Guidebook has been empowering campuses to communicate with their students using mobile apps for several years now. Recently, we were in the exciting position of creating a new tool for Admissions offices that allows them to offer self-led campus tours via mobile technology. As a result of our research and internal development, we were able to identify three areas that Admissions pros should consider when communicating with prospective students using mobile channels.
The Student Experience is Your Compass
As we developed this new product, we had the privilege of working with admissions professionals at all types of schools. Our first lesson was that, no matter what your communication strategy entails, it all has to stem from the student experience.
Allyson Trochez, Assistant Director of Visit Programs at University of Oregon, says “We place a lot of value on our student staff being able to share stories that are engaging, that share information, and get the students excited about the possibilities here.” She added, “It’s most important that they hear what it’s like to be a student here at the University of Oregon.”
It’s widely accepted that student-led campus tours are the gold standard when it comes to recruitment tools. It makes sense then that our most effective recruitment communications are going to be natural extensions of those students’ stories – especially the stories that connect their unique life experiences to the experience of being a student at your university.
Essentially, your campus tour guides make your campus human.
We took this into consideration when creating our mobile campus tour, and put the student narration front and center in the experience we developed. Likewise – and this goes for your traditional communication channels as well – everything needs to start with the student experience. The student story will serve to inform and shape your message. The more authentic that story is, the more it will resonate with prospective students who are visiting your school.
Choose Real-time Tools
In our research, we found that the best current stand-in campuses have for self-led tours is a paper guide. While there are a host of limitations to printed material in our digital age, the most egregious one is that it isn’t easily updatable in real time.
Real-time updates to your communication tools will keep your materials fresh – especially when it comes to ever-evolving construction projects and campus recruitment narratives – but they also can serve as a measuring stick while evaluating which tools to use. Many of the Admissions teams we encountered had expressed an interest in developing custom mobile apps or communications tools, but stopped short when they found that it wouldn’t be sustainable for upkeep.
Grace Hartman, Senior Associate Director of Admission at Santa Clara University said of their mobile touring solution, “Our visitor demographic continues to change. [The mobile tour app] allows us to more fluidly change our information, update facts, add new stops as construction on campus is completed, and add tours in multiple languages.”
Make it a Conversation
Perhaps most importantly, we found that any sort of Admissions-focused digital conversation needs to be a two-way street. At any time during your conversation with a prospective student, they might raise their hand to request more information. If the chain of communication is interrupted in any way, or another school does it better, you may have already lost their interest.
Most modern digital tools are built to facilitate conversation. The trick is knowing where the conversations are happening. The day has already arrived where students want to SnapChat their questions to your office. Are you equipped to participate? Or will it be a missed opportunity?
You can take your communication leads from current trends, but don’t be afraid to make a push for interactivity no matter what resource you’re using. If you give a tool to a student to learn more about your school, is there a way for them to talk back?
Mobile communication will continue to grow and gain importance in the coming years, and the responsibility will be on institutions and their technology partners to enable relevant conversations that work hand-in-hand with recruitment strategies. As long as the methods we use continue to highlight the student experience, update in real-time, and facilitate two-way communication, we can be sure that we’re providing tools of significance.