3 Engagement Strategies for a More Interactive Campus Tour
(Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for an interactive campus tour experience, watch our on-demand webinar, co-hosted by University of Oregon, to see how other campuses are using mobile apps to create highly personal experiences and attract more applicants.)
Prospective students are looking for campus communities that speak to their interests with an interactive campus tour strategy
Campus tours are the undisputed champions of college recruiting tools. For a prospective student, nothing beats that hour with a current student seeing the campus through their eyes. Campuses have unique approaches when it comes to their own brand of campus tour, but the days of simply having a tour might be over.
As the children of the internet age go to college, expectations are that they’re going to be communicated with in a more personalized and interactive way. Millennials – for better or worse – are prioritizing brands and organizations that speak very specifically to the causes and interests they care about most.
There is a great opportunity here, however, to provide a more interactive campus tour experience for prospective students that speaks to them in unique ways. Optimizing your campus tour message can mean attracting more students who are truly excited about attending your university, who are ready to engage the moment they step foot on campus, and who ultimately complete their careers as satisfied alumni.
Consider these 3 strategies for creating a more interactive campus tour.
Craft experiences for special interests
Of course students want to see the basics of your campus – the dorms, the dining halls, the student union. But as our approach to education becomes more holistic, it makes sense that our tours can also take that tone as well. What if a tour spoke to all of a prospective student’s burning questions about college life while also highlighting a unique value or attitude of your campus that the student might also share. Check out these examples:
Eckerd College: Being a campus on the Gulf Coast of Florida certainly gives Eckerd some advantages when it comes to location. Their South Beach is a campus hot spot, so they host “Supper Club” cookouts on the beach during the fall where students can get the Eckerd experience in a relaxed, casual setting.
UT Austin: For arts and culture enthusiasts, UT Austin offers a tour that specifically takes a look at their landmarks and public works of art. Even better, it’s open to the public for free. As a result, prospective students can supplement their campus tour with a more intimate and interactive campus tour that humanizes their large, state-school campus.
Michigan: Michigan’s engineering program is substantial, and it takes up a part of campus that isn’t necessarily serviced well by their standard tour. For this reason, they offer an engineering-specific tour that covers the North Campus, speaks directly to students interested in engineering, and – the best part – takes place on a Segway. It’s unique, it helps prospective students see a part of campus they might not otherwise, and it’s delightfully wacky.
Portland State: Portland State has a robust tour offering that allows students to go beyond the basics of seeing yet another dorm room. In addition to many department-specific tours, PSU also offers a Sustainability Tour that highlights some of the city’s greatest environmentally-friendly assets. They’re also offering a bike tour that promises to give prospective students a very authentic experience, taking advantage of bike trails and areas of the campus otherwise inaccessible for a standard walking tour.
University of Oregon: Oregon has a bevy of natural beauty to offer, and the UO recognized that one of it’s greatest assets is the miles of running trails surrounding its campus. For this reason, they created a 3.7 mile running tour to spice up the standard tour. Students have a fun, communal experience with their guide and get to see more campus in a shorter amount of time!
Extending the tour beyond campus
It’s also time to broaden our understanding of a campus tour. An interactive campus tour strategy must include content beyond just the time that prospective students are taking the student-led tour. If you campus isn’t taking advantage of new media to extend your message beyond campus, you’re missing a huge opportunity.
With the barrier to internet publishing so low these days, it makes sense that most brands and institutions are now seeing themselves as content publishers. Content publishing is allowing organizations to engage their audiences in authentic ways, while also encompassing them with their message. If your admissions team increases its content output, you can exponentially increase your touch points with prospective students.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to add an editorial staff to your admissions team, but you can certainly use your existing resources to take advantage of opportunities for blogging, social media, and video.
Campus tour programs are ripe for video content. Video can supplement your tour by focusing on details, exploring areas not accessible on a traditional tour, or meeting a more diverse range of current students. There’s a reason that social media platforms have made a huge swing towards accommodating and highlighting video content in recent years – it’s has incredible engagement levels.
Some smart admissions teams are already taking great advantage of video content. Check out this video from University of Washington that gives a simple, yet effective overview of campus. (Who knew they had a fully-functional bike shop?)
Social media trends
Social media content is also rapidly evolving. When Snapchat first arrived on the scene, it seemed like a dark, scary black hole for many campus administrators. As it has grown, however, so have the creative uses. Many campuses are now publishing snap stories that show a first-hand campus experience in a fun and easy-to-consume format.
As social media continues to grow and change, however, it can easily become an unruly mess of disparate accounts. Duke solved this problem by creating a smart, simple landing page that not only makes sense of its various social media accounts, but also aggregates the content in one single page.
Adding interactivity with mobile technology
Technology can help you accomplish both tailored tours for special interests as well as extending your message beyond the campus tour. It also has the added benefit of making things that were once static in nature a two-way conversation.
Schools are now trying to find ways in which they can capture prospective students who might have otherwise slipped under the radar. Many admissions teams have some sort of self-led tour experience for students who can’t make a scheduled campus tour – but those largely exist on paper or PDF. New mobile technology is allowing teams to transfer those experiences to prospective students’ smartphones by offering a self-led mobile campus tour.
With a campus tour app, prospective students are still able to see sights first hand, hear the narration of a current student, and then even immediately request more information from the admissions office. Suddenly a flat, static experience comes alive with a mobile tech overlay.
Regardless of your efforts, the takeaway here is that focusing on some sort of student-facing mobile strategy is a must for any modern admissions team. Mobile is, by far, the preferred form of consuming information for incoming students.
Starting an interactive campus tour strategy
Personalizing and deepening your campus tours can quickly become a giant undertaking – but it doesn’t have to be done all at once. By focusing on any one of the three engagement tactics in this article, you can begin the process of servicing today’s students in a way that speaks directly to their preferences. Whether it’s adding a specialty tour for a subset of your prospective student population, or offering a mobile app experience for self-led tours – you can start attracting more engaged applicants right away.
Start building a self-led mobile campus tour today with Guidebook. It’s free to try and is a great step on your continued journey towards providing a more interactive campus tour experience!