April 13, 2020

What to Do When On-Campus Visits Aren’t An Option

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered nearly every way your school is engaging with prospective students right now. Widespread campus closures and staffing shortages show no signs of ending. But you still have prospects to engage and push along the path toward enrollment. Here are three ways to keep those prospects engaged during an unpredictable time when on-campus recruiting activities aren’t possible.

Go virtual, with everything

We’ve talked before about using virtual tours to help push accepted students to attend, helping maintain yield goals. Virtual tours have become even more important with campus closures and searches for them have skyrocketed over the past month. 

Google trends chart showing last 90 days of the search virtual tour
Google Trends chart showing last 90 days of the search “virtual tour

An in-person tour is typically a major step for prospects in deciding a school. So make sure to offer an array of virtual tour options that come as close as possible to replicating in-person visits. Use 360-degree video to show off dorm rooms and create photo slideshows highlighting all the main on-campus areas (inside and out). You can even use sports or events highlights to showcase what life on campus is like during the year. 

But don’t stop the virtual experience at just online campus tours. This is a chance to engage potential students in a number of ways and show off several elements of your school. Host virtual student meetings or certain classes. Let prospects “attend” via video chat, giving them a chance to experience college life the same way they might if they audited a class or spent a day on the campus. Some schools with sports history have even brought virtual ideas into sports, hosting live chats while streaming classic old games. This may seem silly when discussing enrollment-generation strategies. But in this time of anxiety and uncertainty, it can serve to create a feeling of normalcy. These online experiences can let your prospective students still take part in major milestones they would get in an on-campus setting while providing a sense of calm and stability to the enrollment process. 

Host informational webinars

This time is especially difficult for prospective students. They are trying to gather all the information they can, often for multiple schools at once. At the same time, they have no certainty when in-person classes may start again. They don’t know whether their program of choice can be done online. And they may be confused what to do with regards to things like SAT/ACT testing.

Hosting live online information sessions is a great way to address all of these pain points, without having to build out pages of content on your website. The problem with overly-informative webpages is that it can lead to information overload or a poor researching experience. But a live webinar can make prospects feel like they actually have an advisor, putting a face to the answers. This instills trust and confidence in your school as a place dedicated to helping, which can make all the difference when it comes time for a prospect to enroll.

There are countless ways to host these info sessions online. You can use a service like Zoom or WebEx to set up online webinars or even do off-the-cuff Q&A sessions on something like Facebook Live. Use social media, email blasts to past inquiries, and even digital ads targeting prospective students to build awareness about the event and guarantee a strong audience. And if you aren’t able to provide some of this information in a live group-chat setting, chatbots on your website are a great option. These automated conversation tools can help answer pressing questions that your prospects might have, often solving pain points and resulting in better conversions on your site.

Expand your social media presence

Social media should always be a major part of your student acquisition strategy. But in unpredictable times like this coronavirus pandemic, social media platforms can be the first solution people turn to in order to find answers or find comfort. 

Start by ensuring all necessary updates or key pieces of information are communicated across your social media accounts. If there is a major deadline change (like the start of the next semester), consider making it a pinned post on Facebook (or the similar Pinned Tweet on Twitter). That way every visitor to your social media page can see the most updated information immediately.

Beyond sharing critical information, this is a time to get creative with how you socially engage with your followers. Social media can provide answers, entertainment, and a glimpse of what life at your school is like. Invite alumni to do social media takeovers talking about their time on campus. If your school has a Reddit account, consider doing an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA).  That format will let you answer pressing questions from anyone – including potential students. None of these efforts require marketing spend and can be planned and manned remotely by one person or a team. So feel free to scale your marketing efforts to whatever best fits your school’s current situation.

Looking for more ways to stay engaged when you can’t be on campus? Talk with our marketing experts today.

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