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Maximizing User-Generated Content

It’s no secret that user-generated content rules the internet and heavily guides consumers’ product purchase lifecycle. More than 8 in 10 Generation Y consumers say that user-generated content influences what they buy. When it comes to high-stake, high-emotion decisions like higher education, consumers are especially motivated to gather feedback from those who have relevant experiences or stories. Higher education institutions can create positive impact in consumers’ minds by providing opportunities for user-generated content that instill trust, honesty and transparency, while providing key information to guide decisions. Here are some key ways your organization can consider getting started with user-generated content:

Reviews: Take control over your online reputation both on your website and off. Allow reviews and written testimonials to be easily given on your website. This increases user engagement by giving them freedom to read and write honest responses. Consumer reviews are almost 12 times more trusted than any descriptions coming from the organization/company itself. Asking happy students to write about their experiences would be a good way to get started. Once reviews start appearing on and off your website, be sure to respond to every posting to maintain interaction with the consumers.

Video Testimonials: Another great user-generated content tactic that stands out in a website full of programs and degrees. Video testimonials can give prospective students a quick look inside the lives of students, faculty and employees. Diversifying your subjects and topics will form connections with the broadest audience. A video from a student about their future career can make prospective students feel confident. A video from a faculty member can give an exciting face to cutting edge research. Video testimonials break up the heavy written content that most higher education websites have.

Social Media: Actively engage in social media channels to add energy and engagement to you institution online. You can retweet students who talk about your institution, regram a picture that a student posted to Instagram, or feature user comments in Facebook posts. Creating a hashtag campaign can also create positive interactions with students. For example, you can use a specific hashtag for newly admitted freshman that can be easily retweeted to appear on your website homepage. Aggregate the content on your own website to demonstrate the social pulse and encourage participation.

Blogs: Create a separate tab on your institution’s blog that allows students to add content and comments to freely, using an agile review and approval process to protect your brand. These posts increase engagement and can build a community within your website. To encourage participation, consider rewards and incentives for top bloggers who have the most views. Posts from faculty could also support key programs or initiatives and lend credibility and thought leadership to the institution.

Although user-generated content requires maintenance and monitoring, it allows higher education institutions to:

  • Connect with their students and prospects in new, relevant and ongoing ways
  • Save money with fewer web pages and copy
  • Transform your website from static information to an engaging community
  • Incorporate interaction and storytelling
  • Have a continually fresh website without generating content internally, thus improving SEO.

User-generated content is predicted to be the biggest marketing trend of 2015, with the majority of companies incorporating it into their online presences.  Will your higher education institution be onboard?

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