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Higher Education Marketing: Where is Your Audience?

People love to joke about how kids these days are always glued to their phones, but for marketers in higher education, brushing it off as a trend could end up making you the butt of the joke. If you want to reach the most technologically infatuated and savvy generation to date, you might have to rethink the way you go about marketing to them.

With the abundance of devices, platforms, and channels available to students, universities and colleges are forced to make difficult choices. Do they focus their attention on a select number of channels, or do they try to spread their efforts across as many as possible in the hopes of reaching the largest audience? There may not be a single right answer for every institution, but recent trends should make finding those answers easier.

The 2014 E-Expectations Report from Noel-Levitz provides some insight into the ways students, and their parents, prefer to interact with universities and colleges before making a decision.

Some stats worth noting:

  • Both students and parents see a college’s website as the most influential and reliable source of information.
  • 96 percent of students and 85 percent of parents will read emails from a college they are considering.
  • 67 percent of students and 59 percent of parents say a college’s website experience influences their perception of the institution.
  • 71 percent of students are viewing college websites on their mobile devices, yet only 41 percent of them have completed an action, such as requesting information or applying for enrollment.
  • Only 51 percent of students have “liked” a college’s Facebook page, and only 37 percent have followed them on Twitter.
  • Only 38 percent of students and 50 percent of parents prefer phone calls and printed materials.

Digital Dominance

It’s no shock that website and email communication were the most popular channels for both students and parents, but the high marks for mobile and equally low marks for social media should be worth your attention (and budget considerations).

Be Selective With Mobile

As responsive web design becomes more prevalent, website experiences on mobile devices continue to improve with every passing school year. However, certain experiences and interactions can still prove cumbersome and confusing. Simple interactions like filling out forms, accessing account-protected information, and even viewing videos can be difficult if they have not been properly optimized for mobile platforms. This is driven home by the fact that while 71 percent of students viewed a site on their mobile device, only 41 percent completed a measurable action.

Anti-Social Media?

Don’t assume the Me Generation can be recruited in 140 characters or less. While social media channels offer a direct line to your student base, and an opportunity to engage them in a real-time conversation, it should be seen as a supplement to your larger recruiting tools.

Consider Two Things:

1. Maybe you’re being too informal. Students and parents might be looking for detailed academic information about your faculty and courses, but you only post about Game Night in the Student Union.

Instead, try posting breadcrumbs on your social channels that will lead prospective students to your website where they’ll find the information they’re looking for.

2. Maybe you’re being too formal. College is about more than just test scores and theses. It’s also an experience. Students want to know where they can meet people, get involved in campus life, find jobs/internships, buy sports tickets, etc.

If your social engagement is down, try posting some occasional content that shows off your personality and highlights what your college offers outside the classroom.

Today’s Lesson Recap

In order to reach students, you need to ensure that your web and digital marketing efforts are mobile friendly and make it easy to find critical information in the fewest clicks possible. In terms of social media, you should offer a seamless transition to and from your website, but it shouldn’t be expected to carry the weight of your recruitment efforts.

Mike Waterston
Mike Waterston
Mike's career as a writer started in third grade when he discovered a love of creating and telling stories that have an impact on readers. As a Minneapolis-based copywriter and content strategist, he shares that passion with brands, helping them tell their stories in a way that resonates with their audiences.