Prospective students expect innovative communications from universities via all the channels they regularly use and they want and need this communication regularly – i.e. not just when recruitment is on the university’s events calendar. What’s more, potential students want to be able to join in the conversation, pose their own questions and share their own musings, rather than be preached at with bland and uninspiring ‘sales’ rhetoric. So yes, it’s kind of mandatory for a university to include a social media strand of marketing activity but using it effectively will continue to determine successful university marketing teams.
Such teams are often now bolstered with a ‘Digital Engagement Officer’ the job title itself acknowledging the need for universities to create relevant, engaging and authentic social media campaigns. But of course, digital marketing means more than utilising social media. Virtual and online events are enjoying widespread growth and inclusion in marketing plans. And these too have undergone something of a transformation to move with the times and meet prospective student expectations.
Not every student has the luxury of being able to physically attend an open day, particularly the lucrative overseas student, and even those who can, may find it difficult to remember every detail once they come away. So creating a virtual space where students can access meaningful information repeatedly and at a time to suit them provides the opportunity to remove any nagging doubts.
Fundamentally, universities need to remember that ‘going digital’ with their marketing isn’t just about being cost and time efficient – though obviously these are major benefits, but their online presence should work in unison with wider marketing plans. And finally, as with any brand, get the tone of voice right, choose the right channels to reach your target audience and make content timely, relevant and engaging. Easy!