Too often, the name of the game for education marketers is “do more with less.” In the spirit of helping you do just that, I’m going to show you how to create a virtual campus tour of your school with a free tool: Google Maps.
As we’ve discussed before, one of your biggest distinctives is your campus. No matter if you are located in rolling hills or the busy streets of a big city, no other college or university has a campus quite like yours.
Unfortunately, not every prospective student can make it to your campus visit days, or to your campus at all before they decide to enroll.
However, education marketers can provide virtual campus tours to allow prospective students a chance to have a look around. And with some of today’s modern tools, like 360 photography, it gets your prospects awfully close to being there.
Of course, if you have the money, investing in an elegant tool like Brown University’s virtual campus tourwill certainly do the trick.
Unfortunately for many private institutions, this kind of virtual experience could break the budget.
But fear not, my friend!
Cutting-edge digital marketing can be done on a shoestring budget, and as I’ll show you today, sometimes you can do it for free.
Google: Ubiquitous and Free
If there’s one company that’s marked the life of pretty much everyone, it would be Google. Besides the Google search tool, you’re probably familiar with Google’s organizational offerings like…
- Google Calendar
- Google Drive
- GSuite, Google’s white-label business solution for for profit and nonprofit organizations
One more tool I’m sure you use all the time is Google Maps.
At first glance, you might think Google Maps’ primary function is to spit out directions on the fastest route to the gym, but Google Maps is so much more than that to the average user.
Google Maps isn’t a map. It’s a search engine… that happens to have a map.
Sure, people use Google Maps as a way to get directions, but they use it most often to explore their local area.
People go to Google Maps first and foremost with a question, just like they would when they go to Google Search. They want to know if there’s a brick and mortar location that will serve a need or desire that they have.
They go to Google Maps to find places that would likely have the answer to their questions.
If I want to hang out with my friends, I ask Google Maps if there are any good coffee shops nearby. If I need gas, I ask Google Maps if there’s a gas station close by (gas prices included!).
And if I want to find a school within driving distance…
It’s almost a given that prospective students will use Google Maps as a way to explore their area for local colleges and universities during their college search. This makes it extremely important for you to have your school’s profile up and running with correct information on Google Maps!
So if you haven’t done so yet, add or edit your business information in Google Maps.
Encourage your students and faculty to leave positive reviews to increase your Google ratings.
Even if a prospective student found out about your school through another marketing channel, odds are that they will still look you up on Google Maps to either find where you’re located, get directions to visit, or check out your Google ratings.
But there’s another vital piece of information that prospective students will be looking for: What does your campus look like?
What’s it look like to live there and be a student?
Since Google Maps is so much more than a map, it can give your prospective students an answer through the photos in your profile, so make sure you are posting relevant and current photos often.
But you can also go much further and take students on a virtual campus tour right in Google Maps — and it won’t cost you any more than you’re paying now! (*ahem* It’s free.)
How to Set Up a Virtual Campus Tour in Google Maps
Let me walk you through how to set up a virtual campus tour with Google Maps just like Franklin College.
First, you’ll need to invest in a quality, yet affordable 360-degree camera like the Ricoh Theta S Digital to take the kinds of 360-degree photos that allow students to really explore the campus.
Go throughout the campus at certain locations taking pictures with the Ricoh Theta S Digital camera and then upload them to your business listing profile in Google Maps.
The camera is smart enough to match the geographical coordinates of your pictures to the exact place on Google Maps. When the user clicks on Google Maps’ street view icon (the little yellow man in the corner), all of the locations you shot with the camera will show up as blue dots on the screen.
When your user hovers over the blue dots, they get a preview of the pictures you took.
Then, when your user clicks on the photos, their screen switches to Google’s photo slider where they click to move the photo around for a full 360 degree experience.
Check out the YouTube video I created below to show you how it works in real time.
You can create these 360-degree photo experiences inside of your buildings, across your campus lawns, inside of dorms, or inside sports facilities. These can be both photo and video…so if you want to show off a dorm room with a narration, this is the tool.
You can make these 360 virtual campus tours available to prospective students who find you on the web in just one afternoon. You can even send prospective students to Google Maps for a virtual campus tour until you want to invest in a more professional solution (if you ever decide to go that route).
So what are you waiting for?
Go get your camera out and start building your free virtual campus tour!
Click here to read this article on the Caylor Solutions website.