that your account will pop up on their explore feed. If your account is clicked on, the user can watch your Instagram story by clicking your profile photo. The explore page feature is beneficial to higher education marketers because it is easier to reach potential students. With Snapchat, there is no explore page, so discovering new profiles is more complicated and difficult if you do not know them personally.

Although people do not have to follow your Instagram account to view your stories, the goal is of course to make them want to.
If you’re looking to get more followers on Instagram, there are tricks that can help. The more followers you have, the more likely you are to show up on other users’ explore pages, and the more likely you are to get your story and brand seen. 

Capturing Potential Students’ Attention with Stories

Now, the real question: How can you make your program stand out by using this new Instagram feature? Of course, one must think about what the intended audience wants to see. As a higher education program, your audience is most likely a part of the Millennial Generation, which is a good thing considering millennials make up 55% of Instagram users. 

Authenticity is key when it comes to marketing to millennials.  A Cohn & Wolfe study found that 89% of people agreed that it is important that businesses act with integrity at all times. They don’t want advertisements, they want genuine content and a personalized brand. Millennials engage the most with brands that they feel are relatable and genuine.

Another way to appeal to this generation is by engaging with them on a personal level. According to Forbes, 62% of millennials prefer brands that have engaged with them on social media platforms, so Instagram stories are a great way to reach and engage with millennials. So how can you appear genuine and authentic while also making your audience feel as though you are engaging with them on a personal level? Simple: showcase your students.

Your content should tell a story, hence the name Instagram stories. It should show the authentic side of your brand while striving to be creative and engaging. Displaying student life, campus life, or promoting upcoming events that your audience may be interested in are all great starting places. That way, a prospective student can get a better understanding of your program and whether it’s a good fit for them.

With the start of school coming up, showcasing orientations or new student convocations is a great way to give prospective students a taste of student life and show them what events are available to them. The University of Arizona, The University of Texas at Dallas, and Coastal Carolina University have posted a series of Instagram stories covering their new student convocations and first day of classes that effectively present unique aspects of their student life and campus.

Insta Stories

 

In addition to displaying what your student life has to offer, you can use the story feature as a way to make your academics stand out. Emphasize academics such as student research or academic achievement events on campus. Use the story feature to show what specific student clubs are up to and highlight upcoming campus events that students are attending. Stories allow you to display the daily activities that make your program or university unique, without the worry of posting perfect, edited content that will be on your Instagram for a long period of time.  

Instagram stories also allow you to draw on your story or add captions to your story which makes the story seem more fun, while also adding a personal and creative touch. Emojis can be added to captions to add some flare to the image?.  Remember, you are capturing the attention of a generation with notoriously short attention spans. In order to reel them in, you must present your brand with a unique and engaging twist. The Instagram story feature might be just what you need to stand out in the large pool of higher education programs.

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

5 Ways Snapchat is Changing the Way We Communicate

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2. Provides an Inside Perspective of Faraway Places ?

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


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

More on: Leveraging University Events for Your SEO Strategy

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

4. Digital Messages Have Become Personal ?

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

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

Circa Interactive Team Using Snapchat's Lense Feature

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

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

 

5. Bringing News Back into Millennial Life ?

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

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

 

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

5 Instagram Tips for the New Algorithm-Based Newsfeed

Instagram recently announced that they will be rolling out a new algorithm-based newsfeed that will move away from the current chronological one to a more personalized one. This change is similar to the way that Facebook changed their feed back in 2009. This means that the posts that show up at the top of your feed, regardless of when they were uploaded, will be determined by the type of content that you are engaging with the most. The main motivation behind this switch is the finding that, on average, 70% of content is never seen by users. Instagram is therefore hoping that a more customized newsfeed will help to ensure that the 30% that is seen, is the best and most relevant. As Instagram stated, “To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.”  

Now that the dependability of a chronological newsfeed is out the window, you may be wondering how to keep your brand’s account from slipping through the cracks. To help you master the new Instagram feed and make sure your content is still seen by your target audience, I’ve compiled a list of five key takeaways that every marketer should be aware of.

 

1. Without chronological order, brands will now have greater international reach

The upside to this change is that it is going to make it easier for brands to go global and be seen by new audiences. In fact, 75% of Instagram’s audience is outside of the United States. By eliminating the restrictions that varying time zones can bring, your chances of reaching an international audience will grow stronger. This means that no matter when you post, if your content is on brand and appeals to your target audience, it will have a greater likelihood of being seen.

 

2. Organic reach will be more difficult–brand your account and encourage followers to turn on notifications

It is important to remember that Instagram is a visual platform. The picture itself is what grabs the user’s attention. To maximize organic reach, you will need to translate your brand into the pictures that you create for your account. Use a palette of colors, special shapes, or even select filters that you can regularly use to keep your content consistent and recognizable.

Harvard Instagram

Harvard University showed off the famous turning of the leaves in Boston through implementing these style techniques. They build brand awareness by using a fall theme, use recurring colors of orange, red and green, and even utilize video to show off their beautiful campus.

If you don’t know where to start, remember that learning from trial and error is the best method. Try new looks and styles of pictures and see what your audience responds to. If you find something that provokes a positive reaction, be sure to integrate it into your strategy moving forward.

Another way to increase engagement and ensure that you are discoverable to new users is by using relevant hashtags. Hashtags will now be more important than ever if you want your content to be searchable and seen by the right audience. Many Instagram users and brands are already starting to use the hashtag #turnmeon to ask their followers to turn on notifications for their posts. This strategy will increase the likelihood that your that content is still seen by instantly alerting followers when new content is posted.

Learn more about engagement with these  4 Ways to Boost Your University’s Social Media Engagement.

 

3. Influencers are set to become even more influential

Influencers are essentially walking billboards. They range from average users on Instagram with large social media followings and brands of their own to world-famous celebrities. By creating relationships with these influencers, you are able get your product or brand in front of new audiences with an added layer of credibility and endorsement. In fact, a recent Experticity study found that influencer recommendations carry 22 times the weight of a recommendation from an average customer. Because influencers have substantial followings, they also have high engagement rates. This means that their content will be pushed to the top, based on the way the new algorithm works. In other words, if you don’t have an influencer to help promote your content or have naturally high engagement rates on your own, your content will most likely be pushed down further on the newsfeed.  

If you already work with influencers, it’s even more important to ensure the content they are producing stays consistent and includes the right messaging. Establish quality control by creating templates for them to use. These could be used for visual and written content, but make sure they are able to still add their own personality! You don’t want their endorsements to appear scripted.

If you don’t already have relationships with influencers, then it might be a good time to start doing some research. Use resources like Buzzsumo to find the top influencers in different niches. Keep in mind that these individuals typically come with a price tag, so evaluate this strategy to determine whether it makes sense for your brand. If the answer is yes, then having an influencer on your team will help expand your network, get your content seen by a larger audience, and increase lead generation.



 

Coe College invited professional soccer player, Abby Wambach, to speak with their soccer team and a select audience. Abby posted about her experience there, tagged Coe College, and even used their hashtag #kohawks. This endorsement from Abby is a powerful one, especially to prospective college athletes.

On the other side of influencers, Michigan University took it into their own hands to announce a new partnership with professional NASCAR driver, Jeff Gordon. They branded the picture with their logo, included their school colors, and used the hashtag #GOBlue to build brand awareness in connection with Jeff.

4. The number of followers you have won’t be as meaningful

It’s hard to tell how confining the new algorithm will be, but when it comes to reach, things will definitely get more complicated for brands. The total number of followers your account has won’t be as important as it once was, especially as people start to follow more accounts. Because the algorithm will favor higher engagement over a large following, it is important to focus on who your audience is and what they like. Create content that will appeal to them and continue to engage with them. The worst thing a brand could do is stop engaging with their fans and turn to buying followers for help. Many services will promise the accounts they are selling are active, but these accounts will not ‘like’, comment, or share your content. Having dead accounts following you will actually do more harm than good as it will ruin your engagement statistics.

Learn how to create unique, engaging content in my recent article: 6 Tips for Boosting Your Instagram Presence

 

5. Instagram is becoming more expensive for brands

There is no doubt that the new Instagram algorithm has an ulterior motive. With no chronological order and the potential for a smaller organic reach, more brands will turn to Instagram advertising to make sure their content is seen. This will likely lead to handing over more cash, which a lot of small businesses might not have. If this is the case, make sure to assess your analytics. Is your online store, website or blog actually getting traction directly from your Instagram account? If it is, then advertising is probably the right choice for you. If your brand does not see any value from Instagram, try out a different platform that may be a better fit for your marketing needs and goals.

Learn how to target and create the right ads for your audience with these 7 Tips for Maximizing your Facebook (and Instagram) Ad Performance.

Need more Instagram tips? Want to learn more about social media marketing? Let me know what you want to learn about next 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.

The 2015 Higher Education Marketing Journal Year in Review

Here we are, back to work in 2016. The Higher Education Marketing Journal (HEMJ) had a momentous 2015, seeing a double in the number of subscribers. We are working to continue to create engaging and actionable content in the coming year to exceed the growth we have seen in the past few years. It has been a productive year at Circa Interactive, and we are happy to highlight our successful posts and content from 2015.

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Our HEMJ subscribers range from university marketing departments and leadership to some of the top digital marketers in the industry.

To highlight our successful HEMJ posts from 2015, I’ve separated them into the following categories:

  • Organic Social Media
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Digital PR
  • Student Generation
  • Online Learning

Our content team has built upwards of 30 articles this year describing various facets of higher education Internet marketing. The following are links to our popular posts in case you missed them!

Organic Social Media

Boosting Social Media Image

As the online education industry continues to grow, we’ve seen an increase in demand for a strong social presence for university programs and colleges. Social programs across various platforms work to dish out information surrounding degree programs, faculty, current students, alumni, and the larger program-specific industry. Regardless of the social platform, imagery is essential for engagement. Our head designer, Jordan Opel, describes how to create a custom image to build awareness for a university event.

Speaking of spectacular imagery, is your university program on Instagram? There are endless content ideas to share through this platform such as current students, research equipment, faculty highlights, and more. Our very own Audrey Willis offers six tips to boost your university’s Instagram presence.

Once your social platform is established and content created, the next step is to build engagement. Tami Cruz offers four strategic tips to boost your college’s social media engagement. Want to know who’s killing it at content and engagement? Public relations manager Caroline Khalili shares her five personal must-follow university social accounts.

Social Media Marketing

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When it comes to student acquisition in higher education, social media marketing is an increasingly valuable tool. The potential audience size and very detailed targeting features allow for effective spending of marketing budgets. Our paid search manager Andrew Glasser paves the way in this category with an insightful post into maximizing Facebook Ad performance.

With the growth in targeting abilities and tracking, Facebook has become a very strong contender for marketing dollars in higher education. While Andrew dissects the account specifics, our lead designer, Jordan, works on the creative front of Facebook advertising with this well crafted post describing how to construct a Facebook promoted post.

Just as important as Facebook advertising in higher education is the limitless abilities to target potential students through Linkedin’s robust marketing platform. Earlier this year, our CEO Robert Lee laid out his insights into Linkedin’s targeting with his post, “5 Ways to Target Potential Students with Linkedin Paid Ads.”

Facebook and Linkedin advertising have been open to the public for a few years now, but a more recent addition to the marketing field is Pinterest advertising, which opened reservation-based Promoted Pins on January 1, 2015. Our digital marketing intern wrapped up his time at Circa with a walkthrough of driving students to a university with Promoted Pins.

Whether you are pushing your social media marketing budget toward Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest or the various other platforms, our paid search manager has you covered. Here’s Andrew’s powerful marketer’s guide, “A Higher Education Marketer’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization: Paid Social.”

Digital Public Relations 

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We are happy to have introduced our newest service offering to our higher education clients in 2015: Digital Public Relations. This tactic combines traditional PR, SEO, Branding, and Student Acquisition and is a powerful strategy in the current online marketplace. The newest member to our PR team is George Bradley, a digital marketing specialist out of the UK. By creating content for a variety of degree programs, George is on the forefront of industry news and his latest post offers his top four online tools to discover content for a university PR strategy.

A valued tool that our PR team frequently leverages to pitch programs, professors, and content to journalist and editors worldwide is CisionPoint. Cision has recently merged with Vocus and is a database of contacts and outreach platform that is leading the future of digital PR. Don’t have experience with Cision? Our social media and PR intern Sarah Song put together a step-by-step beginner’s guide to Cision at the start of 2015.

Content Marketing

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Content marketing has proven to be a valuable tool in digital marketing. Within the realm of higher education, there is a wealth of opportunity to produce consumable and engaging content to appeal to large audiences. Here at Circa, we create many different styles of content including videos, whitepapers, professor profiles, and infographics. Our marketing director and content marketing specialist, Frederic Lee (yours truly), put together two round-ups of his favorite higher education infographics in the industry: best health infographics and best business infographics in higher education.

We also released our very own infographic titled, “Creative Ways to Make Higher Education More Affordable.” This graphics aims to shed light on the opposite side of the college tuition rise debate by showing examples of ways universities are saving money. Take a look and feel free to share!

Student Generation

RETARGETING IMAGE

When it comes down to it, we are in the business of student generation. We aim to match potential students with the appropriate university program to meet and exceed their goals. Our COO, Clayton Dean, offers a decade of experience in student generation and shared his knowledge through two priceless posts in 2015.

Clayton’s first post is helpful for those university marketing departments who are struggling with where to push their marketing dollars. He offers two powerful ways to generate more leads on a limited budget. His next post points out a far too familiar scenario: A potential student visits your landing page, fails to convert, and goes on their way never to be heard from again. To tackle this issue, Clayton lays out 5 Reasons Why Setting Up Retargeting is Essential for Your Higher Ed Marketing Strategy. In addition to our COO’s valuable student generation posts in 2015, we published a contributor post from Josh Haynam, co-found of Interact. In this article, Josh introduces leveraging quizzes in higher education lead generation.

Online Learning 

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The Higher Education Marketing Journal covers a large scope of online marketing tactics and strategy. Some of our most successful posts are high level articles about the online education industry and are written by our most experience contributors. CEO Robert Lee offered his insights on a market feasibility study to understand demand for an online program while our top contributor, Scott Levine, built two powerful posts that demonstrated his expertise in the industry.

Scott’s first post lays out a prescription for success for online nursing degrees and acts as a guide to those looking to push an RN-BSN online. Scott’s second post is a clever remake of Stephen Covey’s, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” By applying this post to the higher education industry, Scott created, “The Seven Attributes of Highly Effective Online Degrees.”

More to Come in 2016

As we pave our way into the New Year, expect to see consistent content being added to HEMJ from our variety of employees and contributors. If you’d like to see us tackle a specific issue relevant to you, don’t hesitate to comment below or send us a message here. We wish all of our subscribers the best in 2016!

Follow me on Twitter for more updates: @FredHigherEd

FreddieFrederic Lee has four years experience in higher education content marketing and SEO. 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 management of Circa Interactive’s successful internship program.

 

PPC in Higher Education: The Potential Benefits of Pinterest & Promoted Pins

At the beginning of 2015, Pinterest made their promoted pins accessible to all advertisers, and now digital marketers are scrambling to figure out the benefits this service can provide to their clients. Like we have seen with suggested posts on Facebook, Promoted Pins are a pay-per click form of advertising, and with the introduction of this feature, Pinterest is poised to unlock the doors to a new frontier within one of the most used social platforms. But is this enticing offer ready to stand up to the needs of higher education marketers?

The potential benefits seem vast when one considers the massive audience that Pinterest has accrued, but the platform has yet to display that it can compete with the complex targeting capabilities of competitors like Facebook or LinkedIn ads. Nate Elliott, Vice President & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, recently published an article on Forbes.com (read “The Pinterest Conundrum“) stating that: “Marketers can’t tap into most of Pinterest’s fantastic user data … Pinterest’s marketing value lies more in the future than in the present.”

I’m inclined to agree. Without a niche target audience, how can you have faith that your promoted pins will reach your desired demographic? From a pay-per-click (and budget-balancing) perspective, there is a lot of non-relevant traffic and, even worse, the prospect of wasted spend. Here are some similar responses from Twitter:


Although promoted pins have been shown to yield an increase in both impressions as well as traffic, neither of these promising metrics can guarantee the conversion rate implicit of a viable marketing strategy…yet. That’s why, in an effort to bring to fruition their continued rise in the paid social sphere, Pinterest has recently acquired the ad tech startup Kosei, a data firm which specializes in data science and recommendation engines.

So far I’ve come across nothing quite newsworthy on what specific targeting features are on the brink for Pinterest Ads, but Twitter is alight with references to the recent acquisition of Kosei, and promises of a bright future are in the wake of Promoted Pins’ woeful introduction.

While we await these enhanced targeting features, higher education marketers should not forget that Pinterest can be an outstanding tool for humanizing higher education to prospective students. In one of my favorite articles I came across during my research for Pinterest’s potential for Higher Education (“Why Pinterest in Higher Education Can Work“), Sheri Lehman writes: “I like to think of it as a retention tool, not a recruitment tool.”

For the time being, my recommendation is to use Pinterest itself (minus the ads) to work toward establishing a relatable online presence and to wait and see what promoted pins have to offer next. Promoted Pins still have an enormous amount of room to grow in order to merit significant investment, but I will continue to provide updates as we see these enhanced targeting features take shape.

Andrew is an analytics and paid search expert that researches, plans, and manages Circa Interactive‘s client PPC campaigns. He is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is both Google Adwords and Analytics Certified. 

Circa Interactive is the premier digital marketing agency in higher education. Since opening in 2009, Circa Interactive has helped more than 60 university programs increase lead flow, build brand awareness, and generate more students. By combining creative and analytical solutions, Circa Interactive provides services in SEO, paid search, digital PR, content marketing, social media, and analytics. 
For more information, visit www.circainteractiveseo.com. (Circa Interactive: Generate. Search. Convert.)