Marketing trends come and go at a rapid speed, and higher education isn't immune to these shifts.
Especially at a time when college enrollment is down, higher education institutions must evolve, innovate, and leverage new strategies to attract and engage students.
If you want to stay ahead of the curve, look no further. Here are the top 12 higher education marketing trends of 2023.
12 Higher Education Marketing Trends
- Short-Form Video
- Conversational Marketing
- Video Landing Pages
- Student Ambassadors
- Cross-Channel Marketing
- Virtual Tours
- Dedicated Hashtags
- Guest Blogging
- Virtual Events and Webinars
- Video Marketing
- Personalized Marketing
1. Short-Form Video
Short-form video is taking the social media world by storm, and higher education can (and should) join in.
Short-form videos capture the attention of today's digitally savvy students and provide a creative outlet to showcase your campus culture, events, and news. Consider leveraging platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and Snapchat to deliver bite-sized content like campus highlights, behind-the-scenes content, and even faculty and student interviews.
Take a look at this example from the University of Utah:
2. Conversational Marketing
Conversational marketing uses an interactive approach to engage an audience in real time. In the context of higher education, where prospective students want personalized experiences and immediate responses, this strategy is an effective way to accomplish both.
For example, the University of Kentucky engages with students on social media by publishing polls and questions via Instagram Stories. By utilizing these interactive features, the university involves its audience in conversations about campus life, academic preferences, and more.
3. Video Landing Pages
For higher education institutions, video-friendly landing pages can offer a virtual campus experience that static images and text cannot match. But the advantages go beyond just aesthetics.
From a technical perspective, videos can increase the time spent on a page, indirectly benefiting SEO rankings. If you already use video as a part of your marketing, incorporating it into your landing page strategy can also help enhance user engagement and drive conversions.
4. Student Ambassador Programs
Who better to speak about your institution and its greatness than your own students? This is what makes student ambassadors so compelling.
You can think of this strategy as a mix of influencer marketing and word-of-mouth marketing. Student ambassadors offer a genuine and relatable perspective that resonates with prospective students. They can share firsthand insights about campus life, academic programs, and the overall student experience – like in this example from Quinnipiac University:
Ultimately, these authentic narratives can help potential applicants envision themselves as part of the community. Through their stories, student ambassadors can play a pivotal role in attracting and engaging new students.
5. Cross-Channel Marketing
Marketing is all about meeting people where they are — but these days, audiences span every corner of the internet.
By establishing a presence across multiple channels, you can ensure that you reach your audience wherever they are — be it on social media, email, search engines, or even traditional media.
For instance, younger demographics gravitate toward social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Twitter. They often seek visually appealing, bite-sized content. Digital ads, virtual campus tours, and short-form videos are highly effective for this group.
Alumni, on the other hand, might be more active on social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, especially for networking purposes. Alumni-focused content, such as emails, reunion events, and success stories are relevant to this audience.
6. Virtual Tours
One of the primary concerns of prospective students is whether or not the culture is a good fit. In order to find out, hundreds of thousands of students tour college campuses every year.
However, virtual tours offer a new way to "experience" a college campus without ever leaving your home. Virtual events bridge geographical gaps and offer an interactive way for institutions to engage with potential students and foster a sense of community.
360-degree virtual tours can showcase key facilities, dorms, lecture halls, and more. They also allow attendees to explore at their own pace and spend more time in locations that are of interest.
You might think of chatbots in the context of customer service. However, this technology also gives educational institutions a new way to assist and guide current and prospective students.
Take Ocelot, for example. It's an AI-powered chatbot that answers common questions and assists students around the clock. Currently, over 500 colleges and universities leverage this tool.
Chatbots, like Ocelot, also give administrative staff a lift, enabling them to focus on more complex tasks. On top of that, it offers a centralized location for all student interactions.
8. Dedicated Hashtags
A dedicated hashtag is a unique tag that represents a specific topic, brand, event, or community. Unlike generic hashtags that are widely used (i.e., #finalsweek or #campuslife), dedicated hashtags are created for a specific audience.
. For instance, Brown University has a dedicated hashtag (#SceneAtBrown) that students can include when posting campus-related photos and videos.
When students and alumni use a dedicated hashtag, they're not just sharing a picture — they're affiliating themselves with an institution. Consider leveraging a dedicated hashtag for your next event or project to boost its visibility and foster community spirit.
9. Guest Blogging
Blogging is an effective marketing channel to spotlight student testimonials, faculty profiles, and alumni success stories.
What's more, blogs are excellent tools for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). As people search for educational tips or career options, blog posts can serve as landing pages for your institution. In this way, your blog operates as a funnel, guiding readers toward newsletters, program info, and virtual campus tours.
10. Virtual Events and Webinars
Unlike static brochures, webinars offer an interactive platform where attendees can ask questions and receive immediate responses from admissions counselors or faculty members.
For instance, UC Santa Barbara hosts virtual events to help students "meet with UCSB staff and students, learn about opportunities on campus, get tips on filling out your UC application, and more." On top of that, they re-publish webinars and pre-recorded videos on their YouTube channel, which students can access at any time.
11. Video Marketing
The human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. This makes video content far more engaging than text or still images alone.
For prospective students sifting through piles of brochures and websites, a compelling video can immediately capture their attention and convey a message more effectively.
Whether hyping up an upcoming event (like in the example below from the University of Rochester), introducing a new faculty member, or giving a campus tour, videos can simplify and present complex information in an easy-to-understand, visual format.
12. Personalized Marketing
These days, audiences no longer respond to generic, one-size-fits-all messages. Personalized content is not just preferred; it's expected.
In other words, in today's competitive higher education landscape, personalization will be the great differentiator.
For instance, consider a prospective who comes across an ad on social media for a university's marine biology program, a field she's passionate about. Intrigued, she clicks on the ad and reads a related article on the university's groundbreaking research in marine ecosystems. The next day, she receives a follow-up email from the university that details scholarships for marine biology majors, testimonials from current students in the program, and an invitation to a virtual tour of the marine research facilities.
Of course, personalization extends beyond the recruitment phase. By sharing tailored news — like alumni success stories from a particular program — institutions can maintain stronger, lasting relationships with their graduates, leading to increased alumni involvement and donations.