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.

Need More Student Inquiries? Start Building Relationships

Relationships in digital marketing are rooted in effective communication and trust. Developing long-term relationships with university stakeholders, students and alumni, and a slew of media contacts are key to continued success in higher education internet marketing. By looking past individuals as clients or potential leads and taking the time to listen, explain, and ask questions, it’s possible to better understand hesitations and establish mutually beneficial goals. This post will highlight a few relationships to maintain for success:

1. Develop Strong Relationships with University Stakeholders

As a marketing company looking to push an institution’s brand into the spotlight in its best light, we often have detailed meetings with stakeholders. Stakeholders at universities can include presidents and vice presidents, communication and marketing directors, and program directors and faculty.

It must be apparent in kickoff meetings that our team understands a university and program brand, voice, target audiences, and more. By demonstrating that we have done the research, it is easy to clearly layout goals of the marketing efforts and begin asset creation.

How does this influence lead generation?

Our goals are to produce the best results for our clients in the most efficient way possible. By building relationships rooted in trust with academic partners, we are often given the freedom to create the wide variety of content needed to be successful in higher education digital marketing. Without trust, stakeholders may scrutinize and nitpick every step of the marketing process, which is an uphill battle that’s hard to endure.

Example: Stakeholders

At the start, a program director for a master’s in computer science program was hesitant to approve content to be shared on their website that didn’t mimic graduate level scholarly articles. We carefully explained our marketing goals, target audiences, and knowledge of the program, university brand, and industry.

By sharing the potential of engaging content in the digital sphere, the program director gained a better understanding of the content’s goals and allowed for more creative approaches to content creation. This trust lead to multiple videos, infographics, and blogs generating social shares, building backlinks, and an increase of the program’s online brand and SERP rankings.

2. Student Relationships are Key

As an arm of the university’s marketing department, developing relationships with students and alumni can be crucial to overall success. A team of well organized and knowledgeable admissions advisors work to inform and build relationships with potential students. This team also works to retain students for the duration of the program by periodically checking up on them to make sure they are succeeding in their program.

On the other hand, by working closely with current students and alumni to share their experience and success, during and after a degree program, marketers can build lasting relationships. Student success can be highlighted in videos, quotes, social media posts, and other forms of content creation.

How does this influence student inquiries?

The primary marketing goal for programs is to generate as many student inquiries and students as possible that remain in the program for its duration. Admissions counselors that are passionate about the program and university brand are able to develop relationships with potential students.

Admissions counselors can work through the various levels of friction and anxiety a potential student may have about an online degree program. Students who find success in your degree programs present the perfect opportunity for your marketing team to create high-quality content. This content, including testimonials and alumni features, will provide your marketing team with powerful tools to stimulate social validation and influence lead flow.

Example: Students

After receiving a prospect’s information, an enrollment advisor for an MBA program reached out to learn more about the prospective student and uncover their true ambitions. Leveraging a consultative approach, the enrollment advisor worked through the student’s hesitations and learned her true goal was to make her family proud through an MBA degree. The advisor built a relationship by taking the time to learn about the individual student’s goals and working to alleviate her doubts. Because of this, the student applied and found success through the degree program and offered a testimonial for the marketing team use in lead generation efforts.

3. Get to Know Journalists and Media in your Niche

Whether it is announcing university events, sending out press releases, or sharing program content with the digital world, carefully crafted relationships with the media are crucial. To run a productive, geo-specific marketing campaign for a university, a positive relationship with local beat reporters can go a long way.

For larger content marketing and digital PR campaigns, fruitful relationships can be built with editors, bloggers, website owners, thought leaders, and a variety of other influential individuals. Carefully crafted pitches are sent to relevant media contacts in order to build long-term relationships. These pitches often share infographics and videos or offer exclusive professor quotes and bylines opportunities. By understanding the goals of the media contact and their website, long-term mutually beneficial relationships can be created.

How does this influence lead generation?

Our goal of student generation is possible with the help of search engine optimization, social media, and branded marketing campaigns. Without strategic media contacts throughout the industry, running digital PR and SEO campaigns is terribly difficult. Establishing industry-specific relationships with the media allow for us to land consistent placements on some of the top digital publications. Mutually beneficial relationships with editors, bloggers, and website owners allow us to help guide strategic university messaging in the news, while offering the media an array of valuable content to share with their visitors.

Example: Media

As part of a digital PR strategy for a computer science program, we interviewed a professor that focuses in the security and infrastructure of the Internet of Things. As technology news broke, we pitched opportunities to large publications to quote or receive a byline from said professor. In doing so a relationship was created with a technology editor at Forbes.com.

This relationship initially helped the professor share their expertise, helped the editor build a compelling story, and assisted with our marketing efforts through a strong backlink and increase in program visibility. By leveraging the relationship with the Forbes editor, we were able to share more program content on the influential publication as well as build opportunities for professors across other programs.

All in All

As digital marketers with the (almost) infinite internet at our fingertips, it can be difficult to take the time to develop favorable relationships with bloggers, journalists, and editors that goes beyond a few emails. It’s also possible to fall into a situation of poorly communicating marketing strategies to stakeholders and treating students as leads instead of unique individuals. In order to succeed, relationship creation is crucial. Effective marketers take the time to listen and respect other individuals they work with in order to develop long-term mutually beneficial relationships.

Freddie

 Frederic has five years experience in higher education content marketing and search engine optimization. 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. Follow him on twitter @FredHigherEd