15 Higher Education Digital Marketing Strategies for 2018

Every day, universities and colleges are coming up with exciting, innovative courses for the millions of motivated students all over the world. The higher education space is being redefined by innovation in design, delivery and employability for many degree programs. Education experts have the resources they need to craft, test and rollout cutting edge online degree programs. That’s why higher education institutions are bringing on board creative communication and marketing professionals to keep their institutions and programs visible and desirable. Here at Circa, we utilize unique higher education marketing strategies that help raise awareness of courses and programs while bringing in high quality students that enable online degree programs to flourish. 

Innovative PPC Strategies

Andrew Glasser and Farzin Espahani

The possibilities for higher ed marketing are seemingly endless when it comes to PPC. It is by and large the most immediate method for generating high-quality leads while broadcasting your brand to qualified individuals, ultimately turning clicks into prospective students. In Search, PPC is a hotbed for student acquisition, with degree-seekers constantly turning to Google and Bing to help them decide their career/academic path. Within Social, PPC offers increasingly advanced tools which we can use to hone in on subgroups of your target audience, fostering lead growth in the student acquisition cycle while simultaneously nurturing your Brand’s reach.

When it comes to paid advertising on social platforms, we notice a clear trend for universities who are marketing online graduate degree programs: All the ads are the same. The ad copy makes it clear that the program is flexible and completely online, and the visuals often convey a happy working professional looking satisfied in their new role. In 2018, it is our focus, mission, and purpose to ensure that colleges and universities make a commitment to standing out from the crowd by showcasing their true story. Students understand that they have basic needs in their degree program, but in 2018, millennials need to have a connection to something bigger. It is important for universities to look at their missions, ideals, and unique value propositions outside of online, flexible, innovative curriculum to begin conveying the information that matters to a student’s personal journey.

Mobile Optimized Search Ads

Studies continue to show that mobile devices are the go-to option for searching the internet. In fact, mobile devices are used more often for searches than desktop computers.  The average person checks their phone 150 times a day, the average time spend on a smartphone is 177 minutes per day, and amazingly, the average mobile session is 70 seconds. This means consumers are using their phones all day, every day, but in short bursts of time. By bidding higher for mobile devices in Google Adwords and Bing ads while utilizing mobile optimized ad extensions we can increase the CTR significantly.

Managed Placements And Interests

Managed placements is a good strategy when there are specific websites that you think are related to specific program or university where can be visited by a potential student. For example for an online MBA program, we want to place our display ads on education related websites and focus on pages relevant to higher education and career advancement. This will help us to make sure our ads are shown to those more likely to click on the ad to learn more.  

Facebook Retargeting Campaigns

The beauty and effectiveness of retargeting allows you to reach out to users who have already showed interest to your brand or program and to get them to re-engage with your brand. This is a slow but steady and cost effective strategy that converts more students compared to traditional targeting, since users are more likely to engage with ads from brands that they know. The best way to achieve a winner retargeting strategy is to start with a brand awareness ad to simply introduce your brand. Then running a retargeting campaign that shows new ads to those who have already engaged with your previous ad.

Fundamental SEO Strategies

Tyler Cooper

Every month, hundreds of thousands of prospective students are logging onto their computers, opening up Google, and trying to figure out where they should earn their degree. If your website’s SEO strategy is not up to par, chances are you’re missing out on the vast majority of these leads. While you can use Google AdWords to show up for these results, you’re going to be paying a premium for each click. When you rank organically, there is no cost per click. When looking at this from an ROI perspective, the value of SEO is undeniable. Having a large search presence means more organic traffic, more leads, more applicants, and more students. If SEO is not a part of your digital marketing strategy in 2018, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.

Link building

Link building is undoubtedly the most important aspect of your SEO strategy. In order to compete in competitive markets such as higher education, your website will need a steady stream of high-quality and relevant backlinks. There are a number of link building strategies. You can read more about those here.

On-Page SEO

In order to get the most out of your link building campaigns, it’s extremely important that your on-page SEO is in place. Make sure you all of the content on your website is properly optimized for search. This includes keyword rich title tags, relevant meta descriptions, keyword density, optimized header tags, internal linking, and much more.

Technical SEO

While this may require assistance from a web developer, it’s important that your site is technically sound so that it can be properly crawled by Google. The easier it is for Google to crawl and understand your site, the more your website’s pages will be shown in Google’s search results. On the other hand, if your website is full of technical errors, your search rankings will almost certainly suffer. Some things to look for when performing a technical SEO audit are: 404 errors, missing/broken XML sitemaps, slow page load times, duplicate content, irrelevant/thin content, and more! Use a tool like Screaming Frog to identify some of these common issues.

Website Content Strategies

Frederic Lee

Creation of website content (articles, infographics, data visualization, and more) is an essential aspect of any search marketing strategy. The primary reason being that Google favors websites with fresh content. With this in mind, a strategy of continuous creation and publication of content is important for website visibility in Google’s search results. In addition to creating fresh content, here are three core strategies to get the most ROI in this content.

Traffic and Rankings Focused Content

Through careful keyword research with an emphasis on target long-tail variations of your core keywords, content can be created with the best opportunity to rank in the search results. Keyword clusters/pods can be established in order to streamline content creation and may cover many keyword opportunity areas surrounding a long-tail variation. Upon completion and distribution, this content may rank for competitive keywords and either bring in large quantities of industry traffic, or a lesser, more valuable flow of conversion-focused traffic.

Conversion Support Focused Content

Depending on your business goals, conversion support content have a goal of providing detailed information about your product/service and industry. This content is designed to speak directly to individuals in the sales funnel. Through paid and organic social distribution and careful placement on your website, these articles are designed to be a strong touchpoint in the sales process.

Social Signal Focused Content

A portion of the Google algorithm involves having positive social signals pointing towards your website and content. Articles and graphics can be created with this exact goal in mind. A detailed analysis of your target audience and how they interact on social network is a key first step. This content must give them a reason to share and engage. Upon publication, strategic social sharing and promotion can help kick start this content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other relevant networks to your industry.

Creative Digital PR Strategies

George Bradley and Joseph Lapin

In the higher education industry, digital public relations is an important approach for any SEO strategy. Here at Circa, we believe that the faculty are one of a university’s greatest assets, yet in general, many higher ed marketing companies are not utilizing these key stakeholders. By leveraging traditional public relations strategies for the digital world, digital PR not only influences brand awareness and thought leadership for universities, but it also allows us to create high level media opportunities for our professors in publications such as the Washington Post, The Hill and HuffPost. Not only are the professors being placed here, but we are obtaining backlinks to our program pages. This directly influences organic traffic that leads to conversions and new students. In collaboration with on-page SEO elements, content marketing, and other link building strategies, digital PR helps bring prospective students to a university and serves as a significant contributor to a diverse link profile for an authoritative website.

Relationship Building

Professors and reporters/editors are the two key relationships that should be built as part of a higher education digital marketing strategy. By building trusting relationships with faculty, you are able to gain an understanding of their research and passions and also create opportunities that are specifically focused on their expertise. Relationships with reporters can also prove to be greatly beneficial. When you have a reporter who trusts you, they are far more likely to respond to your pitch and come to you for a quote from one of your faculty members.

Creative Pitch Writing

Pitching compelling story lines and sources are the crux of any PR strategy. In the higher education digital marketing space, we leverage the faculty expertise to write pitches that relate to current trending topics in the news. There are often four key components to a pitch, and these are the lead, call to action, unique value proposition, and conclusion. You can find more information on how to write these pitches here.

Stay on Top of the News

Having access to and critically understanding the latest news is imperative because you want to stay ahead of the curve. There are various ways to understand what is happening throughout the world, and you should consider each method to be as important as the next. Understanding stories in the newspaper and tying in our professors is the perfect way to begin the pitching process. All of this comes back to understanding your professors and the people working on relevant stories within the media.

Organic Social Media Marketing

Audrey Wills

In 2018, social media is an imperative part to any digital marketing strategy –– especially for higher education. To put the importance of social media marketing into context, take a look at the graph below. When the Pew Research Center began tracking social media usage in 2005, less than 8% of 18-49 year olds in America used at least one social platform. Today, over 75% of 18-49 year olds are active on at least one social media site, meaning social media is the optimal medium for reaching higher education’s target audience.

While the growth in social media usage is a good thing in the world of higher education digital marketing, this increased usage leads to users being inundated with ads and content marketing. So much so that at the beginning of 2018, Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize content from user’s inner circles. Thus, making it even more difficult to get content in front of your target audience –– organically at least. So what tactics can you use to ensure you continue to reach your audience and boost enrollment? Let’s take a look.

Know Your Platform

As mentioned before, Facebook changed their algorithm in the beginning of 2018 to prioritize content from a user’s family and friends. This means that whenever you post content, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you need to post content that best suits that platform.

Facebook’s algorithm favors content that people want to engage with. Think: would I share this with my friends? Content that is made for Twitter should be concise, yet informational. Let your followers know what you’re sharing and why. Do some research and identify the most active hashtags for your industry and use them throughout your tweets to help increase your reach. When creating content for Instagram, think visuals first, and make sure you have an eye-catching graphic that will grab your follower’s attention and get them to stop scrolling.

Keep up-to-date on social media marketing by attending a conference: http://circaedu.com/hemj/13-higher-education-marketing-conferences-in-2018/  

Live Video

One tactic that all social media algorithm’s love is Live Video. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter enable you to leverage live video to interact with prospective students. My favorite tactic for utilizing live video is hosting live Q&A info sessions to address general program FAQs and provide prospective students the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers in real-time. Hosting a series of Q&A info sessions that address different areas of your program. To give students a better feel for your program, have different team members host each session. Anyone from an alumni, a current student, a faculty member, or even dean are perfect candidates to provide their own perspective and create a connection with the prospective students.

Chatbots At Your Service

Social media has changed the way we all communicate, and chatbots are taking our new forms of communication one step further. Chatbots provide a modern way for students to get questions answered instantaneously. Implementing chatbots into your recruitment strategy can help your admissions team speed up the enrollment process by weeding out unqualified candidates, answering questions in seconds, not hours, and even following up with potential students to ensure they finish their applications before the enrollment deadline.

Circa Interactive is the premier digital marketing agency in higher education. Since opening in 2011, Circa Interactive has helped more than 60 degree programs increase lead flow, build brand awareness,and generate more students. To find out how our services could help your institution, please email clayton@circaedu.com. 

 

Generation Z: 5 Tips for Engaging The Next Generation of Consumers

Just when brands feel that they’ve finally mastered the art of advertising to Millennials, up comes the next generation of consumers: Generation Z.

Although sharing some similarities to the elder Millennials, Generation Z is far more savvy to brand intentions, meaning digital marketers will find themselves embarrassed if they try to implement Millennial advertising strategies for this younger generation.

So what is it that makes Generation Z different? And how can digital marketers successfully engage with this next wave of consumers?

Introducing Generation Z

The first thing to understand about Generation Z is that they’ve grown up with the internet. With the oldest of this generation being born in the mid-to-late 1990s, Generation Z have spent their lives heavily relying on smartphones and social media to not only connect with their peers, but also brands, businesses and organizations.

Understanding this generation’s heavy reliance on social media is crucial for marketing, as a few wrong moves on social media can prove detrimental to brands and businesses.

How detrimental? Consider that Kylie Jenner, one of the most popular and powerful Gen Z celebrities, cut $1.3 billion from Snapchat’s stock all from a simple tweet.


What this shows is that with this upcoming generation, brands don’t even necessarily need to make mistakes on social media; all it takes is negative publicity to sway the public opinion of Generation Z.

How Much Should You Care About Generation Z?

Being the next group of consumers, brands, businesses and marketers are clearly interested in advertising to this young generation, yet Generation Z should be more of a priority than it already is.

Why?

For one, individuals that classify as Generation Z already make up a quarter of America’s population. This number is growing, with projections stating that Generation Z will make up 40% of all consumers by 2020. Any target audience that makes up almost half of all consumers is definitely worth taking into further consideration.

Secondly, advertisers have yet to establish a solid understanding of this progressive generation. Lazily, some assume that they are a lot like millennials, except even more addicted to screens and phones.

While this might be true in some cases, the reality is far more professional and sophisticated: Gen Z aren’t screen-prisoners, they are screen-operators. Society at large functions within the digital realm, and Gen Z leverage their skills and networks to become full-time managers of their personal and professional brands.

This generation deeply understands digital branding – they leverage it for their personal benefit all the time – and are exceptional at seeing through poor or even tacky advertising, so businesses looking to connect with Generation Z will need to put forth equal effort in understanding who they are and what they are interested in.

Tips for Engaging Generation Z

If you’re looking to engage with the next wave of consumers, here are 5 tips for engaging Generation Z:

1.Use Easily Consumable Content

If you really want to connect with Generation Z, creating easily consumable content is essential.

Studies have shown that Gen Z have an 8 second attention span – compared to the 12 second attention span of Millennials – meaning that brands need to make sure that their message can be consumed fast.

Videos and GIFs have proven to be very effective in making a quick point. Clever messaging is successful as well. KFC’s recent public apology for running out of chicken is a great example:KFCSource: http://money.cnn.com/2018/02/23/news/kfc-apology-ad-shortage

In a situation that could have resulted in major brand damage, KFC were able to save face and generate acclaim from Generation Z and worldwide media outlets thanks to its quick, eye-catching message

2.Provide Value

Advertisers shouldn’t assume that they can trick Generation Z. Being brand ambassadress themselves, this group is smart and tech savvy. They can quickly identify when they’re being advertised to, so don’t try to fool them or waste their time.

If you’re looking to engage with this generation, make sure that your advertisement provides some kind of value, such as offering free items or discounts for taking surveys.

Brands that are able to create a mutually beneficial situation will prove most successful with Generation Z.

3. Pass The Eye Test

As mentioned, Generation Z have short attention spans, so before even considering your message Gen Z will judge your advertisement based on its appearance. If your advertisement doesn’t pass the eye test, expect this generation to swipe right past.

What can you do to help make your messages pass the eye test? Much of it depends on the message you’re trying to send.

That said, don’t be afraid to take chances and create edgy content (see KFC advertisement above) or advertisements that feature a bit of bright color here or there.

If you’re worried and unsure, it maybe a good idea to get some direct feedback from Generation Z. Asking for feedback right from your target audience can help sharpen your content creation skills.

4. How Can You Help Them?

For far too long, advertisers have viewed consumers from the selfish perspective of “How can we get our audience to purchase and need our products or services?”

While taking this approach may have worked in the past, Generation Z is too sharp. Any brand that attempts this approach can expect to be embarrassed and humiliated across multiple social networks.

You don’t want that kind of shame.

Great news: there are alternative perspectives.

If you’re really looking to build trust with Generation Z, you’re entire message should be developed with the approach of “How can we help them?”

Again, Generation Z are savvy. Don’t go through the motions with this. They’ll see right through it.

Instead, take a moment to seriously consider your product, service and message to better understand how your company and its resources can help make your consumers’ lives better.

Thinking with this perspective might be difficult for traditional marketers, but it’ll have a significant impact in the long-term.

5. Expand Your Efforts

On average, Generation Z tend to operate 5 screens at a time. For marketers, this means that your brand and message have to be at multiple places at once.

Brands with big budgets will be able to dominate more traditional advertising mediums, yet that shouldn’t discourage small brands from expanding their efforts to the best of their ability.

Generation Z are all about grassroots resources. Many brands have found success with a very limited budget simply by expanding and enhancing their social efforts.

In fact, sometime  traditional advertising can do more harm than good due to the appearance of trying too hard.

At the end of the day, the more that this generation comes positively interpret your brand and message, the more trustworthy that you’ll seem. And there is no better way to appear trustworthy than to authentically approach Generation Z on their terms from the beginning. So don’t wait until Generation Z grow a bit older. Start making adjustments to your marketing strategies today so your brand and message can better engage with Generation Z and hopefully establish a long-term mutually beneficial relationship.

Interested in learning more insights that could help with effectively engaging the next wave of college students? Check out these articles to get started:

 

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.

 

 

6 Ways Social Media Changed the Way We Communicate

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

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

The Top Social Media Platforms Changing Communication

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

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

Learn more: Adding Facebook Chatbots to Your Social Media Strategy

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Social Media Changed the Way We Communicate

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

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

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

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

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

2. Provided an Inside Perspective of Faraway Places 🌍

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

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

More on: Leveraging University Events for Your SEO Strategy

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

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

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

4. Made Digital Messages More Personal 🎨

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

5. Brought News Back into Millennial Life 🗞

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

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

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

 

Trending News Section on Facebook's Mobile App

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Audrey-for-site

 

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

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.

7 Tactics for Repurposing Content on Social Media

If digital content marketing is in your tactical arsenal, you know that developing fresh subject matter can be challenging. Thankfully, by repurposing content that is proven to be successful, we can cut down time while maintaining or even increasing engagement. The following are 7 unique ways to repurpose successful social media posts for your school or brand.

 

1. Find and Create Evergreen content

Evergreen content is essentially content that doesn’t lose its value over time. It stays fresh for consumers, and when an individual encounters the content in their feed, it won’t feel stale or dated. The first step in successful content repurposing is finding and creating evergreen content.  A few examples are:

  • Lists
  • Top tips
  • Instructional “how -to” tutorials
  • Encyclopedia-esque entries
  • Product reviews
  • Videos

In academia, it’s easy to pinpoint information that will have a long lifespan. Educational topics rarely lose their value and can be repurposed many times over. Scan through the backend of Facebook and check to see which posts you’ve published that could have a maximum potential repurposing value. Shy away from anything related to news pegs, outdated statistics, or trends. When building out content for future use, it’s important to keep the evergreen mentality in mind and think ahead of the recyclability of posts that you create.

 

2. News Pegs

Consolidating stories on social media is a fairly straightforward task when dealing with a university and/or academic program. Course curriculum and program themes construct a natural skeleton to build content around. Take, for example, a master’s in criminal justice degree. Reoccurring topics may include policing, crime scene identification, and the US correctional industry. I run into reoccurring themes like these many times when promoting an academic social media account. These themes aren’t only applicable to the internal narrative of a university but also to stories outside of the school’s domain. Connecting relevant topics to trending news stories can be a great way to latch onto existing exposure. When you find a story that could apply to your brand, it’s critical to think of a unique angle to stand out from the masses.

 

3. Visualizations

Whether it’s a simple student quote or a research-based infographic, most academic literature can easily be converted into visually appealing media. Using sites like canva and unstock editor, you can create simple social graphics without the need of an extensive design background. Keep it minimal and clean and consider using campus images or other branded media you may have in a portfolio. It’s proven that Facebook posts generate 84% more click-throughs when they have an image. By converting simple text into a visual format, you can also capitalize on posting through instagram.

14257661_10153908399579607_2261860791139873093_o

Another way to take advantage of already-existing social media posts is by converting content into an infographic. If you’ve listed any tips or relevant industry information you can use canva’s infographic maker to easily organize them into a sharable infographic.

“Infographics make complex information eye catching, shareable and easily digestible. They can help boost engagement on your social media profiles, make your presentations more interesting and transform your marketing materials to have greater impact.” –Canva

4. Facebook Live

Live video streaming on mobile devices is expected to grow by 39 times in the next five years. Facebook Live is at the forefront of this burgeoning market. Thinking of ways to incorporate live video is going to be a tremendously popular marketing trend moving into 2017, and brands need to start capitalizing. For universities and their programs, think campus tours, live lectures, or even athletic events. When it comes to repurposing existing content, twitter AMA’s featuring professors could be easily repeated or tweaked for Facebook live. Including an admissions AMA where prospective students can find out more about a school they are interested in is another valuable strategy. The key here is personalization. Being able to see a face, rather than text coming from a brand and a logo, makes a big difference. Students and fans alike can make a better connection this way. Additionally, Facebook live videos seem to break through the organic barrier much better than other posts. Facebook is pushing people to really use the platform, so this is a major benefit at the moment.

 

5. LinkedIn Pulse Publisher

Launched in 2015, LinkedIn Pulse is a publishing platform that showcases roughly 130,000 unique articles every week. It’s one of Linkedin’s fastest growing products. Publishing to pulse is easy. Simply find a successful post you’ve already published on a social channel, preferably some sort of long-form content like an article or academic research, and then upload it to the Linkedin publisher. It’s important to note that you must have an external blog connected to your school/program in order to be considered a publisher on Linkedin. For a full list of requirements needed to publish on Linkedin Pulse, see a step-bystep guide here. Don’t forget to use canva for a catchy cover image.

pulse_stats

6. Upload YouTube videos to Facebook

Many marketers think of YouTube as the primary frontier for video marketing. However, Facebook video has considerably grown over the past three years. Zuckerberg is challenging the video throne. Facebook now serves over 8 billion unique video views per day. These videos generate 135% greater organic traffic than photo posts. If you already have video multimedia at your disposal, uploading it to multiple channels like Facebook is an easy decision to make. Video examples for universities might include alumni interviews, professor highlights, course descriptions, or campus tours. When I mention uploading YouTube videos to Facebook, it’s important to note that I’m not talking about posting the YouTube link. Video that is uploaded to Facebook directly plays natively and reaches 2X more people, resulting in 2X more likes, 3X more shares, and 7X more comments than a posted link.

 

7. Compile Tweets into Twitter Moments

Twitter moments were released to the public in November of 2016. They represent “the very best of what’s happening on Twitter” (their words) by compiling collections of tweets about a specific topic in one place. Creating a moment is simple and the link to do so can be found on your Twitter profile dashboard.

ag-create-new-twitter-moment

After you click the “Create new Moment” button, you’ll be prompted to enter an eye-catching title and description, along with a cover photo. After you’ve decided on a cohesive theme to guide your moment, you can scroll down and select historically posted tweets to add that fall in line with the story you’re trying to create. If you want to further customize your moment, click the “…More” button in the top left corner.

 

Jordan Opel

Jordan Opel is an accomplished, creative professional. He is responsible for managing and enhancing organic social media activities for our various clients. Additionally, as the leading graphic designer, he contributes to a significant portion of Circa Interactive’s creative endeavors through motion-media design, illustration, and content-creation experience.

 

 

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 sound bites, 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.

Instagram Growth Hacking Tips: A Comprehensive Guide From the Ground Up

Recognizing The Importance of Instagram

Regardless of your feelings on their recent logo change, Instagram is one of the widest-used social media platforms out there. With 300 million active daily users posting 70 million photos each day, it’s really hard to ignore an outlet this big. Especially when brand engagement ranks the highest out of any social media platform at 4.21%. The mobile photo-sharing app is also considered the most important social network by more American teens (at 32 percent) than any other network, which presents an especially large opportunity for schools and universities.

So it’s clear that there is value to be found in Instagram, but how do you rise the ranks in this massive, established community to reach students? Let’s go over some Instagram growth hacking tips to help you get a new instagram account growing from the bottom up.

All Hail the King

King Content that is…

In case you haven’t heard, Instagram has recently updated their newsfeed algorithm to focus on quality content. Before the March update, newsfeeds were strictly chronological and organic. Taking into account these changes means creating engaging content is of utmost importance, and it’s the first step in successfully growing your Instagram. Steer away from promotional posts and get creative. Your content (and a good history of it) is what followers will stick around for.

Print

You might be thinking: How can I create the best possible content without the best equipment? The most important part about your content is that you really don’t need that $2,000, 50-megapixel camera you’ve been dreaming of. Sure, it might help, but our smart phones nowadays can rival 10-year-old SLR’s if you know how to use them. I’m not going to dive into advanced photography principles, but a basic understanding is definitely useful. If you don’t know what the rule of thirds means, then a little light reading might be of help.

To make your photos “pop” (as they say), I highly recommend using a free photo-editing app called Snapseed. It’s extremely powerful, fun to use, and designed by Google, so what’s not to love? Sometimes I’ll even prefer editing photos on mobile in Snapseed instead of using Adobe Photoshop. Again, I’m not going to dive into the deep end of the photo editing pool, but if you are looking to dip a toe in, this is a great resource.

If you really want to stand out and give yourself a unique Instagram brand, consider establishing an identifiable persona or theme. Some basic examples might include a graphic design account that uses all cool colors (blues and greens) or a university account that only posts pictures of people at the school called “people of [insert university].” Another way to uniquely identify your account is through using a certain filter in every post.

Print

Build a content library and plan for future posts so your account will look alive and healthy. It’s critical to create and keep a library of ORIGINAL content that you can post. Originality will not only help build your brand, but it will also help your chances to appear on the suggested users list, or the wall of fame as I like to call it.

Another key to engaging content? Video. Instagram reports that video views have recently increased by 40%. We’ve also seen their parent company, Facebook, give preference to video content within their own algorithm, which could be taken as an indicator for the future of Instagram itself. The only thing – quality video content is a little more difficult to create and takes more time and better equipment. If you have the resources, definitely move forward with a video strategy.

Posting Consistency

Consistency is extremely important on Instagram.

A lot of people post every day or even multiple times a day and claim that it’s a great way to grow an account. With the recent changes, it’s also a great way to get lost in the algorithm. If your strategy is to post multiple times a day, often your content isn’t going to be of identical quality due to the constant pressure of maintaining consistency. Lower quality posts will then receive less engagement and tell the Instagram algorithm that your content isn’t popular and therefore not worth being featured on the newsfeed.

There really isn’t a cookie cutter standard for posting frequency, and it seems like everyone has historically had different experiences and suggestions. However, when starting a new account, I’ve always found it beneficial to post infrequently, especially when you’re just learning how to create good content. This doesn’t mean I post inconsistently, though. I’d recommend a structure of every 2-3 days for new accounts. If you’re just starting out with photography and editing, followers especially won’t be interested in an account that floods them with subpar content (no offense). All in all, initial infrequent posting is a great way to RETAIN followers when they only see your posts occasionally.

Print

Growing Your Fanbase

I need to start off explaining follower growth with a simple PSA: NEVER PAY FOR FOLLOWERS.

Purchasing followers doesn’t increase engagement and is an unrewarding way to “grow” your Instagram account. Paid followers are very easy to spot on the followers tab on your page, and it makes accounts look low quality. An account with a lot of followers and little engagement is quite suspicious in the eyes of prospective followers and (probably) Instagram.

How to Gain REAL Followers

Gaining fans (users who follow you that you don’t follow back) on Instagram really isn’t very difficult. It just takes a little time and dedication. To give you a picture of how much time, I probably spend around three hours each week on Instagram growth AND engagement, so it’s definitely not a full-time commitment. Incorporating these strategies into or on top of your existing day-to-day responsibilities is a breeze.

It’s important to note that you should not start growing your account until you’ve built it up into something you’re proud of so your followers will stick. Before you begin step 1, make sure you:

  • Choose a simple, yet relevant account handle
  • Create a unique name for your account.
  • Come up with a simple account bio
  • Include a relevant link to your site
  • Upload a high-quality profile photo
  • Establis a history of at least 9 posts so your account looks established above the mobile fold of your account page

Print

Step 1 – Following Other Accounts: Look to the Competition

After your account is somewhat built out, the first step is following other accounts, and, specifically, accounts that follow your competitors.

You’ll need to find 4-5 competitor Instagram accounts and rotate through them, eventually following thousands of their followers, tens of thousands of them even. When choosing these competitors, you can search for accounts that have similar keywords in their handles as yours or you can even browse Internet resources and receive insight into the top accounts in your industry.

After you’ve found relevant competitor’s accounts, just click on their followers tab and follow as many as you can. Instagram limits your followings to 200/hour so you’ll have to do this manually and in hourly incremented time segments. It takes about 3 minutes to follow 200 people once you become a pro at tapping “follow” instead of their profile link…

It is extremely important to know that when looking at an account’s followers section, the followers at the top of the list are the newest followers of the account. This means they have recently been online, and you know they are active users. Selecting a specific time of day to follow these people on competitor’s accounts means you can control when your followers are active and post content based around that timeframe. This is also a great way to use the newsfeed algorithm to your advantage.

Print

Don’t worry if the accounts seem irrelevant or if you feel like you’re following too many people. All of the followers of your competitors accounts have a reason they’re following them, and that reason could lead them to interest in your account. In this sense, instagram is a really great way to directly target your audience segments. You can also use third party apps to find these audiences, but I’ve found that the search feature in Instagram works just as great. Not to mention most of the aforementioned apps aren’t free…

The Instagram community is extremely supportive, and the follow-for-follow approach has really become some sort of unwritten code that most instagram users adhere to. You’ll get about 25% of those you followed following you back most of the time, which means at the beginning, you’ll be following more people than those that follow you. Don’t worry, that’s perfectly normal and expected. If you really want to grow an eventual following, you’ll need to spend a lot of time following accounts as well as unfollowing them. It becomes an intuitive process of follow, wait, rinse, and repeat.

Print

Step 2 – Unfollowing Accounts

After you’ve followed a large number of accounts, around 3,000-5,000, you’ll start accumulating an attractive following. The second step is unfollowing those that you have followed.

Your “following” number is a large indicator of organic viability. Unfollowing accounts is almost as, if not, more important than following accounts. This is because it’s time consuming and a necessary part of optimizing the illustrious Instagram “Ratio” (cue chorus of angels). This infamous ratio of “following” to “followers” is by far the most popular metric discussed in the Instagram community. A better ratio can be a large sign of respect and authority, which can lead to more organic followers, better odds against the algorithm and a higher chance to end up on the wall of fame (suggested accounts).

Print

There’s no way to unfollow accounts quickly in the Instagram app, unless you go one by one down your following list and unfollow them, which is possible but takes a LOT of time, and more importantly, it’s just really boring. My personal suggestion, and the biggest piece of advice I have would be to spend a little money, specifically a one-time fee of $2.99 (about the same price as a chalupa supreme). This enables full access to an app called “cleaner,” which allows you to unfollow up to 200 accounts/hour with the click of a button. It’s a complete lifesaver when it comes to cleaning up your account and well priced at that. Cleaner is free, but you can opt-in for the unlimited mass unfollowing option within the app.

Don’t be a Robot

After you’ve gained some followers, you need to let them know you’re a real person. As with every social media platform, engagement is the building block for impact and action.

Scroll through your follower feed and do the following:

  • Like their pictures
  • Comment on their posts
  • Respond to as many of their comments on your content as you can.

Sure, this takes some time, but people will really stick around as a follower if they get a positive experience from your account and feel like you are a human being.

Tap into Communities

Engage with accounts outside of your primary audience. Consider a topic lightly related to a recent post you published. Search a hashtag or location (maybe close to your business) and then navigate to recent posts. Again, we know the top people are active on their accounts and online right now. Their content also has little engagement on it, as it is very recent, and being one of the first to engage with a post can pull a lot of weight.

No, That Isn’t a Pound Sign

It’s a hashtag, and they are very important in Instagram. Hashtags will allow a lot of people to discover your content and your account. There are several tags that people use to find new accounts and draw engagement such as #follow4follow #Followback and #doubletap. Using these can potentially help gain followers and engagement, but they can also make you look desperate. I recommend targeting highly relatable keywords to your posts and using them as hashtags. You can also brand your own hashtags and include them in every one of your posts.

When starting out, use a minimum of 13 hashtags in every post and place them as a comment, rather than in the post copy. That way, when other comments come in on your post, your hashtags will be hidden in plain sight and posts will appear much cleaner. Instagram communities are very powerful; it’s important to take advantage of them, and the best way to do so is through hashtags. But you’ll need to get a little creative. For hashtag ideas, you can look for photos of similar content on instagram and grab hashtag ideas. However, I like to use a site called keyhole to find related hashtags under the “topics” section. Eventually dwindle this number down to around four or five. Too many hashtags can also make you look desperate for followers.

Share Where You Are

I’ve mentioned geotags a few times, so let’s talk about how to use them. Geotags work very similarly to hashtags. Sure, location sharing is a great way to stalk your ex, but more importantly, people tend to do a lot of research when visiting a new place, and Instagram has surpassed yelp in becoming the go-to resource for visual references, especially due to it’s user-centric focus. Because of this, it’s pretty important for your content to be in the location stream. Especially when posts with location tags drive 79% higher engagement rates.

Adding a geotag is fairly easy. Simply tap the “add location” option when posting your content and select the relevant location you want the post associated with. You can also create a new Instagram location via Facebook by following steps here.

Add Captions to Your Media

You should be including written copy on every post you publish on Instagram. Visual media will obviously be the first thing followers see in your post, but (hopefully) if it’s something they really like, they’ll take the time to read the caption. Now unless you are an Instagram thought leader or celebrity, few people are going to stick around to read a 300 word caption, so generally keep it short and sweet. The max character count is 1,200 characters, but captions cut off in users’ feeds after just 3 lines of text, which usually comes out to just under 120 characters. I’d recommend aiming your character count to somewhere around 100.

Notify Your Followers

One recent feature that Instagram rolled out was the “turn on post notifications” option. This is a great feature that was designed to send push notifications to your phone from your favorite Instagram accounts so you can be up to date on their content stream.

Encouraging your followers to turn on post notifications can be a great way to establish a network of dedicated followers to increase engagement, just be careful not to look desperate. Mention it every once in a while but too much and you could start annoying them. The image below will show you how to turn on notifications.

post notifications image

To Infinity and Beyond

A few years ago, Facebook bought out Instagram for $1 billion. Since then, Zuckerberg’s monster has made some drastic changes to their own algorithm including capitalizing on a strict pay-to-play approach, which has really sent the organic feed up the creek without a paddle, making a lot of people unhappy in the process. Facebook seems to be taking baby steps toward a similar approach with their Instagram strategy as well, and again, it’s not looking too good for the future of organic content. However, we’re at a breaking point right now where the recent algorithmic changes in Instagram present an opportunity of sorts that is ready to be taken advantage of. The important part is just knowing how to take advantage of it.

Some people are suggesting that Facebook’s organic preference toward video content may rollover into the new instagram changes and that videos may become more important in the coming years. Some people are also claiming that ‘sharing’ content will soon become a feature within Instagram, which would add a whole new medium for KPI’s.

At the end of the day, just ask yourself, are people going to like this image or video? The two pillars of Instagram growth are quality and simplicity. Don’t overthink it.

Happy Instagramming! If you have any questions, tips and tricks, or your own or success stories, feel free to share them below.

Jordan OpelJordan Opel is an accomplished, creative professional. He is responsible for managing and enhancing organic social media activities for our various clients. Additionally, as the leading graphic designer, he contributes to a significant portion of Circa Interactive’s creative endeavors through motion-media design, illustration, and content-creation experience.

5 Tips for Reaching Prospective Students On Twitter

With over 350,000 tweets sent per minute and 500 million tweets sent per day, Twitter is considered by many to be one of the best social networking platforms for delivering quick, instant content. Yet due to the increasing levels of content creation, many higher education marketers have found it difficult to navigate through the “clutter” of tweets in order to find who or what they are searching for. Below, we will look at five different methods that higher education marketers can use for finding and reaching prospective students on Twitter.

Using Search Queries

Although there are a variety of advanced methods for finding prospective students on Twitter, higher education marketers should always start simple before branching out. Twitter offers a solid built-in search platform that works great, yet most people don’t take the time to figure out how to properly use it.

For example, most twitter users have probably seen the search panel at the top of every twitter feed and know that this is a great search option when looking for popular hashtags, keywords or users. But did you know that you can narrow your search even further in order to find people that are talking about your program, school, or even one of your competitors? To do so, you will want to master these search query shortcuts:

  • Username queries – to: and from:
    • To:@circaedu “higher education”
    • From:@circaedu “higher education marketing journal”
  • Geolocation – searching with the parameters near: & within:
    • “digital marketing” near:San Diego within:5 miles
  • Exclusion Filter – place the minus symbol (-) before the keyword/user you want to excuse
    • “digital marketing” @circaedu

Also, if you are interested in automation, I recommend checking out automated Twitter listening services like Twilert, which you can program to send alerts anytime that specific keywords are mentioned.

Make Sure You Actively Use Your Account

As more millennials continue to shun traditional media formats and turn to social media for news and information, colleges and universities are finding it essential that they regularly check their Twitter accounts to answer questions or respond to comments or feedback. The importance of monitoring your Twitter account may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to check their Twitter account on a consistent basis, especially if they have an automated or pre-set tweeting schedule in place.

As a general rule of thumb, you will want to check your account a few times per day. Although there are many studies that highlight when Twitter is most active, I wouldn’t get too caught up on always checking your news feed at the same times each day. That said, some people enjoy making a routine out of checking Twitter – ex. Right before leaving for lunch – so feel free to do what works best for you.

Have a Call to Action (CTA) In Your Bio

Placing a call to action in your bio is an easy (and free) way to attract prospective students on Twitter. But in order to do so, you will want to make sure that you follow this guideline of do’s and don’ts so that your CTA is simple and effective.

  • Do make your CTA a clickable link
  • Don’t put the link in the section for your website URL (put it right in your bio)
  • Do make sure that your CTA is easy to understand
  • Don’t forget to be interesting and engaging
    • Make viewers eager to learn more

By implementing these simple adjustments, you can be sure to increase the efficiency of your CTA and Twitter profile. Also, keep in mind that you can use your Twitter account to log in to other social sites, so with a CTA in your bio, you’ll have the added bonus of attracting prospective students as you navigate other sites as well.

Post Engaging, Sharable Content

Nothing attracts attention more than great content. So to really catch the eye of potential students, make sure the content that you’re posting is something that they – your target audience – would find value in. Also, make sure to continuously test a variety of mediums and adjust to what is working and what isn’t. For example, a recent study by Buffer found that tweets that contained images received approximately 150% more retweets than those that had only text.

Another fairly new medium to try is Twitter Polls, which provide Twitter users the opportunity to garner public opinion on whatever they’d like. So whether looking for quick feedback on a new logo or potential program courses, Twitter Polls provide higher education marketing teams with unique opportunities to generate buzz while getting quality feedback as well.

  • Example:
    • Which course would you rather take: “An Introduction to Augmented Reality” or “The Science Behind Virtual Reality”?

Twitter Advertising  

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 4

A recent Hootsuite study found that advertising on Twitter resulted in leads at one-third the price of other paid channels. Mix that stat with the fact that the social platform has over 320 million monthly active users and it becomes clear to see that Twitter provides higher education marketers with an invaluable opportunity to advertise to prospective students at a relatively cheap price. With Twitter Ads, marketers can boost tweets, promote accounts and even create Twitter Cards that drive traffic directly to your site or landing page.  With a click through rate 8-24 times higher than Facebook ads, advertising on Twitter is something that every higher education marketing expert should take seriously.

As you might have noticed, these tips are not very difficult, but they can produce consistent results. So if you take the time to implement these best-practices and combine your Twitter efforts with tricks for other social media platforms – like Instagram and Facebook – you can be sure to see an increase in your social media presence and performance.

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

5 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.