Leisure marketing pros can learn a lot about online tactics from college sites.

June 21, 2010

A new study found that colleges are ahead of business in their use of social media.

Leisure marketing brands can learn 5 valuable lessons from the advanced online marketing practices of colleges and universities.

In researching colleges online, I learned some new inbound marketing tricks.

Last fall, my youngest son Mac started at  St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN.

As we searched online for schools that fit his interests–writing, swimming, study abroad programs, music and eating(!), we were struck by how adept St. Olaf and other schools are at marketing themselves online.

And the latest research confirms our findings.

A new study, Social Media and College Admissions: Higher-Ed Beats Business in Adoption of New Tools for Third Year, found that more than twice as many colleges were using social media sites like blogs as Fortune 500 firms and 6 in 10 have a Twitter account.

5 tips from college web and social sites to market your brand online:

1. Find out what interests your target audience, and create separate pages that appeal to each interest.

St. Olaf has separate web pages for each sports team, as well as their chorus, orchestra, and many departments like theater and science.

Because they have optimized those pages for search, search engines will direct prospects to that exact page.

You can access the St. Olaf swim team page directly from search.

2.  Build the navigation of each web page around the information most requested by prospects.

St. Olaf got a lot of requests from prospective swim team members wanting to know about top times, the schedule, their record and history, coaching staff, facilities and some quick facts and photos.

So they designed their swim team page so prospects can easily find that information.

3. Create facebook pages around special areas of interest of smaller communities of prospects.

St. Olaf has 20,000 fans on its general facebook page.

But the school has created at least 13 additional facebook pages and blogs for everyone from admitted students to the alpine ski team to alumni.

The goal is to encourage incoming students to connect with smaller communities of people who share a similar passion.

At least 10 different St. Olaf student communities have their own facebook pages.

4. Pepper your sites with audio and video that capture the emotion and excitement of your brand.

The St. Olaf general website has video tours, webcams, and streaming audio and video of concerts, speakers and their recent commencement.

The facebook pages have content created for each audience. As an example, the admitted students page has a video of students singing the school fight song.

5.  Give your prospects plenty of places to discuss your brand.

The St. Olaf facebook pages are filled with discussion boards on topics of interest to each particular audience.

For instance, the admitted student page features a discussion string in which current students answer questions from incoming students.



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