The traits that put great marketing head and shoulders above the rest.
You already know that traditional advertisements are less effective than ever, particularly among the populations that higher education marketing professionals are trying to reach. They’re reaching for their phones 1,500 times per week and toss bulk mailings into the recycling bin without a second glance. Paid sidebar ads? They install blockers or tune them out.
These days, people are more likely to rely on the collective wisdom of people in their social networks than on the marketing copy that comes their way. Prospective students, their parents, and savvy marketers know that what a company or institution says about itself is less important than what other people are saying about it -- particularly online.
The first quality that’s essential for student recruitment marketing success today is visibility. Simply put, it means that your institution is out there, allowing itself to be seen.
Don’t tell students that they’ll need to come visit to find out what you’re really like -- make it possible for them to get a sense of what the institution stands for through the social media channels they’re already immersed in. Be on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and whatever is coming next. Don’t just do what worked in previous years. Figure out what’s working now.
Consistency is another characteristic of successful student recruitment marketing strategies. It’s no good to have social media accounts go radio silent when it’s not recruitment season, only to ramp it up again when you’re most actively looking for applicants. Student recruitment success in a digital age requires consistent engagement on social media -- all year long.
The same goes for blogs. Few things scream “out-of-touch” and “unprofessional” more loudly than an apparently abandoned blog, or one that was last updated six weeks ago. Plus, without posting and engaging regularly on blogs and other social media channels, you’ll have no way of accurately tracking the effectiveness of your efforts. Consistency, consistency, consistency. We just can’t say it enough, apparently.
Paradoxically enough, those who do best on social media are not the ones doing the most ‘talking.’ They’re the ones doing the most listening.
The days when marketers held all the power to set the message are over. Anyone with an internet connection -- which is to say, pretty much everyone -- can make themselves heard. Which means that your institution needs to pay attention to what your target demographic is saying: what they care about, what they desire in a college or university, and what they value.
Additionally, today’s prospective students and their parents expect digital communication to be a two-way street. Don’t expect people to respond to sidebar ads, or even to Facebook posts or tweets. Make sure you’re leading the way by responding, where relevant and appropriate, to inquiries, comments, questions, and even tweets and posts that bear some relation to student recruitment!
Everyone’s got one -- and so does every institution. It can be buttoned up and business-serious, or California casual; it depends entirely on your institution, its location and history, and general ethos. Your institutional ‘personality’ should infuse every piece of marketing communication that you send out.
Additionally, inbound marketing works best when there’s a discernable personality on the other end of the computer, which is to say, it’s a good idea to elucidate rather than to obscure the individuals that make up your marketing time. The specific connection that one person makes with another can’t be trademarked and sold, and that sense of connection is what keeps people, well, connected. Embrace it.
Nobody wants to deal with fraud -- or inflated claims -- and in the digital age it’s pretty much guaranteed that your sins will find you out. So it’s imperative to be truthful at all times. If you’re a small college, say so. If you’re in a place that’s rural and beautiful, embrace that -- don’t play up how close you are to the nearest metropolitan area.
To sum it up: be who you are. (Everyone else is taken, as they say.)
Summing it all up:
The five qualities that set great student recruitment marketing above the rest are:
- Visibility - be out there
- Consistency - be out there regularly!
- Responsiveness - don’t just talk -- listen
- Personality - be someone!
- Authenticity - be real.