Using Student Profiles as Content Marketing Tools

Last year, I wrote about the importance of organic content in higher education marketing. In that piece, I touched on student testimonials as a content option for institutions of higher education. Talking to your students and alumni provides a lot of value: You’re not just getting a piece of content for your website, you’re learning what your students like and don’t like about the program, experience, and institution as a whole. 

Student testimonials allow you to hear actual input from your most valuable customers. I know not everyone likes to think of students as customers, but they pay you for a service, and their experience matters. 

Your students and alumni are a rich source of information. Involving them and sharing their stories can go a long way in your recruiting and retention efforts.

Terminology check: Student-focused content can go by different names, such as student testimonials, profiles, or quotes. For the purposes of this article, I’ll refer to student testimonials and student profiles interchangeably when I mean full-length, written content pieces about a student or a graduate. Quotes can be snippets from the articles or one-off statements from a student or graduate. And, yes, despite being called student testimonials throughout this piece, alumni are included, too. Video testimonials are a little different and should be addressed separately. Written pieces are a simpler and more affordable way to get started.

What Can I Do With Student Testimonials? 

So much! Part of the reason why student profiles are such great content is their flexibility. If you have a full student profile, you can take pieces from it and place them on various channels. 

Student testimonials are basically a school’s customer reviews. Of course, actual reviews of your school can be found on Google and other online forums, but student testimonials are the more authoritative, richer reviews from verified sources. Like reviews, you want these content pieces to be authentic. They should share what students loved and what advice they have for others.

Below are a few of the many ways you can use these gems.

1. Publish Profiles on Your Website        

First, publish the student profiles on your website. You should build a dedicated section on your website to house this type of content — you can title it “Articles,” “Blog,” “Content,” or “Resources.” These section names give you flexibility to add other types of content as well. However, if you want to keep profiles separate from other content that is geared toward search engine optimization (SEO), you can name the section accordingly — “Student Profiles” or “Testimonials,” for example. 

Once you have a profile published, you can link to it from other pages on your website. You can post a student quote and photo on the relevant program page, and then link from that to the full profile. If there’s an applicable quote about how helpful the financial aid team was, post it on that page and link to the person’s full profile. This practice, known as interlinking, adds SEO benefits to your website. 

2. Add Quotes to Your Landing Pages

Visitors to your landing pages are at the top of your enrollment funnel: They clicked on an ad that led them to this page for more information. These visitors are prospective students who want to see someone else’s success with the program or product on the page. Think about how you make purchases online. You like to see other people’s opinions on an item before buying it. Researching a degree program is similar. Prospective students want to see what others are saying about the program before taking the step to fill out a form.

3. Share Testimonials on Social Media

Both paid social media ads and organic postings can benefit from student testimonials. This is interesting, authentic content you can share on your social media platforms, linking to the full profiles on your website. Make sure to let the featured student or graduate know when their article is live — they may want to share it on their own social media accounts. 

On the paid social media side, you can get the attention of people who are considering earning a degree by showing them a real person who has found success in your program. Social media, at its core, is about people and sharing. Featuring students is perfect for social media.

4. Use Snippets on Nondigital Media

I didn’t want to call this section “Other,” so here’s what I settled on. Basically, you should use content from your profiles everywhere. You can include student quotes and images on brochures, billboards, flyers, banners — anywhere you have your message, you can have a student’s voice. My undergraduate alma mater’s advancement team gathered a group of third- and fourth-year students, including me, and made baseball cards featuring us to use as fundraising tools. It was a win-win. The students were excited to be included, and the university got some good content.

How to Get Started With Student Testimonials

Every student has a story waiting to be told, which means you have loads of potential stories to tell. One of my favorite parts of my work is hearing students’ stories. Online adult learners are resilient, driven, and tested. They are, in short, an inspiration. And we should listen to what they have to say. But how do you get started? 

Here are a few things you’ll need: 

  1. A list of students and graduates to contact. Ideally, current students should be at least midway through their program so they have enough experience to share an informed opinion. However, don’t discount those just starting in a program. Include a few of these students since they’ll have a fresh perspective on the enrollment process and orientation. Alumni have a different perspective. They can give a full view of the program and how their education influenced their lives. 
  2. An interviewer and a process. This person could be from your in-house marketing team or an agency, someone who can contact the students on your list and set up calls. They should plan for an hour with each student, and have an idea of what questions to ask ahead of the call to make efficient use of the time. 
  3. Photos and consent. After you write the student’s story, send it to them for review. At that time (or at some point in the process), you’ll need to request photos and a media release form. Your university might already have a media release form that works for this. If not, consult with a legal professional about developing a consent form for students that is simple and clear. If students do not have pictures they can share, you might want to consider using your in-house photographer, if the student is nearby, or find a freelance photographer in the student’s area. That way you’ll get professional photos that you can use in all of the places we covered earlier in this article.
  4. Web development support. Finally, work with your web developer or agency to ensure the article and photos are posted after the student approves them. You’ll also want to plan which pages to post snippets on, as mentioned above. 

Bonus Benefit!

Student profiles are great for retention! Interviewing current students in the program gives them the opportunity to really reflect on their story and progress, and often compels them to keep going. Graduates get to think back on their experience as well and see how the degree has helped them in their careers.

Need More Help Getting Started? 

My team and I would love to help you! Archer Education has an experienced content team ready to work with you to get student profiles and other organic content in the works. We help dozens of institutions with their content needs. Click here to request more information about Archer’s content capabilities.

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