The college that rests on its laurels, confident that it never needs to make any changes or adaptions to its marketing is the college that we read about in a few years’ time closing its doors. Staying relevant in the competitive educational marketplace means a commitment to constant refinement in how you present yourself to prospective students. New technologies provide new opportunities to make a connection but, with budgets tight on all fronts, it is essential to focus your efforts on those methods that will yield the most return.
Update Your Website for Mobile
It is already obvious that your website, as the effective “shop floor” of your institution needs to be frequently updated and kept relevant to provide the best enticement to potential future students. However the way people access the internet has changed rapidly over the past few years. The increasing affordability of tablet devices and smart phones has meant many people are now accessing the internet with these devices. Meanwhile a significant number of educators have yet to catch up.
Depending on your institution and who it appeals to you will want to tailor your plans accordingly. Appealing to students directly is different from appealing to parents. However as mentioned the younger generations of students in particular from all around the world are increasingly reliant on their smart phone devices to access the internet and content from all sources. From social media to videos to finding answers, they do everything through devices small enough to hold comfortably in a single hand.
Even if you aren’t directly targeting the students themselves, the increasing use of smart phones and tablet’s as alternatives to traditional desktop computers for accessing the internet means that it is essential that you develop your websites to be compatible for these new devices. Of special note, websites need to be designed to scale appropriately depending on the browser and machine that is accessing them. What looks great on a 19 inch desktop monitor also needs to rearrange itself to be effective on a much smaller 7 inch tablet.
Harness Your Testimonials
So long as your school is working well you probably have the most valuable bit of marketing you could hope for – positive testimonials praising the experience of your students and their parents of your institution. New prospective students and their guardians often don’t even realize it but they generally want to see evidence of the quality of your programmes. Seeing a current or prior student give positive feedback is nearly essential.
The trouble is, a lot of colleges don’t make good use of their testimonials. They’ll either don’t use them or, quite often will use them but not in a way that will have the most impact. A common failing is to take the positive feedback and place them into a general “testimonials” web page. Sadly, most visitors with your website aren’t going to bother to go out of their way to look at it. They’re interested in the answers to their specific questions and generally aren’t too interested in apparently unrelated praise for your school.
For example they’ll want to know
- What the courses you offer entail
- How much the courses cost.
- Where they will live if they study on site at your institution.
- The admissions process
This being just a short list of examples. From the communication with prospective students and their parents you will almost certainly know what other common questions need to be answers and should be on their website. The important thing then is to match your testimonials to the questions students are asking.
For example, you might include in your web page on your business courses a testimonial from a student who graduated and went on to a great job in business. Or on pages that talk about living in the town or city in which your school is located, praise about how wonderful it is to be there. Such feedback, appropriately places, will help to reassure potential students and encourage them to consider your institution further.
Make More Use of Video
If a picture paints a thousand words, a one minute promotional clip running at the standard twenty four frames per second rate is busy putting together a million word manuscript. It may seem like an exaggeration but video really is a far more effective tool than articles and text in communicating your message to the world. With internet speeds as they are today, not including video puts you at a serious disadvantage of appealing to potential new students. And again, with so many younger people having access to smart phones nowadays, they are able to watch this content wherever they are.
So far so good, but it’s not enough just to have a video if your moving pictures have all the enticement of a bland PowerPoint presentation. You need to produce content that is relevant and interesting to your potential viewers. Campus tours and testimonials remain popular content, but you might also consider making videos of the interesting things and projects that happen at your college. For example, archaeology students on a field trip or robotics students building robots.
Another thing to consider is international students. If your recruitment plans involve significant emphasis in a particular country or territory it may be worth translating some of your content into that other language. For example, if you recruit a lot of German students, putting testimonials and videos in German on the website will help to encourage more students from the country.
Optimise Your Social Media Strategy
Social media is fast becoming the major way to communicate with millennials and doubtless the generations that will follow. Most educators do now make use of Facebook, twitter and other platforms to reach out into the world, however many aren’t using these tools to best effect.
One problem is that many of these platforms are quickly reaching saturation in the amount of information shared about on them. This means that in order to get noticed you may have to start paying for or “sponsoring” your messages. Experimentation is also required to find out what sort of content is of most interest to your target audience so that you can provide things that are of interest to them and get them engaged with your institution.
Finally, remember that social media is different across the world. Facebook and Youtube are popular in the west. But in Russia and the Russian speaking world, the domestic equivalent called VKontakte is far more popular than Facebook. Meanwhile in China, Youtube is banned completely. Using the right social media platform for the market you are recruiting in is key to a successful social media strategy.
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