The higher education industry has faced several changes in 2021, from pivoting away from traditional in-person events to virtual events and embracing remote teaching and learning.
Marketing in a post-pandemic world that's completely different from before and with increasing pressure to reach student enrolment numbers, what are the trends to look out for in the future?
Here are 7 higher education marketing trends to watch in 2022 and beyond.
1. Ride The TikTok Wave: Reach Millennials With Short Viral Videos In 2022
With 3 billion downloads, people have flocked to TikTok in droves. It is the epitome of video marketing at its finest. TikTok is all about short viral videos and is filled with in-jokes and long-running memes. If you work in the marketing industry, you are sure to know about TikTok which has taken the social media world by storm. Perhaps, you've already created an account!
Schools targeting millennials can tap into this platform to increase awareness and engagement. Bear in mind that authenticity is key to success in TikTok. This is where you can throw out all your crazy ideas and build a fun and creative marketing strategy.
Also, consider embracing the new way of creating content. Step away from repurposed formal videos and move towards organic TikTok-style videos that instantly resonate with your prospects.
Content can be student-generated and include school-related hashtags (like #backtoschool) or school-specific hashtags like the one above, tagging #universityofedinburgh.
P.S. If you're reading this in 2023 and beyond, please replace TikTok with whatever social media is in the rage right now~
2. Engage The Impulse Generation With Short Ads (Concise Copy, Carousel, Short-Form Video)
Source: Cardinal Digital Marketing
We're bombarded by distractions every day: phone notifications, vibrations from our Apple watch, switching from Whatsapp chat with our friends to video calls to locating the nearest cafe on Google Maps. In fact, a study by Microsoft concluded that the human attention span has dropped to 8 seconds – shrinking nearly 25% in just a few years.
As attention spans continue to shrink, you need a digital marketing strategy that effectively engages this Impulse Generation. One way to tackle this is by using short content in your ads.
Instead of chunks and long paragraphs of text, get your point across in a few sentences. The key is to write concise copy. You can also leverage the carousel ad format to engage prospective students with compelling visuals.
With the decline in the number of campus visits and tours due to the pandemic, there is an increased opportunity to build brand awareness and reach prospects through video marketing. Here are some ideas for short-form videos (videos less than 90 seconds):
Video campus tours
FAQs about the school & programmes
Mini-tours of the facilities with student tour guides—classrooms, libraries, cafeterias, campus gyms!
In 2022, consider taking advantage of short-form platforms such as TikTok for awareness and retargeting campaigns to reach the feeds of prospective students. These short videos can also be linked out to long-form videos and websites which include more detailed information.
3. Conversational Marketing: Connect With Prospects On A Deeper Level
Conversational marketing is a customer-centric and dialogue-driven approach to marketing. Simply put, it's marketing that talks to consumers.
In this post-pandemic landscape, more people are seeking personal connections and interactions. For schools, conversational marketing can be as simple as quick personalised replies to student queries.
If you've researched universities in this digital age, you'll know that most websites have an abundance of information that can sometimes be overwhelming. Or perhaps, the information you're looking for is nested deep inside the site that you have trouble finding it. However, the student recruitment and admissions team is likely to know where this information is and are probably better at organising and presenting it logically.
Therefore, you can consider sparking conversations with digital ad campaigns like Google Call, Facebook Message and LinkedIn Conversation. Such campaigns promote one-to-one interactions and students can also receive helpful links to resources in a conversational and natural way.
4. Ramp Up Your Social Media Strategy With Influencer Marketing, Student Ambassadors & UGC
Influencer marketing involves brands collaborating with online influencers to market products or services. It's a type of social media marketing that involves endorsements and product placements from influencers.
Leverage influencer marketing by incorporating student ambassadors as part of your school's social media marketing strategy. By collaborating with these student ambassadors who have an established presence on social media platforms, you can showcase your school more authentically and reach prospective students in a more personal and direct way.
According to Wikipedia, user-generated content, alternatively known as user-created content, is any form of content, such as images, videos, text and audio that has been posted by users on online platforms such as social media and wikis.
Instead of posting school-produced content, you can consider including student-made content. UGC is social proof that the school and programmes are fantastic. The student voice and his or her opinion build trust and make the student experience more authentic. Prospective students can then envision themselves in their shoes and what a day is like on your campus.
Here are some content ideas: student meals, group hangouts, campus life, university events. Or better yet, ask your alumni to talk about their experience or the impact of completing their master's degree!
The content can be delivered in various formats such as videos on YouTube or TikTok, posts on Instagram or even blog content that can be shared on social media.
5. Hybrid Events Are Here To Stay: Capture Benefits Of Both Virtual & In-Person
The pandemic continues to affect marketing trends today. With policies on in-person gatherings, many schools have shifted their events from face-to-face to virtual. Virtual events have also been largely successful with more schools holding online webinars and masterclass. Marketers are thus expected to embrace a new model: hybrid events.
A hybrid event allows people to connect in-person if they want that human connection experience as well as the flexibility to engage virtually if individuals have health concerns or travel constraints.
These events will offer the flexibility to engage in-person (adhering to the country's COVID19 guidelines) and virtually so schools get the best of both worlds. The student experience is enhanced as they're given a choice to choose what they prefer while schools would capture all prospective students that they would otherwise miss should they only offer one option.
6. The Evergreen Key To Student Enrolment: Career Outcomes
After running countless PPC campaigns for our higher education clients, we've noticed that ad copies that highlight career outcomes tend to perform better. In fact, I get asked by my teammates to incorporate a career angle in the ad copies.
Some of the most popular reasons students pursue further studies is to move up the career ladder and open doors to more career opportunities. Thus, you need to reassure prospective students of the tangible value of a degree—career outcomes. There are a few elements that you need to take note of in your strategic marketing plan.
Firstly, you need to communicate career outcomes to prospective students. Or even better, help them visualise their post-MBA career paths.
Next, you need to consider career outcomes on both a program and enterprise level. In addition to the career growth that prospective students will gain, do highlight how being equipped with the degree helps their organisation.
This evergreen marketing trend holds true all the time so do emphasise career outcomes on your website, social media channels and marketing messages to drive prospective students down the admissions funnel.
7. Leverage The Power Of Data, CRM Systems & Marketing Automation
The higher education industry has a reputation for being slow in adopting new technology. Universities are very traditional and don't change as fast as they should. In fact, chief technology officers of higher education institutions ranked digital business and digital transformation as their 5th most strategic business priority in a Gartner survey. Although 59% expects significant business model change due to digital transformation and there’s an understanding that digital will ultimately transform the university model, the adoption of new technologies necessary for improvement is slow.
However, this also means that by keeping pace with technology, you're seizing the chance to outdo your competitors.
HubSpot is a customer relationship management software (CRM) that can help transform your enrolment cycle: attract higher-quality traffic to your website, convert that website traffic into prospective students and nurture those prospective students into applicants. Just imagine what you'll gain with this single source of truth:
Metric-laden reports tracking prospects’ journey
Correlate digital marketing efforts to your student recruitment campaigns
Nurturing prospective students with email automation workflows
The possibilities are endless so leverage this evergreen marketing trend and see the full user journey from first click to enrolment.
Start Adapting These Trends Into Your Higher Education Marketing Strategy
By applying the abovementioned trends, you should see better results in the year to come.
Bear in mind that marketing trends are constantly changing to reflect new technologies, evolving consumer behaviours and the world we live in. Thus, schools will need to stay up to date on new trends to better resonate with current and prospective students.
Ready to get started with an end-to-end inbound marketing strategy? Watch our webinar on how you can increase student enrolment and turn post-COVID'19 from disruption to opportunity.