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Geofencing and IP address targeting: The future of higher ed marketing

Universities and colleges have had significant success in personalizing acceptance letters – from sending golden tickets to pet rocks. Students want to feel like they’re individuals, not numbers, to a school.

But what if you could apply the success of personalized acceptance letters to other spheres of your marketing and engagement strategies? What if you could automatically show a prospective student from India information about international tuition and student visas on your website’s home page? What if you could send a message to high schoolers taking a campus tour at a nearby college to visit your campus too? What if you could show ads promoting your graduate programs to undergraduates at a neighboring university?

It’s possible with IP address targeting and geofencing. While these marketing tools have gained traction in the business sector, higher ed still lags behind.

What’s an IP address? What’s a geofence?

IP address stands for Internet Protocol address. An IP address is a unique, identifying number that is assigned to each device that connects to the internet. Geolocation services can map the location of a device based on its IP address.

The accuracy of the location of the device with a specific IP address varies – sometimes being as specific as a building, or as general as a city. Though it still involves a degree of unpredictability (due to VPNs, and IP addresses associated with the wrong location or with broad geographic areas), the precision and accuracy of finding a device’s location based on its IP address has improved significantly over the years.

The other word you need to know is geofencing. Geofencing is a virtual perimeter that’s set around a real-life location. It uses GPS or RFID technology to create a virtual boundary; when a mobile device enters, leaves, or lingers in the area surrounded by the geofence, it triggers a software response – like a push notification in an app, for example. You can set a geofence around a campus, a neighbourhood, or a lecture hall.

This article isn’t meant to be a comprehensive how-to on implementing geofencing and IP targeting. (You should check out some of the posts and companies we’ve linked in this article for that information.) Rather, it’s an invitation to universities and colleges to think into the future, to be on the cutting edge of all new technologies, and to understand the ways that futuristic-sounding software can translate into real increases in enrolment, retention, and graduation.

Target advertisements by location

Ads are annoying, but we can all agree that they’re way less annoying when they’re actually relevant. No-one likes seeing an ad that’s clearly meant for people in another country, or for someone working in a different field. We like seeing ads (and we’re likely to click on them) when we can see that the product is specifically useful for people of our location, age, or interests.

IP address targeting can mean you can serve ads to your customers based on their location. Ads can be tailored for people in specific neighbourhoods, businesses, universities, train stations, conference halls, or even households.

There are a bunch of neat tricks that are specific to higher ed IP address targeting. For example, you can use ACT, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT and SAT lists to target specific households, to recruit students who have taken a specific subject test, and/or who fall into a specific score range. You can display ads on students’ phones at a specific high school. You can identify a large conference center where a higher education conference is being hosted, and show ads directing conference attendees to your booth. You can push ads for your continuing education media and journalism program to people working in the building of a national publication. You can send messages promoting graduate programs for people on your (or another) campus.

Working with Converge Consulting, the Naveen Jindal School of Management at University of Texas-Dallas used IP address targeting to reach executive MBA prospects at 200 top area businesses. As a result, they saw an 18 per cent increase in reach and a 33 per cent increase in leads for their spring prospecting campaign.

Make your website relevant

It should be obvious by now that students in different locations need different information from their universities and colleges. With IP address data, you can change what your website looks like based on the location of the person who visits it.

An international student needs information about international tuition and student visas. An out-of-province or out-of-state student may be looking for information on housing availabilities on or near campus. A student who’s currently on campus might need quick access to course codes or important updates about a possible faculty strike. Prospective transfer students at a neighboring college’s campus might be seeking information about transfer credits.

Using IP address targeting, you can push the information that’s more relevant to a user to the top of your homepage. Users are more likely to linger on your webpage, to click through to other pages, and to engage with your content if they don’t bounce away from your site right away because it’s difficult to navigate or seems irrelevant.

The company GeoFli, for example, works with institutions of higher education to replace the content on their websites based on the user’s IP address.

Student & alumni engagement

In 2014 Snapchat launched their ‘Our Story’ feature, which uses geofencing technology to collect Snaps submitted by different Snapchatters within a similar location. Not long after, they launched Campus Stories, a special ‘Our Story’ created for certain college campuses. “Only users whose phones are in and around a campus, or were there in the last 24 hours, are able to post to and view the Campus Story,” explains Snapchat’s website.

Snapchat has done the legwork for you – created a campus-specific platform for students to share their experiences and perspectives (and selfies) with people in the campus community. Of course, Campus Stories have rolled out only to some schools.

But this should get you thinking about how targeting students on campus can improve their engagement and connection to the school. You can also use geofencing to target alumni who return to campus for sports games and alumni events, with ads for graduate programs or links to donate to the school. You can use the technology to promote events on campus and encourage students to attend and give their feedback.

Of course, when using geofencing to send push notifications to your prospective or current students or alumni, you need to be careful that the marketing tactic doesn’t become invasive or annoying. SEMGeeks has written more about best practices in geofencing for higher education.

Geofencing and IP address targeting are just two small pieces in a larger ecosystem of new tech in higher ed. We know that millennial students are more comfortable than everproviding personal information to their schools, but that they also expect to reap some tangible benefits from sharing their data.

Many of these geofencing and IP address targeting ideas can be combined with Fiscot’s scheduling software, which uses the power of Microsoft Dynamics AX to offer simple and intuitive data collection options. Ask us how to get started.