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Lobster Rolls, McDonald's, and Senior Search

What could these possibly have in common?

I recently saw a billboard for lobster rolls being served at McDonald’s. Being from New England, needless to say, it freaked me out a bit.

I’ll admit, I like McDonald’s. Heck, sometimes I love McDonald’s. But I will not be ordering a lobster roll from McDonald’s at any point in this lifetime.

Similarly, many schools like traditional senior search. Heck, many love it and rely on it to reach the goals they need. But integrating the right type of digital strategy into your traditional student search effort should potentially be looked at with the same caution as ordering that lobster roll. Is it actually lobster in that bun? How was it made? How much experience do they have making lobster rolls? And most concerning, what is the potential result?

These days it seems as though everyone is trying to throw a digital lobster roll into what they offer for student search strategies. It makes sense: students and parents spend virtually all their time online, on social media, and on their mobile devices, so making sure you’re speaking to that in your strategy is critical. However, doing it wrong can mean a complete swing and miss.

Let’s take a look at some of the ingredients needed for involving digital with your senior search efforts.

1. Retargeting

It’s important to think of student behaviors when implementing Retargeting with your search efforts. Consider your response rates to your e-mail outreaches. If only 10%–15% are clicking through your messages, and you just have Retargeting on your landing pages, you’re missing an enormous part of your audience. So many students are likely to not click through your e-mail but still find their way to your site. Make sure you have your Retargeting set up to capture all of that too. Also, consider parents. When the conversations happen in the homes and the parents find their way to your website and not your campaign-specific landing pages, you’ll want Retargeting speaking to them as well.

2. IP Targeting

Students who are familiar with your school’s name are much more likely to open an e-mail or mailing from you. IP Targeting can serve as that initial brand builder for your institution in advance of your mailing or e-mail. Today’s technology allows for upwards of 90% match rate for IP Targeting against your list, so you should make sure you’re getting coverage on virtually your entire list. Plus, IP Targeting reaches the entire household and all devices, meaning parents are also impacted.

3. Social media

You can use your lists to reach students across social media channels too. Match rates are typically a bit lower (around 50%–55%) than IP Targeting, so you likely aren’t reaching the entire list. But this can still be a valuable digital layer to the overall mix. Beyond lists, lead generation options on social media mean you can now develop parent-specific campaigns that deliver inquiries directly from parent audiences.

4. Feeder high schools

Geofencing, geofencing, geofencing. It seems everywhere you turn today someone is yelling about some form of geofencing being the answer to everything. It’s easy to tap into a geofencing technology provider and run an inefficient or irrelevant campaign. For high school reach, think beyond “geofencing” and consider “Mobile Footprinting.” By capturing mobile devices as they spend time at your feeder high schools, you can then construct audiences to run campaigns against whenever and however you want. With Mobile Footprints, you can go much further and connect those mobile devices to the homes they reside in and reach the entire households via IP Targeting.

5. Pay Per Click

Incorporating a “branded” Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign into your efforts means you own the online search results real estate when students and parents react to your marketing efforts and look for you online. (It can also potentially be free.) Plus, you can use these PPC ads to highlight timely messaging and dates for info sessions, open houses, and application deadlines while your organic search presence absorbs the majority of the clicks.

6. Re-thinking name buys

Digital opportunities allow schools to reconsider doing the same old name buy they’ve done in previous years. Carnegie recently rolled out an online targeting capability (Audience Select) that offers digital reach to households based on academic achievement levels and household demographics, including income and ethnicity. This has helped some schools rethink how they approach name purchases and the role digital plays with those decisions.

The next time you’re on the road and are drawn to the Golden Arches, enjoy the experience. But please think twice about the lobster roll. And if your travels happen to take you to New England, a quick TripAdvisor search for “best lobster roll” should steer you in the right direction. My personal favorite: Larsen’s Fish Market on Martha’s Vineyard. Nothing but the best quality, and I know it’s caught, made, and served by the most experienced people possible.

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