3 Things Higher Education Marketers Should Consider in 2017

Whether it’s the increasing use of mobile devices or Facebook’s unveiling of lead ads, there have been a number of changes to the digital marketing landscape over the past few years. Some of these changes have had substantial impact, and many digital marketers have been scrambling to adjust and align their initiatives in order to remain competitive within the industry. While quick adjustments are often essential, it’s also important for higher education digital marketers to take a step back and conduct a full assessment of the current marketing strategy. With the new year soon approaching, now is a great time for digital marketers to reassess their current initiatives and test out new strategies for 2017. Below, I’ll offer some questions to consider during the review process and highlight a few new strategies to consider for 2017.

Review & Fine Tune

When reassessing your current higher education marketing strategy, you’ll want to consider two key elements: goals and data. If you’re a larger university with a number of initiatives, be sure to keep it simple at first. Perhaps start with the question: Did we reach all of our lead goals that we set for 2016? If no, this is where you’ll want to examine data to uncover where lead goals were missed and why. Outside of lead goals, you’ll also want to consider goals relating to your online presence, such as site visits, followers on social platforms and user engagement. When considering these metrics, examine the data to see if you can identify any trends or patterns to give you an idea where your audience may heading in 2017. For example, a major Q4 increase in traffic to social platforms along with a decrease in site visits could signal that potential students are more interested in reviewing a school’s social identity than they are the traditional web page.

After the review process, be sure to prioritize your goals for 2017 (example: “We’re more concerned with user engagement on social platforms than we are on site visits”), then fine tune your strategy to fit. Questions to consider while fine tuning include:

  • Do we want to reallocate our budget in any areas?
  • Should we remove any marketing initiatives?
  • What social and blog posts were most successful this past year?
  • What sources are most of our leads coming from?
  • Are there new social platforms that we should test?
  • What initiatives are we going to implement to get X number of followers?

When in the assessment and fine-tuning process, you’ll also want to consider recent changes within the industry. Below, I’ll highlight a few of the major changes over the past few years that you’ll want to consider.

Increase in Mobile

Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the use of mobile has steadily increased, largely due to the ease of apps and mobile platforms. Yet up till this past year, desktop was always considered the primary source for reaching potential students. According to a comScore report, that now has changed as users are trading desktop for the convenience of mobile. This change has occurred for a number of reasons, but one of the main driving factors is the refinement of apps. For example, when Facebook Mobile was first released, the platform was congested and difficult to use compared to the desktop website. Yet over the past few years, Facebook and other leading tech companies have placed a major emphasis on attracting the millennial audience who tend to rely heavily on mobile. With this switch in focus, companies upgraded their mobile apps and platforms to enhance the mobile experience with improved configuration and additional perks, such as being able to order a pizza without having to leave the Facebook platform. These improvements have resulted in a 394 percent increase in mobile usage, a number that is only projected to increase in the coming years.  

As a higher education marketer, it’s important to know how the aggregate are leaning in their use of digital media, but it’s equally essential not to confuse the aggregate for your own audience. Be sure to dig through your data to see if you can identify a similar shift to mobile amongst your audience. If so, be sure to evaluate paid search strategies, as well as the content on your blog and social platforms to see if there are any adjustments that can be made so content is more mobile friendly.

Facebook Lead Ads

Mark Zuckerberg has turned Facebook into one of the premier advertising platforms, so it’s no surprise that they are leading the transition to mobile advertising with their introduction of leads ads. Within Facebook’s older advertising platform, clicking on an ad would send users outside of Facebook, which proved to be inconvenient for Facebook and its users. Lead ads changed all of this, making it so users can express interest in a school without ever leaving the Facebook platform.

Here’s how lead ads work: when users click on an ad, a lead form opens up within the Facebook platform that’s already automatically filled out based on what kind of information they share with their Facebook audience. So, for most, clicking on a lead ad would open a lead form with their name, phone number and email, and all the user would have to do is click submit to complete the lead form process. So far, the convenience of lead ad forms have proven to be very successful, dropping the aggregate CPL of one of our programs by about $15, all the while boosting lead volume in the process.

If you’re looking to have a strong start to 2017, now is the time to begin auditing your current strategy and implementing new initiatives where they seem fit. Remember to ensure that your current plan aligns with your overall goals, and don’t forget to examine analytics data to get a better understanding of where your audience may be heading in the new year.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment box below!

 

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

The 2015 Higher Education Marketing Journal Year in Review

Here we are, back to work in 2016. The Higher Education Marketing Journal (HEMJ) had a momentous 2015, seeing a double in the number of subscribers. We are working to continue to create engaging and actionable content in the coming year to exceed the growth we have seen in the past few years. It has been a productive year at Circa Interactive, and we are happy to highlight our successful posts and content from 2015.

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Our HEMJ subscribers range from university marketing departments and leadership to some of the top digital marketers in the industry.

To highlight our successful HEMJ posts from 2015, I’ve separated them into the following categories:

  • Organic Social Media
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Digital PR
  • Student Generation
  • Online Learning

Our content team has built upwards of 30 articles this year describing various facets of higher education Internet marketing. The following are links to our popular posts in case you missed them!

Organic Social Media

Boosting Social Media Image

As the online education industry continues to grow, we’ve seen an increase in demand for a strong social presence for university programs and colleges. Social programs across various platforms work to dish out information surrounding degree programs, faculty, current students, alumni, and the larger program-specific industry. Regardless of the social platform, imagery is essential for engagement. Our head designer, Jordan Opel, describes how to create a custom image to build awareness for a university event.

Speaking of spectacular imagery, is your university program on Instagram? There are endless content ideas to share through this platform such as current students, research equipment, faculty highlights, and more. Our very own Audrey Willis offers six tips to boost your university’s Instagram presence.

Once your social platform is established and content created, the next step is to build engagement. Tami Cruz offers four strategic tips to boost your college’s social media engagement. Want to know who’s killing it at content and engagement? Public relations manager Caroline Khalili shares her five personal must-follow university social accounts.

Social Media Marketing

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When it comes to student acquisition in higher education, social media marketing is an increasingly valuable tool. The potential audience size and very detailed targeting features allow for effective spending of marketing budgets. Our paid search manager Andrew Glasser paves the way in this category with an insightful post into maximizing Facebook Ad performance.

With the growth in targeting abilities and tracking, Facebook has become a very strong contender for marketing dollars in higher education. While Andrew dissects the account specifics, our lead designer, Jordan, works on the creative front of Facebook advertising with this well crafted post describing how to construct a Facebook promoted post.

Just as important as Facebook advertising in higher education is the limitless abilities to target potential students through Linkedin’s robust marketing platform. Earlier this year, our CEO Robert Lee laid out his insights into Linkedin’s targeting with his post, “5 Ways to Target Potential Students with Linkedin Paid Ads.”

Facebook and Linkedin advertising have been open to the public for a few years now, but a more recent addition to the marketing field is Pinterest advertising, which opened reservation-based Promoted Pins on January 1, 2015. Our digital marketing intern wrapped up his time at Circa with a walkthrough of driving students to a university with Promoted Pins.

Whether you are pushing your social media marketing budget toward Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest or the various other platforms, our paid search manager has you covered. Here’s Andrew’s powerful marketer’s guide, “A Higher Education Marketer’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization: Paid Social.”

Digital Public Relations 

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We are happy to have introduced our newest service offering to our higher education clients in 2015: Digital Public Relations. This tactic combines traditional PR, SEO, Branding, and Student Acquisition and is a powerful strategy in the current online marketplace. The newest member to our PR team is George Bradley, a digital marketing specialist out of the UK. By creating content for a variety of degree programs, George is on the forefront of industry news and his latest post offers his top four online tools to discover content for a university PR strategy.

A valued tool that our PR team frequently leverages to pitch programs, professors, and content to journalist and editors worldwide is CisionPoint. Cision has recently merged with Vocus and is a database of contacts and outreach platform that is leading the future of digital PR. Don’t have experience with Cision? Our social media and PR intern Sarah Song put together a step-by-step beginner’s guide to Cision at the start of 2015.

Content Marketing

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Content marketing has proven to be a valuable tool in digital marketing. Within the realm of higher education, there is a wealth of opportunity to produce consumable and engaging content to appeal to large audiences. Here at Circa, we create many different styles of content including videos, whitepapers, professor profiles, and infographics. Our marketing director and content marketing specialist, Frederic Lee (yours truly), put together two round-ups of his favorite higher education infographics in the industry: best health infographics and best business infographics in higher education.

We also released our very own infographic titled, “Creative Ways to Make Higher Education More Affordable.” This graphics aims to shed light on the opposite side of the college tuition rise debate by showing examples of ways universities are saving money. Take a look and feel free to share!

Student Generation

RETARGETING IMAGE

When it comes down to it, we are in the business of student generation. We aim to match potential students with the appropriate university program to meet and exceed their goals. Our COO, Clayton Dean, offers a decade of experience in student generation and shared his knowledge through two priceless posts in 2015.

Clayton’s first post is helpful for those university marketing departments who are struggling with where to push their marketing dollars. He offers two powerful ways to generate more leads on a limited budget. His next post points out a far too familiar scenario: A potential student visits your landing page, fails to convert, and goes on their way never to be heard from again. To tackle this issue, Clayton lays out 5 Reasons Why Setting Up Retargeting is Essential for Your Higher Ed Marketing Strategy. In addition to our COO’s valuable student generation posts in 2015, we published a contributor post from Josh Haynam, co-found of Interact. In this article, Josh introduces leveraging quizzes in higher education lead generation.

Online Learning 

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The Higher Education Marketing Journal covers a large scope of online marketing tactics and strategy. Some of our most successful posts are high level articles about the online education industry and are written by our most experience contributors. CEO Robert Lee offered his insights on a market feasibility study to understand demand for an online program while our top contributor, Scott Levine, built two powerful posts that demonstrated his expertise in the industry.

Scott’s first post lays out a prescription for success for online nursing degrees and acts as a guide to those looking to push an RN-BSN online. Scott’s second post is a clever remake of Stephen Covey’s, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” By applying this post to the higher education industry, Scott created, “The Seven Attributes of Highly Effective Online Degrees.”

More to Come in 2016

As we pave our way into the New Year, expect to see consistent content being added to HEMJ from our variety of employees and contributors. If you’d like to see us tackle a specific issue relevant to you, don’t hesitate to comment below or send us a message here. We wish all of our subscribers the best in 2016!

Follow me on Twitter for more updates: @FredHigherEd

FreddieFrederic Lee has four years experience in higher education content marketing and SEO. Working with Circa Interactive, he has gained valuable experience in paid search, analytics, SEO strategy, and client management. Frederic excels in process optimization, strategic content marketing, and management of Circa Interactive’s successful internship program.