From cave drawings to Polaroids and now 360-degree immersive experiences, the world of visual communication has changed drastically. But the impact of visual communication on our understanding and experiences hasn’t changed. We can understand visual content in an instant. Not to mention, we can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Thus, what we see has a profound impact on how we feel and the actions we take.
In our work helping institutions reach and recruit students, we see the value of visual content in the behavior of today’s prospective students every day. For example, YouTube is the most popular platform among Generation Z, with 85% visiting the site daily. And when Gen Z research colleges, they are naturally drawn to visual content. A recent study explored how digital engagement influences the way high school seniors choose a college. Seventy-six percent of high school seniors said they have watched a video on a college website, and 55% said they want to see videos that portrayed the sounds, sights, and environment of the campus.
Traditional media won’t differentiate your campus
While traditional visual content like flat photos, maps, and videos can begin to satisfy prospective students’ desire to engage in campus life and culture, there are limitations. Traditional campus media can’t tell your campus’s story. They also can’t evoke the emotional reaction a student has when physically experiencing it. As such, they are mediocre tools at best for differentiating and conveying culture. Additionally, traditional content is a one-way communication with limited impact on the student’s experience.
With campus tours still on hold, enrollment leaders are thinking about ways to close the gap between experiencing a campus in-person and simply viewing flat photos or videos online.
Immersive content can increase quality inquiries and physical tours
To cater to Gen Z’s digital expectations, enrollment leaders have started to harness the power of immersive and interactive experiences to bring their campuses to life. And it makes sense. While the average .edu website visit is 2.4 minutes, students spend an average of 10 minutes in an EAB virtual tour alone.
But developing immersive content doesn’t mean you have to abandon your traditional campus photos and videos in your marketing. Consider layering photos or videos on top of the kind of 360 photos our partner use in their virtual tours. Those clickable photos and videos give prospective students and families another way to engage with and learn more about your campus.
Integrating immersive content like virtual tours into your marketing, from traditional mailers to email, can also generate results down funnel. On average, email campaigns that include virtual tour links see a 7.5% increase in respondents, while mailers that include virtual tour URLs have seen up to a 14% increase in respondents. It’s also critical that your virtual tour is available widely across your website, including your admissions page, visit page, and homepage and navigation bar for easy access to your tour regardless of where a visitor is on your site.
While Gen Z expects immersive visual content, virtual tours can also help adult learners get to know your institution. To engage adult learners, enrollment leaders have used virtual tour technology to highlight new labs or even to showcase online learning experiences. Whichever student audience you’re recruiting, immersive visual content—rather than flat photos and videos—can bring your campus to life.
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Explore best practices to help your virtual tour stand out and increase student engagement throughout the admissions funnel.
Start here if you are evaluating your virtual tour, or potential vendor, and reflect on areas of opportunity to provide maximum value and impact your institutional goals.