America is home to over 4,000 accredited institutions of higher learning. We’re passionate about our schools and the students that attend there because college is where young adults mature, fuel their curiosity, and learn new passions. As a nation based on growth and innovation, we look forward to shaping young people who will present new and exciting ideas to the world.
Higher learning institutions know that they have a big role to fill. Although they range from two-year vocational schools to small liberal arts colleges to Big Ten universities, all colleges and universities have the same goal: to attract quality students, recruit qualified educators, and encourage alumni to support the school.
Since all higher institutions share the same vision, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd. Sure, you have plenty to offer in terms of degree programs and faculty, but so does every other school. Rather than running with the crowd and trying to make it to the finish line first, why not run in a different direction? Not only will you emerge as a distinct, hey-look-at-me kind of school, but also you’ll be paving a new route that will showcase your school’s best attributes.
So what is the best way to separate yourself from the running pack? Through digital content. Here are FIVE ideas to get you started.
#1. Spotlight day-to-day campus life on social media.
Social media platforms keep you connected to your community, which includes new and existing students, student families and alumni. Students enjoy seeing what their peers are doing, and parents appreciate feeling connected to what their kids’ activities on campus. (Especially when the daily phone calls home slowly dwindle!)
Facebook and Twitter are the best platforms to use since they favor images, links to content and conversation among your community. Think of your social profiles as an extension of your website, but use these channels to share real-time information and updates. Game day stats, upcoming theater plays, best decorated dorm rooms, etc. are all fun and lighthearted posts that capture day-to-day life on your campus.
#2. Create content hubs that cater to each audience.
If you’re like most schools, you probably have a tab on your website that shares news about your school. Yet your website is probably very generic and doesn’t cater to any particular audience. A great way to show your understanding of your different audiences is by creating segmented hubs.
For example, you can create a page for existing students that includes student-written essays, videos, photos, podcasts and other pieces of campus life and use it to draw in new students as well. There’s no better way for potential students to learn about what school life is like than from the current students themselves! Parents, too, appreciate information that is just for them: think articles on saving money, making the most of holiday breaks, and planning a (surprise) visit.
A hub for alumni can share alumni news, contributions, marriages, birth announcements, groundbreaking research and so forth. It’s important to create a setting where alumni still feel connected to your school with no strings attached. There’s nothing worse than alumni feeling like their university is just looking to collect donations!
#3. Start an online magazine.
Many schools publish magazines on an annual or quarterly basis that include a good mix of information such as renovations to the campus, team updates, the addition of new programs, community involvement and high-profile faculty, students and alumni.
If your school doesn’t currently have a magazine, now is the time to put one together. Rather than paying an arm and a leg for a magazine to be printed and mailed off, why not launch an online magazine that is cost-effective and capable of reaching a large audience?
It’s best to start a quality publication that recipients are excited to get their hands on. Consider hiring a professional web design company that can create a magazine for you or perhaps using an online magazine publishing tool. These will improve the user experience by sharing colorful, high-quality images and allowing the user to turn pages online, zoom in on text and much more. The magazine can be shared to your social networks and used on landing pages in exchange for a name and email address.
#4. Develop a mobile app.
A mobile app can be a highly effective way to unite your school to students. After all, 72% of college students own a smartphone, according to the Pearson Student Mobile Device Survey. The purpose of building an app is to improve the user experience, giving students a good feel about your school.
So what are some of the things that can be included in a mobile app? A searchable campus map, news feeds from the school, a real-time shuttle tracker, menus for the campus cafeteria, bookstore arrivals, faculty video clips and a searchable directory. You can also include options to pay tuition, order books or make a donation, as many mobile apps do.
The nice aspect to mobile apps is that you don’t have to start from scratch and create an entirely new design. Instead, view the app as an extension of your website that is mobile-friendly. Though your site may look great on a computer, current students will be more likely to connect through a mobile app rather than logging on to the website from their smartphones.
#5. Manage an outstanding blog.
The key here is outstanding. Almost every colleges and universities have a blog set up you have no excuse for not having one! What you have in your favor is that many university blogs are a work in progress. You can start or update your blog with an entirely new look and feel, one that is professional yet delightful. A blog is the best tool you have in communicating with your community and keeping them updated on progress and growth.
Your blog can be a friendly mix of information for prospective students and their families, current students, alumni and the surrounding community. Allow students to guest post to share their experiences with campus life and include high-quality photographs from sporting events, retreats, workshops, residence halls and community involvement.
Make sure you choose your photographs wisely; show that your school is fun, unique and diverse. Indicate that you aren’t just interested in boosting enrollment numbers. You want to make the world a better place. Treat each blog post as a highly valuable piece of content, sharing it to your social networks, on your website and in your newsletter or magazine.
As you venture into the world of content marketing, you’ll find new ways to share news about your college or university that separates yourself from your competition. Be a place where everyone wants to be!