Let’s start with a cool stat: Google searches for “Influencer marketing" grew 1500% in the last three years. In 2019, the term "Marketing influencer" was searched 70,000 times a month! This according to Savica Dimitrieska and Tanja Efremova in their article, “The Effectiveness of the Influencer Marketing” published through Southwest University in Bulgaria.
Think YouTubers and TikTokers – content creators who are generating significant followings and translating that work into cash as they promote various products.
The question is: can this concept work for academia?
Our answer: yes, IF you can achieve true authenticity. If not, no. Full stop.
Academic administrators around the globe may be leaving a gap in their marketing strategy: the power of an influencer, but in the case of education, we are really talking about brand ambassadors who have influence with your target audience. In our view, true influencer marketing, which is growing globally, is a risky bet for the education market. But the concept, if adapted, has merit.
What we are saying is, recognize that you are not marketing alcohol, luxury vacations, apparel, or cosmetics and adjust the concept of “influencer marketing” accordingly. If that is unclear, give us a call.
When it comes to advertising and building trust, gone are the days of faceless testimonials and promotional brochures promising the ultimate educational experience. Generation Z values the opinions of social media influencers and bases their decisions on whether people they can relate to on YouTube give it a thumbs up or down.
A note of caution: marketing today is lightning fast and fickle. Your campus can be in the limelight one second, and culture canceled the next.
Read on for a few more relevant stats and perspective on how to make brand ambassador marketing part of your approach to student recruitment.
The More You Know
The influencer market, according to a study performed by MediaKix (interesting take on industry benchmarks), sees a consistently higher rate of return on investment than any other marketing channel…for some products. What we are looking for here in the education field are those brand ambassadors (faculty, students, alumni, administrators) who have a following and are interested in helping you leverage your brand.
Student influencers talk, and prospective students listen. In fact, an article from Forbes.com reveals that a shocking 76% of students follow influencers on social media – though many of them don’t acknowledge the influence they experience when asked. Still, 52% follow influencer advice for products or brand recommendations.
Also interesting is Generation Z's desire to become influencers, which stands at 54% according to a study by Marketingdive.com. These numbers present an opportunity unlike any other for advertising your institution, growing attendance, and maintaining a strong student body by using the influencers all around you.
How important is this stuff? Mary Meeker's past research (Google her), says that user generated content (your influencer) is shared 7x more than digital stuff coming out of your marketing communications office.
Build it and They Will Come
Introducing an influencer program into your institution shows that you are listening and are willing to approach students on their terms, where they live, socialize, and spend their free time. Word of mouth marketing options continue to grow and remain highly valuable. This route requires an investment in management time more than an ad campaign budget. Done well, an influencer program can become a strong ally. You just need to cultivate and nurture your ambassadors. Simple, right? ; -)
Important to note that your marketing communications office does lose a level of control over how your message gets out - but that too, can be managed with the investment of time and leadership.
College Influencers are a Partnership
Partnering with student influencers not only benefits your institution, the program also helps the students you tap for this role. The partnership provides the student with an opportunity to build a resume while studying and gaining valuable marketing and communication skills.
Where to Begin
Do you know who the influential students are at your institution? The odds are in your favor that they are roaming the halls or checking into your Zoom classroom.
In 2017 two thirds of students reported using social media to research institutions of interest. That number has been increasing, and with COVID keeping students home for the last year, the number skyrocketed.
Do you remember our two-part blog, Do You Speak Gen Z? Featured in these posts are the generational traits, their unique digitally connected culture and how that translates to recruitment and student retention. If you haven’t had a chance to read through it, now is a perfect time.
The first rule of marketing is knowing your audience. That, and having clear goals. In 2020, the global population of Generation Z was 1.8 billion. So, roughly a quarter of the world is filled with budget-conscious, digitally connected, and entrepreneurial future alumni (See: Business Insider for some cool stats like this one: countries with the highest Gen Z population are Nigeria, Pakistan, India and Indonesia).
But you have to reach them, and you don’t do that with cliché emails that move to their junk box alongside thousands of others.
Your Time and Cost-Saving Solution
Institutional assessments are the ideal tool to research and identify those in your institute who are either current influencers or those with potential. Intead has conducted these kinds of assessments to help institutions improve their entire enrollment funnel with identifying brand ambassador opportunities as just one element of the overall approach to enrollment growth.
Schedule your assessment with us and hand over the task of digging through the digital world to find your relevant celebrities and influencers – your best digital ambassadors. We will bridge the gap in your marketing and present it to you in a clear and concise report with marketing strategy, objectives, and task-focused timeline. It’s a #win-win - let’s chat!