Sharing content that is diverse, consistent and engaging can really help to boost a university’s brand presence and can lead to a noticeable increase in enquiries. So in order to compete with other institutions across the globe, universities must invest time and effort into the quality of their content marketing.
The first point of contact between a prospective student and a university nowadays is likely to be through some form of online content - a social media post, a video or a blog post. When it comes to content, it’s never been more important to make that first impression really count.
There’s so much you can do creatively with content marketing and new technology is making processes easier for everyone. Some mediums are more effective than others and some have more longevity. We’d recommend investing some time and attention to blog posts, video, ebooks, social media, infographics and virtual tours.
The first things to ask yourself when building a blog is where are you going to host it and where is your audience going to be? Will it sit on the student portal or the main website? If you’re going to host it on the portal, how are new applicants going to access it? You might even decide, like University of Sheffield, to host it on a completely different site altogether - https://shefunistudents.wordpress.com/.
Sheffield’s blog site is managed by the Student Communications Team and whilst it is affiliated with the university, the ‘About Us’ states: ‘The personal views of our student bloggers do not reflect the opinion of the University of Sheffield as a whole.’ This gives the blog writers more freedom to write from a personal perspective about different aspects of university life, without having to censor themselves as much.
Next, you should establish a content calendar to ensure your blog posts are published regularly and on time. Like Sheffield University, you might decide to implement user generated content - students are heavily influenced by their peers and will find this informative and engaging. Or you might opt for a range of writers - admissions coordinators, professors, the marketing team, and so on.
What could you write about?
Blog about what makes your institution stand out and why students should study there. Adapt any of the following topics and use them as categories:
Shine the spotlight on the different courses your institution has to offer. If you’re a business school, delve into individual modules in more detail. Testimonials from alumni could also form part of the article.
When choosing where to study, location is a huge deciding factor, for obvious reasons. Take your audience on a journey around the city through your blogs. Explore notable cultural institutions, nightlife and the green spaces it has to offer.
Lisbon, by Martha Dominguez de Gouveia
Why not interview a member of faculty staff on a weekly or monthly basis? Interviews with higher ed professionals do well because the interviewee can shared them with their own network, widening the post’s reach.
Don’t underestimate the value of infographics - they are three times more likely to be shared on social media than any other content type. An infographic breaks information down in a more digestible way and is eye-catching. For those who don't want to read a text article, an infographic does the job nicely.
Don’t forget to optimise your infographic for SEO - think carefully about the name and the alt text. Alternative text lets someone know what an image contains in the event that it doesn’t load properly. Info-cynics used to use the argument that text on images doesn’t count towards SEO, but new evidence suggests that nowadays Google uses character recognition to scan images for text.
Example from the University of East Anglia
According to Business Insider, Youtube now has 1.8 billion users every month which is just shy of Facebook’s 2 billion. This makes Youtube Google’s most popular service, surpassing even Gmail. Although it can seem daunting, creating video content is easier than it used to be. If you don’t have the equipment or technical knowledge in-house, you can always use a freelancer or an agency.
Ebooks and guides enable you to share useful long form content with your audience and capture leads at the same time in a GDPR compliant way. When it comes to content, less is sometimes more, but when you are explaining a concept or process in detail, an ebook can be a more appropriate format. Ebooks are more tangible than blog posts, and evoke a sense of quality and authority.
Once you’ve spent time crafting your ebook on ‘how to write an awesome personal statement’ or ‘how to choose the right university accommodation for you’, for example, share it with your audience via email newsletters and social media...
Social media can be used as a vehicle for sharing your content with as wide an audience as possible. The International Student Survey 2017 found that 83 per cent of university candidates are using social channels to research universities, which is an increase of 19 per cent from the previous year. On the whole, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are the most popular platforms, but others such as LinkedIn, Pinterest and Snapchat are also being used regularly.
The likelihood is candidates will consult your social channels before making an enquiry. Is your social content up to scratch?
Virtual tours have been a popular marketing tool in the property industry for a long time, and now other sectors are integrating them into their content strategy. The University of Exeter’s Business School has multiple 360 tours of the campus on their website. This is a great way enabling applications to visualise the space, and it’s even better for international students who might not be able to visit before their course begins.
By following these content marketing strategies for universities, you are likely to see your engagement rates improve dramatically, leading to more enquiries and brand exposure. Remember, do your research and be inspired by what other institutions are doing.
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