Prospective students do some serious digging into the institutions at which they are considering to enrol. To truly win your ideal students over, takes more than just showing up as a possible choice.
SEO, SEA, comparison sites, education fairs and other methods will land you in the consideration set.
But what will prospective students find out about your institution if they start digging? If it isn’t particularly impressive, they’ll lose interest.
A strong showing comes in many parts. It’s about rankings, how your website looks, how approachable your team is during education fairs; the list goes on.
An often underrated aspect is word of mouth, and it’s online equivalent: reviews. Prospective students will trust your institution to provide verifiable information about location, grants available, admission procedure etc. But to make their final choice of where to apply, reviews and other third party content command more weight.
GREAT reviews don’t just happen. At least, not nearly as often as you’d like. Making students very happy, of course, always comes first. But even when your students have a great experience, they are unlike to provide the type of review that’s really going to help you. They may just say “great school” with 5 stars, whereas it’s specific reviews and stories about experiences that really move the needle.
So how do you move from good to GREAT?
Here’s what you can do to get a steady stream of GREAT reviews:
- Have someone accountable for obtaining reviews. A search for your school name on social media may reveal students who already have an online following. Certainly, reach out to them. There are social listening tools that can alert you when stuff gets published. But also put out feelers more widely with academic and other front line staff – so that they alert the marketing team when a student does something remarkable – and you can reach out to get their story, and help it spread. Get reviews from students from as many backgrounds as possible (it also won’t hurt to get foreign language versions), and from a wide spread of different courses / faculties.
- Provide guidance. A good review is a story. Happy people are more than willing to provide a GREAT review. But not everyone knows how to do this. Provide a few questions, which, when answered, make a compelling story. This is not telling people what to write. It’s making their task easier. Some example questions:
- What did you think about our school before you started? Did you have any concerns / reservations?
- What’s your experience at our school like today?
- How do you expect your time at [school name] will benefit you in the future?
- Repurpose and distribute. If someone writes a great review and posts it on a course comparison site, can they also post it on Facebook; other sites? Can you pick up a snippet and add it to your website? If you know who the student is, can you meet up for a short video for your YouTube channel (which you could also advertise on Facebook)? Getting a person to tell a story is the hard part — when the review is there, put it in as many places as you can. A review is only as valuable as its number of views!