For community college marketers, it’s critical to know that your marketing collateral is working and driving traffic to key areas of your website. Ad campaigns and their underlying technologies have become more capable of following users across the internet (and across multiple devices), but it has come at the cost of user privacy. Now, some companies are beginning to push back in favor of data and privacy transparency. Say hello to the invisible website visitor! But are they genuinely undetectable? 

In April of 2021, Apple released iOS 14.5, which imposes new requirements for app developers to ask for users’ permission before tracking their activities across other apps and websites. Additionally, apps are now required to report the types of data an app collects from users, making transparency more important than ever. While this may cause panic to marketers who create and maintain ad campaigns, there’s no need for alarm!

What Can Colleges Do? Serve Up Some (First-Party) Cookies!

While the subject of cookies has turned more controversial today due to Apple’s new changes, cookies conveniently save local information on a user’s device for various reasons, including if an application or website can be accessed without re-logging in, purchases, some browsing history, and location. 

An easy example is when you add an item to your Amazon shopping cart on your computer, then revisit the site later from the Amazon app on your iPhone, and the same item is present. First-party cookies are basically an agreement between your institution’s website and its visitors to make the experience personalized.

For college marketers, your website can leverage first-party cookies anytime prospective students use lead generation forms to request program info or when they sign up for classes, workshops, or campus events. Consider this a handshake, allowing your audience to introduce themselves to you in exchange for relevant information of value to them.

Be Transparent!

These changes bring a new expectation of user privacy. Your college’s privacy policy is a promise to your users that you will not share data with third parties. For example, many CRM platforms, including SharpSpring from Interact, can establish a unique visitor ID by using a first-party cookie, and you can continue to learn more about things like the frequency of website visits to specific pages. 

When that visitor ID shares information by requesting more information on a program, you may now have that visitor’s name, email address, or other data they may be seeking from your college. Your privacy policy should clearly inform everyone what you do (and don’t do) with this information. Not only should your content be centered around engagement and value, but also the importance of building trust at the beginning of this relationship.

Colleges should update their privacy policies with language on how they gather and leverage first-party cookies with the college’s website and CRM.  A well-crafted privacy policy will post likely indicate how this data is used, as well as how it should not be abused. When it comes to third-party CRM platforms used to contact prospective or current students, misuse of these terms of service can result in punitive actions ranging from domain name restrictions or termination of services.

Key Takeaways

In conclusion, a lot of your website traffic in the past has always been about capturing anonymous user information. While Apple’s recent changes have created a new buzz around privacy and ad tracking, colleges using first-party cookies and CRMs can lead to stronger relationships and opportunities when reaching prospective students and their families. 

Personalize the experience, wow them with great service, and nurture their enrollment experience with trust and friendly faces. They just may love you for being an institution that goes beyond simply running ads on Snapchat and TikTok!