Webinar Wrapup: Engaging Prospective Students on the Web
Today's college search looks very different from what a prospective student's parents might remember, and possibly even from what it was when an older sibling went through the same process not so long ago. The increased availability and adoption of social media, online resources, and mobile web use have set expectations among the college-aged set, and universities have to meet those expectations in order to remain relevant.
Yesterday's webinar with Boston Interactive and Campus Bird covered the best ways to engage a generation steeped in technology and constant access, and how they should fit into a college's marketing strategy.
Boston Interactive's Rebecca Marani defined marketing strategy as a result of understanding your objectives and audience well enough to give them what they want in a way that leads them to take action. She underscored that a strong technology platform is critical to executing an online-focused strategy. With so many tools and channels available to both marketers and prospects, making them work in concert is a must.
Her top tips for engaging students:
- Don't just create content. Create value. Your prospects aren't just accustomed to the novelty of easy access and plentiful content anywhere on the internet. They're used to interactivity, dynamic content that encourages sharing and dialogue, and actually being able to accomplish things online. Create a content ecosystem that helps them accomplish what they need to do on your site.
- Use clear calls to action and lead your prospects to them. Prospective students visit your website to do something, be it research scholarships or learn about campus clubs. Make sure that you include calls to action for the key tasks you want them to accomplish: apply, sign up for a visit, or request more information, and use your content and visual cues to drive towards those actions.
- Integrate social media into your website. The 18-24 demographic is incredibly active online as creators and consumers of content, with only 3% not participating in regular online activities. Meet them on their social turf, but know how to lead them back to your website and showcase your own social activity.
- Optimize for mobile. Stonehill College's website (pictured above) is an excellent example of how to beautifully adapt the visual and content experience of a desktop site to a mobile device. Mobile web use is growing more rapidly year over year, and for many is their primary way of getting online. It's a segment of visitors that can no longer be ignored because it will soon be the majority.
Campus Bird's Brett Truka offered a more detailed perspective on delivering value to prospective students through campus maps. As we noted in a recent blog post, geo-specific education searches are on the rise, likely due to the increased expense of attending school far from home. Traveling to a college campus can also be prohibitively expensive for a prospective student. Maps have to deliver the kind of information and value that traditionally came from a campus visit.
Mapping services and applications such as Google Maps, Foursquare, and Waze have changed the way map users interact with a landscape through the features and enhancements they offer.
Brett's thoughts on how maps can fit into your digital marketing strategy include the following:
- Treat the map not as a route planner, but a window into the campus experience. Map experiences have evolved, and so have the expectations of prospective students. Plan for making the map as rich with information and content as possible.
- Extensibility and mobile optimization is essential. If a student has to wait until a desktop computer is near to interact with your map, that interaction might never happen. Even worse, if someone is already walking across your campus and in need of information, what good is an online map that won't work on mobile?
- Intuitive user interface is a must. Prospective students might be tech savvy, but parents, alumni, staff, and faculty will also be likely users of an interactive map. Make sure that it's as easy to use as possible.
- Make the map part of sharing and building your brand. Making map content shareable will help you build more traffic to your website, and making it great and truly useful will help send a positive message about your brand and offer insight into what it's like to be on your campus.
Our takeaways: expectations have changed, and your choice is to either meet them or to lose prospects. Ask for what you want them to do, and guide them towards taking that action. See the slides from the webinar below.
B2B marketing professional, Alexis Karlin, brings high quality experience to the table at Percussion Software as the Digital Marketing and Operations Manager. Her creative marketing skills help drive high quality leads to the sales team. She imparts her passion for social media to other team members, to help promote brand awareness for the organization. Through organization and enthusiasm she is able to show marketing isn’t just about process and technology, it is about the passion behind the brand.