“Where’s all this content going to come from?” It’s the most common concern I hear as I speak with admissions and enrollment marketing folks around the country. The answer might surprise you. Often, the most important content is right in your backyard. It comes from your students and alums, and it’s called user-generated content (UGC, for short).
comScore, one of the leading audience tracking platforms, sums up the power of UGC by noting that brand engagement rises by 28% when consumers are exposed to both professional and user content. Review platform, Bazaarvoice, looks at it another way. Their research shows that 86% of millennials say that user-generated content is a good indication of the quality of a business or service.
UGC for higher ed marketing
For colleges and universities, UGC is particularly appropriate for mid- to late-funnel nurturing communications, helping prospects envision themselves on your campus, building camaraderie among accepted students (to improve yield), and showing real-life outcomes. But it goes beyond that. When you identify these sources of content, you also uncover potential fodder for profiles, vignettes, and narratives for enrollment publications, web and microsites, and alumni communications. Stacy Goodman writes in the NewsCred blog, “…it’s about the ability to capture an unscripted moment. It’s about creativity, authenticity and perspective. It’s about relaying a deeply personal experience that simply can’t be objectively recreated by a brand.”
7 tips to uncover great UGC on your campus
- Use the power of the hashtag. A search for #adelphiuniversity on Instagram reveals over 7,000 photos, including shots of acceptance letters, campus beauty, student life, diversity, and other topics that might sound and look “forced” or inauthentic if they were produced by the brand itself. Be sure to search for all the common variations, abbreviations, and nicknames for your institution.
- Think about an inclusive hashtag. Like any content marketing, UGC should be about “them,” not about you. Consider actionable hashtags such as #CU4me or #UTforU.
- Ask for it. How about displaying hashtag signs asking for participation in dorms, dining halls, the campus store, and elsewhere on campus, encouraging students to share their experiences?
- Create a contest. Think about the kinds of content students are already posting about your institution, then create a contest that aligns with images like those. SUNY Plattsburgh did a digital scavenger hunt, asking students to capture images of themselves at all of the iconic locations on and around campus.
- Incentivize participation. All students love swag. Consider using college-branded promotional items to encourage participation, at least until your campaign gains organic momentum.
- Host a community blog. The search gurus at MOZ built YOUMOZ, a communal posting space. Members vote with a thumbs up or thumbs down, and the winning posts are advanced to the main blog space.
- Mine review sites. Customer reviews bask in the glow of credibility. Put good ones to work for you!
As marketers, it’s our job to create dialogues. What better way for us to do this than to find new opportunities for content creation?
To share ideas on how you’re using UGC on your campus, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your message may become the fodder of a follow-up blog post!
Subscribe to ContentEDU
Content marketing is changing higher education. Subscribe to ContentEDU, a quarterly newsletter featuring articles like this, designed to help guide you through the maze of marketing channels, solutions, and technologies so that you can put marketing innovation to work for your college or university.Subscribe