When people are excited about your institution, they want to talk about it. This is great marketing for your university, as the majority of students rely on recommendations from friends over any other form of advertising, according to Enrollment Management Report. Additionally, prospective students identify word-of-mouth (WOM) as a key influencer when choosing a college.
What is Viral or WOM Marketing?
Unlike traditional advertising, WOM is driven by consumers who feel invested in a product, service, or brand. The personal nature of WOM enhances its impact, as individuals give their seal of approval when they promote products to friends, according to Entrepreneur magazine. Consumers create the most buzz for brands that exceed their expectations, demonstrating the need for universities to foster an optimal experience throughout the student journey. When they do, satisfied students could recommend their school to friends and family, which is less costly than advertising—and far more valuable.
And, because of social media, consumers do not merely speak WOM endorsements; they tweet them, share them, and turn them into memes. When organizations sow the seeds for engagement through shareable content or one-of-a-kind products, they can convert consumers into advocates eager to recount their experience on social media, according to HubSpot Inc. If an endorsement resonates with followers, they may share it with their connections, and what began as a single post can start a trend that generates sales and greater brand awareness. These multiplying endorsements can spread like a virus; hence, the term viral marketing.
To encourage students, faculty, and administrators to share positive words about your university, consider adopting these strategies:
Leverage Your Available Stakeholders.
To boost word-of-mouth marketing at your school, understand who your stakeholders are, where they may be talking, and who’s listening to them. For example, university presidents can advocate for their institution by writing a blog that shares their passion for empowering student success. Alternatively, consider asking a business owner who employs an alumnus to write a guest blog that includes a photo of the student on the job.
Give People a Reason to Talk.
If students receive excellent service, they will talk about it. It’s important to express to faculty and staff members that the experience students have when they speak with employees is a critical part of your college’s brand.
Utilize Social Media.
The majority of your institution’s students are on some social media platform. Spread the word about your school by asking people to share, comment, and like your institution’s social media posts and content, as well as leave a positive rating. And don’t forget to respond and interact! If someone writes a positive comment or review on social media, share it everywhere.
Launch a Referral Campaign.
A campaign could be as simple as giving a T-shirt to every prospective student who visits your institution. Even if they don’t enroll, the recipients will promote your school every time they wear the shirt.
Inspire User-Generated Content.
Universities can enhance their organic marketing efforts by tapping into the power of user-generated content (UGC). Created by consumers instead of organizations, UGC allows people to share their passion for a brand using their own words, images, and videos. According to Ad Week, brands can spur UGC by inviting followers to create content on social media, which can lead to more likes and greater brand exposure. For instance, a university could ask students to share pictures of themselves joining their first class of a semester with a school-specific hashtag to boost social engagement. This creates a human connection that brings a level of authenticity to the brand.
Enrollment Management Report shares additional tactics in “Focus on the 5 Ts for Effective Word‐of‐Mouth Marketing.” Read the full article to delve into ways to integrate WOM tactics into your marketing strategy.
For more higher education marketing tips and strategies, visit our Resources page.
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