Interactive campus maps can be a powerful digital tactic in higher education. Implemented the right way, they become much more than just a wayfinding tool. They’re opportunities to engage with your audience and better integrate your marketing and recruitment strategies. Getting there, of course, can be complex. After all, the likely impetus for building the interactive map was likely wayfinding. The key is then finding the opportunities in which your digital campus map can integrate into your marketing plan.
As higher education marketing and admissions offices are finalizing their marketing and editorial calendars for the 2022-23 academic year, now is the perfect time to begin considering your virtual interactive campus map in a new, more holistic way. This guide will help you create that integration for all of your core audiences.
1. Start With a Comprehensive Exploration of Interactive Map Features
The first step might also be the most crucial: everyone involved in building the marketing plan should possess or gain a true understanding of what features, beyond wayfinding, your map has to offer. It’s the only way to ensure that you can truly leverage its benefits within your larger strategy.
Features can vary widely depending on the vendor and map type you opt for. For example, Concept3D campus maps offer the following opportunities:
- Multiple map layers: These allow you to create custom experiences for multiple audiences and reasons. For example, you might create a parking map vs. a map specifically designed for move-in day.
- Advanced accessibility: These features help users with disabilities navigate the map with ease and find what they’re looking for.
- Interactive wayfinding: This allows mobile and desktop users to quickly get walking or driving directions to the right spot on campus.
- Live data feeds: The feeds can feature information like your current campus shuttle bus service or computer lab accessibility.
- Lead generation options through integrated inquiry forms: These forms capture interested visitors for follow-up information.
- And more
Of course, these are just some of the many features interactive maps have to offer. Only a complete understanding of them allows your marketing plan team to find new and innovative ways to incorporate the tool into larger marketing and communications strategies.
2. Identify Major Campus Events During the Academic Year
Even when its features go beyond wayfinding, a campus map is still best served when anchored in physical space. That physical space, of course, is best connected directly to the major events that will drive audiences to and around your campus in the course of the academic year.
That’s why identifying your most important campus events is the second step to build context for the map’s marketing integration. Consider homecoming as an example. This event drives hundreds and potentially thousands of visitors to campus and the surrounding area. It can benefit significantly from a tool designed to streamline foot and vehicle traffic on campus.
For homecoming, your interactive map can be included in any pre-event coverage, driving audiences to the right parking lots, parade areas, and eateries. You can even have a homecoming-specific layer on the map that includes all important spots in a single, convenient location. This would make it easy for visitors to navigate around.
Of course, homecoming is just one of many potential examples. Events like commencement, admissions open houses, move-in day, and large college sporting events can all benefit from similar treatments. Knowing what those events are and how they can benefit from your map can be a boon when looking to integrate it into your communications flows and marketing plan. With our recent acquisition of Localist, sharing events is even easier now! You can learn more about that here.
3. Create an Editorial Calendar Specifically for Your Interactive Map
Next, it’s time to go beyond events. As you build your channel-specific editorial calendars, build in map opportunities that present the many features the map has to offer. Creating a schedule now allows for more strategic planning ahead, building consistency as you push your messaging throughout the academic year.
Your major campus events naturally take on a significant role as anchors of the editorial calendar. But don’t stop there. For other opportunities to promote your interactive campus map, you can:
- Build and promote self-guided tours within your map. These allow your core audiences, like prospective students or alums returning to campus, to explore campus on their terms.
- Showcase key campus features, like sustainable areas and buildings or a more future-facing view of major construction zones on campus.
- Expand your map to the local community. Show interesting spots for current and prospective students, from restaurants to local parks, hiking trails, entertainment venues, and more.
- Show the history of your university and campus; include historical images and map layers that transport audiences back in time.
Each of these opportunities, of course, requires some build time on the interactive map itself. But that build time tends to pay off as evergreen content that you can consistently promote on your core channels.
4. Share the Map and Its Features With Core Campus Stakeholders
The next step to incorporating your campus map into your core marketing and communications channels is relatively simple. The more you share its possibilities, the more it will likely be used across various campus offices. As a result, exposure can increase exponentially.
Think about the many potential uses of interactive maps in the typical higher education infrastructure:
- Admissions can use it ahead of visit events and during registration confirmation communication to push people to campus, along with more general brand-specific messaging.
- The alumni office can keep its core constituency updated on what campus looks like while also building nostalgic feelings about the days of campus past.
- Athletics can use it to direct traffic to high-attendance sporting events, showcase its facilities when recruiting potential student athletes, and more.
- Facilities can use it for important campus-internal communications related to construction zones, weather-related traffic changes, and more.
- Student Affairs can direct internal audiences, and especially current students, to important events like the student club fair or physical spaces like the student center.
Those opportunities are just the beginning. Each office will be happy to build its own communications and marketing plan around the interactive map. This multiplies its exposure and makes it a core part of all relevant communications efforts across campus.
5. Integrate Regular Map Call-Outs Into Your Outreach Channels
The final piece of active integration goes beyond the in-depth features of an interactive campus map. It involves simply making sure that each editorial calendar used for core audiences across channels calls out to the map on a regular cadence. This step will help it gain and maintain audience attention.
In other words, it involves ensuring that every outreach channel—from Facebook to LinkedIn to admissions emails and the website—occasionally draws attention to the map in some way.
For true integration, all of the previous steps mentioned in this guide can lead to this final integration. Major campus events, unique features, and different stakeholders can all lead to new and unique ways to showcase the map and its functionality.
The combination of all of these factors, spread out across core outreach channels, results in a communications effort where the map is never ignored or forgotten. Instead, it continues to act as a content generation machine that helps all stakeholders and all audiences across the institution.
6. Gather Map Feedback and Analytics to Improve the Experience Over Time
Integration itself, of course, is never quite complete. In addition to ensuring an ongoing cadence of messaging related to your virtual campus map, it’s also vital to regularly evaluate just how those messages are performing and how you can improve both the map itself and how your institution communicates about it.
That starts with a simple step. Add a feedback call to action to the map that allows audiences to share:
- How they use the map
- What their favorite features are
- (Most importantly) What features do not hold up to their expectations or aren’t functioning properly
Regular monitoring of this form alone can make a significant difference in improving the map experience over time.
Beyond that initial step, comprehensive analytics can help you understand how the map and its integration into other marketing channels are performing. There are two directions from which Analytics can be approached:
- Map-internal or connected metrics: Solutions like Concept3D include a Google Analytics integration that allow universities to track traffic, the top map categories, and more.
- Channel-specific metrics: Analyzing how map-specific social media posts or emails perform allows you to benchmark your promotional efforts against other topics and the overall campaign.
Either approach works. But ultimately, a combination of both provides the most comprehensive overview of how well your map is getting in front of your audience. Regular reporting and review of these metrics allow you to make improvements over time, creating more thorough (and successful) integration in the process.
Leverage Your Interactive Campus Map as a Tool in Your Integrated Marketing Plan
When implemented the right way, your interactive campus map is much more than a wayfinding tool. It has the potential to be a promotional powerhouse for your campus, providing core content for almost every occasion and outreach level.
Of course, you need the right mapping solutions to realize that opportunity in your marketing plan. That’s where we come in. Concept3D has worked with universities across the country to create engaging, immersive, and user-friendly interactive map experiences. Ready to learn more? Contact us to start the conversation.