6 Tips to Start and Master Your College’s Blog in 2018

At Circa Interactive we’re fortunate to work with a few outstanding partners. Below, our friends over at Finalsite put together six useful tips for your college’s blog to become successful. Enjoy!

While you already know that your school needs a blog, the usual roadblocks–time and staffing–are probably standing in your way. Whatever you do, don’t allow these to become constraints. Blogging has the potential to grow your school’s brand, engage your community, and recruit right-fit students to your schools, so it’s definitely worth the effort. If you’re ready to dive in to starting your college’s blog in the new year, here are a few steps to guide your success.

1. Determine a Focus for Your College’s Blog

Many colleges and universities don’t blog at all, and those that do often limit themselves to ones written by the college president, department heads and admissions directors–a pretty narrow focus.  Since your blog will be a traffic-driver and will help to fill your recruitment funnel among other things, put the focus on where you shine: your culture. Showcasing what makes you unique, like the programs you specialize in, your awesome students, and incredible careers of graduates allows you to broaden your focus and bring in students, faculty, coaches, current parents, alumni and others to contribute content.

2. Gather a Group of Dedicated Writers

In order to make an impact with your blog, you need to be consistent about posting. And while it seems simple to assign the task to one person to keep the blog’s tone and voice the same, gathering more content contributors makes it easier to produce content on a consistent basis.

To choose this group, start by polling your community. Ask faculty, students, staff, alumni and parents to share their ideas on posts they’d like to write, or topics they think would be beneficial to prospective and current students and their families, or alumni. Current student bloggers are a great source of content (especially English majors!) as it’s a great resume booster for them to see their work published online, so they’ll love to blog frequently. And, prospective students love to hear firsthand from current students.

Vanguard University does a great job of sharing content from students in a variety of stages and programs to give real-life insight into the student experience (and it looks pretty cool, too!).

An example of how to use student contributors for your college's blog.

A Student’s Guest Post on Vanguard University’s Blog

And while you may want to have different blogs for special programs, like study abroad or athletics, these should be maintained in addition to your college’s main blog. Use a tool that lets you categorize your posts so that they can be dynamically published to all related categories, letting you maximize the impact of your content with less effort.

Remember-it only takes two blog posts per week to improve your website traffic!

3. Create a Content Calendar

Once your group of writers is formed, work with them to create a content calendar that works.

Determine which days you want blog posts to be published, which topics are timely, and which topics are evergreen (can be posted any time.) If you’re only going to blog twice a week, take into consideration that Monday mornings rank highest for visits and Thursdays rank highest for social shares, so focus on those days to get the most traction.

4. Determine an Editing Process

At Finalsite, we use the “press call” concept. Each day at the same time, the marketing team receives an email with all the content that’s scheduled for the next day, including blog posts, and shares their edits with our content marketing manager, who inputs them, and prepares content for publishing.  This system works for us, and now our team expects and prepares for press call each day. Your editing team might be made up of content contributors, marketing or admissions staffers, or others with a critical eye.  

5. Write Simply and with Intent

If your intent is to inform, blogs are meant to be easy-to-read, conversational pieces, but your content contributors might be self-conscious about writing. If your blog is simple and written with intent, it will always be well-received.

Here are few tips for making this happen:

  • Write in lists. It makes content easy to digest and gives readers key takeaways.
  • Write your blog post title first (you can always go back and fine-tune it later!) A title gives your post focus.
  • Write in chunks or sections. Blogs shouldn’t be written like an essay, but should be segmented by different thoughts or ideas.
  • Use a textual hierarchy to break up your post and make it easy to read.
  • Numbered posts are really effective: “The Top Five Reasons to Major in Business,” “Three Reasons Greek Life isn’t What Think it is?”
  • Always incorporate photos in your posts. We recommend one image near the top, and several images throughout the post.
  • End all blogs with a call-to-action.
  • Encourage content contributors to be themselves and use an authentic voice.

6. Share Your Post via Social Media and Subscriptions

“Is anyone out there?” It’s a common fear that you and your content contributors could spend hours on posts that no one sees. But when you follow a few simple steps, your blogs will be seen, appreciated, and shared.

First: Create a way for readers to subscribe to your posts via email. This way, they’ll get the blog posts delivered right to their inbox.

Second: Each time you post a blog on your website, share it on your social feeds. This is a pivotal piece for your inbound marketing strategy! You can also share older blog posts that are still relevant on social media, too! Be sure to always include a photo in your tweets and Facebook posts, as posts with images are more likely to get clicked.

Third: Add links to your blog in the online newsletters that you’re already sending. If you have a monthly newsletter that goes out, include this month’s best posts as a way to drive readership and subscriptions.

Fourth: Use blog posts as inbound marketing content. When sending communications to students in the admission funnel, consider which blog posts you have, and use them as your inbound content. For example, if a student wrote a post on their experience as a student athlete, it would be great to share that with all applicants interested in your athletic programs.

 

Pulling it All Together

Your blog won’t appear overnight, and neither will differences in website traffic — so don’t get discouraged. A blog takes weeks to really get up and running and months to really make a difference. However, with the right people and plans in place, it will quickly become a central piece of your inbound strategy and school culture.

For more tips and strategies for a high-converting website, download Finalsite’s eBook “The Ultimate Website Guide for Colleges and Universities.”

 Hadley RosenAfter more than a decade working in schools in roles in the classroom, communications and advancement, Hadley joined Finalsite in 2013 as Marketing and Communications Manager. She loves meeting Finalsite’s amazing family members around the world and learning about trends impacting schools. She’s a big fan of travel to places near and far with her growing family, cooking cuisines of all kinds, and working on her French fluency.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Student Blogging

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

The Do’s

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

The Don’ts

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

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

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

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