In an era when brand value is tied to online popularity, and the influence of social media in higher education is strong, universities must be mindful of their image. They must keep an ear to the ground and be aware of how students, parents, educators, sponsors and the public perceive them. There is a lot at stake: admissions, research grants, sponsorships and scholarships can rise or fall with a university’s reputation. Thus, managing online reputation is crucial for higher education institutions.
Online reputation management (ORM) is a collection of strategies brands use to maintain a positive reputation. ORM also prevents the spread of negative online chatter and addresses issues that have the potential to damage their image.
ORM is inherent in digital marketing for higher education. Even without express intent, digital marketers use ORM principles to bring a university to the top of the search engine results pages.
As a higher education professional or decision-maker, it will benefit your community to learn why online reputation management is important when marketing for education.
Why Is Online Reputation Management Important?
Online reputation management or ORM for higher education is about managing and maintaining a positive perception of the institution on the Internet. A good reputation is vital for the institution and its students: It drives admissions and funding for the former and positively influences job opportunities for the latter.
Positive online chatter can shape a favorable image, and conversely, negative talk can tarnish a school’s reputation. Online reputation management for universities is necessary and shouldn’t be a second thought in education marketing.
The Benefits of Online Reputation Management in Higher Education
Image is everything in higher-education institutions. Universities that are known for having world-class facilities, cutting-edge curriculums, competent teachers and high passing rates for licensure exams enjoy the following benefits:
- They attract new students and have a high admission rate each year.
- They also attract philanthropists and organizations that fund research, scholarships and endowments.
- Sought-after professors and dedicated educators are more likely to accept their offer over institutions with less sterling reputations.
- Their student and faculty retention rates are high.
- They have a high chance of weathering a public relations (PR) crisis (the public tends to be more forgiving of first-time offenses than repeat offenders).
In light of these motivations, allocating resources for online reputation management for higher education is an entrepreneurial move. Just as businesses engage in ORM to shape the public’s perception of their brand, institutions must also include ORM in their marketing strategies for higher education.
Knowing the undeniable benefits of online reputation management in higher education, let’s now how to manage people’s perceptions of your institution and how you can shape their opinions in your favor.
Tools and Strategies for ORM for Higher Education
Maintaining a positive online presence is vital for overall reputation management. With that in mind, here are three examples of tools and strategies that are vital for online reputation management for higher education:
- Install a Website Review Widget
When marketing for education, your goal is to show target audiences – students and their parents or guardians – the advantages of enrolling in your university. Using a review widget ensures your positive qualities are front and center on your website.
What is a website review widget? It is a customizable feature on a website that shows reviews and ratings along with the writer’s name and location. It is a straightforward method of showing your institution in a good light – namely, by providing social proof to attract new students and encourage parents to choose your university.
Reviews are crucial because they help improve public perception. For example, when choosing between two universities, there is a higher chance that students will choose the one with better reviews.
“Online reviews basically are the brand perception now because everyone lives online. People judge you based on your social media and Google results,”
said Tim Clarke, Senior Reputation Manager at Rize Reviews.
Placing the widget on the homepage ensures visitors immediately see your positive reviews and ratings. Adding them on internal pages also helps nudge visitors to follow calls to action (CTA) like signing up or downloading a copy of a course curriculum.
- Activate Website and Social Media Chatbots
Installing chatbots is one of the marketing strategies for higher education inspired by business marketing. Similar to how customers are happy when businesses immediately attend to their concerns, university community members are pleased when they quickly receive replies to their inquiries and requests.
A chatbot is an AI tool that provides pre-programmed responses to multiple choices and questions answerable by a yes or no. You can write scripts and conversation sequences to answer commonly asked questions and supply readily available information like enrollment schedules, class schedules and course prospectus. Using chatbots instead of making people wait indefinitely for replies helps keep people happy.
Another way to use chatbots for ORM for colleges is to write scripts directing complaints to the administration instead of having them blasted all over social media. Concerned parents and students want to be heard. Many only become vocal on social media when they feel neglected and ignored by school administrators. You can prevent public outbursts and respond to issues as quickly as possible by using chatbots to direct complaints to emails and private messaging apps.
- Engage in Video Education Marketing
Video is the most widely consumed content online today. In 2021, Statista reported that videos reached 92 percent of audiences worldwide. Video is highly effective at engaging audiences and delivering memorable marketing messages, making them valuable tools in online reputation management for universities.
Another advantage of video marketing for education is that it can work harmoniously with search engine optimization (SEO) and other digital marketing strategies. If your institution already has a digital marketing strategy, implementing a video-centric ORM strategy on top of education marketing should be easier.
How Digital Marketing for Higher Education Helps With ORM for Colleges
It is the nature of digital marketing to improve brand awareness and perception. As such, ORM is easy to integrate with digital marketing.
Here are examples of digital marketing techniques that also support online marketing strategies for higher education:
- Guest posting – This method helps keep the focus on a university’s positive qualities. Using optimized articles in digital marketing for higher education ensures that positive write-ups appear first on the SERPs.
- Social media marketing – The role of social media in higher education is undeniable. Everyone – students, parents, faculty, alumni and patrons – is on social media in one way or another. Therefore, you can use popular platforms to engage with your community and actively shape the institution’s relationship with the community.
- Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) – Paid ads can give any brand heightened visibility online. Regular appearance for search terms like “the best university in ___ state” conditions the public to associate “best university” with an institution. Exposure alone increases familiarity, which is a crucial criterion for choosing a university.
These examples contribute to online reputation management for colleges by surfacing positive reviews and favorable content about an institution online. However, if you want to develop a new image or recover your damaged reputation, you’ll need a more focused and strategic approach to ORM for colleges.
Hiring a reputation management company is the best way to achieve this goal.
Professional Reputation Management Consultancy Supports Online Reputation Management for Colleges
PR and marketing professionals with experience in ORM for education can help you address specific issues that stain your reputation as a premier educational institution. You will have a dedicated team to track complaints, reply to negative comments and reviews, encourage positive engagement and push promotional content during enrollment season.
A reputation management consultancy agency can shape an ORM campaign according to your goals, whether to attract new students or do damage control after a PR crisis. They also ensure consistency in your ORM efforts, which is crucial for maintaining the benefits of online reputation management in higher education.
Contact our online reputation agency, Rize Reviews, to learn more about higher education ORM. We offer subscription-based services and software that tracks review sites across the web. You’ll have the market’s best ORM tools and specialists at your disposal.
Call today and get expert advice on managing online reputations for higher education institutions.