Content, SEO and email marketing are not going away but it's important to stay ahead of the curve so you don't fall behind. Here are some of 2017 education marketing trends that will help you to stay ahead of the curve.
Facebook Live (Facebook's live streaming app) is now available to all. It's being heavily promoted on that old video channel – your television. YouTube continues to improve its own live stream functionality.
Fortunately, campuses are natural hives for creating compelling live video. Any school event can be live streamed (as long as your school policies permit this). "Student on the street" interviews about a hot topic of the day. Day in the life videos for different student personas. Clips from classes and lectures.
Your school has tons of live action worth streaming live. You can even continue to repurpose video recorded as part of a live stream into future content.
People Value Experiences – Make It Real
Nothing connects people together more than sharing a real-world experience. People want experiences that make them feel. That's what they'll post on Instagram and Snapchat. If your school only exists in their heads, it doesn't feel real to your prospects.
Experiential marketing is about giving prospects an opportunity to engage with your school 1:1. They don't have to be on the school's grounds at the time. On-campus tours and interviews are great ways to pull in high value prospects. But experience marketing is something a bit different.
Think about how many school fairs or communities your school visits to drive recruitment. You can do more than just have a table. One Canadian university brought a photo booth to fairs. Prospective students created customized photos of themselves. Then they created new ones to show how they saw themselves in a new field.
People can't stop sharing first-hand experiences that move their hearts and souls. Use digital channels to drive people to the experience. They'll help you amplify the campaign's reach — making it far more effective than if it just sat on your website.
Prospects Expect Personalized, Relevant Content
For years, e-commerce and social media sites have been customizing our web experiences. It's been normal, expected. Now we expect all our digital engagements to provide that sort of personalization. There's too much content out there to consume for a school to catch anyone's eye with generic content.
Personalizing content requires much more than inserting a prospect's name into an email. Effective personalization is providing the most relevant content. You learn this when you analyze their online behavior. What content do they consume? On what visit — first, second, third? What content formats do they prefer? On which visit? All that helps you identify where they are in their enrollment journey.
To personalize, think bigger and go beyond email. You can personalize the headlines they see when they visit your website. Do the same with the blogs you suggest as links on the pages they're already reading. The more data you collect, the more precise your personalization can become.
The costs for not personalizing your content aren't limited to people ignoring your content. (Although that's a good reason for concern.) Ignored content is merely ignored. On the other hand, bland or misdirected content undermines your brand. Whereas poor quality, irrelevant content gets remembered and shared — for all the wrong reasons.
Snapchat lets you share images and short videos. You can curate them into longer "Stories." You can even make an experience out of your campus tour. Use Snapchat to turn it into a scavenger hunt (your own version of Pokeman Go!). Student guides can post short videos of where they are. They don't away the exact spot — they offer a clue instead. Visiting prospects now have to ask students on campus — or ask on Snapchat — to figure out the clue and find the guide.
You can also use Snapchat as a channel for student ambassadors and faculty to share personal perspectives on campus life. Like Instagram and Twitter, Snapchat works with hashtags. Research your personas to find the hashtags that will get your Snapchat content found by them.
Influencer marketing is a form of word of mouth marketing (WOMM), but with a boost. WOMM is so effective because it's third party validation of your school. People trust what other people have to say and for good reason. They know that even when you're providing valuable, relevant content, you're still biased. This is why marketers always want content to go viral. All that sharing is third party, WOMM validation.
But you can't plan viral. Nor do you want to throw content at the wall and hope people share it. Influencer marketing is about identifying the key folks who exert a powerful influence on your target persona.
Those key influencers have a large audience that mirrors your own target personas. Ideally, they also share content relevant to your pet topics. If your content targets military students, you might identify some influencers in the veterans' community, even if they don't focus on education specifically.
You can use influencers to share your content. They can also create content relevant to your school. Now you can reach out to the veteran with a podcast show that reaches the military community. Offer them an interview with one of your counselors on the challenges of military personnel adjusting to civilian and campus life.
You could reach out to an Instagram star popular with high school students. Ask them to share an image of students getting creative at your school or of your successful stadium "white out" (or whatever your school colors are).
Blog posts and downloadable guides aren't going anywhere. The 2017 trends are all about diving into the most current ways and formats for engaging with prospects. Use them to up your content marketing game and stay ahead of your competition.
Originally published Jan 10, 2017 7:00:00 AM, updated March 13 2019