Higher education marketing is one industry that continues to evolve. Perhaps it’s because young adults make a lot of transformation during these crucial years, and they undeniably set the trends. If your college or university is behind on what prospective students want, it’s going to be more difficult to reach them. You don’t want to be the one chasing after prospects. You want them to be chasing after you!

Let’s dive into some of the hottest marketing trends in the higher education industry that you should be familiar with. These are not predictions or opinions – these ARE the trends! After reading this, you should be thinking of how you can implement these practices into your own digital marketing strategy to boost visibility, drive traffic and increase applicants.

Videos for Storytelling

Video has a way of connecting with people that words alone cannot do. Some call video the “ultimate storytelling tool” and we couldn’t agree more. Where else on the internet can a prospective college student tour a university’s campus, meet with faculty members and hear from current students? It’s difficult to accomplish this from an on-campus tour!

As you fine tune your digital marketing strategy, make sure that video is a part of it. You can start in a number of ways, such as by creating a YouTube channel with helpful videos and interviews from professors.

When creating videos, think in terms of storytelling. What story can you tell that will set your institution apart from others? Also be prepared to pay to promote your story on social media channels like Facebook in order to get the visibility you deserve.

Promoting Posts on Social Media

Facebook’s algorithm, EdgeRank, has a lot of power these days in terms of which posts are shown to your followers. If you’re not paying to have your posts promoted, only 1 to 4 percent of your followers are seeing them. Even with a flawless social media strategy, it’s difficult to get your content visible without an ad budget.

Since you are going to require a social media budget, also realize that the days of making quick, thoughtless posts are over. Each post should be valuable and contain an image or video. Luckily, Facebook makes it easy to target certain demographics so you can get the right posts into the right hands.

Targeting Potential Students on Mobile

Digital marketing and mobile marketing are synonymous. All web and digital campaigns should be optimized for mobile, and you should have location-based marketing set up on your map sites. This type of marketing is especially helpful for colleges and universities because it allows for more meaningful personalization that can grab your audience’s attention.

There are many ways to make your digital marketing strategy more mobile friendly, such as by creating an app, using QR codes, sending SMS text messages and showing prospective students mobile display ads. With 40 percent of education search queries taking place on mobile devices, optimized mobile websites and tailored content are a must.

Thoughtful Content That Taps into Emotion

If you don’t have one already, this is the year to have a well-designed content marketing strategy in place. Your content should tell your institution’s “story” so that you can build your brand’s identity and begin reaching for the types of students that will fit your program. Your story should come from a number of sources – not just your institution – including alumni, students, faculty and prospective students.

The purpose of developing a strong content marketing strategy is to separate your higher institution from others. For many prospects, they feel that each school is the same, just wrapped in a different package. Remember that choosing a college is a process that is also built on emotion, so tap into this.

Lead Nurturing Timed Right

Although lead nurturing isn’t a new concept, it’s one that continues to evolve and be more effective at keeping people in the funnel. College is a major decision, and it’s not something that a prospect can decide on overnight.

In many cases, the college selection process is not a linear process either. A contact might fill out a lead form and then decide to wait. Or life might happen – a baby born, a new home – and college gets put aside. Keeping prospects in the funnel requires a lot of nurturing.

However, there is a fine line between keeping your institution front and center and being annoying. Your lead nurturing campaigns need to be sophisticated, personalized and timed appropriately. They should be designed to educate your prospects and keep them engaged with new information rather than always flaunting your school. Above all, tell a story. Be different.

Gathering Big Data

Big data can feel intimidating, especially because it was once used by researchers and mathematicians only. Today, it is used by marketers and college administrators for lead scoring and targeting students. Thanks to big data, colleges and universities can lower their risk and connect with prospective students that are most likely to fill out an application, be accepted into their program and succeed.

Some of the things that big data can improve include conversion rates, retention rates and graduation rates. Predictive analysis is another segment of big data that can help schools and professors identify at-risk students and give them the academic help that is needed to do well in school.


Your audience may stay largely the same – junior and senior high school students looking to attend college for example – but that doesn’t mean that their needs and wants are unchanged. This age group is one of the most transforming, and it’s important to keep up.

Today’s prospective college students have high expectations because they have grown up with the internet, and they are not impressed with a mediocre web presence or website. They want cutting-edge interactions and emotion-evoking storytelling. They want to feel connected to a school instead of reading through a list of achievements.

If you’re ready to take your higher education marketing campaigns to the next level, contact SEMGeeks.