Marketing the Global Classroom1 Jul, 2008 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response
After its initial launch, EFCB had some DR setbacks. The online group wanted to create a more interactive device for college students, so EF launched a map where students could mark off the countries they have visited.
"Everyone loved it. We had 50,000 downloads a day to this application, so we started treating it as a DR mechanism," says Qualman. "In order to download this, you have to give us your personal information." But not long after, someone designed a similar map and everyone started passing this one around to buddies on Facebook because it did not require giving up personal information. Almost simultaneously, Trip Advisor also came out with its own version (partnered with Google Maps) and got about 70,000 hits a day.
"It was a good lesson for us to learn. The short-term gain was to get information from people. But now we know if we can get those people engaged, instead of just using traditional means to collect information, we can eventually market to them through Facebook," says Qualman.
EF learned from this mistake and changed its online strategy to be one that builds communication and trust, slowly. Qualman says, "Then later, you give them a poster or a bonus on a trip and that's when you get them into the database. It's a longer process."
Another learning experience came when EF built its own social community site. At the time, every company believed it had to have a portal that gave consumers daily information, from weather to sports. But EF learned quickly that students didn't want to leave their Facebook or MySpace accounts.
"It was our field of nightmares ... we built it and they didn't come," says Qualman. "But one thing I'd recommend to other companies is if you fail, fail well. You have to get out there and try something in the DR world, but make it light and adjust accordingly."
In the end, EF's mistakes have helped them learn that, for their business, the most important part of DR is just getting the company's information out there. "We learned from these two pieces," Qualman says. "But if we didn't have the guts to get out there originally, and quickly, we wouldn't have ever gotten the Facebook traffic."
Building on Facebook
EFCB continues to have a large presence on Facebook. Campus ambassadors are using their Facebook pages to talk about and build excitement around tours they're going to take or have previously participated in. EF also buys pay-per-click programs on Facebook. From an organic standpoint, EF has its own fan page — which is essentially a company homepage.
"We wrote another application for when a student is actually traveling on one of our programs. It's a way for students to brag about themselves and there is a competitive piece to it," says Qualman.
Once EF has helped a student plan a trip, it retains the individuals' travel information, from what city they are in to where they are touring. Therefore, EF gives the traveler the tools to update their trip status. For example, while a person is probably not going to have much access to E-mail or a phone, the program automatically updates the person's whereabouts on a Facebook account based on the trip's planned itinerary.
Down the line, EF wants to take the application a step further and make the trip updater available to people who aren't on Facebook — basically making it easier for parents to track their children's whereabouts abroad. It would allow an automatic E-mail to be generated to all correspondents the traveler designates. From a direct marketer's point of view, this is also a great way to get additional names for EF's database.
The highly successful EFCB program today owes 15 to 20 percent of its Web site traffic to Facebook. Because Facebook offers a way for those traveling together to interact and get to know one another before the trip, EF has also seen a decline in trip cancellations. Among those joining the EF community through Facebook, 80 percent of those people stay on the site when they land and view more pages than just a regular user coming to the Web site — that number is up 15 to 20 percent since the beginning of the campaign. Finally, an EFCB Web site visitor views an average of eight Web pages and stays for about five minutes, 35 seconds.
Moving Forward Online
Qualman says that EF is all about the 360-degree approach to online marketing. The group monitors its Wikipedia entry to assure accurate information. It's also starting to go down the path of using tools like Digg — a Web site where people can blog and share content found on the Web, including news stories and videos, and then visitors rank the value of content.
For example, the more an article is "dug" on Digg, the higher it is on the viewing list. Then the appearances on search engines start to follow, meaning if EF is well recognized on Digg, it will be higher ranked on the search engines.
The company is also starting to get involved with YouTube. A recent campaign called "Life On Tour" challenged students to submit videos stating why they want to go on an EF tour. The contest received more than 500 entries and to make it easiest on the students, entries could be posted on YouTube.
Even with a grim economic outlook for the rest of 2008, EF is anticipating gains in market share. "We are the world's largest provider of educational travel. The way our model is set up, it's better to go on a trip with a group that has a relationship set up and has good contacts with hotels and airlines," says Qualman.
Looking forward, EF wants to partner with a provider for text-to-mobile campaigns. "We can send info to a phone when they're in a foreign country. For instance, if they are in Italy, we could text them a coupon for gelato," says Qualman. Also, Qualman foresees students being hooked up with GPS phone systems that could track the tours at all times. The GPS could download to Facebook, and friends could receive updates such as "Jimmy is standing outside the Eiffel Tower." And for Jimmy, the student standing there, the phone could send additional historical information about the monument itself.