Unlike businesses that fall apart due to lack of customers or product demand, education is one field that is never going out of business. The reason is simple, there’s always a need for education. In fact, with time, the value of higher education has increased.
This has given rise to a number of colleges and universities offering various courses in different fields. No wonder that colleges today have to market their courses and showcase what they have to offer. Digital marketing is, therefore, a solution for colleges. However, you cannot simply start digital marketing without a plan. So let us jot down the steps and ideas to create a good digital marketing strategy for colleges.
For a marketing strategy to start right, you need to decide your goals and objectives on the very onset. Having goals and objectives gives you a direction on how you should plan each step. When creating a digital marketing strategy for colleges, decide your objectives based on what you plan to achieve through the different forms of digital marketing. In today’s article, we will be assuming a certain set of objectives and based on those objectives, we will take ahead the complete strategy planning for your college. So to begin with, here are a set of objectives that you can decide for your college:
If we only consider Alberta (Canada) for an example, there are about 28 higher educational institutes, including universities, private colleges and public colleges. That is a good enough number and options in the province alone. For a college that is trying to tap not only the local audience but also national and international audience, you have a large number of colleges to compete with. This calls for creating a brand image that makes your college stand out among the others.
So let us take the first objective to build a brand image and increase your brand awareness among the local or global audience as per your preference. This objective will help you map clear strategies around how you can use different digital marketing techniques to spread the word about your college and courses.
The next objective is based on the assumption that your college already has a fair share of brand awareness in the educational sector. Here your aim would be to showcase what you have to offer in terms of educational courses, curriculum and extracurricular activities. The idea behind sharing information about your courses and events is to inform the direct audience that is the students about what your college can do for them. When you work on achieving this objective, you will create a marketing message that will enable the students to choose you based on their educational needs.
Social media marketing has become an integral part of digital marketing. It is, in fact, an important technique to consider for digital marketing strategy of your colleges. Why? Because it is one place where you get the undivided attention of your core target audience, your students. Youngsters spend a good amount of time on social media, making it a place with good exposure for colleges. This means having an objective to create a good social media presence is a must for colleges. This will help you to not only increase visibility among your core audience but also provide a channel for two-way communication.
Digital marketing engagement is when you are able to strike a form of communication with your audience. This communication is not one-sided but two way as the audience also responds and reacts to your messages. Therefore, increasing engagement with the audience is necessary in digital marketing for colleges as the more you are able to engage your audience, the higher is the chance of them converting. The audience that you need to engage will include:
Any Other Institute’s Directors/ Faculty/ Students
Set the Themes
Based on the objectives we set for the digital marketing strategy for colleges, we will now move on to decide how you can segregate different aspect of your college to achieve the objectives we just discussed. Let us start by considering what all things about your college would your audience want to know about. These aspects will work as your themes for the digital marketing strategy. Here are a few themes listed below to help you kick start your digital marketing strategy:
The journey of a student begins in your college from the time they start applying for your courses. Every college has a set of rules and methods when applying for a course. Also, the students who are applying to your college are new to the process. This is one theme that every college should consider in their digital marketing strategy. This theme is something that will appeal to the prospective student and their parents. Here you don’t just talk about your admission process. In this theme, you need to put the focus on the different entrance exams, fee models, the announcement of new course admissions, etc. The idea is to use digital marketing to inform about admissions to ease the worries of prospective students, thereby building their trust in your college.
When a student scouts for a college, they are in a decisive mode of choosing a course that will benefit their future. Therefore, having a theme based on your courses is also important for strategy. Creating digital marketing messages around the courses will help you in achieving your objective of communicating your courses and events. You can use this theme and come up with social media announcements or blogs on each of the courses you have to offer and what is included in the course curriculum. This is a persistent theme that you can use every year and keep making changes to it as and when new courses are added.
Students today look for a complete experience. They do not just want good academic courses. They want a good college life that is all inclusive. These students would love to know more about the campus, the hostel facilities, the library and other amenities. Apart from these, the prospective students would also love to see images of your current students using all these amenities to make sure that you indeed have what you promise. A glimpse of how the college life would be will encourage prospective students to opt for your courses.
Students opting for higher studies are highly focused and concerned about their career. They need to be sure that the efforts they put into studying today will get them a good job tomorrow. No wonder almost every other college is opting to provide job placements on campus. Job placement is indeed an important factor for college selection for students. So why not have a complete theme on it. Inform the audience about your job placement cell, how you place your students, what profiles the students are offered, what companies are aligned with your placement cell, and so on. This information will give a complete insight to a prospective student and compel them to know your college more.
Talking more from the prospect of jobs and career, students today do not simply make a choice when it comes to career. They seek guidance on the same as well. Students do not have the capabilities to decide on a career option simply based on theoretical knowledge. They need proper guidance to not only land a job but plan their complete career path. For this, they look for colleges that provide placements and also assist and guide in making career decisions. So if your college does provide career guidance, make it one of your themes for digital marketing strategy as it will definitely grab the attention of prospective students.
Students are young adults. If we get rid of the word adults, they are still young minds that need stimulation apart from the same old classroom studies. These students, therefore, need to feel assured that the college they opt for gives them both a classroom experience and an out of classroom experience. For this, you need to create a theme around the list of co-curricular activities you have in store for these young minds. This will include sports clubs, reading clubs, music groups, dance troops, debate teams, social responsibility activities, etc. You should also make it a point to include your achievements in these areas. All this will make a prospective student want to be a part of a college that is both serious and fun.
Thinking from the perspective of both students and their parents, having a theme around awards and certification is a must. This type of information is given importance by your audience as it informs them about your excellence. The awards and certifications theme will have two types of messages to promote. One will talk about the external awards and felicitations received by your college for academic excellence. The other type of message will include the special certificates received by your college with regards to special course educators and so on.
Faculty and Staff
Finally, why not consider having a theme centred on your staff members and the faculty who actually run your college? Though you may feel that such a theme will not directly connect with your target audience and their immediate needs, having such a theme can be beneficial. The benefit you get here is that you get to show the humane side of your college. You get to give an insight of not only the college but also about the lives of the people running it. This will create an impact on the emotional thinking of the audience. This theme will include the life of the faculty, teaching methods, special recognition of a faculty, and so on.
Based on the objectives we plan to achieve through the digital marketing strategy for colleges, we have successfully created themes that will help you create marketing messages and content. With these ready, we now need to focus on what type of digital marketing you can use for the digital marketing strategy for colleges.
Choose a Marketing Type
Often people get confused when they try to define digital marketing as it has too many concepts. If we were to define digital marketing for colleges, it is the process of marketing your institute through digital platforms and devices. Now the digital marketing we are referring to is a very specific kind which deals with internet-based promotion only. Here are some common types of the same that you can use for the digital marketing strategy for colleges.
Content marketing is the process of promoting a business by creating informative content based on your topic of expertise. The idea of content marketing is a little different from your general marketing techniques. In content marketing, you do not openly promote your business, you instead simply provide informative content related to the pain points and needs of your audience. Within this information, you will then subtly include a mention or call-to-action button that will direct readers to visit your digital platforms such as your college website. Content marketing is, therefore, a subtle form of digital marketing. Now when you consider using content marketing for colleges, you need not restrict yourself to creating just blogs for your website. Content can be much more than just blogs. Here are some off beat ideas to use content marketing:
Have an Online Magazine
Colleges were open to the idea of publishing content even before the content became online. College and alumni magazines that were circulated among the students and faculty is one such example. So take inspiration from it, and you can create an online alumni magazine that is not only available for the in-house students to view but also your prospective students and outsiders. This magazine can be used to share events, case studies, researches, sports events, student and faculty contributions, and so on. Using such kind of content is a great way to let your audience know about your college life. In fact, you can also make these magazines gated content to get the contact details of the interested audience and then target those leads later.
Think Above a Blog Section
Generally, when colleges add blogs to their website, they simply add a single section. Why not think creatively and do something for each of your themes. You could have multiple sections on your website based on each of the themes. Under these sections, you can have blogs, listicles and other content clubbed together. This will make it easier for the specific target audience to find what they are looking for and thereby decrease your website bounce rate as people will stay on the blog page which they are interested in.
Upload Student Stories
Content marketing is more like a process of story-telling. So why not use it in that manner and get some limelight? Once in a month, you can change your general blog topics and let a student publish a write-up written by them. These could be students who have recently won a scholarship, someone who has won a competition or just a student sharing their daily experience at college. Doing so will make your blog more interesting to prospective students as they will not only get insights from students who have firsthand experience of studying in your college.
Search engine optimisation refers to the process of optimising your content and website structure to make it rank well on the SERPs. There are various factors you need to work on in order to optimise your website and content. The most commonly suggested ones include keyword research, backlinking, content creation, and so on. However, today, we will suggest a few tips that are more college-centric.
Create Different Content
Often when people want to improve their SEO rank, they simply focus on creating blogs that will appeal to the target audience. No doubt that helps, but it is not the only way to enhance your SEO rank. Search engines rank you not only based on the blog content relevance, but it also considers unique pages and the amount of time a user spends on your website. So considering these factors, you should start creating not just keyword rich blog content but also other webpages such as a detailed service page for each of your courses, scholarships, hostel life, admissions, etc. These pages increase your webpage index number, and the search engines consider you to be an informative source to suggest to a user.
Create Ideal Keywords
Here we would like to put emphasis on the word ideal. For SEO, many marketers talk about finding the right keywords with higher ranks. However, for the SEO of your college website, we would suggest that you start by looking for the ideal keywords. Focus on your students as they are your main target audience. Think of what they will most likely look for online. Consider their needs and come up with keywords apart from the general set of keywords. For example, along with the use of general keywords such as ‘college in Alberta’, you could also use more focused keywords such as ‘distance learning courses’ or ‘college with hostel facility’.
Optimise Your Courses
Students have different patterns of looking up things online. While some might use abbreviations, others go on to type the whole sentence to find information. You need to tap all of these students. To do so, opting to use limited keywords will not help, especially in your course pages. You need to identify how one term can be addressed in multiple ways and then use keywords accordingly. For example, while you may consider using ‘M.Sc’ as a keyword, there will be students who will be looking for ‘Master of Science’ as well. So you need to optimise your content for both of these audience types.
While SEO efforts will help you rank well globally, you should also focus on ranking well for local searches. This is because a lot of local students will look for colleges nearby, especially working professionals. Also, opting to do local SEO will also help you rank well for students who are not from the local region but are genuinely interested in exploring the area while doing further studies. For local SEO, create keywords that include your location plus areas nearby. For example, if your college is located in Red Deer, you might also want to include Edmonton, Calgary and Banff in your keywords to grab the attention of the students in not just your location but also in areas of close proximity.
There is so much you can do to reach your objective of increasing brand awareness through SEO. Just keep in mind to think apart from the ordinary.
Social media marketing may be one of the best bets for colleges when it comes to digital marketing for colleges. This is because it is one place where colleges can connect directly with their target audience as social media is highly popular among youngsters. Social media marketing is the process of promoting your business on social media platforms by posting various content. These posts can be both organic and sponsored. Here are some handy tips on how you can use social media to promote your college.
Give College Insights
Social media is very different from blogging. Here you get the opportunity to use images and videos to engage with the target audience and actually start a conversation with them. Social media is a platform that enables you to post different types of content. You can use it to show the college life theme that we discussed earlier. Here you can have regular posts about the events and happenings in your college and also videos of daily events to grab the attention of prospective students. You could also have small fun news snippets about your students and faculty members.
When you promote your business, it’s normal, but when your customers do it for you, you definitely have something special. So why not have your existing students talk about you? Include the testimonials of students in your posts and also let them review your college in the review section. This is one section that every prospective student will go through to see the college from the perspective of another student. Let your students put an unbiased review and do not go ahead and delete a bad review if any. No organisation is perfect, and you are bound to receive criticism. In case of a bad review, handle it professionally by replying to the reviewer and asking them ways to better the things they did not like. This again will put a good light on you as a college.
Provide Virtual Tours
Colleges and higher education institutes do not restrict their admissions to local students only. They are open to take in global students as well. Now for a local student, it is easier to go and visit the campus before making a choice. However, for a global student, just coming down to check the campus will not be possible. For such students, you can have virtual tours on your social media page for them to view how your campus looks.
The best part about using social media marketing is that it enables you to communicate with your audience. You should leverage this opportunity by inviting questions and queries from your followers and prospective students. You could also have a live chat where a faculty member could answer queries from aspiring students regarding a course. This will build the trust in the minds of the audience and make it easier for them to choose you.
Let Students Contribute
The best part about social media platforms is that it connects your current students to your prospective students. This makes it easier for prospective students to talk to your current students and gain insights about your college. Also, with your current students following your social media pages, why not allow them to create content and share it on your behalf. Research has proven that user-generated content performs compared to generic social media content. So let your students create social media posts to enhance the authenticity of your social media pages.
Digital marketing for colleges is a wide concept, and today, we have only covered a few of the digital marketing techniques that you can use for your college. Apart from this, you could also consider using online advertising to grab the attention of the users. Email marketing is also a part of digital marketing which can be used in combination with your content marketing efforts. Not to forget, you also need to figure out a way to analyze your digital marketing efforts and make them better. Ideas are many, but the space is falling short. To know more on how you can do digital marketing for colleges, reach out to an experienced digital marketing agency.
Ali Salman is an online marketing strategist who have worked with Coca-Cola, Extreme Pita, Mucho Burrito, KIA, Honda and other Fortune 500 companies. Ali Salman now heads Rapid Boost Marketing - Canada's fastest growing search marketing agency. RBM clients include Fortune 500's and medium size businesses across North America. Ali as RBM CMO leads his team in building and managing quality, high-performing and cost-effective interactive campaigns and programs for our company's customers and partners. In his career, he has significantly improved campaign performance for large brands such as Government of Alberta, Liberal Party, Workopolis, Cathay Pacific, as well as medium to large retailers and high-tech B2B-enterprise niches.
Ali and his team develop online promotional concepts that spark viral growth through search and social media for RBM clients, devising strategies that use search engines and more to reach key demographic segments in the ways they're most likely to be receptive. Ali Salman also oversees corporate marketing initiatives for Rapid Boost Marketing, including strategic communications counsel, public and analyst relations and client education programming.