Next year, the class of 2020 will break-in a new decade of graduates. As times change, new marketing strategies will be essential for attracting prospective students and maintaining a strong alumni network. While marketing channels consistently change, there are some foundational approaches that can be transferred to any new platform or trend. Here are 5 key skills for higher education marketing:
1. Know your audiences
Higher education institutions must cater to various groups in order to be successful. Sometimes these groups have competing interests or interact with social media in different ways. Generally, colleges and universities have 4 main audiences they should cater to:
Perhaps the most important of the four, prospective students are likely to engage with online content in order to familiarize themselves with the school. Your school web page is of utmost importance for this group, as it is likely the first contact that these students have with your institution.
The second most important content for engaging prospective students is social media. Every passing year brings fresher cohorts. To engage with them, schools need to keep a pulse on how they use technology and what type of content holds their attention.
A strong and supportive alumni network is priceless. The key to engaging with this group is to be aware of the diversity in demographics. For starters, alumni will have graduated from different departments in different years (or different decades!). Beyond this, they will have gone on to various career paths and engage in different hobbies. A strong school spirit and a solid school identity help consolidate all these competing interests.
School sports are a common unifier but look for other events that can bring people together. Philanthropic events, marathons, and theater can also serve as hallmarks of the alumni experience.
Even though current students don’t need to be marketed to in the same way as prospective students, they are an integral part of higher education marketing. Current students form the community that prospective students will want to participate in. These students can act as social media gurus, essay writers online, or guides to the school!
Because most students live on-campus and spend the majority of their time there, they are the best resources for authentic content. Oftentimes, students will organically disperse photos and information about the school via Facebook, Instagram, Yik Yak, and other social media channels. Tap into what is already there – and then centralize it! Hashtags and submission platforms are a great way to engage the student body.
2. Use technology in your classrooms
Prospective students no longer need to physically visit the schools they are considering. Streaming lectures or Q&As are a great way to add a live component to your school’s social media components. This allows for more individualized engagement and fosters real links. Post dynamic professors who lecture about topics related to current events.
Is there a computer science professor who can talk about advancing technology? Great! How about a panel of professors discussing a hot topic in their field? Even better! The brightest applicants will value the learning environment and want to envision themselves in their future classrooms.
3. Social media engagement is key
It is no secret that social media engagement has become the central form of marketing across most, if not all, sectors. As younger generations become more and more invested in their online lives, social media will play a larger role in how institutions are perceived. The key is knowing how to build an active and self-propagating online community.
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4. Perfect the art of the newsletter
Although social media is slowly taking over, email is still a vital part of marketing and outreach. And digital newsletters have replaced the bulk of snail mail that universities send to prospective students and alumni. Know what content your audience looks for and the best format to deliver that content.
Prospective students will look to have their questions answered, insider perspectives, and tips for applying to college. Therefore newsletter is one of a good way for higher education marketing.
5. Engage the campus community
This was mentioned above but deserves to be repeated: current students are amazing resources! They provide authentic visual and verbal accounts of what is happening on campus, right now. Partner with the student newspaper, student council, and residence life staff to create dynamic hashtags and blog posts. Stay on the pulse with how the student body envisions itself and what makes your institution important to them.
Communicating and receiving feedback from the student body is the ultimate tool for successful marketing. Engaged students become engaged alumni, and they will act as the ultimate “influencers” for prospective students. Create regular opportunities for students to engage with prospective students and alumni, both online and on-campus. Ambassador programs, overnight visits, and homecoming events are wonderful opportunities to collaborate.