As you may well know, the digital world has changed the face of the educational sector exponentially. While once upon a time, colleges and universities used tactics including print, radio and television advertising as well as word of mouth to attract budding students - nowadays there is a wealth of channels on which to connect with tomorrow’s alumni.
Presently, branding runs far deeper than a logo and a slogan alone: in the digital age people are looking for value, trust and meaning from those they’re looking to invest in - universities are no exception.
Despite the inherent power of digital branding, 49% of organizations do not have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy.
Now, to make sure you're not one of them, here are 10 top tips for building your university’s brand online.
Studies suggest that 41% of university officials believe they can directly attribute a rise in enrollments to their social media efforts - in short, getting social and tapping into the zeitgeist will significantly boost your brand awareness.
A wealth of platforms including YouTube, SnapChat, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram offer priceless opportunities to share your brand values with prospective students and reach them on a personal level - so don't miss out on this opportunity.
Baylor University (Pinterest), Imperial College London (YouTube), and The University of Nevada at Reno are all shining examples of how educators can use social media for branding success - so be sure to explore their efforts.
A recent Google study discovered that opinions on a website are formed in a mere 17 milliseconds. That said, to keep your prospective students engaged, your university branding needs to be digestible. Not only does your content need to be inspiring, engaging and simple to absorb, but your logo and imagery need to represent your institution with a single glance - so make sure you don't make your assets too convoluted or complex.
Data, data, data
We are living in an age rife with digital data and insights. By harnessing this data to your advantage - insights such as demographic information, where students interact online, engagement rates for your current content and landing pages, etc. - you will be able to make informed, accurate branding decisions that will strike a chord with prospective students and increase your enrollment rates, significantly.
Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash
By selecting educational thought-leaders or current students to write guest blog posts or take over one of your social media platforms for the day, not only will you prove to today’s budding students that you fully embrace the digital age, but you will also offer your target audience a fresh tone of voice - one that will ultimately boost brand awareness and speak to prospective students on a personal level.
While offering merch is an old analog means of branding, people still love a freebie and if it’s something they can wear or use in a practical sense, you will literally get people to walk around acting as brand ambassadors for your university. If you really want to squeeze the promotional juice out of your merch, you can even offer a free giveaway online, boosting your web authority as well as your physical presence.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are fast becoming an everyday part of our society - so why not leverage this most disruptive of technologies to your advantage?
With Google Earth VR and Google Expeditions becoming a tangible part of the public consciousness, more institutions are using these platforms to deepen their educational offerings - and you can take this notion one step further while boosting your brand awareness by offering a fully immersive VR campus tour, like Princeton University:
Webinars are particularly powerful tools as they offer an incredible level of value while offering the mobile convenience that most of today’s students or general consumers crave. By hosting a webinar on a particular subject related to your institution and inviting prospective students to tune in you can share your brand story, your values, your USPs and really reach out to people in a way that means something to them - instant brand points.
Akin to webinars, podcasts are also a very powerful branding tool for universities in the digital age. With so much rich content to explore, unis can really make a mark with a podcast series and as they’re relevant cost-effective to produce, creating a regular series is completely feasible.
The University of California and Stanford University offer two excellent examples of podcasting for educational branding - tune in for inspiration when you get the opportunity.
Look at the various campaigns, efforts, and activities of your direct competitors and you’ll quickly see marketing gaps that you can leverage or areas that you can expand and improve on. Look at areas including enrollment levels, social media interaction, the engagement of particular posts or campaigns and the overall approach each institution takes to their content and communications - and use these insights to stand out from the crowd.
Evolve and improve
The future of your university and the success of your brand depends on your ability to adapt, adopt emerging digital technologies and evolve with the student base you’re looking to target. Keep on upskilling your marketing department, remain abreast of industry trends, continue to analyze and advance your efforts and long-term university branding success will be yours for the taking.
University branding in the digital age is certainly challenging, but with more promotional channels and touchpoints available than ever before, if you get it right, the rewards will be endless. We wish you the best of luck.
How 11 Academia Networks can help
On 11 Academia Networks we are ready to help you to enhance the added value of your institution by giving you space to showcase the best experiences of your members. With excellent content about your institution (institutional profiles and reviews), listings (online announcements), influencer marketing and social media boosts, we can help you to get quality enrolments and successful recruiting campaigns. Not all universities have the same recruitment needs and strategy, therefore we are ready to listen to your goals and suggest different channels to reach a targeted pool of prospective students.
If you have any questions or if you would like to arrange a free telephone or Skype consultation with us to analyze your recruitment strategy and discover how we can help you, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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