College students are an interesting demographic. They’re spontaneous. Unique. Driven by their own set of trends. Marketing to college students can certainly be fun since you’re not limited by conventional ways of thinking. College students are typically the first age group to accept new movements and orientations. They are less judgemental, more flexible than older generations, and they are not afraid to invest in things with potential!
Even though you can think outside the box when marketing to college students, it’s also easy to miss the mark. You may try too hard to be unique and come off being quirky, or you can play it too safe and have your marketing campaign fall between the cracks. So where’s the happy medium?
It’s hard to say what is guaranteed to work for your audience, but there are certain factors you can keep in mind when building out your marketing campaigns. Regardless of how big your school is, the demographic you’re trying to reach, or the programs you offer, every education marketer can benefit from these four practical tips.
Let’s get started.
1. Student ambassadors are your biggest influencers. Put them in the role of developing and publishing content.
Just as brands have influencers that promote their product or service to other consumers, your college or university should have student ambassadors. Student ambassadors can be any enrolled students on campus. They should have some experience and involvement at your school and preferably be creative, enrolled in writing, music or photography. They should be familiar with your school’s philosophy and goals and excited to promote your program.
When you have identified your student ambassadors, you can ask them to create content for your blog. What topics should you be discussing? What pain points do students have? Does anyone really like the cafeteria food?
The reason why students are the key in producing content is because they are living the college life as we speak. Who better to describe what college life is like than the actual students? Education marketers are too far removed from college and the struggles to give the firsthand perspective that is appreciated by prospective students. So turn over your editorial calendar and content writing to students and discover what types of topics you should really be writing about.
2. As an education marketer, you have a lively audience to market to. Think outside the box and introduce creative content ideas that push conventional limits.
You should be seeking inspiration from other industries, not just what other schools are doing. Many brands today are coming up with bigger, better ways to market their product or service because they have to stay in front of their audience. Being aware of these marketing tactics can help your school stay in their own lane when it comes to promoting your programs.
Take a look at how other industries relate to their customers, engage with followers on social media and present interesting bits of information. Short videos, infographics, comic strips and memes are some of the most exciting ways to answer questions, respond to feedback, or share information. It can stop negative chatter in its tracks and redirect students’ attention.
To get inspiration for the types of issues you should be discussing, be an avid listener on social media. Know what your students are talking about and what issues they’re dealing with. Imagine how a funny comic strip could change the mood on campus during finals week. Or how a funny video about parking on campus could make parking issues a bit less frustrating for everyone.
3. Unauthorized social media accounts can mislead students. Be active on social media so that you can flag these accounts and inform students appropriately.
Unauthorized social media accounts are those that are set up by people who are not affiliated with your school’s administration team. Often they are students who are looking to engage other students, but they can be imitators too. Regardless of who the owner of the page is, unauthorized pages can harm your image. So what should you do?
The best approach is to be active on social media so that you can be aware of any imitator profiles. It’s also a good idea to develop a detailed social media policy for students who want to create pages for their graduating class. Inform students of the guidelines for appropriate content and the penalties for not following protocol. Finally, have an updated list of institution-approved, student-led accounts that students can follow. These are accounts that you have checked out and approved.
4. The best way to understand what students are getting from your content is by tracking and measuring the activity. You can then use this information to make changes to your content strategy and better engage with students.
You want your efforts to be worth the time and money, so tracking and measuring activity is essential. Start by following education marketing trends and implementing them into your campaigns. Then look at your specific data to learn more about student behaviors at the various stages of the recruitment process. To keep things simple, choose three to five metrics that measure your goals and only measure what matters.
For instance, most students follow a process that goes something like this: they search for a program, arrive at the program page and explore the website. They may download an ebook or sign up for a newsletter, and this is when they start receiving materials from the school. They may schedule a tour and choose to visit the college in person. The final step is to enroll!
Build content around these stages to better facilitate the recruitment journey. Identify common touchpoints and pain points. Discover what conversions are being lost to competitors and where more lead nurturing is needed.
An education marketer has tall shoes to fill. As you explore new marketing tactics to reach more students and fulfill your recruitment goals, be sure to keep the above four tips in mind. They are practical, easy-to-follow recommendations that can benefit any college or university no matter how exclusive the audience!