The first anniversary of the new management team at Abroad101 is upon us, a sincere thank you for your confidence and support. For our audience of American clients, warm Thanksgiving wishes. In this update we want to highlight the role of a review in today’s market and also highlight some creative ways to utilize them in your work with students. Reviews not only in draw interest in your programs, they also get students engaged, enrolled, and better prepared. In the full-circle view, reviews ultimately turn today’s prospects into successful advocates upon their return.
Reviews Are Social Media:
Perhaps you associate Social Media with websites like Facebook or Twitter, but Social Media is much broader and farther reaching than a few web sites. Social Media is the modern phenomenon of “social interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information, ideas, and pictures/videos in virtual communities and networks” according to Wikipedia, which is a social media site; Abroad101 is a social media site too.
In today’s consumer market, having volumes of information online is not enough; the trend is to engage with your users publicly. Successful engagement and loyalty comes from building a sense of community that is fueled by an ongoing interactive dialog. Anonymous testimonials have lost their effectiveness. To be effective in reaching the young and tech savvy crowd, you need to be open, share and receive commentary and offer lots of interaction.
Like other forms of Social Media, Abroad101 is designed to share. Reviews on Abroad101 are given a unique and permanent web address, provide comment sections and are distributed through a number of outlets. On the site, reviews are summarized by program, by provider, by home institution and by host institution (if applicable). Reviews are streamed to third parties through electronic feeds, software widgets and our associated community pages on Facebook and Twitter. Universities and providers are encouraged to share these reviews with their communities, adding power to the sharing concept.
Reviews Are Not Only For Marketing:
Reviews have a number of uses beyond building a first impression, which is why a number of universities incorporate reviews in all aspects of the study abroad process. Reviews help in:
- Measuring the “fit” – Each program has its own identity, not only in the stated objectives, but also in the personality of the students. By seeing where students come from and reading their comments, future students can get a sense of how they might (or might not) fit.
- Assuring the Choice with Family and Friends – Reviews and their first hand accounts can help anxious parents and concerned friends understand and grow comfortable with the student’s choice.
- Setting Expectations – Often overlooked, but nothing will help communicate the reality of a program more than a review. Brochures can’t highlight safety concerns, but reviews can. Web sites won’t discuss the realities of the setting or economic conditions of the local community, but reviews do. As the saying goes, “an educated consumer is the best kind.”
- Gathering Support for the Student – In addition to assurance, students share reviews with others to gain support, sometimes literally through the recent phenomenon of crowd funding.
- Pre-Departure Orientation – Nothing can better prepare a student than the first hand accounts of previous students, especially if the former students came from the same home institution. If you create a Facebook Group for new students, start the dialog off with links to reviews to get discussions going.
- Helping Students Jump Start their Careers – Using the review as a showcase of their time abroad, the published reviews should be included in Linkedin profiles, cover letters and other career building self-promotion.
Ranking, Ratings and SEO:
Abroad101 also uses reviews to determine positioning in our directories. The Free Listings in Abroad101 are displayed based on a formula that favors recent reviews and review score. More reviews means better positioning which means more inquiries.
In addition to the overall score, Abroad101 also displays the average ratings for six other aspects. We compile those into our annual rankings, which we will promote early in 2015. To have your program considered for the rankings, we need reviews, so please get those invitations to recent students out before the end of the year.
Five years ago, typing “Plumber in Kansas City” into your favorite search engine would have directed you to online phone directories and electronic yellow pages. Today, it gets you to Angie’s List, Yelp and the yellow pages that now syndicate reviews. Search Engines are increasingly using reviews and other Social Media scoring (likes, favorites) as a factor in their rankings; keeping or improving your position with them is yet another reason to incorporate reviews in your online marketing plan.
Check Out Our sessions:
Abroad101’s CEO, Mark Shay presented sessions that outline these topics in further depth. You can download the session slides from our blog:
ISEP Conference: “Social Media & Web Marketing Tools for Marketing and Advising” –
NAFSA Region X/XI: “Why Require Student Reviews” –
Work Closer with Abroad101:
More than 90% of the reviews on Abroad101 are the result of an invitation, and the most effective way to generate reviews on Abroad101 is to use the “Invite Tool” in your account dashboard. Our system is configured so that duplicate requests won’t get sent, so use the tool to invite recent students – it works!
Double-check your listings. Type your provider name in the search box at the top of each page and click to see your provider summary page. As with all of the listings on Abroad101, the display formula applies here too. If you see the Abroad101 graphic (thumbnail) in the listing, that program needs a listing photo. Make note of the programs needing reviews and put special emphasis on getting reviews for those. If you need program titles changed or programs added, send an email to support@Abroad101.com with the program name and a web link, we’ll update them for you.
Advertise with Abroad101. We continue to create added benefits for those that financially support Abroad101 through advertising. 2-3 times daily we highlight advertiser programs on our Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media outlets. Reviews from advertiser programs are also distributed through Twitter with the advertiser name and related hash tags included. Advertisers also receive screened general student inquiries that come through the site. This comes in addition to the high visibility, cost-effective advertising positions across Abroad101. Now’s a great time to boost your presence on Abroad101, contact mark@Abroad101.com for details and a price quote.
If you are interested in using Abroad101 as your official program evaluation management system, we’d love to talk to you about how Abroad101 can replace your paper or other legacy application.
As a reminder, reviews collected in 2014 or the result of an invitation issued from Abroad101 in 2014 will be considered for our annual rankings. Log-into your dashboard and use the Invite Tool to get your former students to submit reviews by December 31 and you’ll that review will automatically be entered into the rankings process.
And, as always, your comments, questions and feedback are welcome. Thanks for a great year; the best is yet to come!