Let’s face it, we all use review sites before making any kind of purchase. Review sites have become ubiquitous to almost every sector, and for the education space it’s no different with the ever-increasing growth in popularity of university and student lifestyle review sites such as Student Hut (part of Natives Group). 

Why have these sites become so popular with students? Because, like all of us, students are seeking the best possible value. Because the sites are independent, presenting 1000s of real student reviews on university life. And because these review sites can offer an unfiltered and unbiased opinion on a whole range of deciding factors, sometimes even looking into nightlife, wifi speed and how fun the halls of residence are (something that may not be present on institution websites or social media channels).   Online peer reviews are so useful for students, particularly international students, who may be conducting most of their research online. 

In most sectors, marketing departments have a review acquisition strategy that forms a vital part of their marketing mix and with the growing popularity of student review sites, this will have a profound impact on your recruitment strategies. Like nearly every other sector, it is important that you build a review acquisition strategy and implement it alongside your marketing plans.

Here’s some of our top tips to kick off a killer strategy:

  1. If you want great reviews, you’d better offer a great service
    It sounds simple right? Delighting students and exceeding their expectations is the cornerstone of any review acquisition strategy. Don’t ignore the fine detail. Look at each review site that you are targeting and the way in which they ask for opinions.  Then look at each aspect of the student experience and ask yourself, how would someone from your student body rate this aspect of student life? You may identify that you need to work on staff training or quality control measures and if you do, it’s worth it. Get it right and you’ll be earning a competitive volume of positive reviews in no time.

  2. Let your students know you’d welcome their review
    Getting your students to actually post a review can be half the battle. Just 25% of consumers who have a ‘very good’ experience will leave an actual review. Take advantage of your bricks and mortar by promoting your chosen review sites using banners or poster ads. Utilise digital methods such as apps or intercom messages to request reviews. And build in a review request at the end of each course module and grow a review culture amongst your student body.
  3. Showcase your third-party reviews on your websites
    Now you’re collecting reviews, embrace it. Showcase by sharing testimonials or embedding review feeds on your site. This encourages students to join the review party by seeing how many reviews you’ve already collected, as well as promoting all the positive reviews you’ve obtained. Audit your website and make sure you’re making it as easy as possible for students to leave, and find, your reviews.
  4. Don’t neglect the impact of instant reviews on your social media channels
    Snap opinion polls also have their place. Most social media channels allow you to ask a quick question and attach a poll. Not only is this a great way to get an instant opinion on something but these types of posts get great organic engagement and reach. You might get an open dialogue with your respondents in the comments and if appropriate, you can ask them to leave a review elsewhere.
  5. Respond to as many reviews as you can
    Most review sites will let you respond to reviews and you should take this opportunity. Your first responsibility will be to respond to any negative reviews. Show the reviewer (and any prospective students reading) that lessons have been learned and implemented and that you’re grateful for any constructive feedback. But also set time aside to respond to positive reviews. Keep it brief and make sure your response is worded uniquely so that your gratitude comes across as authentic. If a prospective reviewer sees that you respond to each individual review, they will see an institution that genuinely cares about feedback and will be encouraged to leave their own opinions.
  6. Make sure you track the outcomes of your student review acquisition strategy
    Look at when you get the best responses to review requests and adjust your acquisition strategy accordingly.
  7. Remember that once you’ve earned lots of reviews, the work doesn’t stop there…
    Freshness of reviews matters. Most students will not consider anything older than the last academic year as being particularly relevant so it’s important that you view review acquisition as an ‘always-on’ campaign. 

Oh, and here’s our top 6 big no-nos. The following are definitely not a good look for your institution. 

  1. Don’t pay for reviews
  2. Don’t get staff to leave reviews
  3. Don’t set up a review kiosk at your institution or in a class – a single IP being given for multiple reviews may mean your institution will be flagged and your reviews may be removed
  4. Don’t negatively review a rival institution
  5. Don’t harm your reputation by responding in an unprofessional manner to negative reviews
  6. Don’t narrow your focus to only one platform

If you need any help with your student review strategies, do get in touch.

Article by

Rich Campbell

Head of Marketing