5 Higher Education Marketing Predictions for 2018

In Education by Tom Cannon

Although the goals of higher education marketing, such as student recruitment and brand awareness, largely stay the same, the strategies used to achieve these goals change over time. Here we take a look at some of the new tactics universities can employ to help achieve their marketing goals this year. From exploring augmented reality to putting smartphones front and centre, here are our top predictions for higher education marketing in 2018.

1. Utilise influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is having a bit of a moment – but what exactly is it? We’re all familiar with ‘word of mouth’ marketing, well influencer marketing is like an amped up version with the ‘mouth’ already having access to a substantial number of ‘ears’. Said to generate 11 times the return on investment of traditional digital marketing, influencer marketing involves utilising key leaders in a given niche to successfully deliver a brand’s message to an appropriate audience.

However, it isn’t about finding influencers with the biggest numbers; it’s more important they have a relevant audience who would likely be receptive to the brand’s message. With that in mind, an ‘influencer’ isn’t necessarily a household name (though, if relevant, that could definitely work!)  but could encompass current and past students with a decent social media audience. Indeed, a survey found that consumers are 30% more likely to buy a product recommended by a non-celebrity blogger as they can relate to them and thus value their opinion more.

Universities can leverage influencer marketing by finding their potential influencers – such as successful graduates and well-connected students – and recruiting them to produce and promote relevant content. There are endless opportunities: you could showcase an attractive location and lifestyle with the president of the paddleboard society livestreaming a practice session. Or you could highlight graduate success with a Q&A video between a journalism student and a successful graduate. You could even get a student influencer to do a 24 hour Instagram takeover to show what a ‘life in the day’ looks like at your campus.

2. Embrace the ephemeral

Ephemeral content is short-lived lasting, at most, 24 hours after which it is gone forever. That might sound like a waste of time and resources but considering 300 million people use Instagram Stories every day we’d argue it’s a valuable tool to add to your marketing kit. By using this style of content you can authentically show prospective students what life is like at your university.  Such short-lived content is perfect for providing an authentic snapshot and letting viewers peek behind the scenes. It could work well for covering events like graduations and summer balls as well as taking a more in-depth look at various societies.

3. A mobile-first approach

What is the one thing most students never forget? Their smartphone! 25% of millennials look at their phone more than 100 times a day and 50% of them check it at least 50 times a day. Logic follows that if you want to reach these mobile natives, you’re going to have to think mobile over desktop. This means that instead of simply rolling out a multi-channel campaign, you need to carefully consider how it will look on mobile and tweak to optimise. This could translate to simpler designs that are tap and swipe friendly.

4. Emotive use of video

45% of people watch more than an hour of video on Facebook or YouTube every single week and marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users. We already know that video is big news but we think it is set to get even bigger this year. And while most universities now use video as part of their marketing strategy, there is one clear way they could get even more from the format: storytelling.

Whether its joy, surprise or anger, video – like all marketing – works best when emotion is involved.  You can tap into this by using video for emotive storytelling; perhaps the excitement of moving in day, the satisfaction and pride of graduation or the passion that comes with finding a new hobby. Videos need not cost lots to produce either, these days you can put together excellent footage using just a simple smartphone. It’s also worth bearing in mind that 90% of Twitter video views and 60% of YouTube views are from users on mobile devices, so it’s important that video is shot with mobile screen size in mind.

5. Research into augmented reality

Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality lays new ‘worlds’ over our existing ones as was seen in the hugely popular Pokémon Go app. While we can’t see augmented reality becoming an overnight reality in every university, we certainly think there’ll be a shift towards it. We predict universities will start experimenting with this trend and even start to create their own games and overlays to engage students. Developing an entirely new app might be out of reach for now, but we think there are simple ways augmented reality could enhance digital marketing strategy, such as creating an interactive campus map.

In conclusion…

Influencer marketing can help spread your key message in an authentic manner to a bigger network of relevant prospects, though depending on the influencer it could be a fairly costly endeavour. Ephemeral content is a fantastic way to offer a ‘behind the scene’ look at your institution and considering it isn’t supposed to look polished and perfect, it too helps create a feeling of authenticity. Considering how campaigns will look on mobile is now non-negotiable considering how frequently millennials use their smartphones. We think this year will bring with it more creative video content with a focus on storytelling rather than purely informing. Lastly, we think more and more institutions will start thinking about and experimenting with augmented reality. Not all of these strategies will be relevant to every marketing goal, but investigating new ideas is crucial for staying ahead of the curve and meeting the expectations of prospective students.