Digital Transformation in Higher Education
A week ago I applied for a role within the Digital Marketing section of a University with a strong focus on International Education, and it got me thinking. Apart from the obvious, how would you market to students with a potential to study abroad? Then it hit me – we’re selling the lifestyle not the course. We’re selling the community, the joie de vivre, the setting up of a work life balance, the ‘How-tos ‘ on surviving share-house hell and OF COURSE the education.
Mind you, making up your mind to study overseas is the tip of the iceberg. The rewards far outweigh the capital investment. Your exposure to many different types of people will not only help you to develop your people skills, but it will also give you a firmer knowledge of others, both friend and foe. Not to mention that Cultural sensitivity isn’t just a quality which politicians may be accused of lacking; it’s also something you can develop while studying abroad!
The macro picture for postgraduate education reveals continued challenges in student enrolment. Most segments of the market remain flat or down year over year. That said, there are pockets of growth and opportunity.
In addition to the challenging enrolment market, the marketing landscape continues to evolve. Not only do higher education marketers have more tools to balance than ever before, but consumers also have more ways to take in information. Savvy marketers are up for the challenge and deploy innovative solutions. The key, and this is an obvious one – is to leverage the data to ensure your campaigns will produce positive results.
The same way that higher education itself is continually changing and adapting to the new digital world, marketing strategies and tactics are also shifting. With that in mind, The primary target audience for the higher education sector is one of the most savvy, demanding and connected digital groups. These behaviours will only become heightened over time, as our digital natives become prospective students.
Here are five fairly effective strategies to maximise digital strategy efforts as well as have a more holistic approach to the changing pace of the higher education market.
1. Fluctuating Social Networks
Millenials, aka the bulk of prospective college students, just aren’t that into Facebook anymore. But that hardly means they’ve deserted social media—they’re just taking over Instagram and Snapchat instead. While you can still opt for ad campaigns on Twitter and Facebook (and if you’ve already invested in creating a presence there, don’t leave), savvy marketers are looking to showcase their universities on newer social sites.
2. Mobile is Paramount
It’s no shock that the vast majority of high school and college students access the Internet on their mobile phones. According to 2014 data collected by Pearson, 84% of college students own a smartphone—a figure that jumped from 72% in 2013. If you’re one of the many colleges and universities that has been slow to make their websites (or even landing pages) mobile friendly, make a resolution to go mobile in 2016. It’s time to get up to speed with responsive webpages and even text-based marketing campaigns.
3. Video killed the radio star
Many colleges and universities use video for distance learning or for a virtual campus tour on their admissions webpage. In 2016, video is headed for the next level as it becomes the preferred web experience. It’s estimated that by 2018, video will have taken up nearly 80% of all consumer Internet traffic, and even now, video accounts for half of all mobile traffic. From six-second Vines to nearly cinematic experiences for your annual fund, this is the time to focus on better leveraging video marketing.
4. Targeted Remarketing is a must
A potential student clicks on your PPC campaign and visits your landing page, only to leave. They’re at least a little interested, so how can you get them back? Retargeting, or remarketing advertisements to site visitors who are driving your bounce rate, has become less of a “gee-whiz” product to more of a “must-have” armament in your marketing arsenal.
5. Understanding the consumer
We’ve come a long way from the cookie-cutter approach of, “Dear ______, Thank you for your interest in our graduate program.” Marketing automation holds the promise of highly personalized, highly targeted, and expertly timed communications that are designed to enhance engagement while shortening the enrolment funnel. But the success of automation is increasingly dependent on how well integrated your systems can be. Triggered messages can deliver astonishingly high open- and click-rates (70.5% and 152% higher, respectively, than an email that comes out of the blue). Segmenting is also key—and it’s something too few marketers do. A subject that is worthy of another blog for sure.
6. Convert Interaction into Opportunity
Many schools have written student testimonials.Few have video testimonials, despite the clear increase in video consumption. Even fewer have temporarily entrusted current students to manage a behind-the-scenes Twitter account and answer prospective student questions. It’s one thing to talk about your Institution’s values. It’s another to create a social media conversation for chronicling how these values are lived through student stories.
A digital strategy’s role is to provide key stakeholders with a roadmap, detailing what digital will do for the institution and how it will add value over the medium to long term. Planning needs to encompass target audiences, key goals, success measures, supporting technologies, and resources and budget required to support the program. It is also critical to consider the integration with the wider marketing and communications function.
· Google, “Education Search Analysis Report. Year-over-year changes Q4 2013 – Q3 2014”
· eMarketer, “Smartphone Users Worldwide Will Total 1.75 Billion in 2014”
· JiWire, “Mobile Audience Insights Report, 2012”
· Google, “Education Trends through the Eyes of Your Customer: Tracking the Learner’s
· Nielsen & Adroit Digital, “Millennials: The New Age of Brand Loyalty”
· PointRoll, “2015 Benchmarks”