The Beginner’s Guide to Virtual Campus Tours that Engage and Convert

VR101 college campus tours

Organizations in the travel, recruiting, and education industries are increasingly turning to virtual reality marketing to better connect and engage with customers.

The compelling nature of immersive 360-degree content hasn’t escaped the notice of the colleges and universities who are successfully using virtual campus tours in impactful ways. Fast-evolving and scalable technologies enable conversion-focused institutions to create virtual campus tours across mobile, desktop, and VR headsets that can virtually transport a prospective student to the middle of a beautiful campus square–even if that campus is actually thousands of miles away.

These initiatives get real results, too. Students who engage in virtual campus tours built by YouVisit are nearly twice as likely to enroll as those who don’t. Our data shows that schools that use virtual campus tours obtain yield-rate increases by as much as 28 percent.

Building a virtual campus tour that converts can be a fairly easy process. You just need strong strategic thinking up front, smart and professional execution, a targeted distribution plan, and a concerted effort to measure impact and optimize the experience after its launch.

In this post, I’ll show how virtual campus tours can be one of your most effective student recruitment strategies. Let’s start at the beginning.

1. What’s virtual reality?

VR is a suite of technologies that can deliver immersive, 360-degree experiences simulating a place, situation, or environment. In the context of college admissions, VR is most commonly used by admissions professionals to provide prospective students with the opportunity to “visit” a college campus with their smartphone, desktop, or VR headset.

At YouVisit, we partner with colleges and universities to build captivating virtual campus tours that include 360-degree photos and videos, layered with interactive elements that allow students to virtually “walk” through your campus, and learn about your institution along the way.

As with any other core tactic in your admissions marketing strategy, it’s essential that you approach virtual campus tour initiatives with specific goals in mind.

2. Why use VR?

VR enables colleges and universities to connect with students who may otherwise not have the time or money to visit a campus.

When executed properly, VR can be the next-best thing to an in-person visit from a promising student. Viewable across desktop, mobile, and VR, tours help schools decrease cost-per-enrollment while increasing the likelihood that an admitted student will enroll (by reminding them what they love about your campus).

3. What’s your story?

As with any other core tactic in your admissions marketing strategy, it’s essential that you approach virtual campus tour initiatives with specific goals in mind.

Here are my top recommended goals:

  • What do you want the world to know about your university?
  • How can your virtual campus tour set you apart from the competition?
  • What campus spaces do you want to highlight, in what order, and why?
  • What is the virtual “story” you’re trying to tell?
  • What can a potential student expect in terms of campus culture?

Those are some fairly big questions, and they have to be answered even before you begin to take on the technical issues you’ll need to address on the back end. Given the furious pace at which these technologies are evolving, it’s highly recommended that you turn to professionals for guidance.

A top immersive technology company, such as YouVisit, can tell you what works and what doesn’t, and help you find the right mix of technologies to help you achieve your goals.

Virtual reality marketing in higher-ed is no fad. It’s here to stay because it’s driving results for public and private schools of all sizes.

4. Get the word out

As a best practice virtual campus tours should be to prominently featured it on your admissions site. To fully maximize your VR efforts, it’s essential to distribute your experiences via every channel available.

VR apps can be used to even further leverage your virtual content, while admissions officers can be sent out on the road with VR headsets, ready to be shared with students during in-person visits. They’re a proven attention-getters when used at career fairs. If you’re talking to a prospective student at a fair, show them what life is like at your school by handing them a headset and watch a crowd gather.

Social media channels are another key part to any VR rollout plan. Facebook and YouTube have thrown substantial resources behind 360-degree video, and both remain hugely valuable platforms for admissions marketers.

The platforms on which you can share your VR experience are already numerous–and are only growing more so by the day.

5. Measure your success, then strive to do better

As with any investment of time and money, it’s crucial to understand what your university is getting out of its virtual campus tour.

And just like your other marketing campaigns, you’ll want to determine how long they stayed and whether the experience led to any downstream action.

Other important questions to ask yourself are:

  • Did the visitor click through to learn more?
  • Did they make a physical visit the campus?
  • Did they ever actually apply?

As you begin your efforts, these are questions that must be asked, answered, and then studied thoroughly as you begin work on your next campaign.

YouVisit can help you do all of this. Our platform provides real-time analytics for your virtual campus tour, and ongoing support from our Client Success team will allow you to continually update and optimize your initiatives.

Virtual reality marketing in higher-ed is no fad. It’s here to stay because it’s driving results for public and private schools of all sizes. If your college or university wants to keep up with the competition in a digital-first environment, a virtual campus tour must become a cornerstone of your recruiting efforts going forward.

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Download the eBook to learn how virtual college campus tours enable admissions departments to stand out in a competitive marketplace, increase conversion yield rates, and more.

Tim Hyland has spent the past 15 years working as a communications and marketing professional in higher education. He previously worked as a newspaper writer and editor, covering higher education and other sectors.

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