How to Improve the Enrollment Experience

I’ve done quite a bit of thinking about the enrollment experience. When schools hire us to help with their admissions cycles we get the opportunity to analyze the entire online and offline process. From conversations with clients, we’ve developed a filter through which we can study how we communicate with prospective students.

Integrating the Enrollment Experience

A complete enrollment experience must include the coordination of multiple organizations in your school. Additionally, by always keeping the student experience at the center of the enrollment process, faculty, staff, IT and current students can work to fulfill the three main points of the Enrollment Experience Pyramid.

 

Enrollment Pyramid: Ease, Empathy and Engagement. Students, I.T., Staff and Faculty Center around Students

Ease: Communication with students should be easy to consume, understand and share.  Whether through email, direct mail or social media institutional messaging should reduce friction in the enrollment cycle.

Engagement: Through calls to action or developing online communities interaction with students is crucial to your enrollment activities. Without an engagement component any campaign falls flat.

Empathy:  This is a measure of how well you understand your students’ needs. This goes both ways. Students should know how your institution will help them grow as people.

Incorporating Social Media With Your Campus Tour

In our last post, we talked about utilizing QR codes to create a self-guided campus tour. Not ready to make that leap into the QR realm? Here is a stopgap measure that might be a less expensive and more immediate way to turn any visitor carrying a smartphone into his/her own tour guide!

Many social media outlets now incorporate geo-tagging into their applications. Don’t let the term sound fancier than it is. Geo-tagging is the ability to use a smartphone’s GPS feature to help attach the user’s location to a post on a social networking site such as Facebook or Twitter.

This is a perfect new tool for your enrollment marketing toolbox.  There is one popular geo-tagging app that is encouraging businesses to utilize it for the purpose of promoting their locations or products: Foursquare. This is the app we will focus on for the purpose of creating a social media-driven campus tour.

The Set-up:

  1. Log onto Foursquare and claim your campus. Chances are there are multiple entries out there already. The one you claim will be the one you can edit and access analytics about.
  2. Take it beyond macro. Claim every building on campus. This may not be ideal for a vertical urban campus, but should be relatively easy for any campus with multiple buildings spread slightly apart.
  3. Create content for each location you’ve claimed. This is not your college website. Foursquare is a social media and geo-tag driven game. Remember to keep the content light. You can add links to drive students to your own website to add depth.
  4. Encourage your tour guides to use it immediately. Your tour guides or ambassadors are current students with credibility in the eyes of prospects. Encourage them to check-in often and to post honest, yet positive thoughts on their experiences in each building.
  5. Assign someone to monitor the comments on the locations. Foursquare can be a conversation generator. You want to know what’s being said about the different locations. This can be done by an Admission Counselor, a student intern, a tour guide, etc.

The Advantages:

  1. It’s free. At the moment, Foursquare is not charging businesses for the ability to claim their venue, edit the content there or access web analytics.
  2. It’s easy. Almost anyone can get the ball rolling, you don’t necessarily need someone from IT. As a matter of fact, this might be a great project for your new hires or your new tour guides. Have them do some research on each building and then put together your brief copy for each venue. They will get more familiar with campus as they put together their first big project for you!
  3. It’s fun. Foursquare is a game. Users are encouraged to check-in often, comment, etc.
  4. It’s social. Foursquare ties into social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. By checking in on your campus, not only are your visitors learning more about you, they are telling all of their friends about it simultaneously! This takes word-of-mouth to a whole new level.

Engaging someone in conversation doesn’t mean walking up to them and shaking their hand anymore. Conversations occur when you are not even there. If you are not ready to engage visitors to your campus at any moment, you risk losing potential students.

Mark Twain once said, “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.” Self-guided tours of your campus powered by either QR technology, Foursquare or both can help ensure that you never miss the opportunity to engage a campus visitor again.

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How to Integrate Social Media into Direct Marketing Search Campaigns

I often find that clients must explain the importance of social media to their internal partners. In particular, they must show why they need resources for monitoring and maintaining conversations. Based off my interactions with several clients, I developed what I call The Rule of Nine.

This is a grid that shows social media interaction, measures online and offline conversations, and builds a feedback loop into the search process.

Rule on Nine

Ultimately your goal is to demonstrate whether or not increased communication with students will improve the likelihood of them attending your institution.  Developing a feedback loop creates valuable numbers you can use to improve the overall enrollment experience students have at each phase of the cycle.

Columns

Imagine a tic-tac-toe board, a 3 x 3 square. Each vertical column represents a phase of the enrollment process.

The first column represents awareness. This is either the time before a student knows you, or the student knows something about you but is unsure about everything you have to offer.

The second column represents inquiry through application phases. This includes every step from the moment a student recognizes what you have to offer and makes some inquiry until submitting an application package.

The third column represents acceptance through the first day of class. This is the highly important yield phase.

Rows

The first horizontal row represents traditional channels. This is what we are used to with e-mail, direct mail, advertising and online media buys. It also includes outbound and inbound phone conversations.

The second row represents social channels. At the awareness phase these outreach projects work with online influencers to become a part of the lateral communication that occurs between students and other influencers.

The third row represents monitoring and metrics that occur while we engage in traditional and social campaigns. This includes mentions, engagement between advisers and students, and among students themselves as they enter the yield phase and move into their first day of class.

Goals

Each column is associated with some goal. In the first phase the goal is to increase awareness and share-of-voice in the marketplace. We can also monitor sentiment.

As we move into the inquiry through application phase you want to see the number and quality of conversations students are have with counselors and advisers. Obviously the goal is to increase and improve the quality of communication at this phase.

During the final phase of the process you want to measure conversations that students are having with each other. It’s pretty well known that intrusion by faculty staff or some authority figure tends to disrupt the natural flow of communication students have at this phase. Our goal is not to interfere, but measure the number and quality of conversations in order to predict an increase in number of students that make it to the first dayof class.

By drawing this grid out to potential skeptics you can explain the importance of social media and how it interacts with traditional search processes. I look forward to hearing about your successes.

Talmadge Boyd