Five Ways Universities Master Instagram

Five Ways Universities Master Instagram

Social media

For college students, August is a time to pack up, head back to leafy campuses, and settle in for a new semester of fun and adventure. For colleges themselves, school is always in session, especially on social media, where institutes of higher learning share student life through visual storytelling. One of the hottest platforms for universities to express their culture is Instagram, which has grown to 700 million monthly users partly for speaking the visual language of the digital generation. Earlier this year, we provided some tips for how colleges should capitalize on Instagram. Now let’s look at some best practices. Here are a few examples of how colleges master Instagram:

Expressing a Culture

Sometimes colleges can seem like faceless institutions especially for high school students and their families thumbing through piles of literature as they consider their options. Instagram helps universities make their personalities shine. Many colleges do an outstanding job relying on photos and video to give you a taste of student life, events, and their campuses. Penn State is a great example. The university wisely makes liberal use of its photogenic Nittany Lion mascot to commemorate playful events such as #WorldChocolateDay:

Special events such as the #HappyValleyJam concert receive their share of visual love:

Penn State also tells the stories of its students whether during the school year or their summer travels:

And Penn State simply makes its campus a desirable, activity-filled place to be – who wouldn’t enjoy #SandcastleDay on campus?:

For Penn State, Instagram is a treasure trove of images that invite students to learn more about its culture.

Doing Good

Colleges give back to their communities all the time. By sharing their stories on Instagram, they encourage you to do the same. For instance, the University of Illinois has used Instagram to help the University’s Illini 4000 non-profit organization raise money for cancer research by biking coast to coast:

Over a period of 76 days and 4,370 miles, the university chronicled the progress of the Illini 4000 as they bicycled from New York to San Francisco. The university also cross-promoted the Illini 4000’s Instagram account to drive traffic for donors who wished to give as well as follow their journey:

As of August, the Illini 4000 had raised more than $100,000. Well done!

Uplifting People

Colleges love to celebrate their students on Instagram, as well they should. You don’t have to look very hard to find excellent Instagram accounts featuring happy students learning, traveling, working out, hanging out, and generally enjoying life — University of Nebraska, we’re looking at you!

Harvard University demonstrates a best practice by highlighting the accomplishments of its students. For example, the following image gives a shout-out to Jonny Kim, an emergency medicine resident who has been named to NASA’s 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class.

Note that Harvard discusses Jonny’s background and accomplishments with a well written description accompanying the image, and Harvard cross-links to relevant Instagram accounts that are part of his story. This example is but one of many ways Harvard celebrates the accomplishments of current and past students. Harvard is certainly not the only university to do so, but it sets a high bar for many others to emulate.

Sharing the Curriculum

How do you visualize your curriculum? Doing so is easy on Instagram! Many colleges give you a taste of their classes by zeroing in on field research and lab work. The University of Rochester is a case in point. The university prides itself in its research program, and its Instagram account reflects that pride. In the following example, the university describes how student Meghan Patrick is working as a summer intern in the mechanical engineering lab of Douglas Kelley as part of her research into developing sustainable energy:

Meanwhile, student Madison Carter is researching how public art influences social interactions in the city of Rochester:

The university’s Instagram account abounds with examples like these. As is the case with Harvard, the University of Rochester shares insightful narrative behind the images, too. The university sends a strong message: learning takes place everywhere, well beyond the campus classroom setting.

Celebrating Place

Universities hustle to show you how beautiful their campuses are. The University of Minnesota doesn’t shy away from showing off its Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, designed by Frank Gehry:

Boston University frequently reminds you of its distinctive location:

Stanford University is a standout for using Instagram to give you a visual glimpse of different aspects of its renowned campus and deserves kudos for experimenting with black-and-white photography:

As we discussed earlier this year, Instagram provides plenty of tools for institutes of higher learning to maximize their visual appeal. To learn more about how to use visual storytelling on social media to build your collegiate brand, contact KeywordFirst – we’re happy to help.

Are Bid Tools Pulling Their Weight in Higher Education?

Are Bid Tools Pulling Their Weight in Higher Education?

Search

Advertisers in higher education spend a lot of money on paid search, and they want the best possible bid tools to drive leads and keep costs in check. But are advertisers in higher education getting their money’s worth with bid tools?

Branded keywords typically drive the most volume, and they’re usually pretty easy to manage. Put another way, staying in Position One in search results doesn’t take a lot of technology horsepower to accomplish. Now, if you are an advertiser in higher education, you typically buy a lot of degree-related keywords — both branded and non-branded, and both long- and short-tail. Naturally, you want to be able to set up some rules and let your bid tool do the work. Your bid tool is smarter than you — so you should turn it on and be amazed by the results, right?

Wrong.

Here’s the problem with bid management tools in the higher education space for a lot of advertisers: lack of volume (clicks and leads) on non-branded keywords, or even branded keywords combined with a degree type. Higher education isn’t retail, where the sheer volume and complexity of an account makes it a perfect fit for a bid management tool.

We find that up to 85 percent of your keywords don’t generate enough click volume in a week or in a month to justify adjusting your bids for non-branded keywords. Yes, you can set up click or lead thresholds and parameters to dictate when the bid management tool should adjust the bid. You can establish position rules as well. But the point is this: if the bid management tool doesn’t have enough click volume to make sound decisions, is it worth the monthly fee?

Furthermore, you know how expensive some of these cost per clicks are. If you advertise for an MBA program you know what I mean! What you don’t need is a bid tool moving you out of a Top Four position just because you didn’t get enough volume in a particular week.

So for higher education advertisers, bid tools may be ineffective because there isn’t enough volume in those keywords for bid tools to to use their algorithms to adjust bids. (The exception occurs with branded keywords and a handful of tried-and-true program/degree keywords.)

Is this the case for all .Edu advertisers? No. But my advice to higher education advertisers is to look carefully at what you’re spending on bid management tools and what you’re getting from them – especially when you get outside of top performers.

So what should you use to manage your keyword bidding? Search engines have come a long way with their (free) bidding capabilities, and my recommendation to several clients has been to start with the free bidding capabilities available from search engines such as Google and evaluate their performance after three months. We’ve used that approach and combined some scripts that we’ve created to eliminate not only cost, but also many of the headaches associated with plugging low-volume keywords into bid tools that need high volume to work well.

Meanwhile, feel free to contact me (mark@keywordfirst.com) to share your insights.

Lead image source: Dave Meier (https://stocksnap.io/author/480)

How to Improve Paid Search Targeting in Higher Education

How to Improve Paid Search Targeting in Higher Education

Search

Institutes in higher education need to manage paid search campaigns carefully just like organizations in any other industry, and targeting is critical to doing so. But what’s the best way for higher education organizations to target by time of day for paid search? Based on KeywordFirst’s experience in this sector, we find that making small adjustments can lead to big improvements in paid search campaigns for higher education.

We’ve managed more than 250 degree programs from more than 50 universities and colleges over the last several years; so we have a lot of data to draw upon as we help higher education organizations improve paid search. We also analyze our data to examine search behavior. Recently, we wondered, do people searching for MBAs differ in behavior from those searching for an MLS or an MSW degree, or any master’s degree programs for that matter? If so, how can we leverage that data so that our higher education clients constantly achieve the most optimal position in search results at the right time when searches occur?

When we examined the search behaviors of students seeking different higher education degrees, we observed the following:

  • We see distinct changes in search behavior depending on time of day. There emerges from our research an understanding of the peak and off-peak hours for search.
  • People seeking different degrees are all searching at the same time of day. The peak and off-peak search hours are very similar for people seeking MBAs, MLS, and all other categories of master’s degrees.

The findings make intuitive sense. There are only so many hours in a day, and our body clocks are, for the most part, fairly similar regardless of what degree we want to pursue.

Based on our findings, we offer the following advice to institutes of higher education:

  • Implement hourly bid rules in order to improve lead volume and efficiencies. Constructing the right hourly bid rules can improve lead volume by up to 10 percent.
  • Your dayparting strategy may look similar regardless of degree. Seekers of MLS degrees, for example, will be similar for those seeking MBAs because both audiences are searching at the same time of day.

How higher education advertisers manage their bids and budgets through a dayparting strategy depends on a number of factors. Schools with restricted budgets may enter an auction exclusively during certain hours, making them more competitive. Other schools may just increase bids simply because they know those are the best hours and there are more advertisers in the auction.

We recommend that higher education organizations look at their average positions by hour and see what happens when modifiers aren’t used. Then, experiment with modifiers by the hour to maintain their optimal position. Since there are just a few hours of the day when the big volume is coming in, it’s important to get it right, which is why it’s important to make finite adjustments. And we can help higher education advertisers do so. Our models predict the optimal position in search results for your keyword bids. We know where to set the cost per click in the bid. And we understand the optimal bid modifiers for each keyword associated with searches for various degrees in higher education. As a result, we have helped our clients achieve greater lead volume at lower cost per lead levels.

Balancing volume with cost has always been a challenge in higher education lead generation. Understanding how to manipulate your bids during a given day can really help with both volume and efficiency. Feel free to contact me (mark@keywordfirst.com) if you want to validate your assumptions against our data.

Image credit: Sidharth Bhatia (https://unsplash.com/@sidharthbhatia)