Competition among private schools, colleges, and universities is intense, and that’s why online reputation management for education matters.
Declining enrollment, rising costs, campus advocacy targeting racial and economic inequalities, reductions in fiscal support from state and federal sources, increased competition in online education in our post-COVID world – especially for graduate and certification programs have added to the challenges colleges and universities already face to attract new students and engage alumni and donors.
Colleges and universities with negative reviews and low rankings are suffering. And those without active reputation management strategies aren’t far behind.
Online Reputation Management for Higher Education is More Difficult Than Ever
With more than 4,200 institutions of higher education in the U.S. alone, the competition is staggering. Your college or university is competing locally, regionally and often nationally.
Over the past year, schools have seen a massive shift to online and hybrid learning. Reputation management for colleges, universities and private schools—at least for the foreseeable future—must reflect positive experiences in the digital and distance learning realms, as well as traditional in-class learning and campus life.
Colleges and universities must manage their online reputation and messaging across a very diverse target audience, including: current and prospective undergraduate and graduate students, parents and family members of current and prospective undergraduate and graduate students, current and prospective staff and faculty, alumni and donors. Local, regional and national media and state and local political figures also impact the online reputation for colleges and universities and must be considered when developing an effective communications strategy.
Whether performing an Audit or helping implement an existing online reputation management strategy for a college or university, we analyze online search results on Google, Bing and Yahoo, including mentions on Google News, Google Images and Google Autocomplete and Related Search results.
We also review the school’s website with a focus on online reputation and branding, rather than a focus on user experience/functionality or design. Finally, we are often asked to review a school’s social media reputation on key channels including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, with a competitive comparison with other peer schools – sharing actionable insights and analysis.
Online Reviews for Colleges and Universities
Online reviews, mentions, recommendations all matter to prospective students, and their families, who are often helping to pay the bills.
91% of 18-to-34-year-olds trust online reviews. This is your target demographic, and they are looking at your online reputation. What will they see when they search online?
In a survey conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, only 19% of college students stated that they were “very satisfied” with their online college courses. Compare that to 51% of students before remote learning became a necessity. This means the bar has been lowered for college reviews—and it also means your school has a unique opportunity to position itself ahead of its competitors with positive online reviews.
Some of the most popular college and university review sites include:
- College Confidential
- The Equal Opportunity Project
Monitoring is essential to effective online reputation management for education, but it is only the beginning of an effective online reputation management strategy.
A crucial component of online reputation management is the suppression of negative content and promotion of positive content – whether it is reviews, local or national news stories, blog and influencer posts, social media or more, we know how colleges and universities gain greater control and influence over Page 1.
College Rankings and Your School’s Online Reputation
U.S. News’ 2022 Best College Rankings list uses retention, graduation rates, post-graduation performance, reputation, faculty resources, student profile, finances… to rank approximately 1,500 schools in its annual report.
Does a university’s rankings matter to prospective college students? Yes and no. It depends on what type of students you’re targeting.
But only 20% take those rankings seriously. And who is part of that 20%? Prospects with the highest admissions scores – in other words, the most talented and coveted students.
Those college rankings are created using some hard facts, like tuition and graduation rates. But there’s more. As much as 20% of your university’s ranking is based on reviews.
So, here you have the top 20% of prospective students assigning the most weight to college rankings, while those rankings are made up of at least 20% peer opinion.
Online Reputation Management for Private Schools
Private elementary, secondary and high schools exist in highly competitive environments. Not only are they working to prove to parents that as compared to public schools, the tuition and investment is worth it, they are competing against one another.
Private institutions make up 25% of the U.S.’s K-12 schools. And yet, they serve only 10% of all K-12 students.
That leaves room for growth, and again, lots of competition. And what are private schools using to compete? Their reputation.
The top two reasons parents choose private schools are discipline and the learning environment. Private schools can advertise and highlight these benefits; however, online reviews from current and former students are what matter most to prospective families.
Reputation Rhino has worked with private schools on strategy and tactics to help private schools compete with public schools and other private institutions.
Niche.com is not specific to colleges, universities and private schools, but it is a go-to resource for those looking for school reviews. With more than 100 million reviews viewed by more than 50 million people a year, it’s a great place to start when managing a learning institution’s online reputation.
And Niche.com doesn’t simply present reviews. It gathers data from public data banks, consumer reviews, surveys and agencies like the Department of Education to paint a descriptive picture of schools. This means that a single review does not stand alone. It’s tossed into the mix and used to color the overall portrait of your college or university’s reputation.
90% of Niche.com’s traffic comes from the United States, and 79% comes from organic search. Most visitors are interested in science and education, so if that’s your schools demographic, it’s crucial that you’re putting your best foot forward on Niche.com.
Social Media Management for Colleges and Universities
People aged 18 to 29 are the largest demographic of social media users. Whether you’re targeting college-age students or the parents of young children, that’s your market… and that’s why your school’s reputation on social media is so important.
On social media, your reputation is established in the branded language you use, in the consistency with which you communicate and in the relevancy of those communications. Reputation Rhino’s social media management experts can share best practices and help your school avoid the many pitfalls that can affect colleges and universities on social media.
87% of your target audience is using Facebook. If a search for your school on Facebook comes up empty, that’s a strike against it. And if your page isn’t offering useful, relevant and branded content—or isn’t engaging with its followers—that’s another strike.
Having a presence on Facebook is important for every school, and being active in that presence can positively affect its reputation. There are virtually no limits on the type of media you can post, so you can give prospective students exactly what they’re craving.
This social media platform is more restrictive than Facebook, in that you have fewer publishing options. It’s definitely more visual, and photos should be of the highest quality if you want your school to make the best impressions.
More than half of your target audience (18-to-29-year-olds) have an Instagram account, and it’s the only social media platform that’s projected to grow significantly in coming years. It hasn’t proven to be low-hanging fruit or an easy-to-use platform for education, but that can be good news for you. Establish a presence on Instagram, and it could be just what your college or university needs to pull ahead of the competition in the social media realm.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network with over 675 million members worldwide, with 167 million members in the U.S. 24% of Millennials (18-24 years old) use Linkedin, which makes it an attractive platform to engage university and graduate students with relevant content throughout their time on campus and preparing students for careers and professional opportunities after they graduate.
More than half of all college graduates are on LinkedIn so it is also an important site to engage alumni. LinkedIn is also a powerful tool for colleges and universities looking to attract faculty and administrative talent.
Twitter has become its own search engine, with 2.1 billion searches every day. The key with Twitter is to Tweet regularly, often and with variety. Two posts per day, with two hashtags each—sharing announcements, videos, articles, photos—will put your school on the Twitter map and enhance its overall presence and online reputation.
90% of 18-to-29-year-olds are using YouTube on a regular basis, and 60% showed a marked increase in usage in the year 2020. For colleges, it’s recommended that you create and post videos about…
- how to apply
- campus life
- department summaries
- social causes
- day-in-the-life (students and staff)
- special event coverage
- featured speakers
… whatever makes your school unique and will appeal to your target demographic.
Online Reputation Management for Education
Reputation Rhino’s experienced, knowledgeable and passionate team of reputation management experts are ready to apply their experience and expertise to improving your school’s online reputation. We help clients:
- Generate positive press, reviews and content to boost organic search results.
- Monitor and manage reviews.
- Suppress negative content.