Over the past twenty years, the higher education sector across the world has grown rapidly. From Asia to the U.S, more colleges are opening and student numbers are at record highs.
Even those who don’t attend in person are able to take remote courses from the comfort of their own homes. The world is gradually becoming more and more educated.
But in order to keep up with the pace, higher education marketing has had to step up pace. Staff have been hired to create coherent and powerful campaigns to attract students from all over the globe and in some cases, companies are hired to run these campaigns.
So what kind of campaigns have worked well over the past few years?
Content Marketing – News Websites
Digital marketing in higher education is more popular than ever. Increasingly colleges and universities across the world are relying on producing their own news sites, full of news, research and stories inspired and related to their own campus’.
Often members of staff and even students can be paid to contribute to the mini-site, often branded slightly differently to the main website.
The website can also be written in a way to improve search engine optimization. You can use our free SEO audit tool to see how well your college website is doing and pick up some free tips on improving search rankings on Google.
The University of Chicago has a great mini-site that helps promote its brand. It uses the university’s crest and colors and includes a calendar of events, tweets about the university and large font quotes from famous alumni.
Some of the articles included on the website are interviews with alumni authors who had their debut novels published and editorial coverage of recent events students have organized.
The website also includes links to various other marketing resources the university puts out like a podcast with leading professors on their research.
This is supported by a strong Twitter presence – again separate from the main university feed – and a YouTube channel.
As part of their research obligations, academics are expected to write about their findings and explain them to the public. This means not just publishing papers in an academic journal but also contributing to more mainstream media.
Doing this increases the media coverage of the university and helps improve its reputation.
One clever way of doing this is by encouraging academics to contribute to The Conversation. This website, founded in September 2016, hosts articles written for the general public by leading academics but from multiple universities.
The topics usually link academic research or opinion to current affairs. The recent clashes between India and Pakistan are the hook for articles from professors in international relations.
Each article has the name of the academic and their title and university displayed on the home page.
Millennials love social media, almost as much as academics. According to the Pew Research Centre, over 75% of 18-29-year-olds are active on a social media site.
It makes sense then that in terms of marketing higher education colleges would put lots of resources into their social media presence. Academics are encouraged to post about their research on their own personal Twitter accounts and there is a drive to recruit students using Twitter.
Each individual college and department will often have their own social media account used for specific updates.
As well as Twitter and Facebook, universities are also increasingly turning to Snapchat to market colleges to students. scientists at the University of Glasgow, U.K, announced that Einstein’sE theory about gravitational waves had been solved over Snapchat.
The video feature of Snapchat can also be used to show off images of the campus that photos can’t do justice. Short interviews with members of staff and messages of encouragement on graduation and results day are also popular.
Whilst this might seem unprofessional, in fact, it reveals a trend amongst universities to adapt to the needs of students and make higher education seem more approachable and accessible than perhaps it has been in the past.
Boston University used its Snapchat channel to create a scavengers hunt across the campus during a blizzard. This kept current students entertained but also showed to high school students thinking about applying how much fun campus life is.
The best way to get a global audience is to start a college-wide campaign about a particular issue or cause. This can cause a stir on social media and can also be part of a wider campaign to court attention in the press.
The University of Tennesse announced a course on Dolly Parton called ‘Dolly’s America’ in 2017. The course focuses on the music as well as the culture of Parton’s hometown and the Appalachia region. It got coverage in The New York Times, in Forbes and also on Dolly Parton’s own personal website.
Dolly Parton herself even retweeted the college’s Twitter announcement, ensuring that the university was being discussed both in the mainstream media and to millions of followers online.
Just as they have done with Snapchat, increasingly university marketing is becoming less stuffy than it has been before. That’s not to say professional videos and glossy prospectus’ are going to disappear but videos that go viral can help target students directly and appeal to a global audience.
Loughborough University, in the U.K, became famous for producing a video of its student union leadership singing a ‘cringe-worthy’ version of ‘La La La’ by Naughty Boy.
The song was designed as a light-hearted joke but was quickly picked up by major British newspapers for how bad the singing was. This led to the video, which featured the executive wearing Loughborough branded tops and the university itself, receiving thousands of views on You-Tube.
This then became something of a tradition which was repeated every year, generating more press and excitement about which song the university executive would choose to cover that year.
Another fascinating way new technology is changing the landscape is virtual reality. Open days will probably never become a thing of the past as high school students are always keen to see where they will be living for the next years of life.
However, students can now get a taste of what the campus actually look aside from the filtered and carefully crafted photos placed on a college’s Instagram page.
Tours can take the form of a You-Tube video where a current student will often show you around the different facilities and the different types of accommodation that might be available to freshmen and women.
But they can also be self-guided with the help of virtual reality. Those with VR headsets and specialized apps like Google Cardboard can physically move themselves around at their own pace, tilting their heads to look above and below them.
Private companies – like Campus Tours – have also now started offering this service to colleges and other organizations, promising to provide a professional and easy-to-use map for students and potential students.
Northern Kentucky University’s interactive map – designed by Campus Tours – is in 3D. It has a campus tour in either English or Spanish and also includes an accessibility map so that disabled students can see a safe way for them to get around the college, which colleges have accessible entrances and nearby carparks.
Billboards, Adverts, and Infographics
Whilst viral marketing is increasingly important it does not replace traditional marketing methods. Billboards on subway stations and on the freeway might cost thousands of dollars but they still pack a punch and help to generate an idea of what values the college stands for to passersby.
Often billboards and adverts will focus on one individual and their journey through the college or department and how this has affected their life and studies. This suggests a personal relationship between the student and the college.
Infographics are also a great way of grabbing a student’s attention. The results of the 2008 financial crash still resonate today and the job’s market means students are increasingly thinking about how their degree is going to improve their job prospects and their options after graduating.
Presenting statistics about the number of students in well-paid jobs after graduation or the amount of student-professor contact time can be pretty dull. Infographics can be colorful and engaging as well as easy to understand.
One of the biggest ways colleges attract students from around the world is by opening campus’ all over the world and hosting events.
Doha in Qatar plays host to a string of universities who have set up campus their for the purposes of student outreach and to attract wealthy students from the Middle East.
Virginia Commonwealth University, Northwestern University, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and University College London have all opened campus’ there.
Maylasia is an Asian hub for a lot of British universities including Reading, Nottingham, Southampton and Curtin University from Perth, Western Australia.
Students currently studying at the main home institution can then often very easily take a year abroad to study a college’s campus abroad. This fosters a truly global relationship between the students.
As well as setting up campus’ abroad, colleges can also set up recruitment events and information evenings, though this is easier to do if the college has already set up a foreign base.
Keeping in Touch – the Alumni Network.
If you’ve had a good time studying at college, it’s only natural that you’d want to encourage your friends and family to apply. That is why alumni networks are so important.
A big part of their marketing involves keeping recently graduated students in the loop about developments at college, new course programmes and any achievements or awards the college may have received. This involves sending out newsletters and making sure ex-students’ contact details are up-to-date.
It can also result in what’s known as events marketing where the college puts on events tailored to suit potential students, perhaps inviting alumni who are now professionals back to the college to talk about their career and how the college benefitted them.
Propellant Media can make these events a reality and stress-free.
A network of successful alumni wanting to reach out and aware of the college’s events can lead to them donating money for scholarships. It can also lead to new opportunities for recruitment.
A network of alumni who are now employers themselves can help promote opportunities for recruitment to the university as well as job opportunities for students about to graduate that can improve the employment statistics for the university.
For alumni e-mail newsletters to work they have to have a clear design that mirrors that of the website and the Twitter feed of the main campus, to include lots of photos rather than being text heavy.
In-depth stories about the college’s achievements can be included as ‘read more’ links, linking back to a mini-site or the main university website.
Higher Education Marketing is Big Business
Students today expect a lot from their college’s and that should come as no surprise given just how much money is at stake. The Brookings Institution estimates that parents and students together take out $16,100 a year to afford college.
Higher education marketing campaigns increasingly, therefore, focus on providing students with the information they need to make an informed decision as well as giving students a wide picture about what life at college is actually like rather than just an emphasis on what students will be studying.
Employment prospects, student lifestyle, opportunities to travel and study abroad, the list of information that universities need to explain in their marketing materials is vast.
To ensure a good marketing campaign with a truly global reach the university must invest heavily in a multi-facilitated marketing campaign taking on social media, print media, outreach, and networking.
If you work for a college or higher education institution and want to know more about how our digital marketing package might be able to help you, click here to see our pricing structure and then contact us to discuss your needs.