5 Ways Pokemon GO Can Drive Enrollment Growth for Colleges and Universities

Less than one week since the release of the new augmented reality game, Pokemon GO, the application is already the highest performing and highest grossing app on iPhone, has already been installed on more than 5.16% of all Android phones in the U.S. and is expected to soon be outperforming Twitter in terms of daily users.

So, is this another article about how higher education can try and awkwardly force its way onto a popular tech/social platform for brand-building purposes? Only kind of…

Because Pokemon GO actually lends itself incredibly well to higher ed – for both community-building and potential enrollment growth.

Here are 5 ways your institution can start leveraging the mass popularity of Pokemon GO today.

1) Incorporate Pokemon GO Into Your Campus Tours/Orientations

The data-driven power of the campus tour is widely known. In fact, statistically, the campus tour is the most influential element in students’ application and enrollment decisions. Because this is when students can start picturing themselves at your institution. And now your enrollment office has access to a massively popular game that’s literally about students immersing themselves and engaging with landmarks and locations across your campus.

Re-mapping your campus tour/orientation to intentionally hit more Pokemon GO geo-tagged spots isn’t as crazy as it might sound. But if you’d get laughed out of the room for even bringing it up, what if your enrollment team simply references it before the tour departs, e.g. “…and if you’re playing Pokemon GO, I’ll be sure to stop and point out which campus landmarks contain the most useful items along the way.”

2) Invite Students + Alumni to a Campus Pokemon GO Meet-up

Your campus is undoubtedly already filled with geo-landmarks built on the Google Maps platform that Pokemon GO utilizes to engage with its players. So invite your entire community to a meet-up where a digital savvy lead will take everyone on a tour, show them where the rare Pokemon live across campus, and which landmarks contain the most useful items.

As Pokemon GO has become popular among all age groups, this is a great opportunity to cross-pollinate your prospects, students, administrators and alumni.

3) Incorporate Pokemon GO into Your Social Posts

Screen-grab a Pokemon being caught in augmented reality in front of one of your more scenic spots on campus or on a popular administrator’s desk. Name one of your caught Pokemon after a popular faculty member or administrator. Open-ask your audience who’s playing, and where the best spots on campus are to find useful items. Be playful. Stay on-brand. And you’ll have social gold.

4) Create Your Own Campus Pokemon GO Contest

A first-year student’s most critical transition period occurs during their first two to six weeks. Many institutions create their own mobile apps and geo-scavenger hunts in order to create this community tie and get new students engaged, but often find it hard to get students to download these stand-alone campus apps. But now, you have a built-in community-building activity you don’t have to design, and that your students are already using. Simply create your own contest that leverages the Pokemon GO point system to start your next term.

5) Encourage Your Community to Explore Campus with Pokemon GO

Augmented reality has a powerful opportunity to help your students’ digital lives transcend to their real lives. Pokemon GO is uniquely designed to help bring your students together from virtual anonymity to become real-life faces that engage alongside other students in your community. So set up Pokestop signs across campus noting which landmarks and locations align with Pokemon GO’s digital world. Incorporate them in your viewbooks. Leverage this gamification to incentivize and make it as easy as possible for your community to explore your community.

Final Note to the Skeptics: You Don’t Have to “Get” It

For those of us who are often too quick to dismiss any and all of these tech/social novelties, if you see yourself as a digital innovator at your campus, you have a responsibility to download and investigate these sorts of applications – especially one that has had such instant and mass appeal like Pokemon GO. You don’t have to “get” Pokemon GO or Snapchat. But you have a responsibility to try and understand why so many people do.

Eric Olsen

Eric brings more than a decade of award-winning creative brand development, marketing analytics and higher education experience to Helix Education. Eric is a graduate of Bradley University and earned his MBA at Lewis University.