It is undeniable. No industry can survive the competition if they are not in the digital space. Particularly for universities, where the target clients are students between the age groups of 16 and 24, and who anyways spend a significant amount of time being online, digital media marketing is of utmost importance.
The challenges faced by universities in recruiting students
The cost of education has risen, and consequently so has the tuition fee. The rise in the tuition fee has also resulted in the rise in students' expectations from the universities. Students now look for better facilities, better internships and better employability opportunities.
Higher education has always been a lucrative industry and now with a number of big players entering this space, students are spoilt with university choices. The exponential increase in the number of universities offering similar courses and other facilities have resulted in steep competition amongst them. Securing and retaining students has therefore become the number one concern for most universities.
How can a university secure student?
Each student typically applies to at least 15 - 20 different universities, segregating their college list into Dream Colleges, Best Fit Colleges and Safe Colleges. Dream Colleges are the most difficult to get in. Their reputation enables them to choose their students. Its ironical that while for students it is highly competitive to get into these Dream Colleges, the Best Fit and the Safe Colleges compete with each other to secure students.
Admission to a university is never the decision of the student alone. In most cases, the parents, elder siblings and sometimes close relatives are equally involved in the decision making. To help them close in on a university, each of these decision makers must be targeted differently. Careful handholding like campus tours and staff interaction helps parents get comfortable with a university. Relevant and extensive information on the university website is the best way to reach out to technology savvy siblings. However, the best way to engage the primary target group – the students, is through digital marketing. And universities have started to recognize that. Except that they make the mistake of being visible to them only during the admission cycle. The failure to recruit students through random digital marketing advertisements can be frustrating for universities particularly when significant marketing investments are involved. The trick is to have an SEO plan and implement it at least six to eight months before the new admission cycle.
Using digital marketing to attract students
Digital marketing not only works as a great tool for student procurement, it is also an excellent way of brand building for universities. Some of the best ways in which a university can use digital marketing are:
- To build confidence in prospective students - University selection is a tiring and a confusing process for many students. An experienced guiding hand who can answer questions and facilitate the process of decision making, not just about college selection but also about the right course based on the student’s interests and aspiration, can go a long way in building confidence in the student. Admissions counselling officers at universities can be entrusted with the task of conducting webinars and question and answer sessions on the digital platform to help students make an informed decision about their course and university choices. An unbiased opinion will make you a trusted advisor and win the confidence of students and will invariably make them apply to your university. As a university, you could also create interactive quizzes to be posted on digital media that could help students narrow down their choices. Another key factor in building confidence amongst prospective students is through continued visibility. Prospective university recruits must be repeatedly exposed to the university though digital advertisements. It is the same psychology that makes television advertisement so effective except that visual media ads are hugely expensive and the conversion ratios are miniscule and not effectively measurable. The best way of reaching out to prospective students in the digital media is though AdWords campaigns. The campaigns must be strategically designed to repeatedly appear to them and help prospective students get familiar with your university.
- Dispel myths about your university - As important as it is to create a good opinion about your university, it is equally important to dispel any myths that could deter students from applying to your university. This could be done using short videos showcasing your university students who can debunk such myths. Such engaging shareable videos if marketed right also have the potential to turn viral. However, making videos is a team effort that requires certain resources and a particular level of expertise. Content marketing is significantly easier to implement since it requires less resources and can be equally impactful. The blogs and articles dispelling the myths should come from multiple channels including the students as well as from the university. More often than not, universities employ digital marketing agencies that guide them with their digital marketing strategies and even write the articles of their behalf.
- Humanize the university - A great way of getting prospective students to apply is by sharing with them Behind the Scene Campus stories. Through blogs, interviews, videos and other social interaction channels, show the human side of your university. Highlight campus events including social, cultural and sports events as well as guest lectures and behind the scene student interactions. This will help prospective students identify with your institution, visualize themselves on your university campus and understand how your university will give them a comprehensive college experience.
- Let your students market for you - There is no better publicity than word-of-mouth. Hire your students to engage with prospective students on digital marketing platforms. Encourage them to share pictures, posts and write blogs on your university website on topics prospective students are most interested in. If possible, let a designated student group take over your social media handle every once in a while. This way your digital media interactions will get a fresh lease and will also be able to foray into other platforms like Snapchat and Instagram which are more frequented by students. The best digital marketing agencies that guide universities with their student recruitment often recommend content marketing as an effective way of reaching out to prospective students. Content not just helps in reaching out to the right audience, it also helps in the organic SEO of your university’s websites.
- Create visually stunning content - If your campus is beautiful, you must flaunt it. Photographing the campus during different seasons is a great way of creating brand content. You could also run an email marketing campaign that answers the most frequently asked questions by prospective students. Running infographic campaigns are a great way of getting visibility. Amongst other information, your infographic could contain the statistics of the admissions process of various majors.
SEO cannot be a onetime effort. On-page and off page SEO techniques combined with paid and organic marketing campaigns is the only way to rank your university in the first pages of search engines. Such a task cannot be accomplished in a short period; a concept most universities are failing to understand that in turn leads to the disappointment of fewer conversions despite significant investment. Get an edge above your competitors. Let us help you strategize!