Social proof can be one of the strongest stimuli for convincing someone to do something. In education marketing, it’s no different.
Student and alumni testimonials on your university website are a must have, but they must also be done in authentic ways in order to be truly effective.
In the following article, we will explore the marketing value of authentic student-generated content, as well as share some best practices for presenting effective testimonials online.
Going Beyond The Institutional Message
The marketing, advertising and branding that come directly from a school are normally not sufficiently influential. In many cases it can be predictable, and follows a certain script. Most certainly you will not find a school saying anything negative about itself. Testimonials are from real people, with real challenges, that will resonate with an audience. Arguably, this is the most relevant information for prospective students.
Student testimonials go beyond the traditional narrative of the university and address issues of concern to aspiring students: specific experiences and challenges, academic life from the standpoint of a student as opposed to a marketer. Assuming the testimonial is genuine and unscripted, this goes a very long way to deliver value to a student who is considering which school to apply to.
Keep in mind that would-be students are going to do a lot of research, especially online. On top of that, positive student testimonials can offset potentially negative postings found on some websites. While many schools do a poor job, or even non-existent job, of featuring student testimonials, this is another way to help a school stand out from the crowd.
6 Best Practices For Student Testimonials
In terms of best practices for testimonials, here are 6 key points to keep in mind:
- Make it real: scripted or predictable testimonials will not be believable, and will be counterproductive.
- Use different mediums: Video content is obviously important. However, not everyone will watch videos. Try to include a picture of the student/alumni, as well, and some key highlights of their testimonial.
- Sprinkle them around on numerous pages: It is great to have a collective page for testimonials (prospective students), but different testimonials will have diverse themes and can therefore lend well to other pages or sections of the website. Make sure to include them and have their use more visible as well as relevant.
- Be focused: For a video, aim not to go longer than 2 minutes as users will start to lose focus. Have the subject concentrate on a specific topic. That goes for text as well: aim to have a focused 1-2 paragraph text for maximum impact.
- Be consistent: When presenting the testimonial, have a consistent format, such as including name, major, location, picture, and backdrop.
- Use different types of students and alumni: There are always different “buyer personas,” and different types of testimonials will address those groups uniquely. Include alumni, international students, and if the school has a range of programs, focus on that too, whether different majors or undergraduate/postgraduate.
Bonus: Include a way that prospective students could connect with those featured in the testimonials, in an ambassadorial manner.
Overall, using student testimonials effectively can add substantial value to the marketing and recruiting process of a school’s website. By delivering fresh, relevant content that potential students can relate to, testimonials add to a holistic approach to showing why your school is the best for that student.
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