When it comes to higher education branding, having a strong digital and social marketing strategy is crucial.
Higher education, being experiential in nature, can be perceived as having intangible value with an extreme cost. Each student has a highly personalized reason for pursuing high-ed. Each story is unique. And, since a student’s future satisfaction cannot be guaranteed, the purchase is rarely guaranteed.
For this very reason, the institution’s consistent and persistent brand message becomes incredibly important. The brand promise and identity are valuable because they make the product of higher education more tangible by promising a specific level of quality and experience. They reaffirm the student’s purchase decision as they leverage their degree throughout their life as an alum.
As more students seek information about the school online, the institution’s digital presence becomes the ultimate brand statement.
Many universities understand this and focus on developing unified digital marketing strategies. Here are some major trends observed in higher education marketing (Hannover Research.
Intuitive Web Design
A university’s website is an integral part of supporting and communicating the institution’s brand. Universities have invested in building easily navigable websites with intuitive layouts that streamline their content. There has also been a large focus in making the website layout adaptable across devices, as mobile internet use has become more predominant.
Focus on SEO & Web Analytics
The increased SEO hype is not limited to strictly commercial business. Higher-ed institutions are developing smart SEO strategies to ensure their presence is paramount on search engine results. Using web analytics tools, Universities are gathering data to measure audience reach and engagement, and ultimately improve recruitment, and giving efforts.
Social Media Activity
Recent research indicates that almost all higher education institutions show some form of social media activity. The content they create, however, differs greatly from institution to institution. Some universities’ social activity consists of occasional photos while others’ expand to a wide range of media; from 360 videos to VR. Many have their own in-house creative content production team. Overall, social media activity is increasing rapidly among all schools.
As these trends persist, the challenge will be to consistently create engaging digital content that adds significant value to the institutional brand.
Here are some content ideas:
1) Brand Film
A brand film can inform the audience about the institution, its values, culture, and community in a straightforward manner. Creative visual narratives will help the institution tell a captivating story that is rooted in emotional affinity with school, not just rational data.
2) Website Video
Many universities have begun to include engaging visuals on their homepage. Whether it is a reel showcasing facilities or a short motion graphics piece, visual content will generally increase engagement. Research shows that 40% of people are more responsive to visual information than plain text.
George Washington University has a lively background reel on their homepage. The video showcases the stunning D.C. scene and the GWU community, which consists of active students engaged in a wide range of activities.
3) Creative Social Media Content
The youngest consumers of higher education were born in the 2000s. They have not only grown up in the digital age, they were born in the digital age. They live and breathe social media. Creating innovative and compelling social media content can be beneficial for boosting school pride and affinity among students and staff. It can also serve as a way to introduce prospective students to a distant city and community before they ever set foot on campus. This video for Washington University School of Law recruitment highlights one of the nation’s premier parks–right in the campus backyard.
4) Scholarship & Fundraising Videos
Video can be a powerful tool for motivating the audience to help an institution financially.
There are many other forms of content that can be created for higher-ed branding and marketing; and these will keep evolving. The takeaway is that universities need to consistently create content to make their mark on the digital landscape.