Marketing Tips and Tricks | HostGator Blog

HostGator Blog

Web Hosting Made Easy!

  • The Real Cost of Facebook Advertising

    Friday, September 9, 2016 by

    Cost of Facebook Advertising

    “How much should I spend and when?”

    “What kind of ROI (Return On Investment) will I get back?”

    “Boost? Like? Poke? Huh?!?!”

    As a business owner or entrepreneur, Facebook advertising can be totally necessary yet completely overwhelming at the same time.

    There are many tough questions when it comes to spend and social media, but they’re not impossible to figure out with the right tools.

    And before frustration sets in, just remember, the feeling is natural and mutual, most of your counterpoints feel exactly the same way.

    You can find the right balance for your biz by identifying the real costs and examining the tough questions, which, as luck would have it, we'll begin to discover with you now.

     

    Follow These Steps

    First, do your research—with Google! There are dozens of beneficial resources—people who have already done much of the higher-level homework for you. Some of our fave places to get serious (& free) info are…

    If you're feeling even more ambitious, take a free class or webinar (check out Constant Contact’s online social media marketing freebies), after all, you owe it to yourself to be as knowledgeable as possible for your business’s growth.

     

    Have a Facebook Advertising Objective

    By being able to answer the age-old Who, What, Where & Why (& How) questions you'll give yourself peace of mind investing in your beginning stages on advertising on Facebook.

    First, you have to identify the Who - this is your audience. You can choose how you target them in this first step, but first determine who they are:

    • Are you targeting current fans with a special promotion or trying to reach a new demographic to introduce them to your brand? Being able to identify why you're targeting that who is imperative.
    • Then dive into the special interests, geographic location and other valuable data that will help you streamline your set. This is how you'll target them.
    Next, the What/Where - this is the content you’re sharing (the what) and also where you’re placing your ad. Different types of ads include different information. Here are the variations straight from Facebook’s list: Facebook advertising guidelines

    And finally, Why - what is your reason for advertising? Brand exposure, driving sales, website visits, collecting emails or leads are usually the top reasons.

    As we mentioned, the key to any valuable, successful ad push is to keep learning and identifying the resources and tools that make your endeavors a little easier. Find the ones that make sense to you and put them to work.

    Remember, there is no mathematical equation or magic spell to make digital marketing most beneficial, but you can always discover ways to help make your message stand out.

    Consider Facebook advertising as an experiment in identifying your audience and learning to improve your message as you go. We recommend beginning with small tests and growing only as you begin to feel more confident in your understanding.

    Knowledge is power; you’ve got this!

    Drive your Facebook ads towards a stellar landing page. Design a beautiful website with HostGator.

    Get Started With HostGator!

  • Influencer Marketing: The Beginner’s Guide To Micro-Influencers

    Tuesday, September 6, 2016 by

    Micro Influencers

    You’ve heard of the effectiveness of influencer marketing. You’ve seen with your own eyes how it helps businesses with lead generation and conversions. But you’re still hesitant to try it because of budget constraints. Although influencer marketing isn’t as expensive as many other marketing channels, small businesses and startups may be struggling to set aside funds for it. What if there was a less expensive way to launch a successful influencer marketing campaign while still making sufficient impact? The answer lies in micro-influencers.

     

    What does “micro-influencer” mean?

    Micro-influencers, as the name suggests, are influencers who have a significant but not massive following as compared to top influencers and celebrities. They aren’t your traditional celebrities but individuals who are considered to be experts in their relevant niche. For example, food bloggers, mommy bloggers, fitness Instagrammers, etc. Micro-influencers are usually passionate about their respective categories and are looked to as reliable sources of information and recommendations on purchases related to those categories.

    A micro-influencer doesn’t have millions of followers; instead, they may have as few as 1,000 but usually not more than 100,000 followers. This following is comprised of loyal fans who trust their recommendations. Micro-influencers often have a strong relationship with these fans, engaging with them, producing content they love, and getting them involved. Their fans are ardent about the purchase recommendations they make, which makes them an ideal choice for your next influencer marketing campaign.

     

    Micro-influencers vs. customers and macro-influencers

    Now the big question is “how effective are micro-influencers, really?” You may be thinking that if these influencers don’t have as much reach as macro-influencers, they’re just like customers recommending them to other consumers. But it’s not as simple as that. Micro-influencers help spread your brand message in a more reliable and authentic manner while still providing a bit of the “expert opinion” effect. In fact, an Expertcity study compared the effectiveness of customer recommendations with that of micro-influencers recommendation and came up with the following results:

    • On an average, the weekly conversations of micro-influencers have 22.2 times more purchase-related conversations and product recommendations than that of the average consumer.
    Micro-Influencers
    • For 82% of consumers, there’s a high tendency to follow recommendations that are made by a micro-influencer. On the other hand, the same is true for 73% of consumers when the recommendations are made by an average consumer.
    • In terms of credibility, micro-influencers are considered to be more believable, knowledgeable and credible by 94% of consumers. 83% feel the same about the general population.
    • Micro-influencers are also considered to be better at explaining how a certain product works or how it’s supposed to be used by 92% of consumers. 83% feel the same about the general population.

    So you understand that micro-influencers have a much more significant impact than the average customer on peoples’ purchase decisions. But how do they compare against macro-influencers? Yes, macro-influencers have millions of followers and micro-influencers may be unable to compare against them in terms of reach. At the same time, there are a number of aspects in which micro-influencers have found to be better than macro-influencers. Take a look at some of the results of a Takumi study highlighting this fact:

    • Instagram users with 1,000 followers or fewer managed to get 9.7% engagement on an average.
    • Users with 1,000-4,000 followers managed to get 4.5% engagement on an average.
    • Users with 4,000-100,000 followers managed to get 2.4% engagement on an average.
    • Those with more than 100,000 followers managed to get only 1.7% engagement on an average.
    Instagram Engagement vs Followers

    This Takumi study was based on an analysis of 500,000 profiles on Instagram. As you can see in the image above, the rise in follower rate was correlated with the decrease in engagement rate. This clearly shows how micro-influencers have a better ability to engage with their audience as compared to macro-influencers. It is for this reason that micro-influencers are highly recommended for small businesses and startups who can’t set aside as much influencer marketing budget than large organizations. This doesn’t mean top brands shouldn’t use micro-influencers, as this group of influencers may be a great way to establish trust with your target audience and add a personal touch to your interactions with them.

     

    How to find micro-influencers

    You’ve now understood how micro-influencers can be beneficial for you and how they can help you with your influencer marketing campaign. The difficult part is in overcoming the challenge of finding the right micro-influencers you can work with to effectively launch your campaign. Utilize the following tips to better understand the steps to finding a relevant and suitable influencer to work with:

     

    1. Make use of keywords. 

    Keywords are your best bet at identifying prospective influencers in your target niche no matter what tools you use. For example, you’re selling a product that you think would be best promoted by food bloggers. So you will conduct a search for “food blogger” using influencer outreach tools and the results will turn up a variety of blogger profiles within the relevant niche.

     

    2. Observe the numbers. 

    Since your search will be for micro-influencers, you’ll need to study the number of following of each profile that comes up in your search results. But what’s the right number? You may face the challenge of choosing between reach and engagement but it doesn’t have to be that way.

    Based on their study of more than 800,000 Instagram users, Markerly suggests looking for influencers with somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 followers for the right balance of reach and engagement. So you still have influencers with significant reach and the right level of engagement, overcoming the challenge of working with micro-influencers.  

    3. Use the right tools. 

    There are a number of tools that can help you find relevant micro-influencers in your niche using the right keywords. These tools give you useful information like the number of followers they have, some give a preview of their engagement rate, and some even give you their social authority level. Tools like Ninja Outreach and Followerwonk from Moz are some useful and effective tools to help you find micro-influencers and macro-influencers alike. Take a look at the screenshot from Followerwonk, which lets you use keywords to find top Twitter profiles related to a certain niche. Moz Followerwonk The data is neatly organized showing not only the number of followers but also the number of tweets to show how active they are. You can also see the Social Authority each influencer has so as to better understand the level of influence they have. Here, the results are sorted based on the number of followers they have in descending order. So you can just scroll lower to find micro-influencers with 10,000-100,000 followers.  

    4. Study their content.

    Once you’ve made a list of prospective micro-influencers to work with, you will need to go through their content across various social media channels. This will help you understand whether they produce content in the tone and voice that would resonate with your target audience. For example, within the food blogging niche, you might find some micro-influencers who are taking a holistic approach in their messaging. These could be the perfect choice for brands that value eco-friendliness.  

    5. Start your outreach. 

    Now that you’ve shortlisted relevant micro-influencers you could work with, your next step would be to approach them for a partnership. Being influencers, these individuals may be getting hundreds of partnership requests so you will need to catch their attention and be convincing. If you’re opting for an email outreach, make sure you prioritize on writing a compelling subject line and framing your message with a focus towards them.  

    How to work with micro-influencers

    From discount codes to social media mentions and from co-created content to giveaway contests; there are plenty of ideas for implementing micro-influencers into your marketing strategy. Here are a few examples of brands that have worked with Instagram micro-influencers, so you can develop a unique idea according to your needs:

     

    Social media mentions

    An easy way to promote your brand and products through micro-influencers is by having them mention you. Ideally, the post should showcase your product being used by the influencer or positioned in an eye-catching yet authentic setting. You can send them freebies or gifts so they can showcase the product. You could also arrange for a small cash incentive based on your agreement with the micro-influencers you’ve decided to work with.

    Brittney Buccat (@missxbo) is a social media star with more than 36,000 followers on Instagram. Being one of the most popular micro-influencers in fashion and lifestyle niches, she has been approached to do several product promotions and sponsored posts through her social media accounts. While some of her Instagram posts showcase products with discount codes, some merely display the products with a mention and a short description of the product. Take a look at the following example of how she’s promoting a new product from Your Tea with a mere mention. Her followers also have a positive response to the post, meaning that they trust her opinion and recommendation despite it being a sponsored post. Instagram Marketing The same goes for her promotion of Ami Clubwear with a mere mention of their brand name and a branded hashtag. As you can see in the screenshot below, the post managed to generate plenty of positive comments from her followers. Instagram Sponsored Post  

    Promote discount codes

    One of the most popular methods of working with influencers is by promoting discount codes through them. The reason this tactic is ideal for your collaboration with micro-influencers is because they help you promote the code to a large and significant audience. The influencers vouching for your product gives their followers the desire to purchase the product and having the discount code compels them to take action. An excellent example of this is how Lootcrate partnered with relevant influencers and promoted unique discount codes through them. Lootcrate is a subscription service that sends subscribers boxes of geeky gear including t-shirts, socks, comic books, and more. They worked with both macro- and micro-influencers in gaming, tech, and pop culture niches to promote their subscription boxes with discount codes. Social Media Influencers Their partners included gamer and cosplayer Amie Lynn (@misshabit), who has more than 77,000 Instagram followers. Her post promoting Lootcrate had a special discount code for 10% off and managed to get almost 4,000 likes.  

    Show what your product can do

    As mentioned previously, micro-influencers are considered to be better at explaining how a product works or how you can use it. This is why they make the most effective medium for showcasing how your product can be used. Showing micro-influencers using the product and how they’re using it will be a great way to create a desire in their followers to try the product. It doesn’t have to be a complicated video tutorial, although this might work well depending on the type of product you’re selling. A simple image post from micro-influencers showing their followers how they’re using the product could be enough to intrigue this audience base. An excellent example can be seen in how lens manufacturer Olloclip partners with several micro-influencers, who post images of how they’re using their products. Brittney Buccat (@missxbo) was one of the micro-influencers Olloclip worked with. Here’s a screenshot of the sponsored post she created and take a look at the response from her followers. There are already people commenting how they “need” the product and how “cool” the lens is. Olloclip Marketing

    Demi Kwant (@iidemiii) is another micro-influencer the brand partnered with. With more than 1,800 followers the iPhoneographer posts beautiful images captured with the help of a lens from Olloclip.

    Brand influencers  

    How to get started

    You now have a thorough understanding of working with micro-influencers for your influencer marketing campaign. You understand how they can impact your business, how to find the right micro-influencers, and how to create a successful campaign with them. The next step is to get started with a plan that will outline what goals you wish to achieve, so you can measure your performance in the long run. And then you can get started looking for micro-influencers who can work with you to promote your business.

    Whether you’re a small business or a large organization, it’s clear to see that this group of influencers can be an added advantage to your existing marketing strategy.

  • A Proven Press Release Template (With Instructions On How To Use It)

    Monday, August 29, 2016 by

    Press Release Template

    At some stage in the life of your company, preferably earlier rather than later, it becomes vital to garner media coverage, in some form or another, in order to raise awareness about your products and services. Your business will have to learn how to work with and communicate with media houses and publishers as part of your overall marketing strategy in order to reach bigger and better audiences.

    This is where the press release comes into play. It’s an incredibly powerful PR tool that can make the difference between ending up in mainstream news, growing like mad, becoming profitable, selling out and retiring… or not.

    But because press releases can have such huge payoffs, journalists and news outlets are constantly bombarded with irrelevant or spammy info that simply gets ignored. Most companies use a technique called, “spray and pray” that adds to the huge volumes of mediocre content (i.e. hit thousands of sites with your PR message, and someone will publish it eventually) the news media has to deal with.

    Against this background it’s important to understand just how difficult it can be to get decent coverage. That’s why it’s important to start out armed with the right press release that can be used for maximum benefit (if done properly).

     

    What makes a press release work

    Repeat after me, “it’s not about the press release."

    Sounds a bit odd, considering the point of this article is to share a press release template (one that won national media coverage). But it’s true. There’s far more that goes on behind the scenes of a successful press release than meets the eye.

    Before I share the press release, here’s a step-by-step example of what I did in order to get national news media coverage for my site…

     

    1.   Come up with a compelling story

    Not every business is intrinsically exciting. It can be harder to get media coverage working in accounting than it can in tabloid gossip. But, just because it is harder doesn’t make it impossible.

    Be creative in the way you approach the ordinary aspects of your niche industry. Take your time thinking outside the box. Find something interesting to talk about – especially if it involves other people.

    Don’t talk about yourself.

    A story should be about your industry, and the players in it. Not about yourself. Anything that has even a hint of self-promotion will be duly ignored by almost every quality journo in the world. And, unless you have a big budget to pay for media coverage, this tactic simply won’t work.

    For example, I spend a lot of time sharing small business ideas to help inspire and stimulate aspiring entrepreneurs. But there’s no point in writing a press release each time I post a new idea to this list. Journalists aren’t interested in what I’m doing. Yet.

    But, there are other industry players who are doing newsworthy things that I can talk about at the same time. So I went out and created a list of the top 10 new business ideas from University entrepreneurs that highlighted the breadth of talent found in young entrepreneurs (crediting the entrepreneurial colleges nurturing them at the same time).

    That was interesting for me to see the incredible ideas and startups coming out of U.S. colleges, it was an interesting article for my readers, and above all else, it was something newsworthy for mainstream media.

     

    2.   Identify journalists & editors who cover topically related stories

    This step shouldn’t really be too much of a surprise. There is absolutely no point in sharing a story on the wrong news site. A business editor won’t publish a story about bird migration patterns, so why bombard them with irrelevant stuff?

    Find the writers, editors, journos, bloggers and reporters who write about the same or similar topics. A good way to do this is to search for similar stories on Google and note the websites and writers responsible.

    Build a permanent journalist contact list including their names, employer, email address, social media accounts, and other pertinent data.

    Record all your interactions as it is very likely you are going to need to build a strong relationship with them going forward. A press release is never a one off thing. You’ll need those contacts again so it helps to keep them organized from the start.

     

    3.   Draft a press release template

    A good press release has the following generic features:

    • Subject: A punchy, interesting, clear and concise one liner. The subject line has to be catchy and of real interest to the reporter otherwise it's unlikely your press release will be read.
    • Date: A date is important because many news sites don’t want to cover something that is already stale.
    • Media contact: Journalists and reporters must have someone they can contact about the press release in case they have questions about it.
    • Teaser: One or two sentences. Think of it like an elevator pitch. Easy to read. Easy to understand. Compelling.
    • Point of interest: It's a nice idea to highlight one aspect of the news that is particularly noteworthy to that particular journalist. This can be adapted in the following step when tailoring the template for specific people.
    • Motivation: One sentence about why people will care about this news. If you can't think of one, you probably don't have news worth reporting on.
    • Credibility: Is there supporting and compelling 3rd party evidence to support this story? Unless the story talks about something that is plainly obvious in the public domain, you’ll need to establish some sort of credibility.
    • About: Who are you to share this news? Establish some sort of personal or brand authority and trust.

    In the case of my specific example, I sent the following press release to USA Today’s college section:

    Press release: 24/04/16

    Subject: Top 10 new business ideas from University entrepreneurs

    Source: SME Pals (http://smepals.com/startup/top-10-new-business-ideas-university-entrepreneurs)

    The top 10 new business ideas by university entrepreneurs has been compiled and published. The full winners’ list complete with profiles on each business is available on SME Pals at:

    http://smepals.com/startup/top-10-new-business-ideas-university-entrepreneurs

    The top 3 winners are:

    1)   RaptorMaps – MIT 100k Launch

    2)   Latitude – BYU Big Idea Pitch

    3)   Focus Foods – Harvard New Ventures

    The list offers a fascinating selection of startups that highlight the creativity and energy of young entrepreneurs in colleges around the U.S. Please feel free to quote from the original article, use the media and screenshots as required. In addition, feel free to contact me for more information regarding this news.

    How the winners were chosen:

    The SME Pals team scoured university competition websites for two days gathering a list of possible candidates from winners, runners up, and other finalists over the previous couple of years. From that big list only those ideas that had moved from being an idea into a real startup were considered.

    The winners were selected based on which were inherently unique, or offered elegant solutions to existing problems. The final rankings were chosen based on an assessment of how profitable (i.e. how much existing and potential demand there is in the market) each could be, what their growth potential is, and what possibilities there are for providing ever more and better add-on services/features as the businesses evolve.

    Regards,

    David

    About SME Pals

    SME Pals (http://smepals.com) is a preferred free entrepreneurial resource with many great universities like Duke, Cornell, Boston, Emory, and more, because it offers an innovative and creative approach to generating business ideas; along with guides and advice to turn those ideas into successful startups.

    And, not long after that, I was delighted to see that they had covered my story online:

    Best New Business Ideas

     

    4.   Customize the press release

    Once you have a draft press release statement it’s important to look at who you are sending it to and acknowledge that they might be interested in different aspects of the story. Not everyone is interested in the same thing, and being smart about who you are pitching to can make a huge difference.

    For example, the same template was used as the basis for a new press release sent out to each of the colleges and universities that made it into the top 10 list. In this case, the focus was less about the list and more about the inclusion of their idea/startup into the list.

    In addition, the modified template also included mention of the fact that the list has already garnered national media attention (to bolster the ‘credibility’ section). Again, it wasn’t long before the release made it onto the news feeds of top universities around the country:

    Press Release Pickup

    Once you’ve successfully pitched a news outlet it often becomes easier on subsequent tries as there may (or may not) be some interaction with the journalist in order to complete the story. In this sense, an undeniably important aspect of writing successful press releases is the quality and number of existing media connections to which you have access.

     

    Press release template

    So, hopefully you’ve seen that having a great press release is only a small part of the equation. There’s a lot that goes into building a successful PR campaign using press releases. But, since we know this particular one has worked on a national level, here’s a blank outline for you to copy and paste into your email client to get started:

    Press release: INSERT DATE

    Subject: PUNCHY, COMPELLING ONE LINER

    Source: YOUR NEWSWORTHY CONTENT/ARTICLE (LINK TO YOUR ARTICLE)

    One-line elevator pitch: WITH A PROMINENT LINK TO THE SOURCE ARTICLE

    Point of interest: TAILORED TO SPECIFIC AUDIENCE (ONE AT MOST TWO PARAGRAPHS)

    Motivation: WHAT MAKES THIS STORY IMPORTANT (ONE AT MOST TWO PARAGRAPHS)

    Credibility: IDEALLY LINKED TO RELIABLE EVIDENCE (ONE AT MOST TWO PARAGRAPHS)

    About (ONE PARAGRAPH)

    Above all else, it’s important that your press release makes life easy for the journalist involved. Keep it short and to the point, but include everything that is necessary for the journalist to verify and understand the story.

    Have you used press releases to drive media coverage? What tips and techniques do you have to share about what works and what doesn’t? Share your thoughts in the comments.

  • How To Create An Online Portfolio Website That Will Get You Hired

    Friday, August 26, 2016 by

    Online Portfolio Website

    There are a variety of reasons for which you’ll need a professional portfolio. Especially, if you’re in a creative field where your ability to get jobs depends upon the body of work you’ve built up. Whether you’re a freelance designer, developer, or writer, you’re going to need a portfolio that represents you and your skills.

    There’s no way a potential client, or employer, is just going to “take your word for it.” By taking time to create a stellar portfolio you’ll be able to represent yourself in the best manner possible. Your portfolio can either make or break you.

    Below we dive into what you need to know to make the most out of your website and your creative portfolio.

    Build your online portfolio with a sleek website from HostGator.

    Click here to get started.

     

    Crucial Portfolio Website Elements

    A portfolio is all about promoting you, your work, and your existing skill set. Below we highlight five different elements you’ll want to make sure that your portfolio website includes.

     

    1. Logo and Tagline

    Your logo is one of the first things a visitor will see when they land on your website. If you’re a designer, then this element is going to be even more important. This is your first chance to really wow your visitors.

    Your tagline is equally important. This is how you set yourself apart from the rest of the field. You’ll use this to explain what you do, while at the same time being memorable.

     

    2. Actual Portfolio

    Since this is your portfolio site you’ll need to include an actual portfolio. Some people prefer for this to be their homepage, while others prefer to have a separate page dedicated solely to showcasing their work.

    You’ll always want this page to showcase your highest quality work. It can even be helpful to add any testimonials you’ve received from the client in regards to the project you’re highlighting. It can also be helpful to spell out project goals and what you hope to accomplish.

     

    3. Service Breakdown

    Your services page will spell out in detail what you actually do. You don’t want to make your clients guess. If you make them think too hard, they’ll probably just end up clicking away.

    Map out your services in as much detail as you can. Highlight your experience, and any testimonials, or blurbs you might have received.

     

    4. Your Story

    On your About page is your chance to get personal. No one wants to do business with a website that seems like it’s been created by a robot. Show some personality.

    How did you get into your field? What’s your unique background? What experiences do you have that set you apart?

    By sharing your story you build trust with potential clients. This will go a long way towards convincing them to work with you.

     

    5. An Active Blog

    A blog can truly make your website some alive. A lot of portfolio website end up looking like a virtual business card. By running a regular blog you’ll be able to further communicate your expertise and give people peace of mind that you actually know what you’re talking about.

    Your blog can be a great way to teach people and cement your status as an expert in your field.

     

    Portfolio Best Practices

    The above steps will help you to create a fully built-out portfolio website. Below we showcase a few more things you’ll want to keep in mind as you grow out your website.

     

    1. It’s Focused

    When building your portfolio site it’s important that you keep your ideal user in mind. Who are you speaking to? What kind of person is most likely to hire you? What will they be looking for?

    Speak to a specific niche, rather than trying to talk to everyone in the entire world.

     

    2. It’s Easy to Use

    Along with being focused your site will need to be incredibly easy to use. If you have clunky navigation, or a site that takes forever to load, then you won’t be doing your credibility any favors.

    Pare your website down to the basics while still reflecting your unique brand and identity. Remove any elements that are out of place, or don’t actually fit into your goals of showcasing your best work, and getting you hired. Review your site to ensure you're not making any of these common website mistakes.

    Keep in mind when creating your website that it’s important to strike a balance between usability and creativity. Showcase your creativity, but don’t do it at the expense of the usability of your website.

    What common online portfolio errors do you see? Share in the comments below.

  • How To Attract Students To Your University By Blogging

    Thursday, August 25, 2016 by

    How To Attract Students To Your University By Blogging

    Recruiting is an important part of any university’s lifeblood. Students (rightfully) see choosing the best school for them as a high-stakes decision that has to be made with careful consideration. Their high standards mean you have to figure out how to tell the right story to show them what your school is and why it’s a strong choice.

    Your university blog can be a powerful tool for that.

    Your university website already has to do a lot of work in providing prospective students the basic information they need, while also serving current students, faculty, alumni, and anyone else seeking information about your school. You don’t have a lot of room there to paint a picture for your visitors of what it means to be a student at your school. A blog gives you a chance to dig into the details and show prospective students more clearly what they can expect. And students today know blogs. As of 2007, almost a third of all teens had done some blogging themselves.

    Having a blog will only help you with student recruitment if you use it well. Here’s how to make sure your university blog helps win students over to your college.

     

    1. Focus on student interests and needs

    One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a university blog is making it all about what you think makes the school look good. You need to work on shifting your perspective to what your potential students are thinking. Talk to your current students. Talk to students who come for a visit to the campus. Figure out what they’re interested in and what kind of questions they have. Shape your strategy for the blog around what they tell you.

    Colorado State University does a great job on their ValuEd blog at covering topics of concern to continuing ed students. A group of prospective students that may generally feel underserved in college recruitment, they’re an audience that has a lot of questions and concerns about the process of getting a college education late in life. With topics like “Why Waiting to Go to College May Be The Best Choice You Ever Made” and “Should I Pursue a More Practical Degree” they go straight to the issues their audience is thinking about and make a larger case for why college is valuable, instead of making it all about CSU (although they do slip a link to learn more about CSU’s offerings at the end of the first post).

    CSU ValuEd Blog

    Your blog posts can’t be all about you. They have to emphasize what your prospective students are thinking, feeling, and entertained by first.

     

    2. Recruit student bloggers

    Even at a young age, students know how advertising works. They recognize that the person working at a university that sings its praises is being paid to do so (even though they might mean what they’re saying). The word of a university marketer, in whatever form it takes, won’t matter as much to them as the word of someone like them.

    That’s where student bloggers come in. Not only are they much closer to prospective students than anyone in your marketing office demographically speaking, but they’re also perfectly equipped to tell potential students exactly what they need to hear most: what it’s like to be a student at your school. In addition to the quality of education and resources the school offers, students want to be able to picture what their life will look like for the next few years. If you recruit a diverse array of student bloggers, their posts can show prospective students a lot of options for what that could be.Cornell Student Blogs

    Cornell highlights the student blogs of students from different years, studying a variety of different things.  From the Human Ecology and Nutritional Sciences major who writes about great restaurants in town to the Arts & Sciences and Government student who writes about her time studying abroad, the student blogs show the variety of subjects and extracurricular interests students at the school are able to pursue and brings some personality to a prospective student’s view of the school.

     

    3. Feature your faculty

    Student stories are extremely important to helping students picture themselves at your school, but one of the biggest components to what their experience will be like as a student is the faculty they work with. Invite your professors to contribute posts of their own that tell readers something about their experience, interests, and personality. Make sure these posts are written in a way that’s likely to appeal to potential students. A lot of the writing professors are most used to does require an academic tone, which you’ll want to avoid here. The posts shouldn’t just be about how much a faculty member knows or how many awards they’ve earned, they should show off the stuff that matters to their students – like their humor or ability to communicate what they love about their specialty.

    [bctt tweet="Do professors contribute to your university blog? Avoid sounding too academic #education" username="hostgator"]

    Boston University has a section on their website called Professor Voices that collects opinion pieces, research updates, and videos where different professors provide their opinions on a random topic. Importantly, these aren’t dry, academic treatises. They touch on issues that many students are likely to care about, like gun control and gay marriage, and the school mixes up formats, using videos as well as writing. 

    Boston University Professor Voices

    You can fold faculty pieces like this into your main blog so they’re easier for your students to come by. You can also do posts highlighting a particular professor and sharing a bit about their background and current research. In that case, be sure to include more casual information like how many pets they have, their favorite movie, or the best vacation they’ve ever had alongside information on their academic work, so your readers get a more casual and human look at who they are.

     

    4. Tell alumni stories

    Your students can paint a picture of what potential students’ lives will be like once they’re in school. Your faculty will help shape their lives during that time. Your alumni though, they’re the picture of the possibilities that will open for them once they finish school.

    24% of students in a recent survey cited alumni as some of the people most influential in their decision to attend a college. Alumni content shows students the various paths people have taken after getting an education at your school, and it shows that graduates are happy enough with their experience there to continue participating through the blog in the years after.

    [bctt tweet="24% of students cited alumni as the people most influential in their decision to attend a college." username="hostgator"]

    Forward-thinking students will be quick to pay attention to stories of how alumni are doing now, how they felt about their experience with your school, and any advice they might have to offer for those interested in pursuing a similar path. The University of Vermont has a series called Alumni Advice on their blog. Each entry in the interview series describes what the alumni is doing now, gives them the chance to talk about the process of getting to that point, and includes any advice they have for current students.

    UVM Alumni Advice

    That’s content that’s both useful to students in a tangible way – particularly any students hoping to go into one of the professions a highlighted alumni is in now – and that demonstrates the role the college plays in helping students develop and achieve their goals. 

     

    5. Make sure your blog is optimized for mobile

    Nobody reading this will be surprised to hear that teenagers spend a lot of time on their mobile devices. 67% of teens have smartphones and about 46% of the time they spend on any device, they spend on their mobile devices.  Even if the main audience you’re hoping to reach is adults interested in continuing education, nearly a third of all internet traffic now happens on mobile.

    While the content you include on the blog is extremely important, the kind of experience your prospects have when they land on your mobile website matters too. Many of them will now be coming to your blog on mobile devices and you need to make absolutely certain that they can read the posts you publish without too much effort, or they’re more likely to give up on the content than continue, no matter how great it is.

     

    6. Encourage and interact with comments

    Blog comments are the best way for readers to interact with the content you create. Not every blog post will inspire prospective students to leave comments, but when they do, make sure you’re paying attention and ready to respond. The ideal for a blog that’s used for recruitment should be to develop a community that has an ongoing conversation.  For there to be a chance of that happening, you have to be part of the conversation.

    Your blog comments could become a valuable resource for providing insights into what your future students are thinking. What kind of topics do they care about? What questions do they have? How do they feel about your university and the content you’re putting out there? Pay attention and let those insights guide your blog strategy as you go.

     

    7. Promote your blog on social media

    Most teenagers are on social media. You knew that already. There have been enough trend stories written on the subject that pretty much everyone does. If you want people to find the content you put out there, you have to do the work of promoting it. If you want the people you’re trying to reach to find it, then you have to meet them where they are in your promotion efforts.

    For most universities, that means social media. Don’t just push out the content and leave it there. Keep an eye on how people respond. Some of the comments you get will be left on your social media platforms rather than on your blog. The same rules apply. Respond and interact. Having a conversation with prospective students in the spaces they’re most likely to hang out in should be seen as a valuable opportunity.

    [bctt tweet="Kudos to @ColoStateOnline @Cornell @BUexperts @uvmCDE for their outstanding #education blogs!" username="hostgator"]

    Blogging is one of the most frequently used tools for all sorts of marketing today. For universities, which are full of strong writers and out to reach an audience that spends a lot of time online, using a blog as a recruitment tool is just obvious. Make sure you keep your prospective students top of mind at every stage of planning, writing, recruiting writers, and publishing. By focusing on audience first, you’ll be far ahead of a lot of the blogs out there.

    Jumpstart your university blog with HostGator. With our one-click WordPress installs, you'll have the world's most popular blogging platform at your fingertips. Learn more here.