Higher Education

8 Tips for Marketing to College Students Online

Published on Jul 15, 2020

8 Tips for Marketing to College Students Online

The market for students looking at prospective colleges and universities is competitive – and the competition is growing every year. That means you need a smart strategy for marketing to college students. Want to create a marketing strategy that helps you stand out from your competition and draws in potential students? Then you need to follow these 8 tips for success. 

Let’s get started. 

8 Tips for Marketing to College Students

1. Set Clear Goals for Your Marketing Efforts

The first step in marketing to college students isn’t designing a new website or social media posts – it’s setting clear and targeted goals for your campaign. What do you want your marketing campaign to achieve?

Do you want to increase awareness of your school, or of a certain program? Do you want to get more applications, or recruit a certain segment of potential students? This clarity around your goals will help you decide what the most effective actions are to take in your marketing campaign. 

To do: If your goal is to build awareness about a new program at your school to attract enrollees, begin by thinking about what kind of campaign helps you achieve that goal. Don’t make the common mistake of starting by thinking about the type of campaign you want – begin with the goal, not the type of campaign. 

2. Always Keep Your Ideal Audience in Mind

It’s easy to think of all potential college students as one large and similar group. But you don’t want to market to all potential college students – you’re looking to reach the ones that are a perfect fit for your school. 

That means thinking about where those prospects spend their time: do they read emails, or respond better to snail mail? What social media sites do they use? What features or programs are important to them, and are you highlighting those enough? Your potential students might look different than the traditional image of an undergrad, and your marketing should reflect that.

To do: Tailor your marketing efforts to your target audience. If you’re trying to attract more older students, don’t send them lots of emails about your new dorms. Instead, focus your efforts on the programs that they value, and include videos from students like them. 

University of Florida example of social media marketing to students on TikTok

The University of Florida’s prospective students are big fans of the social media platform TikTok – so the institution creates and shares content there.

3. Use Authentic Social Media Content 

Smart social media marketing for college students means prioritizing authenticity over glossy graphics. With the growth of aggressive higher ed marketing (colleges and universities spent $730 million on ads in 2017), potential students are wary of too-polished ads. What draws them in? Real stories from people like their peers and potential professors. 

To do: Instead of filling your Instagram feed or YouTube channels with generic pictures of your campus, add in some short videos of real students telling stories about their experience at your school. 

University of North Dakota YouTube college student vlog

The University of North Dakota has a YouTube channel, featuring vlogs from students about what life is really like at the school in their own words.

4. Marketing to College Students on Mobile

It’s no secret – younger generations like your potential students use their mobile phones for most tasks in their daily life. That means they’re not usually sitting down to look at a college website or to read emails on their computers. 

For your marketing efforts to work, they need to be truly optimized for the mobile experience. That means fast loading time, graphics and images that look as great on a phone screen as a desktop monitor, and a website that’s easy to navigate. 

To do: Designing a flashy new web page with lots of graphic elements or images? Be sure to check how the page performs on mobile phones – it should be seamless, not frustrating. Are all the call-to-action buttons working? 

5. Create a Consistent Brand Experience

Consistent branding is a key part of your higher education marketing strategy. A regular audit to ensure every digital component – your website, blog posts, social media platforms, email marketing, etc – of your institution looks and sounds the same is a worthwhile exercise. This will strengthen your brand awareness in the mind of your potential students. 

To do: Take stock of the colors you use on your website – do they match the ones you’re using on Twitter and in your emails? How about your tone of voice – does it have the same level of formality and style? If you find inconsistencies, take charge of your branding and create a consistent, coherent image. 

6. Personalize Where Possible

Part of marketing your school to potential students is making them feel special and valued. They don’t want to be just one face in a crowd of prospects – they want to feel like they’re getting personal attention.

Digital marketing makes this personalization easy. Address emails to potential students by name, send targeted and tailored emails, and respond to social media comments promptly. Targeted emails are an especially effective way to add a personal feel to your marketing efforts. 

To do: If you’re sending the same email campaigns to your liberal arts prospects as your STEM prospects, rethink that approach. Writing targeted emails to different segments of your potential students based on their interests or priorities is a quick win. 

7. Build a Friendly User Experience

Can visitors easily find the information they need? Is it easy to find contact information for your school if they have further questions? Do your web pages load quickly and run without any issues? If not, potential students may leave your site quickly out of frustration. 

To do: Look at the page for potential applicants on your website. University websites are often full of information and confusing to navigate. Can a potential student easily find info they need without getting lost, like application deadlines and campus tour info? 

Temple University website for marketing to potential college students

Temple University’s website makes it easy for prospective students to find the information they need.

8. Stay Up to Date

Students can easily stumble on outdated information on your website or social media. This can look careless or cause confusion. Coming up with a schedule to regularly update information on your website and other digital platforms can help maintain an image that your school prioritizes keeping potential and current students informed. 

To do: Do you have a page that lists upcoming events for potential students? Delegate one person or department with keeping that list updated on a weekly basis to be sure nothing gets missed. 

admissions calendar on SCAD website

SCAD has an updated, easy-to-use calendar on their admissions site.

Successfully marketing to college students is all about authentic, personal content and an excellent user experience. Your audiences should feel valued and invested in their relationship with your school. 

If your team needs help creating an effective strategy for marketing to college students, Pacific54 can help. Contact us for a consultation.

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