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Recruiting Intelligence

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With the amount of time prospective students spend online, you’d think connecting with them would be easier.  

The average US teen spends 7 hours 22 minutes each day looking at a screen, or 43% of their waking hours, per Exploding Topics. And that’s being conservative – Common Sense stats show teens on screens 8 ½ hours per day outside of school-related screen time. Need confirmation? Just look around your campus at all the students not looking at you, but rather their screens. (Reality check: the rest of us aren’t off the hook as the average person clocks 6 hours 58 minutes of screen time per day, just so you know. So yes, that is where all the time goes!) 

Do you know the average number of phone notifications a US teenager receives each day? We answer that below. Make sure you are sitting down when you read it.

Yet, despite all their screen time, or perhaps because of it, your prospective students are discerning consumers of marketing. If they’ve seen one university ad, they’ve seen a thousand. We’re certain you can relate. We all can. But some messages clearly do get through, and it almost always comes down to creativity, cultural nuance, and an appetite for taking a little risk.

Fun fact for the risk takers: Humor is a tough marketing message to achieve with a broad and diverse audience, but when you get it, it REALLY works. 

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations and we hope you can join us. 

  • ICEF North America in Niagara, Canada, April 30 - May 3, 2024
  • NAFSA 2024 Annual Conference and Expo in New Orleans, May 28-31, 2024
  • GMAC 2024 Annual Conference in New Orleans, June 19-21, 2024

Let us know if you’ll share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com) 

Take fintech, an increasingly rising "it" program in the eyes of so many STEM-degree seekers, especially those with a bent toward accounting and money-making in general. And rightly so as financial services operations around the world increasingly rely on new technologies to do business. (Shout out to Worcester Polytechnic Institute on its recent fintech doctoral program launch giving students a full-stack (BA>MS>PhD) option in this coveted field. Talk about reading the market!!!)  

Fintech is a huge, booming industry and one that universities with fintech programs are leveraging to draw the attention of prospects. The same can be said for Data Analytics, Cybersecurity, AI, and other “sexy” programs that now drive global and local economies. 

Important note: the counsel that follows here applies to how you message your programs even if you computer sciences are oversubscribed and you are trying to attract students to other options.

We want to promote programs that will draw eyes and pique interest. Highlighting them in your recruitment efforts makes sense. Of course, you know this. And yet somehow marketing that ultimately makes it onto the screen in front of your prospective students’ gaze is so often watered down, generalized speak about “great programs in computer science” or “practical business degrees” or the now far overused, “advance your career.” Ugh. Your prospect just scrolled on.

We know you know exactly what we’re talking about. So often there is a fear of getting too specific. Why mention one computer science program and ignore the others when students need to know there are many amazing degrees from which they can choose?  

Here’s why: you need their attention, and the coveted, interesting, or unusual programs will get it. Not the generalized track that simply prompts the finger flick and scroll right by. 

It’s not just your message you need to consider, it’s also the medium.

95% of US teens now own or have access to a phone per Pew Research. Worldwide, the stats vary (China has the most active smartphone users, followed by India, the US, Indonesia, and Brazil), but it’s safe to say many of your prospective students living outside of the US are on their phones, too. In Sub-Saharan Africa, affordability and access is improving such that there will be 692 million unique mobile users by 2030, 88% of whom will be using smartphones according to lobby group GSMA.

Many of your prospective students will not only be accessing information about your institution via smartphone, but will be completing the entire application process on it as well. Something your international team knows but your domestic team might not be thinking about. 

Marketers and message makers read on for our tips on phone screen engagement tips. Like all good listicles, we’ve got 5 steps to push your team to create effectively... 

Crazy stat: Teens get 237+ notifications on their smartphones each day, according to a September 2023 Common Sense Media report. That’s a lot of distractions and a lot of attention competition for you. Here we offer some high-level ideas to create screen-size messages to acquire the engagement and response you want. 

5 Steps to Personalize Your Smartphone Recruitment Message  

How to energize your smartphone messaging to boost student recruitment: 

Step #1. Run Targeted Ad Campaigns  

Assuming you’ve done your due diligence in finding your best-bet target markets, use their preferred social media platforms (note: these vary by region) to target students, considering their interests and demographics. Showcase engaging content like authentic student testimonials, virtual tours, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of campus life. Don’t stop here. Offer incentives for students who share your content on their social media. You’ll expand your reach and leverage word-of-mouth marketing. Pro Tip: if you are looking at international student audiences, try not to rely on your mascot. By and large, that avenue does not resonate, it only confuses. 

Example: A student follows the university's social media page and receives a personalized message offering early access to a video tour with a current student from their desired major, which encourages them to share the video with friends who might be interested, too. 

Now we know you can’t reproduce the full institution video tour using a student from every major. But you don’t need to be comprehensive in that way. Get an engaging student from each academic area to create a quick-hit, 30-second video using their phone, that shows a vibrant, student-filled campus scene of just the common hangout spot for that major. You can imagine this now, right? That hangout scene that is oh-so-fun-and- welcoming. The scene that your prospective students will see themselves in, feeling entirely comfortable. There’s your stop scroll moment. 

Step #2. Show Them Your Local  

Showcase campus life and the surrounding area by sending personalized content featuring student testimonials about their favorite local spots -- hiking trails, vistas, shops, or coffee hangouts. Help your prospects envision what their lives could be like as part of your community. 

Example: A student visiting your university receives a message highlighting popular student hangouts near campus that shows a view inside the best coffee bar or the view of downtown from a local ridge or a tall building. This goes for online programs, too, in which case you could feature digital hangouts and student life e-activities.  

Step #3. Match Students’ Communication Style  

Analyze past interactions or survey students to understand their preferred communication style (e.g., formal or informal, playful or informative) and tailor your message accordingly. While maintaining professionalism, stick to current trends or popular culture to make the message more relatable and engaging for younger audiences. Be careful here. We are not suggesting you use generational slang unless it’s an authentic student-to-student communication.  

Example: A message sent to a student interested in gaming culture might reference a popular game character or event with a clear call to action. 

Step #4. Track Engagement  

Analyze how students interact with your content: which pages do they visit? Which links do they click?

You can tailor future messages considering personal interests. You know the standard assets you have to recommend here: virtual tours, webinars, or chats with faculty relevant to their interests. Get creative with how you put these opportunities together so you are able to learn even more.  

Example: A student who interacts with content related to environmental science receives a follow-up message offering a personalized or small group Q&A session with a professor of environmental science. 

Step #5. Consider the Timing 

Sending your message at the right time makes a big difference. Analyze engagement data to identify peak periods of students’ activity and time your communication accordingly. Your CRM has a scheduling tool that can help you adjust for different time zones around the world. At least, it should have that feature. Ask your team about it. 

Example: Your university is hosting a virtual hangout with a leading faculty member on a topic that will be of interest to your target audience, perhaps cybersecurity or AI. The live event starts on a Saturday at 10 a.m. EST. Perhaps you have learned from your past data that these students typically engage more on weekdays in the afternoon. You send a clever reminder message on the Tuesday before the event at 3 p.m. (their time) that reminds them of the key details. Then a second reminder on Friday before the event at noon (their time). A final reminder goes out 90 minutes prior to the event. 

Digital Communication: A High-Value Tactic 

Small screen communication is second nature to the tight-knit, and dare we say it, hip Intead team. And while we know digital marketing is already well integrated into your overall student recruitment strategy, doing it well requires creative, highly nuanced, and detailed work. Oh, and tracking and consistently reviewing your tracking data helps you improve over time.

The challenge of all of this: your internal experts have very limited time. Be in touch: info@intead.com 


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