As outlined in the previous post, the competitiveness of online higher education marketing is at an all time high, and in order to stand out in this over-saturated environment, universities must leverage what makes them unique: their faculty. Mirroring my last post breaking down the marketing opportunities surrounding current students and alumni, this post will describe a few ways faculty can be utilized to boost marketing efforts. Faculty involvement can increase brand awareness, help create a steady flow of high quality backlinks and through social media, put the pieces together to build a virtual learning community.
While the university brand backs an online program, often times it is the faculty that are deemed the face of the program. A program director, distinguished professor, adjunct professors and even faculty research can all be leveraged to help an online degree program show their unique strengths in the online atmosphere.
Faculty research-backed content
Faculty and university research is a great place to start when generating content surrounding a program. Examining this research gives a marketer the opportunity to understand the newest discoveries in a given field as well as a clearer grasp of the direction of the program as a whole. With this in mind, content can be created either directly using the research or more loosely based around the focused subject matter. A few content creation ideas include:
- Infographics visualizing research
- Article/blogs to be housed as program resources
- Byline articles describing research goals
- Videos explaining research and tools/technologies (example below)
Establishing faculty as thought leader in their industry
Faculty members are prime candidates to be considered thought leaders in their field. They not only work day in and day out on the cutting edge advancements in the industry, but they have a hand in educating the next generation of, let’s say, electrical engineers. In order to help facilitate thought leadership, these individuals can be guided to comment and write for major publications in their industry. These publications can be in the form of bylines articles, Q&A opportunities and expert commentary. Publishing articles and developing a genuine social media following can boost a faculty member to the status of thought leader.
Once a faculty member’s expertise is recognized online, conversation can grow around their interests, specifically their work with the degree program. With this increased visibility, other industry thought leaders, current and prospective students, and alumni will be encouraged to continue to develop the conversation around the program and engage with the current students, faculty and research.
Becoming the face of an online degree program
With or without (preferably with) recognition as thought leaders in their field, faculty can be viewed as the “face behind the program.” Online, it is important to make the learning atmosphere as personalized as possible so students feel included in a sort of virtual learning environment. Faculty can be leveraged in a variety of ways to build this trust and personalization including:
- Videos explaining the program, faculty and research
- Interactive webinars describing courses and research
- Faculty written articles/blogs
- Social media platforms with real time industry and program updates
In regards to the last bullet point, faculty members should be actively involved in the social media platforms of the university or, specifically, the program in which they teach. Additionally, they can encourage student engagement in social media in order to build brand awareness surrounding the program and university and continue to develop the ideal virtual learning community.
Here are a few examples of professors that are heavily engaged on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/MichaelEPorter (Harvard Business School)
https://twitter.com/SlaughterAM (Princeton University)
https://twitter.com/marionnestle (New York University)
Thanks for reading – follow me on Twitter for updates and insights into the world of higher education Internet marketing! @FredHigherEd