Virtual and 360º tours can serve a wide range of purposes. They can serve as job previews, visualize your physical locations, and help to orient prospective students before they ever step foot on campus. Most importantly, though, they can become a powerful marketing machine.
Just how do they do that? In a recent webinar, our digital marketing specialist Michael Davis and higher ed specialist Jason Czeskleba sought to explore that exact question. If you don’t have time to listen to the full webinar, let’s dive right in.
First, a definition. When we’re talking about a 360º tour, we mean a fully-fledged virtual tour complete with tour stops, hot spots, and multimedia content. Interactive maps are great and certainly have their uses. It’s the tours, though, that can build truly immersive experiences for your audiences.
Understanding the Power of 360º Tours
Make no mistake: the virtual tour is booming in higher education. Even before it became the default way to show off a campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, it had become a vital recruitment tool for a few reasons that are worth exploring further.
First, and most importantly, virtual tours create a marketable experience for all of its viewers. Prospective students and their families are able to experience campus, quite literally from the comfort of their couch. In the process, you can immerse prospective students in the aspects and areas that make your campus, and your institution, unique.
When built with the right software, every tour experience is unique. You can show off the whole university, focus on just one college, or create both in a linked experience. Multimedia, from the tour stops themselves to individual hotspots, showcase the student experience alongside the campus beauty.
From a visual standpoint, it’s an undeniable win. Because prospective students and families no longer have to drive in or cross state lines just to experience campus, you can extend your recruiting radius.
But that’s only the beginning. Through forms, buttons, and hotspots, you can create truly dynamic and actionable experiences that help to drive your marketing and recruitment funnel.
The Power of the Form
Experienced higher education marketing and recruitment professionals are familiar with just how important forms are in the process. Put simply, information is power. The more you know about your prospects, the more targeted your outreach and messaging can become to convince them that your school is the just-right fit for them.
The right virtual tour can help you leverage that power. A Concept3D tour, for example, allows institutions to easily embed individual forms into the tour itself, both through call-to-action buttons in the top navigation bar and within specific locations and tour stops.
That, in turn, allows for a wide range of possibilities:
- Embed a general visit registration form that appears at the top of all tour stops. Engaged audiences might just like your campus enough to check it out in person.
- Create a form specifically related to a stop on your tour. For example, why not link your business school stop with a form requesting more information about the business honors program?
- Embed forms at the maximum engagement opportunity. A general request info form might make sense as a pop-up after the third stop, when you know you have the attention of students and families navigating through the tour.
These forms, of course, need to be optimized to function correctly. The more targeted, and the more limited to only the most relevant information for your audience, the better.
The Power of CTA Buttons
If forms are the way for prospects to move through the conversion funnel, CTA buttons help to get them there. Done right, they attract your audience’s attention, prompting them to take a natural next step that helps to accomplish their goals.
In Concept3D’s virtual tour, these buttons are integrated directly into the interface. They’re available at the top bar, easy to find and click regardless of the individual tour stop. Each tour can have up to 6 buttons, which can be either standalone (linking directly to a page or form) or dropdown with multiple options for the next steps.
Just how you build these buttons for maximum conversion value, of course, is up to you. We’re particular fans of the 360º tour experience of St. Cloud State University and its consciously chosen four top buttons:
- A call out to plan your visit, leading directly to the page where prospects can choose one of the multiple admissions to visit options.
- A prompt to apply now, leading to the university’s application instructions and online application
- An option to visit the interactive map, which helps with more functional wayfinding needs during the physical visit.
- A dropdown button to request information, further narrowed to the undergraduate and graduate version of the request info form.
Each of these four options is set up linearly and makes perfect sense from left to right: you can plan your physical visit after experiencing campus virtually or take the direct path to the application. Once you’ve applied or registered for a visit, check out the campus map. And, if you’re still not sure but intrigued enough to keep up, just request more info to start a conversation.
Creating Depth in Your Virtual Tour Through Hot Spots
The best 360º tours become marketing machines through more than just function. Sure, they show off campus, provide easy next steps, and help gather prospect information. But their true calling card is a crucial piece of the success puzzle: storytelling.
In marketing, storytelling is everything. It’s the past, present, and future of effective communication. In your virtual tour, you can accomplish that emotional connection and in-depth storytelling through hot spots.
Through this feature, you can add additional images, videos, text, or links directly to each tour stop. They appear as little bubble icons, optional to click for your audience but adding significant value when they do.
The potential uses for hot spots in higher ed virtual tours range widely:
- Show off the interiors of buildings that you can see from the outside in the tour stop.
- Show videos of events that take place at the stop, like an outdoor concert or intramural tournaments.
- Add student testimonials to create a level of social proof within your tour.
- Show what the future might look like, as a rendering of a new building currently in construction.
- Showcase unique perspectives of your school, like rooftop images, drone footage, etc.
Most importantly, this is your chance to fully tell your school’s story and show its uniqueness. For example, we love how Mount St. Mary’s University uses a hot spot in the second stop of its virtual tour, showcasing just how beautiful (and photogenic) the vistas can be right behind the arches on campus.
Power Up Your Virtual Tours With Social Media
Modern higher education marketing is impossible without at least considering the power of social media. It’s how most prospective students, and their parents, now tend to research your college or university. Built right, virtual tours can fit right into your social media strategy.
Most importantly, you can easily repurpose content from your virtual tour on social media. Facebook, for instance, allows brands to upload 360-degree images and converts them into its own platform so that users can still navigate around and see all the angles. That’s a perfect opportunity to show off one tour stop, linking to your full tour for more details.
But even on other social media networks, your virtual tour can shine. Instagram, LinkedIn, and others will always accept videos, which tend to be among the social media post types generating the highest engagement. Recording an iframe video allows you to post a sneak peek of your tour, again linking to the full experience for more info.
And of course, you can use your virtual tours to encourage user-generated content. That photogenic spot we mentioned above, featured by Mount St. Mary’s? Imagine including a hashtag, then asking prospects to take their own images with the promise that the best will be featured in the tour itself.
Maximizing Your 360º Tour Potential for Full Marketing Effect
Put it all together, and you get a marketing tool that’s tailor-made for attracting, engaging, and converting future students. To get there, of course, you need a tour software designed to accommodate all the above features and opportunities.
Ready to try your hand at creating a 360º Virtual Tour for free? Sign up here.
We believe in Concept3D because of just how well the tour platform works for admins and students alike, regardless of device. Experiences on phones are just as easy to navigate, engage, and immerse as desktop explorations. But our product doesn’t end there.
At its best, a virtual tour interacts directly with an interactive map. Together, they can form a powerful duo specifically designed to get across both aesthetics and functions. Renderings of the map become integrated into the tour, while each tool can link to each other to avoid losing either marketing beauty or wayfinding function. As a result, virtual experiences become more congruent, guiding users even while immersing them in your campus and school story.
With Concept3D, you get all of that, plus flexibility. Tour stops and hot spots can change at any time, allowing schools to adjust their messaging and purpose as conditions, environments, and branding emphases change. No matter what, the tour will always align with your larger recruitment and marketing strategy.
That’s what we can provide, and that’s why we want to talk. Contact us today to learn about our powerful 360º tour experience, and how it can help your university’s marketing effort as early as this recruitment cycle.