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Online Reputation Management for Universities: 5 Things to Know for 2021

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Can your institution benefit from online reputation management for universities? If so, we can help. 

 

University admissions departments live and die by online reviews.

And universities of all sizes need to follow online reputation management best practices at every stage of the recruiting process. This includes matters of recruiting and retaining faculty, obtaining grants, and maintaining the brand of the institution.

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What's more: online reputation management best practices become critically important when managing a P.R. crisis.

The stats are in: your school is in the online spotlight

According to a recent Oberlo survey, 90% of adults read online reviews before making a major purchase.

And, BrightLocal found that 97% of teens applying to college read reviews of schools before they apply.

The Oberlo survey also reveals that three of four applicants place as much confidence in online reviews on colleges and universities as they do personal recommendations.

In this article, we outline the top 5 online reputation management best practices for universities.

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We also look at the most effective online reputation management services for universities in the current climate.

There's more to online reputation management for universities than preparing for a crisis

Every university needs an expert dedicated reputation management team for crisis situations.

But for managing day-to-day issues online, reputation management is even more important.

Going to college is a major life decision in any person's life. But in 2021, every aspect of college life is full of uncertainty.

Students are more sensitive than ever to social signals.

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And these signals influence their decisions on anything from how to invest their time in study to enrolling in college in the first place.

The kinds of issues that universities need to manage in 2021 often center on:

Reopening issues

What is your university's plan for reopening? Will classes continue online, go 100% in-person or provide a mix of both? Are other learning options still available?

Changes in student life

What will student life look like in the coming year? What can students expect from clubs and athletic organizations?

Digital resources

What digital resources will be available to support studies?

International students

What are the incentives for international students to enroll at your school?

Other issues of online reputation management for universities in 2021

What will the campus experience be like? What can students expect as they move into dorms? Will students have the same opportunities to have fun?

Your university needs clear and consistent messaging across all digital channels. It also needs to manage misinformation and "minor" reputation threats to maintain a healthy online image among students, parents, donors, and faculty.

So, what 5 things can you do to keep your school's reputation above water?

1. Make sure digital experiences are on point

Even in 2021, some university websites aren't optimized for smartphones. Many aren't creating content for students for whom digital life is second nature.

And others aren't utilizing the digital pathways through which students get their information and opinions about schools online.

Pointing your branding in the right direction requires clean design and user-friendly navigation through your main website.

In other words, when students can't find your content, they don't get your message.

End-to-end audits of online searches used by students are essential, helping you understand how students get information about your school.

Not optimizing your website for students can undo your best reputation management efforts.

The best online reputation management for universities strategies require attention to detail, particularly when it comes to the digital experience.

2. Take advantage of advances in AI for chatbots

Walk-in appointments literally walked away due to 2020 pandemic restrictions. As a result, students and parents hit the phones.

And with administrators busy enough as it is, chatbots offer a great way to provide answers to common questions.

Intuitive chatbots have the power to direct students to the resources they need. in turn, they take a considerable burden off those managing the university's reputation.

And for many students, chatbots are more effective than search engines. What's more: they stay under your control.

3. Post lots of videos

Maintaining your university's reputation is easier when students, parents, and other stakeholders are fixed on your message to the exclusion of other online voices. Video captures attention better than other forms of online content.

And when in-person tours of your campus are not possible, video is the next best thing.

What kinds of topics lend themselves to video for your various digital channels and ad campaigns? Campus tours are a must, of course, but you may also wish to consider:

  • Welcome messages. Admissions officers, faculty, coaches, current students, and other persons associated with your university can post general welcome messages and personalized welcome messages as prospective students progress through the admissions process. You can run a similar campaign aimed at student retention.
  • Speakers. Create a digital convocation to highlight speakers and invite discussion. You will have a detailed digital footprint that gives you objective data about how students respond to your presenters.
  • Day-in-the-life. Create videos that give your students a taste of college life, both to entice them to enroll and to remind them of what is waiting for them when they return to campus.
  • Departmental content. Serious students want to know what their professors are researching. Departments can create videos that show their research and innovations.

And with all those videos, you will be ready for the next essential activity for online reputation management for universities in 2021.

4. Ramp up social media marketing

Students hang out on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. This makes social media a primary tool of online reputation management for universities.

A Statista survey has found that global use of social media is up 44% since March 2020. Another survey discovered that the costs of social media advertising are down across the board.

This is the perfect time to increase investment in social media marketing. Doing so allows your to stay ahead of reputation issues and build your university's presence across the web.

What's more: universities that invest in social media marketing create awareness that helps water down reputation crises online.

What are the features of a successful university social media marketing campaign?

Flexible U/X

The University of Michigan makes creative use of its “M” team trademark in the classic gold and blue color scheme on its Twitter feed. Twitter is better suited to text content, so the Michigan "M" signals followers that the tweet is from their school.

But on Instagram, UM switches from its gold and blue "M" to shots of people and places with lots of gold and blue color. The university also created an eye-catching Snapchat mascot and maintains different YouTube channels for various academic departments.

Personal approach

West Virginia University has its own Mr. Rogers in the person of university president Gordon Gee. He creates folksy but useful video content to reach out to students across the country.

Grounding in place

The University of Vermont is located in a beautiful natural setting. As such, UV uses four-season shots of campus to generate engagement on Instagram. They also hold student photography contests

But when nothing else is going on, a photo of the campus covered in snow will do.

Lots of personality

It's rare to detect even a hint of scandal at the University of Indiana.  One reason for this is that IU puts out so much content on so many social channels.

Indiana makes extensive use of LinkedIn sites. They maintain a lively student presence on Pinterest. They spend a lot of time creating Internet memes. And IU academic departments have WordPress blogs and Facebook pages.

Indiana manages its online reputation by drowning out competing voices.

The best online reputation management practices for universities elevate online visibility. They establish trust and highlight your attributes.

What's more: the best online reputation management practices for universities highlight positive experiences of students and faculty. They promote positive news, create a buzz about your school and push your message to the top of the feed.

But even universities that offer courses and degrees related to online reputation management usually outsource outline reputation management to experts.

5. Hire a reputation management firm

One reason that universities outsource reputation management is to be ready for a crisis.

When a reputation crisis hits, you need experienced reputation crisis managers to look at your situation and provide the tools needed to limit the damage.

Another reason universities hire reputation management professionals is the level of expertise. After all, it's impossible to optimize your social media presence without AI. You need a consultant with experience and training to get you the maximum return from your investment.

Need help managing your reputation?

You've come to the right place.

Our reputation management solutions provide the tools and technology your university needs to thrive online. We work with universities to build online reputations that attract new students and ensure long-term success,

We are experts in online reputation management for universities. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

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