If you aren’t already playing, between news headlines and office water cooler talk, it’s likely you have heard about Pokémon GO, the nostalgic augmented-reality craze that is taking over the lives of a smartphone-wielding generation of millennials.

Since launching on July 6, and rolling out internationally over the following weeks, the game has surpassed both Tinder and Twitter in number of users and has exceeded even Netflix’s usage, according to Forbes.

This game is having an enormous impact on its audience, which conveniently happens to be your audience, presenting a remarkable engagement opportunity for recruitment.

How does it work?

Pokémon (originally a portmanteau for Pocket Monsters) GO is an augmented-reality mobile game where users find and catch virtual monsters in their community.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Prospective Students Edition

Think about it: Young people, from their teens through to their early 30s, are obsessively exploring their communities by foot, learning about landmarks and local institutions.

As a college or university with a campus to showcase, this is a massive opportunity for you to get local or visiting prospects on campus and engaging in ways they never have before.

Keep reading to learn how to get set-up on Pokémon GO, from a student recruitment standpoint, and tap into the viral conversation.

Find Campus Gyms or PokéStops

Once you have Pokémon GO installed, take an augmented-reality ‘Poké-tour’ of your campus. Once you’ve got the game set up, you can see the local gameplay, which will include PokéStops or Gyms.

PokéStop: An in-game location that gives rewards, such as items that advance gameplay like Pokéballs.

Gym: A place where users battle to gain experience points to level up to become stronger.

These areas are destinations for Pokémon GO players, and they are necessary for a player to advance in the game.

Depending on the size of your campus, your city, and your location in proximity to the rest of the community, you could have dozens of in-game stops, or you might not have any.

Gameplay Screenshot

Pokémon Go gameplay screenshot

As the developers continue to roll-out new features, you have to work with what exists in the game, but rumour has it that users and businesses will eventually be able to sponsor destinations.

Invest in Lures

Pokémon Lure: Pokémon lures, which are purchased and placed by users, draw more Pokémon to an area than players would tend to find there.

Haven’t you always kind of wanted to lure applicants to your campus? Well, now you can.

Dropping lures strategically around campus can actually turn your school into a Pokémon playground, guiding local players around to the most beautiful and unique parts of your campus.

Once you have a Pokémon GO account, you can purchase lures in the in-app “Shop” accessed through the Pokeball at the bottom of your screen. You can see the Shop here:

Gameplay Screenshot

Pokémon Go gameplay screenshot 

It’s fairly inexpensive, too:

In Inc., Walter Chen has calculated it to be about $1.19 per hour to effectively use luring as a marketing technique.

Promote Your Pokémon Playground

Promotion is the real key here. Before sending your recruitment team out onto campus to drop lures and catch Pokémon, develop a strategy.

Here’s what we recommend:

Get the word out online

Using social media, show off your recruitment team’s Poke-know-how and let users know that there is a gym at X location on campus, and a PokeStop at Y location, to inspire them to make a trip to campus.

You could drop lures at campus tour destinations, or popular spots on campus, and share a screenshot of the result on social media. #Pokémon, #Pokémongo, and #GottaCatchEmAll are popular hashtags on Twitter and Instagram.

If you have a large campus with several users playing, you might even want to create a #PokémonGOcampus hashtag, specific to your school.

Poke Gameplay Screenshot 3

A wild Dewgong appeared on your campus! Pokémon Go gameplay screenshot via AJPalz

Get the word out on campus

If you’re offering campus tours in the next few weeks, be mindful your prospective students could be playing and suggest tour guides integrate that into the tour. The more you know about the game, the more you can relate to players.

“Here, you’ll see the Department of English, which, for Pokémon Go players, is also overrun with Zubat and Drowzee [two species of Pokémon found in the game].”

Play alongside students

Challenge your followers to campus-specific challenges on social media and watch as engagement spikes. Because the game is so visual, you can ask users to share their progress in the form of screenshots, which inadvertently are photos of your campus and your facilities.

  • Find out which Pokémon hang out by the main gates of your campus and challenge students to send screenshots of that Pokémon on location to win prizes.
  • Encourage users to share rare Pokémon they find on your campus, and highlight these users with screenshots and shout outs.
  • Offer school or program swag to participants and contest winners, and capture it all on social media.

Pokémon GO could be a passing fad, or it could represent a massive shift in mobile gaming, it’s too soon to say.*

Either way, it’s on the minds of your prospective students right now, which is where you want your program to be, so get out and get catching prospects’ attention.


*A 2017 update just to comment: It was a passing fad.