With a new school year upon us, colleges and universities have marketing and recruitment on their minds. How many new students will be starting their academic journeys? Will these students succeed in their new environment? What will they bring to the college or university? Many of these answers won’t come right away, but it’s exciting to see what a new batch of students can achieve.
With so much competition, marketing and recruitment departments have to be more creative and resourceful with their marketing strategies. That’s why they take their roles personally. No longer do colorful program brochures, large billboards or flashy magazine ads do the trick. In order to successfully capture attention and bring in the right students, higher EDU marketers must utilize the right channels.
Establishing an Online Presence
One of the most direct ways to connect with students is by establishing an online presence. This means shifting the focus from traditional marketing methods to online tactics such as SEO, paid search and social media. More schools are getting a hang of paid search and SEO and using these marketing channels to some degree. Social media is also a popular channel, especially because the college audience is present.
The trouble is that many schools lack when it comes to using social media effectively. They may post a few things here and there, but they are unfamiliar with the following:
Who are they speaking to?
How often are they be posting?
How quickly are they responding to comments and feedback?
How are negative comments handled?
How are prospective students engaged?
Are targeting and tracking tools being used?
Are they increasing their follower count?
Is social media being used with other marketing channels?
Exploring the Benefits of Blogging
Though there are many aspects to social media, one of the channels we want to discuss is blogging. Higher ed marketers should be blogging regularly to promote their degree program, highlight the benefits of their school and connect with students. Blogging is somewhat new, and many marketers still aren’t doing it right. What does this mean for you?
Well, for starters, you have the opportunity to make your school outshine others. You can create an excellent blog that puts you in your own lane and makes you the go-to source for academic related news. Let’s explore the top four reasons why blogging should be a significant part of your higher ed marketing strategy.
1. Connect with Students and Build Relationships
It’s difficult to connect with prospective students unless you’re on social media. That’s because young people spend a lot of time on smartphones and tablets checking out their news feeds and home pages. Some of the most popular channels for high school and college students include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Yik Yak.
So why does having a blog matter for your social media presence? Every time you write a blog about your school, you can post it to social media. Say you publish a blog on what the dorm rooms at your school are like and post it to Facebook. People who follow you will see the blog show up in their news feed, and if they interact with it, their friends will see the activity, too. This means more engagement, traffic and brand recognition for your higher institution.
2. Establish Your Program as a Thought Leader
One of the best ways to separate your school from the pack is to be a thought leader. It may feel scary to be the first one to explore a certain topic or idea, but taking the risk will pay off. Having your own blog allows you to share ideas, thoughts and opinions on industry-related news. Of course, always follow good etiquette in these discussions by being respectful of others’ feedback.
Not only does being a thought leader encourage engagement from your followers, but also you can get an idea as to what your audience likes and dislikes. What topics is your audience most passionate about? What things are they tired of hearing about? When you find which discussions are most likely to engage students, you can plug them into other online channels.
Finally, being a thought leader builds your program’s credibility and puts you on the radar for future students. If other students view you as a trusted source for information related to child psychology, students interested in this field of study will automatically have trust in you as well.
3. Increase Search Rankings and Visibility
Moving onto more technical aspects of social media marketing, having a blog increases search rankings and visibility. This is very important considering the amount of competition on the Internet. To keep Google happy and influence your rankings, you need to publish fresh content regularly. Blogging is the easiest and most cost effective way to accomplish this.
When you publish a blog post, you enjoy the following benefits:
Fresh content for the search engines
More indexed pages
Link bait opportunities
Strengthened target domain
Always write for your audience, even though you want to improve visibility. Follow the best practices for blog writing such as including keywords naturally in your content, writing accurate titles and subtitles, using resources to back up facts and figures and uploading images or other media sources.
4. Bring Traffic to Your Website
Your website is an excellent source of information for prospective students, current students and alumni. But it can only be informative if people visit your website and spend time exploring your pages. Thankfully, a blog can help bring traffic to your website, and it’s far cheaper than other methods like pay per click.
When someone reads your blog and likes what you have to say, they are more likely to visit your website. As you create more content, you can easily align it with the student journey. For example, incoming freshmen will have different needs and preferences compared to transfer students. As you create content based on these needs, you can direct readers to specific pages on your website. Keep visitors engaged by posting short videos, images, statistics and other key information about your school.
Blogging is an easy, cost-effective way to accomplish your marketing goals. To make the most of your blogging experience, be sure to develop a strong content marketing strategy that outlines what topics you’ll be writing on, when the content will be posted and what channels it will be posted to.
As long as the blog maintains the same tone, you can welcome guest bloggers and students as well. It’s nice to have firsthand accounts of what academic and social life is like on campus. Above all, get fresh, engaging content out there to establish your school as a thought leader, drive traffic to your site and develop meaningful relationships with students.