How Content Can Support Your University’s Marketing Strategy

P54 Team
Published on Jan 20, 2023

How Content Can Support Your University’s Marketing Strategy

University marketers were in the content creation business before it was cool. For years, you’ve been describing the campus culture and academics, highlighting faculty achievements, and showcasing community involvement. To share your university’s story, you’ve traditionally relied on printed materials like view-books, brochures, ads, and alumni magazines. As times have changed, so should your university marketing strategy.

According to eCampusNews,

Universities around the world rely heavily on traditional marketing strategies to attract candidates to their programs. Despite the advent of the internet, big data and the mobile revolution, higher ed recruiting has remained unchanged.

Instead of seeing this as a challenge, consider it an opportunity. You now have the ability to create personalized, multimedia content that reaches further and really engages your audience. As a university marketer, this is an exciting time! In today’s blog, we’ll show you how content can support your university marketing strategy by:

  1. Improving Your Search Visibility
  2. Capturing More Student Leads
  3. Building Relationships
  4. Enhancing Your Reputation

Improving Your Search Visibility

To get found by your ideal students, your content needs to focus on what they’re typing into that Google search box. Every student goes through an information gathering process that ultimately results in a college decision. By planning out the common answers to student queries of this journey, you can create tailored content that meets their needs at every stage. When creating your content strategy, use tools such as Answer The Public and AHREFS to identify what questions students are asking the search engines and attack them as content.

This will result in relevant keywords naturally appearing within your content, which will give your university’s search engine rankings a boost. And equally important, your prospective students will find what they need, when they need it.

Blogs and FAQs are a great way to start improving your search engine optimization. But don’t stop there. Repurpose them into other formats such as infographics, videos, or quizzes. Just make sure you have keywords in the descriptions for different types of content so you’ll get the SEO benefit.

The example below, from Southern New Hampshire University, provides students with information about the benefits of an MBA. By sharing content that provides value to students in the research stage, universities can stay top-of-mind when it’s time to apply.

example of a university content strategy

Southern New Hampshire University has a helpful blog called “Why Get an MBA?” By creating content that potential students will find early in their search, their university will be on the student’s radar when it comes time to make a decision.

Embrace Multi-Channel Content

Universities should embrace a multi-channel digital marketing strategy to help with visibility. This includes taking your content marketing efforts beyond your blog and website, developing a robust social media marketing strategy and taking advantage of the time today's youth spend on Youtube.

It's one thing to rank well, it's another entirely to dominate the search engine results page (SERP) with your content. By crafting a successful multimedia content strategy, you can ensure your target market is exposed to your multimedia across several different platforms. It should be of no surprise that Harvard was an early adopter to this strategy. A perfunctory search on Google for "Harvard University" yields results ranging from their website to wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. They've truly left no stone unturned. 

The content strategy varies from social media platform-to-platform, as it should when you take algorithms into account. Harvard posts nearly every 3 hours during the day on Twitter, about weekly on Youtube, and daily on Instagram. 

Of these channels, Youtube is particularly effective for Harvard University. The channel has over 2.25M subscribers as of this writing as features content ranging form athletics, to campus life, to explainers, and content spotlighting specific degree programs. A whopping 77% of marketers are currently using youtube according to Hubspot. It's a channel that can no longer be neglected in the realm of content marketing, especially when targeting incoming students. 

multi-channel content strategy

Capturing More Student Leads

According to Google, 77 percent of individuals researching education options will visit a school’s website at least two weeks before taking action. Compelling online content can keep the student (or parent) engaged on your website, exploring more of your offerings. The longer they stay, the greater your chances for obtaining their contact information.

Whether it’s educational, entertaining, or thought-provoking, great content is the key to getting website visitors to take action. Ideally, they’ll subscribe to your blog or request information about a specific program so you can stay in communication.

Another way content helps to capture student leads is through special offers. For example, you could create a comprehensive guide called “Everything You Need to Know Before Applying for an MBA.” Once you have a landing page that grabs their interest and requests an email, you could share on social media or purchase a pay per click (PPC) ad to get more exposure.

In this example, The Wharton School created a landing page to capture leads for its Executive MBA program. Notice that the page is easy to read, includes specific calls to action and offers a downloadable brochure in exchange for contact info.

university landing page example

Having a useful and interesting landing page content for each of your university programs will encourage new leads and help your SEO. 

Social Media is another great tool for capturing student leads, as a recent study from found that 73% of student reported that they viewed colleges on at least one social network before enrolling. The digital landscape is such now that your Social media efforts should be as important as your SEO efforts. Education institutions simply cannot afford to ignore social media any longer, as it provides a chance to both build a visual identity and attract new students.

Building Relationships

Whether it’s a prospective student, alumnus, community partner or donor, relationships are everything. And the best way to build relationships is with regular contact and a personal touch. Emails can serve that purpose. They’re another form of content that can support your university marketing strategy by:

  • Keeping your university top of mind - Even if the recipient is too busy to open it, the email subject will create a feeling of frequent contact.
  • Building trust - By dividing your email list into groups (for example, prospects and applicants), your content can provide helpful, relevant information at just the right time. This gives the sense that the email was written just for them.
  • Reinforcing credibility - When your emails share research breakthroughs or innovations by your faculty, you’re presenting an image of competence and success to alumni and donors.
  • Creating a community - The tone and language of your emails imply that they’re part of the university community, which builds pride, trust, and support.

Warm, personal emails like this one from George Washington University, are a great way to create a connection and build on your relationship with your audience.

email marketing strategy for university

By creating email content that’s personalized, frequent, and offers useful and interesting information, you’re building a relationship that can blossom into a student enrollment or a regular donor.

Building Relationships Through Social Media

While Social Media marketing Automation is clearly here to stay, education institutes should view their social media efforts as conversational marketing. You should not simply set it and forget it; rather, you should be using social media to engage with prospective and current students. A great way to go about this is user-generated content from students, which makes them feel included. A great example of this strategy is Penn State, whose #WeArePennState hashtag highlighting sports programs and student life currently has 62.5K posts as of this writing. 

university content strategy

Bringing student-generated content into the fold creates a sense of community among the students and prospects, thus, it  should a pillar of social media marketing for universities.

Enhancing Your Reputation

As a university marketer, it can feel like the weight of content creation is on your shoulders. But there are resources all around you with plenty of expertise and great stories to tell. Capturing this content will help you strengthen your university brand, resulting in high-quality enrollment, steady donations, and community support.

Here are a few ways content can enhance your university’s reputation:

  • Highlighting the accomplishments of your faculty
  • Sharing the diversity of your student population
  • Showcasing your technology
  • Celebrating research discoveries
  • Encouraging authentic student stories
  • Profiling successful alumni

Social media is a great tool for building your reputation as it gives you the opportunity to share meaningful moments in an authentic way. In this UC Berkeley example, the university highlights their success by mentioning a campus visit from a notable alumnus.

content marketing strategy

Social media content can support your university marketing strategy by enhancing your university’s reputation. Sharing stories of successful alumni is a great way to build credibility

Build Your University Marketing Strategy With Pacific54

We know it’s not easy to make major changes in a large institution. Especially in an area like marketing, with its complicated budgets and multiple decision-makers. But hopefully, these ideas will inspire you to try out some new strategies and make the case to your team members that a digital-first approach is a way to go. If you need help developing a content marketing plan or keeping your higher education marketing strategy on track, contact us at Pacific54.

7 Responses to “How Content Can Support Your University’s Marketing Strategy”

  • Maite says:

    The reputation of educational institutions is a crucial part of their marketing strategy, as is the construction of a community. The challenge is to know how to sell themselves as the most flattering option, in the midst of a society that demands more and more, updated training plans, adapted to new trends and the incorporation of virtual classrooms.

    • Leilani Bruce says:

      It is very competitive! Content is definitely a great way for higher ed institutions to set themselves apart from their competitors and create a favorable reputation among prospective students.

  • Ryan Anthony says:

    I remember when I went to college about ten years ago and everything was about print material—college catalogs, brochures, etc. When I decided to return, I did my searching online. I didn’t even bother with print material. I think you’ll probably see parents using print material more than others, but you can be certain prospective students go online to check out colleges whether it’s on their PC’s, tablets, or phones.

    • Leilani Bruce says:

      Absolutely! It’s also important to ensure that messaging is consistent across traditional print marketing and digital campaigns.

  • Bruce Smitty says:

    I think that I have to learn a bit more about the trends. I can get so overwhelmed that I just don’t keep up like I should. Great advice.

  • Jalin Harper says:

    Social media really is the new newspaper of this century. People everywhere are always on it. Constantly absorbing information and forming opinions about anything and everything.

    • Leilani Bruce says:

      Absolutely, and there is no sign it’s slowing down anytime soon, that’s why it’s an essential component of any content marketing strategy.

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