This guest post is written by Nicole Enns, a third-year student at the University of Calgary.
Deploying a mobile alerting system is one thing, promoting it and getting students engaged is a whole other challenge.
When first introducing a mobile alerting app there are two major obstacles to overcome: lack of awareness and apathy.
Lack of awareness is a major hurdle for all new apps. There are so many new apps on the market that it is difficult to differentiate yourself and to encourage students to see the value you can offer, so it is crucial to implement interesting and engaging advertising techniques to promote adoption.
Apathy is when students lack concern or enthusiasm for the app. There are two different ways to address it:
Firstly, apathy may be due to the fact that students already feel safe on campus. Students who are comfortable on campus and confident in themselves may feel that they do not need a mobile alerting system. When dealing with this form of apathy you must solve the problem through redirection. Demonstrating to students the app’s multi-functionality, and painting it not only as a safety tool but also a tool that can be used for building community connections with those who can keep them safe.
A second way apathy may arise is when students do not understand the importance or capabilities of the app. To counteract this it is imperative that there are a wide range of diverse advertising techniques explaining the app. This will help students to feel fully engaged and informed about the app.
More tips for solving these problems are as follows:
Choose a clear target market
When introducing a new product it is crucial to develop a clear, attainable, and relevant target market.
To do this you must first focus on who you are trying to target. The most relevant segment to start focusing on are those students who don’t already feel safe on campus or those who are not familiar with the landscape. This segment includes a wide range of students such as those coming from high school, transfer students, grad students and so on – the key is to focus only on one specific group for your campaign.
As an example, here are some strategies when targeting first-year students:
- Introduce the mobile alerting app to parents by adding brochures in acceptance packages and promoting the app in school emails. This will not only allow parents to feel involved but will inform students and increase their interest in the app before they even start at school.
- Promote the app during orientation week. First-year students want to get involved in the university community, gain a sense of belonging, and feel comfortable on campus. Hence, orientation week is an excellent opportunity for promotion since it is one of the first times students will be visiting the campus.
Produce an enticing video
A promotional video is a major advertising tactic and is an excellent medium to introduce the app and encourage students to download.
There are four key elements to having an enticing video:
- It has a clear and targeted message
- It is interesting and engaging
- It is short and concise
- It is administered in an engaging and relevant manner
To establish a video that has a clear message it is important to take into account the tone of the video. The tone has a major impact on the message when creating a promotional video and can entirely shape the audience’s perspective towards your app. For this reason, it is essential that the tone complements the message you are trying to portray in a simple yet intriguing manner.
One obvious tonal option for a safety mobile app is to use fear. However, it may not be the best strategy as there can be serious blowback. Instilling fear in students to download a campus mobile safety app may introduce your campus to the public as an unsafe environment, which may reduce interest in your school while also leaving the students already attending the university to feel anxious about their safety on campus. To avoid these negative views towards your school it is much more beneficial to focus on community engagement and the intrinsic benefits of the app. Promoting a safe environment as a result of students downloading the app and encouraging students to be part of the smart, safe campus movement.
The length of the video should be relatively short – roughly 30 seconds – especially if you are planning on using more than one video. If the video is going to be more of an informational video, explaining exactly how the app works and all of the features it offers, the video should be approximately five minutes.
Lastly, the placement of your promotional videos is crucial to ensuring that students are aware of the app. TVs around campus usually play videos on a loop and are most likely muted. Therefore, it is important to ensure that your videos are eye-catching – even without sound. Additionally, it is vital that you ensure that there is full campus coverage of the video, this can be done by focusing on high volume areas around campus such as food courts, recreation areas, and collaboration zones.
Advertise around campus
Students these days are very particular when it comes to what they put on their phones. Will it take up too much room? Will they use it every day? Does it have value to them? It is crucial to understand the trends of the generations that you are planning to target and to ensure that your advertising achieves its goals.
According to “The 99 Lives Trend”, identified by Faith Popcorn, multi-tasking is on the rise and the current students attending post-secondary institutions are an excellent example of this. If you walk around a campus students are constantly busy, either on their phones, reading textbooks, talking with friends, or even all three at once Yet, despite the fact that this trend reveals students as being excellent multitaskers it also may demonstrate that a lot of students have somewhat shortened attention spans. Therefore, students are much more inclined to focus on something that is interactive – such as stopping to take a picture with the school mascot and posting it to Instagram versus reading a long list or manual explaining campus initiatives. Advertising to students must be interesting, brief and, if possible, interactive.
Here are some examples of how to do this:
- Promote the app through posters around campus. Focus on key phrases and catchy headlines paired with intriguing artwork rather than long lines of text
- Advertise the app at on-campus events including sporting events or concerts
- Encourage adoption through endorsements from the school mascot at on campus games or school events
- If you don’t already have one, implement a safety awareness week at school to increase student interest and to relay the importance of campus safety
- Introduce adventure campaigns to get students involved (such as a game or scavenger hunt)
- Promote the app using existing social media channels, encouraging feedback (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram)
- Provide incentives to encourage trial of the app (discount at school store)
- Advertise in campus magazine (these can be somewhat longer advertisements with more information on the features and capabilities of the app, but stick to keeping it short)
- Increase awareness through creative advertising around campus such as artwork explaining the app on classroom whiteboards
- Promote the app through interesting and informational videos around campus