Improving virtual and self-guided tours with UGC at your institution is easy — and critical. Here’s why and how to get started quickly with three tips.
By: Kyle Freelander
College tours are an important engagement opportunity, but are yours doing enough to highlight what makes your institution unique and provide an authentic view of what it’s like to be a student there?
With research showing there are 1.3 million fewer students in postsecondary institutions (undergrad and graduate) in spring 2022 than in spring 2020, ensuring your institution stands out for all the right reasons has never been more important. Not to mention students are applying to more education options than before, with recent research showing that 40 percent of undergraduate students planning to graduate in 2025 applied to between six and 10 institutions.
To stay competitive, institutions need to meaningfully stand out from other education options. One of the best ways to do this is to leverage user-generated content — commonly referred to as UGC. This content, created by your users (including current students, alumni, faculty, and staff), can include everything from images and videos to blogs and podcasts to testimonials and beyond.
Besides providing an authentic view of what it’s like to live and learn at your institution, UGC also helps you excite and engage a broader audience, highlight your institution’s diversity, and produce truly unique content (that’s un-copyable by your competition).
And by putting UGC directly into your virtual and self-guided tours, you can share this meaningful content with prospective students when and where it really counts.
In fact, a recent Student Voice survey run by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse found that undergraduate students want UGC in tours but are often let down. Forty-three percent said virtual tours should include messages from enrolled students yet only 22 percent said they were included in a virtual tour they took part in. Similarly, the same study found that 33 percent of undergraduate students want to see messages from faculty in virtual tours, but only 23 percent said they saw that included in a virtual tour they took part in.
While gathering UGC and leveraging it in tours is easier than you might think (especially if you have the Campus Visit Experience from Full Measure), it can be hard to feel certain where to start or if the methods you’re using are actually resulting in high-quality content that inspires applications and enrollment.
That’s why we’ve put together three tips to help you gather effective UGC for your tours and start boosting the impact of your visit experiences.
1. Be clear about what you're looking for.
People are often eager to create content. More than 50 percent of people report creating content at least once daily, with 23 percent creating content 2–5 times a day. However, only 16 percent of brands provide clear guidelines on how their users should create and share UGC — despite 53 percent of consumers saying they want brands to tell them what to do for UGC, and 42 percent wanting examples (including photos and videos) to help guide their content creation.
If you want more ideas for gathering UGC, including the types of content to gather, this blog post shares six ideas for quickly and effectively tapping into powerful user-generated content.
2. Consent and credit are key.
Always get permission from the original creator to use their photo, image, or other content in your tours. If you’re holding a contest or have a clear way for students and others to submit UGC, this step can be easily incorporated into that process.
Once you have their permission to use their content, make sure you credit them. In tours, it’s super helpful for prospective students to see a student’s name, class, and major (where relevant). If you’re leveraging the UGC on your social media channels as well, it’s recommended to tag them in the post and be clear about if you’re crediting the image/video, caption, or both.
3. Always use real UGC.
Never make up user-generated content for tours or other channels. Besides not fooling anyone, this type of content has the opposite effect on consumers — and can drive prospective students away from your institution. Instead of providing an authentic view of campus life that inspires students to apply and enroll, fake UGC leads to disengagement and ruins trust. One survey found that 40 percent of people will disengage from a brand’s community after even one exposure to fake UGC, and 45 percent say they’d lose all trust in a brand. That could cause irreversible harm to your brand, enrollment, and retention.
Ready to include UGC in your institution's tours?
Full Measure’s Campus Visit Experience can help. Learn more and sign up for a free, no-obligation demo to see it for yourself.
Kyle Freelander (she/her/hers) is a passionate writer, former educator, and lifelong learner. She has taught English literature and writing courses in higher education, writing workshops in K-12 schools, and English and ESOL courses as a private tutor for students pre-K and up. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a BA in English (minor in Linguistics) from the University of Mary Washington. She currently serves as the Head of Content at Full Measure Education.