By Adam Christie

Every young person heading off to college or university dreams of stellar success – so you should be showing them what they can achieve in your student recruitment campaign.

Your students will be investing up to £9,250 a year in tuition alone, if they’re studying in England, with thousands more going on rent and living expenses.

In the North America it’s a lot more but wherever they’re studying, students want to know the value they’ll get out of your institution.  It goes beyond getting a qualification that will land them a job.

What better way to do that than to turn your recent graduates and current undergraduates into brand ambassadors as part of your content marketing strategy? Let them talk about the successes, professional and personal, that they would never have achieved without your establishment.

Now, there are two definitions of what represents value to students. Some say it’s about the quality of the experience, while others insist it’s about the quality of the outcomes – the much-vaunted “graduate premium”.

Top three value factors

But a recent study for the Office for Students found the top three factors that students look for value for money from are quality of teaching, fair assessment and feedback, and learning resources.

However, the research also revealed there were concerns about aspects of student life that the young people felt they hadn’t been prepared for before they signed up to a course – such as the cost of accommodation and living, and the additional expenses they rack up.

As a key plank of a student recruitment campaign, a carefully curated content marketing strategy can be used to allay their concerns.

Choosing a university is quite a long process for most people, including many touchpoints with a funnel marketing approach often employed by universities to take the student through the process.

Universities use display and social advertising at the top of the funnel to build brand awareness, with content marketing often coming into play mid-funnel in the trust building and research stage, before the conversion comes with targeted advertising and direct contact at the bottom of the funnel.

Success is not purely academic

You’ll be wanting to sell prospective students on life at the university, not just the courses and qualifications the university offers. The success of your students is in their growth as people, not purely their academic achievements.

To get through to them, you’ll need to find them. The audience universities are looking to engage with has grown up hooked on social media. Sure, you’ll find them and – importantly – their parents on Facebook, but they’re also heavily engaged on Instagram and Snapchat, so everything you create has to have a strong visual element.

And the best advocates you can have for your establishment are the people who have made a success of, or are making a success of, their time there. Build their experiences into your content marketing drive.

Short videos of recent graduates talking about what their hard work has helped them achieve and reflecting on what they learned about life during their time at uni show the value of an education with you. And by short videos, I mean 60 seconds or less if you want to keep engagement levels up.

Remember, the users of different social media channels look for different things. Videos for Instagram should be shot vertically, for example. While that style is rising in popularity elsewhere, make sure the format you use fits the medium.

It’s also important to get subtitles on to your videos so people can get your message without pumping up the volume on their phone while they watch on the bus. It’s a simple step, an obvious step, but a real favourite across the generations. Be sure to do it.

A clear call to action

And finish off with a clear call to action – “learn more” or “find out about our courses”, for example – that leads back to a relevant page on your website.

Of course, you can push these videos out organically, but they will only really perform for you if you put cash behind them and target them using audience segmentation to get to the people who matter. Campaigns like this cost pennies per person on Facebook and Instagram and can be continually tweaked to improve their performance.

You can repeat this formula with videos featuring undergraduates, showing them at work and play in your facilities and talking about what brought them to your establishment and how it is delivering for them. 

You should also look to lecturers and course leaders to become brand ambassadors – not necessarily talking about their courses, but about what the university stands for and believes in. Young people investing thousands in their education, potentially building up big debts in the process, want to know that your views align with theirs. 

Another tactic we’d suggest is creating blogs that will be useful to the young people as they make a huge financial decision. For example, you could write how to guides on finding and renting accommodation, or on budgeting to get through the academic year, or on accessing the help that’s available from your institution in times of trouble. Even building up a batch of cheap, healthy meal plans shows you care.

Win applicants' trust 

Demonstrate that you’re there to support them, that you have great advice to give and that you’ve considered all aspects of their university life – not just the academic – and you’ll begin to win the trust of prospective students. 

As part of your content marketing strategy for this aspect of your student recruitment campaign, each message you send out has to underline how you add value to an education – what your students get out of it not just in terms of a qualification and improved employment chances, but as individual people.

And this theme has to be continued not just on social media but in every interaction with prospective students and their parents, whether that’s in letters and your prospectus, or in one-to-one contact over the phone.

Remember, the human touch has a real impact during the recruitment process, so don’t underestimate its value.

We are student recruitment specialists. Contact us now on 0800 612 9890.