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5 Ways Higher Ed Marketing Has Changed

June 20, 2016 by Sam Slater

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From CampusBird Blog

Higher ed marketing - like any kind of marketing - does not stand still. Techniques that worked years ago are not as effective anymore, in large part because audience expectations have changed significantly. But also thanks to the many digital tools and communications channels spawned by the Internet.

But higher education marketing pros face unique challenges and the need to effectively reach a wide range of audiences from teenagers to parents to alumni. This requires constant vigilance to keep up to date.

To help you in that quest, here are 5 ways higher ed marketing has changed in recent years, and how it impacts your school.

1) From Promotion to Conversation

"Our school is great!" You may have noticed that there are fewer cheerleading-style posts about an institution. Marketing has turned from one-way promotions to two-way communications, in large part because of the rise of social media. Pretty soon we're going to see Facebook-powered university admissions chatbots...

Plenty has been written about just how crucial social media is to reach teenagers. But this digital environment also creates an expectation of real-time interactions. Today's audiences expect more than promotional messages brands and institutions; like any consumer, they want authentic conversations that help them find the information they are looking for (or be entertained). If you can be both informative and entertaining, you're on the right track.

The Ruffalo Noel Levitz, OmniUpdate, CollegeWeekLive, & NRCCUA 2015 e-expectations report - outlining 10 years of e-recruitment learnings - includes a section specifically on online conversations, and states that "...conversations with students, alumni, faculty, and counselors all have a strong influence on student behavior"..."Social media, chat, instant messaging, and webcasts all facilitate those conversations."

2) Mobile Technology and the Rise of AppsCampusBird_Mobile_Map

You already know that mobile is WAY more important than it used to be. In fact, mobile Internet use surpassed desktop or the first time last year, and the gap will continue to widen.

For higher ed marketers, this increased emphasis on mobile creates an undeniable opportunity. A dynamic app that both showcases your campus, and allows you to communicate with its users via push notification, helps reach your audience in the age of smartphones. Earlier this year we announced our integration with Modo Labs' Kurogo Platform, which provides a platform for higher ed to build mobile apps.

3) User-Generated Content

We mentioned authenticity in our first point, but it's worth highlighting again: your audience, particularly teens unfamiliar with your school, will likely gravitate to user-generated content to help them form an opinion. They've grown up with ad blockers and fast-forwarding DVR'd content, and are cynical (at best) of traditional advertisements, always considering the agenda behind the message.

Fortunately, there's a lot of opportunity with user-generated content: Blogs can highlight real student stories complete with video interviews. Social media allows you to publicly engage with positive comments and reviews of your school, while interactive maps allow you to integrate user photos of your campus.

4) Virtual Campus Events

Even for small, liberal arts universities, recruitment and marketing is no longer regional. Thanks to the ubiquity of the internet, you can reach potential students anywhere in the country and in the world. That, in turn, leads to the need for content designed to showcase your university and its programs even to students who will not be able to visit before they apply.

Enter virtual campus events, such as college and career fairs as well as graduate information sessions. Through a mix of live-streaming and recorded events, you can make even the most remote students feel like they're interacting with members of your university. Likewise, tailored virtual tours allow them to explore your campus and student life, which can be a powerful influence during the consideration phase.

Virtual campus events are also a perfect opportunity to offer a guided virtual tour. In fact, the 2015 e-expectations report found that:

"Most prospective students have not attended a webcast—16 percent of seniors, 9 percent of juniors— but half of all seniors and 70 percent of juniors said they would. This suggests that campuses are underutilizing this method for facilitating conversations with multiple students."  

"One interesting result is that half of seniors and juniors expressed an interest in virtual tours through webcasts. This is [a webcast topic] campuses should consider exploring, especially if they tend to enroll significant numbers of students who are from more distant markets." 

5) The Need for Diversification

Finally, higher education marketing has become an increasingly competitive field. Because of the aforementioned global reach, today marketers are competing for the attention of students who are courted by countless other institutions, and alumni whose loyalty (and donation preferences) may lie with any number of other institutions and organizations.

As a result, it's important to use every opportunity to engage your audiences with the goal of getting them to identify with - and ideally share - your brand and mission.

To cap it off, here's a concluding note from the E-Expectations Report:

"Successful institutions will continue to provide a plethora of methods for communicating with and contacting students, so they can meet students where they want to connect."

How CampusBird Interactive Map and Virtual Tour Platform Fits In to Higher Ed Marketing

As a hub of location-based information, interactive campus maps can serve as a powerful marketing tool. Not only does CampusBird save time by making it possible to create multiple event "layers" that can easily be toggled on and off (or scheduled to automatically appear/disappear), but also allows multiple marketing (and other department) reps to be managing map-based media and information. In some cases, as many as 60 different people on and off campus have access to CampusBird for their own particular needs, from security to marketing.

Topics: Virtual Tour, Virtual Reality, College Campus Tours, Virtual Engagement

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