This edUi guest blog post is brought to you by Louise Ryan of TERMINALFOUR.
Have you ever thought about just how digitally savvy your university’s marketing efforts are? Would you consider your institution to be the Henry Ford, Benjamin Franklin or Steve Jobs of digital marketing; in other words is your institution a haven for forward thinkers and a beacon of creativity and innovation or is it stuck somewhere between The Flintstones and Don Draper’s office in terms of adapting modern marketing practices? Do you find that your university is a little too reliant on sending out mountains of archaic course catalogs instead of targeted email campaigns, still using smoke signals instead of social media, still shaking buckets instead of targeting alumni online for donations?
Well you get the idea…our point here is not to judge but to boldly lead you into the light or rather the soft glow emitted by modern day technology. We’ve come up with a list of 5 best practice approaches that your university really should incorporate into your marketing playbook.
1. The perks of not being a wallflower
It may be tempting to rely on stock imagery and jaded formats for your university website but we implore you to resist. Don’t reach for those tired old images of students merrily wielding a chemistry book on the quad or haphazardly flinging their graduation caps into the air. Trust us on this, no prospective student is going to be won over by their inclusion nor is any alumni member going to be so reduced to misty-colored-memories that they suddenly feel moved to make a donation. Be brave and include photos that show what your campus is really like. Maybe you have a talented theatre group that really knows how to put on a show, unbeatable sports facilities or perhaps your university puts on a charity event that students look forward to all semester?
2. Video isn’t just for cats
Believe it or not, there are uses for video that don’t involve cats falling asleep, cats dressed in tuxedos or cats playing musical instruments. I know! We couldn’t believe it either. However, it’s true and for some reason or other, videos and higher education seem to work rather well together. Video increases engagement, visitor retention, gets people talking and above all, gives your institution a chance to flex those creative muscles. So go on, get those students involved, have some fun with it and you never know maybe you’ll go viral*!
*If you are indeed of the Don Draper or Fred Flintstone era you may be wondering whether sharing a video does indeed carry the risk of a viral outbreak. Do not panic…to go viral is a perfectly safe and much envied occurrence that refers to the virus like spreading of a video among video sharing websites.
3. Treat your content like royalty (or at the very least a much beloved elderly relative)
We’ve all heard about how important great content is but how many of us really listen? When marketing your institution online, your website acts as the window to your store and if your content isn’t up to scratch you can be sure that your customers are turning away in droves. Students want to be able to scan a webpage and quickly find the information that is relevant to them. Remember, this isn’t Elizabethan England and you’re not spinning sonnets like Shakespeare. Keep content short, snappy and to the point- you’re students will thank you!
4. Social media is the new open day
Students no longer have to wait for open-days to get a feel for what life on campus is really like. Instead, they can log onto facebook, twitter, vine, Instagram, Pinterest and countless other social media networks and check out student profiles, videos, blog posts, photographs and reviews. They can interact with current and past students- all without ever setting foot on campus. It’s vital for your survival that you get on board with this whole social media idea as it seems likely to be around for a while. Social media can be used to promote pretty much any higher education event; graduation, exams, move-in days, orientation, alumni-giving and recruitment. Just remember, if you’re going to have a profile, make your posts interesting and be active. Nobody is going to be impressed if your last post happened months ago and was coincidentally your first.
5. Blogging is for everyone not just wannabe writers
Now, so many businesses (and yes universities and colleges too) will nod enthusiastically and reply that they do indeed have a blog. It may indeed be true that you have a blog but do you blog? Actively? When was your last blog post? Do you blog every week or even every month? Or are there virtual tumbleweeds blowing across visitors screens when they deign to visit? There really is no end to the benefits of blogging for your institution; it helps drive website traffic, builds your brand and establishes you as a thought leader in your field, generates a conversation and gives you a forum to interact with students. If you aren’t already a blog-convert then you really need to give it a chance. The results speak for themselves.
So set down that typewriter, dust off that laptop and begin your ascent into the addictive world of digital marketing by setting out a well-defined plan for your organization. Include an editorial calendar, projected figures you would like to reach within 6 months and decide what you would like to achieve. Also, patience is key! When hauling your online collateral into the 21st century, it’s important to bear in mind that success won’t happen overnight, it can take months of hard work before you begin to notice results.