As the 2013 academic year winds to a close, college students have packed up their belongings, or at least the ones they need to make it through the winter, and are nestled cozily on the couch in the home where they grew up. During their winter break, they will reunite with old friends, enjoy delicious meals with their families, reminisce about the past, and then pack up and return back to their classwork and college friends in January.
If you are responsible for admissions, retention or marketing at an institution of higher education, you shouldn’t be looking at this as a few weeks to take a breather. If you want to keep up your enrollment and retention numbers, it is important to keep in touch with your students. Utilize these content marketing tips to maintain contact with your university’s students and generate excitement about the coming semester.
Send out a weekly update email. The first one could be as simple as congratulating students on their recent, successful completion of another semester. Let them know that they are one semester closer to walking across that stage during commencement and making loved ones proud. Follow up by informing them about events that are scheduled for the upcoming semester.
Keeping in touch with your students can really help with retention rates. A lot can happen over the winter break. Homesickness, for example, can sink in. If this happens, students might start researching the possibility of transferring to a school closer to home, so they can eat home-cooked meals and hang out with their high school buddies that stayed in the area. To help avoid this, supply them with updates about campus happenings that will have them marking off the days on their (digital) calendar until they return to school.
Remind them about why they love your campus so much. Encourage them to follow you on your social media channels with links below your email signature. Try a few new tricks as well. Create Pinterest Place Boards and insert a link to them in the emails that you send out. Place Boards can be a highly effective marketing tool for universities.
Pinterest Place Boards
Place Boards, a relatively new addition to the Pinterest Platform, are boards that compile pins that are related to a specific city, university, or other location. The pins show up with images and descriptions on the left hand side. Each pin has a number along with it that corresponds to the same number on a map (with cool fonts) that shows where each of the pins are located.
Pick out all the hottest spots on campus and create a Place Board that houses pins about students’ favorite hangouts. Accompany those pins with crisp, clear images and descriptions that keep those spots fresh in their minds. When students see something that piques their interest, they can click on the number and link to FourSquare where they are reminded of how many of their college buddies have checked in at that location.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. So use tools like Place Boards to keep students’ fondest college memories fresh in their hearts and minds. But don’t stop there. When they do return, they will expect you to have something for them that will live up to the hype. Try capitalizing on the popularity of mobile devices.
Take a walk across any college campus and you will notice the majority of students have learned to navigate their way across campus without ever having to glance up from their phones. Students without smartphones are the exception these days. For example, statistics from Indiana State University showed that 85% of the school’s students own smartphones. With statistics like that in mind, consider creating a gaming app to add an extra level of interactivity to the college experience.
Gamify Your Campus
Help students explore your campus and discover places that they never knew existed. Think strategically about what experience you want your students to have. What would make them want to stay the course and stick around for all four years? Word-of-mouth can be an amazing marketing tool, so create an experience that your students will never forget and they will do your recruiting for you.
An interactive gaming app can be a great way to get students involved. Games designed to perform like scavenger hunts can be customized to direct students to various locations on campus. Those locations can be strategically selected based on the objectives of the game.
If you want to increase sales at the bookstore, set up one task that requests that students locate and take a photo of a certain sweatshirt or other item in the store. Give them clues to help them find it and then require them to upload the photo to the app to earn points. Or if you want to get students involved in campus events, maybe you could have one task set up that requires attendance at a campus sporting event. To earn the points for this task, they would have to enter the name of a specific person that works at the stadium during the games to prove they were in attendance. Get creative and come up with a game based on the objectives and goals that you want to achieve as a university.
Have you gamified your campus? What other techniques are you using to keep in touch with students during winter break? We’d love to hear about any creative ideas you have.
Anthony Gaenzle – Director of Marketing