Content Marketing for Higher Education

Aug 07, 2013

Article ImageThis following article is the fifth in a series addressing the needs and concerns of content marketing in a variety of industry verticals by Jessica Davis of Godot Media.

Top colleges and universities are always competing for the best students and faculty. It is true that the education sector is (mostly) not a profit seeking one, but it still needs to market itself to attract the right kind of talent. This is why one of the most effective marketing techniques for other industries--content marketing--is a boon for the education sector too.

Experts are always going on about how content used for marketing should be educational and informative. Who better to distribute such information than higher educational institutions conducting cutting edge research in almost every field?

A survey sponsored by the National Research Center for College and University Admissions and Noel-Levitz shows that students, prospective students, and their parents engage heavily with the social media pages of universities and colleges. The website, social media pages, and email campaigns of these educational institutions are the top three sources of information for students and parents alike. Looking for the right university is very confusing and how can students and parents know the good work that universities are doing if they do not publish content about it.

Why educational institutions must practice content marketing

The same study shows that the college website is often the first place that students and parents go to when researching higher educational institutions. Existing students, potential students, and parents have loads of questions regarding the courses, professors, social life, research work, accommodation, finances, and so on. According to the study, students often turn away from a college website if it is not up to snuff or very confusing. Educational institutions must make sure to publish different types of content - textual, visual, audio - so that users can find the information they need in the format they prefer.

Moreover, content marketing is a great way for professors and departments to educate people about their subject of interest, and to spread the word about their research. Professors are experts in their fields and sharing their knowledge with the masses via content marketing can establish them and their universities as leading hubs of knowledge and expertise in their fields.

Content marketing strategies for higher education

  • Get personal with social media - Just as many consumers seek out their favorite brands on social media, prospective students often reach out to universities via social media. I cannot overstate how much easier it is to publish content on social media pages than on more static websites. Daily college life can be highlighted on social media with real time updates and news, while creating a more personal relationship with followers. Institutions can also conduct Q&A sessions and interact with students via social networking platforms. It is advisable to have separate pages for each department and program to make it easier for students to find what they need, and for you to create more targeted, intimate spaces to interact within.
  • Develop mobile apps with excellent content - You can bet most of your incoming students own a smartphone and maybe even another mobile device. This is why educational institutions should have customized mobile apps to deliver content to students wherever they are and at any time. It goes without saying that the apps should be functional, easy to use, and compatible with a wide range of devices while offering great content. Massachusetts Institute Technology and Brown University have some excellent apps for existing and potential students. These apps should (preferably) be free.
  • Publish magazines - In this sense, colleges have been some of the organizations at the forefront of content marketing. For example, Harvard University published its first alumni magazine in 1898. Magazines can be published for alumni as well as current students, and universities can describe latest courses, innovative research, career options, and more in these magazines. These are also great places to discuss student and alumni achievements,. Best of all, these magazines can inexpensive to publish and distribute as digital publication gain traction.
  • Create evergreen content - Evergreen content is the kind of content that stays relevant for a long time. Evergreen content for the education industry includes FAQs, guides, study tips, ebooks, case studies, etc. Students will always find this kind of content useful and will drive engagement for years to come with little to no updating. Evergreen content is also shared quite frequently among students on social media platforms. As a result, it is also great for SEO. In fact, this kind of content is so important, that educational institutions should focus their energy on it before starting any other content creation endeavors. And remember, creating evergreen content does need to be updated periodically, shared, and linked to in order to keep it fresh.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)

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