Postmedia has identified four marketing trends to support enrolment campaigns and increase visibility for higher education institutions.

higher education marketing trends

The pandemic has changed the way higher education institutions market to potential students. How do you build your brand during a pandemic? For colleges, universities and all higher learning organizations, where value is linked with in-person connection, the challenge is amplified.

Here are four tactics that embrace the latest digital marketing trends to effectively promote higher education in 2022. These include:

  1. the evolution and growing dominance of social channels;
  2. the rise of personalized messaging using chatbots;
  3. the growing importance of local brand building; and
  4. the increasing power of video.

While these trends aren’t new and flashy, they provide direction on how to reach students where they are and in a way that is meaningful to them. The key is to be clear and compelling in communicating your unique value proposition. A new part of your marketing effort is the need to show how you are adapting to keep students safe during a pandemic. This includes turning the spotlight on virtual learning, which has created a level of access to higher education the world has never seen before.

LinkedIn webinar ad

1. Show up where your prospective students are: Create a presence on TikTok

The biggest trend in marketing is the rise of TikTok. In 2021, the platform secured its dominance in the social space by becoming the most downloaded app around the world with 656 million downloads. Instagram followed with 545 million downloads, as reported by CNET.

Fast facts: TikTok is on track to exceed 1.5 billion users in 2022. It is available in more than 150 markets in 75 languages and Gen Z loves it.  Forty-one per cent of users are between the ages of 16 and 24.

What you need to know about TikTok

TikTok’s popularity started with lip-synching and viral dances. It is now one of the world’s largest learning platforms. Educators are using it to teach everything from grammar to math, tapping into a growing trend in the education space: micro learning. The cultural phenomenon is encouraging this trend. In 2020, TikTok announced plans to commission universities and other institutions to create educational content.

From a marketing perspective, TikTok offers an effective way to build brand awareness by creating content that perspective students will find meaningful. For example, videos showcasing your culture, promoting events, offering study hacks and career advice, and developing hashtag challenges are all ways to build excitement about your brand and drive engagement.

Tip: Learn about TikTok’s recommendation algorithm and how it recommends videos for its For You feed. This helps you ensure your content is shared with high-intent users and boost organic reach.

Paid advertising on TikTok

TikTok also offers a range of paid advertising, including but not limited to:

  • Brand takeover – Your ad appears when a user opens the app.
  • In-feed ads – Your ad is featured in between a user’s video lineup. These ads offer the most targeting capabilities.
  • Promoted hashtag challenges – TikTok will work with your team to develop challenges that encourage sharing. The campaigns run from three to six days.

Running paid ads allows you to set specific goals and targeting characteristics. TikTok’s suite of in-app analytics can help you see and test what’s working and what isn’t.

Fast fact: It’s estimated that only four per cent of marketers are using TikTok. This presents a big opportunity to establish a presence before your competitors do.

A quick word on Instagram Reels

Facebook is attempting to take on TikTok with Instagram Reels. The app launched in 2020, two years after TikTok and is available to all Instagram users. If your brand is established on Instagram and has not yet developed a presence on TikTok, it may be worth a try.

2. Make LinkedIn Conversation Ads part of your marketing strategy

LinkedIn Conversation Ads entered the paid advertising space in 2020. Two years in, they are gaining attention as an effective way to create a personal connection with prospective talent on the platform. Essentially, these ads work like chatbots. The interactive ad appears in a LinkedIn user’s messaging inbox. The initial message/conversation is designed to drive a specific objective using pre-populated responses that take a user to different, relevant parts of the chat flow. At each stop, they will receive a new message and new options based on their replies. LinkedIn includes several basic templates, including Drive Enrollment for Programs chat flow. Brands can also build their own conversation ad from scratch.

In addition to driving enrolments, LinkedIn Conversation Ads can also be used to drive event or webinar registrations, website visits, asset downloads and more.

Best practices when creating a LinkedIn Conversation Ad

  • The introductory message is critical. Keep it short and make sure it’s compelling and meaningful to your target audience.
  • Personalize the message and have it come from an individual, not the college or university.
  • Structure your chat flows in a simple, straightforward way to lead users to the desired outcome.
  • Make sure the call to action is conversational and direct.

3. Optimize local SEO efforts

Until COVID-19 vaccines are widely available and adopted globally, higher education recruitment efforts will largely be focused on local markets. Ranking high in local searches will help colleges and universities stay front of mind for students when current in-person restrictions are lifted and campuses can open their doors again.

About local SEO

Local search engine optimization (SEO) improves a business’s visibility on searches that include a geographic descriptor, such as city, postal code, service area or “near me.”

Google’s local algorithm relies on three critical ranking factors to provide its top results:

  • Distance
  • Relevance
  • Prominence

There is no way to request or pay for a better local ranking on Google. To rank high on local search, an organization must improve its online presence to meet the requirements of each of these factors.

download the Search Engine Marketing Handbook

4. Engage audiences with YouTube content (+ads)

Even before the rise of TikTok, YouTube was building on the power of video to capture the attention of Gen Z. YouTube’s user base — and reach — is massive, growing and very diverse.  According to the latest research from Pew Research Centre, YouTube is the most popular social media platform in the U.S. Three-quarters of students go to YouTube to evaluate prospective schools and nearly 30 per cent say YouTube videos play a big role in their ultimate decision.

Optimize and post videos on YouTube to raise the visibility of your brand and improve organic SEO performance

46 per cent of viewers are more likely to watch long-form content (longer than 20 minutes) than they were six months ago. These can include day-in-the-life videos, campus tours, testimonials, events and, increasingly, pandemic news videos.

Tap into YouTube analytics to learn:

  • how your videos rank by views;
  • your videos’ real time performance;
  • how people find your channel;
  • key metrics such as impressions, click-through-rate, views and unique viewers;
  • how long users are engaging with your videos; and
  • who your viewers are and when they’re on YouTube.

YouTube also offers paid advertising solutions. These range from digital billboard ads to skippable and non-skippable ads to standard display ads.

The pandemic has changed higher education marketing trends and the way institutions can reach students. To stay competitive, get up to speed on where students are spending their time and take an organic and paid approach to helping them discover you.