Apr 3, 2018

Content & Higher Education: 5 Successful Campaigns to Learn From

by Digital Marketing Institute

As society continues to change in response to new technologies, so do the habits and behaviors of today's students.

Educators looking to compete in today's intellectual market must create and share content that engages, entertains and inspires. This is particularly true for the millennial cohort who spend an average of 25 hours a week online in pursuit of authentic content.

With so much information available in the online space, consistently creating and sharing inspiring content is no easy feat. But it is possible and there are great examples in the education space to learn from.

In this blog, we look at 5 examples of educators using content marketing to raise their head above the parapet to get students clicking and sharing.

The power of influencers - The University of Tennessee

Dolly's America

Having curated and launched a course called 'Dolly's America', a syllabus that delves into Appalachian history, the university decided to craft the course content to appear through the eyes of fellow Appalachian and Queen of the Country, Dolly Parton.

To promote the course and raise awareness, the university featured its 'Dolly's America' class in its magazine, torchbearer, before sharing the news via its Twitter account, tagging Dolly Parton in the post.

Just days later, Dolly Parton's account retweeted this reply to her 4.5 million Twitter followers, and engagement went through the roof. In addition to her Twitter endorsement, the celebrity’s website published an article on the course which was picked up by the BBC, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

Takeaway: Dolly's reply alone earned 4,047 likes and 725 retweets. If there’s an influencer that has attended your institution, is a local resident or is somehow affiliated, reach out and try to engage them. As this example proves, influencers yield powerful results in terms of engagement and awareness.

Microsite - The University of Chicago

By creating regular, newsworthy blog articles with snappy headlines, eye-grabbing captions, and meaningful content, an institution can not only increase traffic to the website but also become a regular resource for your target audience. The University of Chicago is a shining example of that.

The University of Chicago

With unique local insights, offbeat political pieces, entertaining faculty videos and a host of other creative initiatives regularly published on its news site, UChicago News, the institution educates, inspires and offers continual value. In turn, this has helped to boost brand awareness and showcase the University of Chicago’s forward-thinking outlook on education.

Earning mentions in high-profile academic sites such as Scientific American, it’s clear to see the value UChicago News offers regarding news, information and unique insights.

Takeaway: To drive more traffic to an institution's website and remain relevant and valuable to potential students, it’s key to consider focusing time and investment on producing a microsite dedicated to interesting, niche content on a regular basis.

Social media - Boston University

Boston University Snapchat

81% of millennials check Twitter at least once a day. Moreover, in a poll that asked teenagers to select a social network if 'trapped on a deserted island’, nearly half (44%) chose Snapchat, ahead of Instagram and Facebook.

Based on the realization that 71% of college students use Snapchat on a regular basis, the University of Boston launched its channel in early 2015, with a mission to increase its following and drive student engagement.

The University began to grow its Snapchat fanbase gradually by sharing information on breaking news, events, important dates and celebrations. When a blizzard prompted a string of lesson cancellations, Boston University saw an opportunity to increase its following.

As the students had more time on their hands due to the blizzard, the institution created a Snapchat-based campus scavenger hunt, incentivized with a prize.

From the success of this campaign, the university has continued to engage its audience with behind the scenes glimpses of notable events as well as hosting live Q&A sessions. Due to its creativity and real-time approach to Snapchat, Boston University has an excess of 3,000 highly-engaged student followers, and its fanbase keeps growing.

Takeaway: 95% of adults aged between 18 and 34 are most likely follow a brand through social networks. With new social platforms emerging all the time, there is huge scope to inspire existing students and entice new ones through social media. Incentivized and real-time campaigns prove to be a powerful content marketing tools for educators.

User generated content - University of Waterloo in Ontario

University of Waterloo in Ontario Instagram feed

9 out of 10 students consult a college search review site when researching where to study. From this, it’s clear that students respect and trust the opinions or their peers - hence the power of user-generated content (UGC).

To help boost brand awareness, improve its recruitment process and offer students additional resources driven by peers, the University of Waterloo in Ontario uses a mix of curated social media content, student takeovers and a student ambassador led live chat service to provide a personal level of communication that runs deeper than faculty-led bulletins, notifications, and updates.

With its live student chat service, in particular, the university offers real-time content to prospective students, providing them with answers to their questions in a way only an existing University of Waterloo student can.

With healthy full-time equivalent enrollments of 34,325, plus 26 Maclean's Awards for 'Most Innovative University in Canada', it's clear that UGC is working for the institution.

Takeaway: Brand engagement improves by 28% when consumers are exposed to both professional and user-generated content. Plus, millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than any other form of media. By encouraging student social media takeover days, offering student-led Q&A sessions and publishing guest blog posts written by existing students or alumni, institutions can connect with students on a personal level, building trust and providing a level of transparency that's key in today’s educational environment.

Video - Leeds University

Video content is digestible, visually stimulating, has the power to convey a powerful message effectively, and its suited to the mobile experience. And seeing as 8 in 10 students visit college websites on mobile, this is an incredibly important factor.

By 2019, global consumer Internet video traffic is expected to account for 80% of all consumer web traffic. What's more, YouTube reports mobile video consumption rises 100% each year.

An excellent example of video marketing comes from the University of Leeds. The music, narrative tone and editing style of its video series 'Student Life at Leeds' not only speaks the language of existing and prospective students, but it puts people in the shoes of someone studying at the university in a way that is visually inspiring.

This recent video highlights what it is to be an international student at the institution.

While this video promotes the institution as it is named the University of the Year.

With an entire library of wonderfully crafted video content available on its YouTube channel, the University of Leeds has 4.4 thousand subscribers - and counting.

Takeaway: Video content is a popular, digestible content medium that proves hugely popular with today’s younger audiences. Produce a video series that communicates a message and offers a snapshot of campus life. Or look at pulling together the elements that make your institution better than others e.g. a recent award, well-known alumni or links to industry into an explainer video that informs. This will not only expand social reach but help drive engagement in a significant way.

In an age driven by technological evolution, ambitious students crave more value than a prospectus. Now they want to gain a genuine insight into the institutions they will choose to shape their future.

Content marketing has a huge role in conveying the ethos and values of a college, university or training provider and plays an important role at each point of the sales funnel. The monetary investment in content need not be huge, but time and dedication is required to discover the right messaging and formats.

However, if you get it right like the 5 higher education institutions above, the rewards will be obvious in engagement, enrollments, and revenue.

Upgrade to Power Membership to continue your access to thousands of articles, toolkits, podcasts, lessons and much much more.
Become a Power Member

CPD points available

This content is eligible for CPD points. Please sign in if you wish to track this in your account.