5 09, 2019

Changing the Game for Gen Z in the Age of Tech

By | 2019-09-10T07:59:38+00:00 September 5th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education, Social Media|Tags: , , |

As your flagship marketing instrument, one of the primary roles of your higher ed website is to attract applicants to your school. How well it’s able to do so depends on how appealing your site is to your target audience – high school juniors and seniors.

In order to draw in qualified prospects, you have to first understand your audience – or, at least their online behaviors. Today’s high school students are part of a generation that grew up using the internet from a very young age. Their relationship to technology can be completely different from older groups.

This cohort – sometimes referred to as Generation Z, or Gen Z – is similar to the Millennial generation. But, whereas Millennials came of age just as internet culture began hitting its stride, Gen Zers have never experienced a world without smart devices or social media.

That difference, while seemingly negligible, does create an entirely distinct persona. So, what separates Gen Zers from Millennials and other generations? A report from Vision Critical, a Canadian market research firm, sheds some light on a few Gen Z traits.

Here are a few insightful tidbits on Generation Z to ponder:

  • They prefer their smartphones to any other device and consume the least amount of TV content compared with other generations
  • They appreciate creative and edgy content and don’t always respond well to traditional marketing
  • They like videos
  • They’re extremely tech-savvy
  • They identify as DIYers, activists and agents of change

What does this information say about your primary audience?

For starters, that marketing campaigns targeting Gen Z have to be not only mobile-friendly, but mobile-first. That you’ll need to be active on several social media platforms, and it’d help if you promote an altruistic message. And, finally, that you should prioritize video content.

Let’s talk about how to apply these insights to your higher ed site.

Lean Into Edgy via Social Media and Blogs

You have to meet your audience where they are – that’s the golden rule of marketing. That means you have to get comfortable with all those social media platforms, especially ones that feature video content. More than comfortable, you’ll need to be fluent in social media-speak.

Embrace the Meme Culture

Memes correspond to the Gen Z preference for creativity, comic relief and edginess. They’ve also evolved into a powerful cultural force. Whatever it is you’re selling – whether a college education or a toothbrush – if you attach a topic-appropriate meme to your product, you’ll increase the odds of your marketing campaign going viral. (Just think of Cheryl’s She Shed in that State Farm commercial.)

But meme culture doesn’t just extend to posts on social media – it’s really more of a mindset. As such, it can be extended to other marketing channels, including blogs.

The low hanging fruit here is including or creating a suitable meme in a blog post. This would also add a critical visual element.

Be Everywhere…

… on social media. Gen Zers have their favorite platforms – YouTube, Facebook, Instagram – and they’re active across numerous social media sites, especially ones featuring video content. If they’re there, that means you’ve got to be there, too. And, you’ve got to be there with content that’s fresh, cool, funny and shareable. So, go ahead and start practicing producing those short-form videos.

Be Responsive

One thing many higher ed marketers forget is that social media platforms are two-way communication channels. Posting your curated content is just one half of the equation here.

If you’re going to spend time and energy beefing up your social media game, you’ve got to play it right. That means engaging with the users who comment on your posts. Don’t, don’t, DON’T forget this vital aspect of your social media efforts.

Bells and Whistles for Your Website

It should go without saying that all your social media efforts should lead back to your blog or website. But, when they get there, will your prospects stick around long enough to be compelled into setting up a campus visit or starting an application?

You can increase your conversion odds by including elements that resonate with Gen Zers.

Video Content

If they like video, give ’em video. Instead of a static image in your impact area, load it up with two or three short, action-packed videos that introduce your school in a visually compelling way. Maybe do that for all the important landing pages even.

Don’t stop there. Figuring out what student life is actually like on campus is notoriously difficult for prospective students. But, guess what? Getting a feel for a school is easier when you can see actual students doing real things on campus.

Make videos for all your on-campus housing options and be sure to feature real students. Create a bank of student testimonials to rotate on your Admissions pages. Better yet, harness your own students’ love of sharing by soliciting and posting their videos of campus events.

Make Social Visible

Since you’re going to be working crazy hard on all those social media platforms, be sure that all those awesome posts – and, more importantly, user comments – are highly visible on your website.

It’s not enough to just put up logos of the social media platforms where you have an active account. Incorporate a social media feed into as many of your pages as possible.

One way to signal your social media savvy is by including a social media panel on your homepage.

Personalization

We’ve covered the benefits of personalization in a previous post. One of the biggest benefits of personalized content is that it makes the user feel like you’ve created an experience just for them.

That’s an extremely powerful feeling, and something that Gen Zers are sure to appreciate. A personalized experience is sure to win some brownie points.

Virtual Tours

You can’t always get your prospects on campus for an in-person visit. But you can still make sure that every visitor “walks” the grounds and sees the best of what your school has to offer. This can be accomplished with a virtual tour that features real videos of various locations on your campus.

Just be sure to not skimp on this virtual experience. Gen Zers will absolutely ding you for bad execution.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed

Want to know if your website is meeting the needs of your future students? Beacon can help. Request a complimentary website audit by our digital marketing experts.

7 08, 2019

Getting Your Freshman Class On Campus

By | 2019-08-08T07:05:15+00:00 August 7th, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education, Web Development, Social Media|Tags: , , |

From a student’s perspective, picking the right college is getting more and more complicated. It might seem contradictory at a time when applying to schools is easier than ever. But, that reality is backed up by data.

A 2017 study noted that 35% of college freshmen apply to seven or more schools. That percentage more than doubled from just a decade ago. With more students applying to more schools in recent years, getting your freshman class on campus is becoming increasingly harder.

Today, college admissions officials can reasonably expect only 1 in 3 admitted applicants to actually enroll at their school. At the start of the century, that ratio was closer to 1 in 2. For higher ed marketers, who do so much to attract qualified applicants, it can be deflating watching their hard work walk out the proverbial door.

But, you can’t blame the students. Major life decisions are hard. Evaluating more options is just a smart way to make prudent choices.

What you can do is accept that the landscape has changed. Today, you might need to do a little, or a lot, more hand-holding to get your students into your classrooms.

How best to cut through the noise and make yourself be heard?

An integrated marketing campaign can be one of the better ways to maintain contact with your prospects between decision day and move-in day.

What is Integrated Marketing?

This is one of those terms that sounds more intimidating than it really is. Integrated marketing describes multi-channel campaigns aimed at specific audiences or the general public at large.

This isn’t a new concept. It’s just that, with the proliferation of new media – various social media platforms, YouTube, blogs, podcasts, etc – integrated marketing has gotten a bit more complicated and a degree more intense.

Before the rise of the internet, marketers just had to worry about matching content between print, TV and, maybe, radio. Today the media landscape is more complex, requiring more advanced tactics and strategies.

At it’s core, however, the concept is the same: reach audiences everywhere they are with a consistent, tailored message.

Why Integrated Marketing Works for Higher Ed 

Your target audience is a multi-tasking, online-savvy, info-hungry, anxious teenager. If you harbor hopes of capturing her attention, you need to keep a consistent brand presentation and message across multiple media channels.

More than that, you need to be there with pertinent content when she’s searching for answers or trying to quell her concerns. There are lots of questions and uncertainties that rising college freshmen have. If you can show her that, 1) you understand her concerns, and 2) have the answers she’s looking for, you’ll gain trust.

That trust is a big advantage when decision-making time arrives – whenever that is.

How to Get Students On Campus with Integrated Marketing

Let’s see how integrated marketing campaigns can help boost that admitted-to-enrolled ratio. Again, you’ll need a coordinated strategy encompassing your primary marketing channels (website, search, email) as well as the media platforms your target audience is known to use (social media, blogs, videos).

We’ll use a specific scenario to demonstrate how an integrated marketing campaign can work:

Emma has been accepted to your school, along with a few of your peer institutions. She’s undecided, but your school ranks in her top three. Emma is interested in studying natural sciences, and your school has top-tier Biology and Chemistry programs. She’s also on the shy side and worries about making friends and finding a comfort zone.

You can use the below channels to maintain contact with Emma and increase the odds of her picking your school.

Blog

Blogs are an excellent way of creating content for niche topics and categories. What topics might resonate with Emma?

A post from a chemistry major about a cool summer internship could entice a click. As could a student review of the chemistry department highlighting favorite faculty members and classes. Write-up of cutting-edge research by a faculty member may also stir interest.

Emma may also appreciate learning about your school’s on-campus environment. Posts describing a rich student life, including clubs and other student organizations, could paint a nice picture and allay her concern about finding groups to fit in with.

A post describing the challenges of being new to the campus and providing  suggestions for best ways to explore the school’s surroundings is also likely to hit home for Emma.

Social Media

Those blog ideas are all good and well. But, how will Emma find them?

This goes back to the importance of being where your target audience hangs out. And teenagers tend to spend a lot of time with social media.

Creating social media posts that link to your blog content is a no-brainer way to get in front of your prospective students. Just make sure the tone matches the content of the blog post.

Success here is having Emma click to follow your account, which would allow you to drip more content into her feed.

Paid Search Remarketing

So, let’s say Emma spotted one of your posts on Instagram and clicked on the accompanying blog on what to expect on campus. A good next step would be to remind her about important dates (housing registration, freshman orientation, class registration, etc).

This can be accomplished with PPC remarketing ad campaigns, which would be initiated by Emma’s view of the blog and include calls-to-action geared to registration.

Email Marketing

Another way to get your blog and other content in front of Emma is through email. The open-rate for email marketing campaigns tend to be low. Nonetheless, you’ll (hopefully) be sending important information through this channel in the future. So, it makes sense to initiate and keep contact via email.

If Emma does end up choosing your school, you can apply email campaigns to prompt her to register for orientation, classes, etc.

Texting

Another thing that teens do a lot? They text – those speedy little thumbs moving faster than the eye can see.

Text messages are another great way to remind Emma about important registration dates.

Website

All of your efforts in the above marketing channels should lead Emma back to your website. After all, that’s where conversions happen – all those registrations you hope Emma will complete.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed Websites

Want to make sure your website is ready to handle all that traffic from your integrated marketing campaigns? Beacon can help. Request a complimentary website audit from our team of experts.

3 10, 2018

Higher Ed Branding & Digital Marketing Strategy

By | 2018-10-04T07:12:08+00:00 October 3rd, 2018|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education|Tags: , , , |

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about competition between colleges and universities? For most people, the answer is college athletics — in the form of football and basketball games, or the other collegiate sports across the nation’s campuses.

But higher ed institutions don’t just compete on the gridiron and in hoops. The other, more important and intense competition is for students.

Big, public, state schools jostle for top billing among the best and brightest home-grown talents. Smaller, private universities go after their own, well-defined student profiles, crossing the proverbial swords with other, similar institutions. Community colleges compete with each other and all the four-year universities out there, while at the same time serving as feeder programs for these schools.

One thing is for certain – there are a lot of options in higher education. If you have a junior or senior in high school with decent grades, odds are good that your mailbox is a frequent depository for marketing collateral from a multitude of colleges and universities. Teens are also often flooded with information via emails, texts, social media ads and other targeted campaigns.

Where they end up going to school isn’t just the biggest, most exciting decision of their life. It’s also a decision-making process that thousands of higher ed professionals sink massive amounts of time and resources into.

How does your higher education institution assure success in the war for students?

Leveraging Your Brand: What’s your unique value proposition?

In a highly competitive environment, it is essential to differentiate yourself from your rivals. Higher ed institutions already know how to do this, almost instinctively — via mascots and nicknames.

The tradition of school mascots is rich. However, while Rameses the Ram, Sammy The Banana Slug and Artie the Fighting Artichoke may do a superb job of firing up your student fan base, they don’t necessarily excel at communicating your school’s value proposition – those things that make your institution exceptional and enticing to prospective students.

Identifying and supporting those unique elements is key to strong, memorable and effective marketing. Ideally, those elements should also reflect your institution’s values. Your brand is built upon and defined by these concepts. So, even if the other aspects of your brand change over time (and every brand needs a refresh and update eventually), the heart of your message remains.

Successful brands build their messaging around their core values, allowing themselves the flexibility to express those values in new and innovative ways. Consistency doesn’t have to be boring. There are countless, creative ways to communicate who you are. And the ability to do so well is exceedingly valuable in an industry where the customer profile is non-homogeneous and constantly changing.

Your Website: The centerpiece of higher ed marketing strategy

As you probably know, advertising campaigns have a higher chance of success if they are tightly targeted to specific demographics. So, as a marketer for your higher ed institution, you should be running all sorts of different campaigns to attract the next batch of diverse, motivated and talented students to your school. And all those direct mail brochures, emails, digital ads, Facebook and Instagram campaigns should lead your respective audiences to your website. That’s where all those separate audience streams coalesce into one – prospective students.

The job of your website is to close the deal – to convince students that your school is the one where they will attain their best future. To be effective, there has to be a smooth hand-off from your marketing campaigns to your website. When prospective students log on to your site, it must feel like a continuation of the same experience they started with the brochure, email, digital ad, or any other piece of collateral they saw.

Your website is the nexus of information about your school and the first place people go to find out what it’s like on campus. That means that your website has to do a credible job of accurately reflecting your school brand, with subsequent marketing efforts drawing on those brand elements. It also means that your website should be strategically recognized as the centerpiece of your overall marketing strategy. Whatever public marketing initiatives you undertake should start with the website, and emanate from there.

Beacon Knows Higher Ed Websites

If your current higher ed website is not leveraging your brand as effectively as you think it should, Beacon can help. Request a complementary audit from our expert team and let us help you shape your site into the marketing force it can be.