Universities around the world rely heavily on traditional marketing strategies—direct mail, college fairs, physical ads in public transit, billboards, campus visits and other antiquated best practices—to attract candidates to their programs. Despite the advent of the internet, big data and the mobile revolution, higher ed recruiting has remained unchanged for decades.
Few universities have begun to invest in digital marketing to build brand awareness or increase program penetration, despite the effectiveness of search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, social media initiatives and email marketing campaigns.
With the emergence and growing popularity of new online and mobile media, marketing strategies for higher educational institutions are in need of a complete overhaul.
Social media falls directly under the umbrella of digital marketing, as it requires consistency of keywords, ongoing analysis of competitors and strategic timing of relevant and engaging content. Research from Ruffalo Noel Levitz shows that 15.7 percent of private universities and 16.9 percent of public universities employ just one person whose job focuses solely on social media.
This is a staggeringly low number given that 67 percent of students use social media to help select a university and 75 percent indicate social media as a major influence on their college choices. Social media marketing allows universities to better reach their target applicants through look-alike modeling, retargeting efforts and segmented demographic messaging; yet, due to the slow pace of technology adoption, most schools simply do not take advantage of these opportunities.
Why Mobile Marketing?
1. It’s a language today’s students understand
According to a survey conducted by GMAC, 96 percent of business school applicants own smartphones and more than 50 percent own tablets. Additionally, Forbes found that the average student spends 2.8 hours on the phone each day, and GMAC reports that 90 percent of this engagement occurs through mobile apps.
Yet, mobile channels are often considered as an afterthought, or not at all, in universities’ marketing strategies. Levitz also found that only 23.6 percent of private universities take advantage of mobile channels, compared to 45.8 percent of public universities. Since public universities are under more pressure to attract students, it stands to reason that private schools are simply missing out on these effective and efficient marketing channels.
2. It allows for tracking
Traditional marketing channels typically do not allow for accurate tracking or analytics, significantly reducing their comparative value in the digital world. Mobile marketing campaigns allow universities to implement an entirely digital recruitment campaign that offers measurable success metrics: overall engagement, click-through and message open rates, event attendance, social engagement and more.
These analytics allow universities to assess campaign effectiveness on a tactical level, providing immediate insight into campaign performance and the ability to adjust strategy accordingly.