Virtual college tours were always a nice-to-have, but the pandemic catapulted them into must-have status. Fresh-faced, starry-eyed high school graduates couldn’t visit their dream campuses in person, and traveling abroad to see universities was too expensive for most international students (as it always has been).
But the advantages of the virtual college tour have outlived the pandemic.
Most students don’t have the budget or wherewithal to scope out multiple colleges in different locations and deep dive into the departments they’re interested in. Virtual college tours continue to overcome this gap for them.
The virtual college tour has now become an inseparable part of university branding, taking on forms as diverse as student-generated video content to AR/VR experiences. And research shows that students love it.
Sure, a virtual tour can’t completely replicate the experience of visiting a campus in person. Still, it makes institutions accessible, cuts out the need to travel long distances, and is cheaper for everyone involved.
But the pandemic is long over, so are virtual tours still effective? We say yes – their benefits to institutes of higher education go way beyond just serving their students’ needs.
But before we go into that, let’s understand the importance of video marketing in higher education.
The Importance of Video Marketing for Colleges and Universities
Video marketing uses video content to promote a brand, product, or service.
Educational institutions looking to garner more applicants might use video to showcase the beauty of their campuses, offer an inside look at student life, or even highlight faculty members and their credentials.
Video marketing is ultra-relevant to colleges and universities because their target demographic – young people – lives online, especially on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, where moving images are currency. Even before the pandemic, in 2018, 80% of prospective students in a Think with Google study said that watching an online video influenced their application. Students also say that they prefer gaining information about colleges through college websites and social media.
There are so many faculties, facilities, and extracurriculars, that colleges would love to share a lot of information with prospective students — but the form of a text-heavy pamphlet or web page isn’t the best, most inviting way to present it. Video can be both comprehensive and concise, and a well-made video is a competitive advantage.
The Power of the Virtual College Tour
The benefits of video marketing and video production for colleges and universities go beyond just being great for meeting students’ needs. Videos, especially virtual college tours, also offer a razor-sharp strategic edge.
They are engaging, economical, and, more importantly, long-lasting! Here’s how:
1. Video Allows You to Tell Crafted, Intentional Stories.
Many great aspects of a college can get lost in the spontaneity of a live tour. Different students giving a campus tour will have different messages to share.
With careful scripting and conscious cinematographic framing, you can present your institution artfully and deliberately. You can home in on specific departments or facilities that make you stand out—and even feature department heads who can’t make time for every live tour.
Rock Creek Productions did this for Virginia Tech, where we created a virtual tour entirely focused on their Adaptive Brain Behaviour department. Students loved the detailed information they got from the professors featured in it and the micro view of its facilities.
2. Video Takes Away the Challenges of Planning Elaborate College Tours.
Planning college tours takes up a lot of time and energy. Training student guides, coordinating faculty and student schedules, and keeping tours organized multiple times an application season, is a massive drain on resources. On the other hand, virtual tour planning and creation is a one-time effort where you can craft and hone your desired message.
3. Virtual Tours Allow You to Reach More Prospective Students.
The sheer number of students that a properly marketed video can reach goes way beyond what a live tour can. While college tours usually happen in small groups, a single video can take thousands of prospective students along a well-rounded, intriguing journey through the campus. The same video can be used for years, making it an economical choice and an excellent investment.
4. Video Allows You to Spotlight Student Testimonials.
According to research by Educations.com, students are more likely to value a university’s student reviews, and video is a great way to present them. For example, while showcasing a specific academic building, the video could include a careful selection of students talking about why they love the university, the classes they take in that building, and more. This way, prospective students glean a better insight into what being on campus is like.
5. Virtual Tours are Measurable.
The beauty of online media is that the performance of a video — likes, views, conversions, clicks, and shares — can be measured. Analytics can even give you information like your viewers’ location, age, and whether they drop out of the video halfway. Viewers can also respond with feedback in the comments section of YouTube or Instagram. Parse this data and crunch the numbers, and you’ll understand what works for your audience and what doesn’t.
How Do Virtual College Tours Work?
If you are an institution of higher education looking to organize a virtual college tour, your starting steps would include the following:
1. Define Your Message
Form an organized document with input from faculty members and students listing all the aspects of your college that you would like to highlight. Are there any special facilities you would like to call out or faculty members you would like to feature? Gathering student testimonials at this point would be a great step.
2. Set Clear Goals
Set goals for what you would like your virtual tour to do— who are you targeting (e.g. students interested in the social sciences)? What action would you want them to take after watching the video? Where do you plan to feature the video, and on what channels and platforms will you distribute and promote it?
3. Hire a Professional Team
Hire a full-service professional video production team with experience creating videos for institutes of higher education. They can give you input on refining your message and designing the best way to present it. Although student-generated content also has its place in video marketing, the appeal and credibility that a sophisticated, institute-owned video creates is unmatched.
Virtual College Tours Are Here To Stay, So Get On this Bandwagon Now!
Whichever way you look at it, video is a worthwhile investment. It is a product with high levels of engagement and longevity, unlike offline media. For those who have never seen the campus, a virtual tour is often their first impression— crucial to their decision to apply or visit in person.
Rock Creek Productions is an award-winning production company and studio with years of experience working with a diversity of clients, including George Mason and Virginia Tech. We are fully equipped to create attention-grabbing, crowd-pulling virtual college tours that will skyrocket your applications and improve your brand.
Hire Rock Creek Productions to make your virtual college tours today!