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Recruiting Intelligence

Get Started with Instagram Marketing Strategies to Boost Enrollment

The last time we wrote about Instagram marketing was in 2016. A lot has changed since then. But not everything. It resolutely remains a visual communication tool. But is it still relevant? (It is.) Aren’t kids these days on TikTok? (Yes, that’s true, too.)

Here are the facts: 57% of Americans aged 12 to 17 use Instagram each week, and 63% use TikTok according to Forrester. Just as important are the 48% of 30-49 year-olds and 29% of 50-64 year-olds – many of whom are your prospective parents – who use the platform. Anyone still wondering if it’s relevant for student recruitment and enrollment? Didn’t think so.

If your institution is only doing organic posts to Instagram, or your Instagram paid campaigns haven’t reaped the return you’d hoped, read on for a look at how your team can use this platform to boost enrollment. This post will be beneficial for those ideating and managing your campaigns. That means, pass it on to others on your team responsible for this stuff if that's not you.

As with any social platform, there are two ways to work it: the free way or the pay-to-play way. We’ll take a look at both.

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Getting Started with TikTok Marketing for Ed Institutions

Marketing Rule No. 1: Be where your target demographic is. If your audience skews toward ages 16 to 24, then your audience is on TikTok. Know anyone focused on this market? We thought so.

TikTok is no longer exclusively a place for teens to post cutesy dance videos. When done correctly, this A-list short-form video platform is the perfect way for institutions to connect with prospective and current students in a format that makes sense to them. There’s a reason, after all, why TikTok is the first non-Facebook app to achieve 3 billion global downloads.

Your job: it’s all about getting the user experience right. If your university or private high school is not already on TikTok, we have to ask, why not?

Wait, we can probably answer that! Is it staffing shortages? (That's another blog post altogether).

We’ll go further out on the limb and suggest you may be struggling with developing a strategy for the platform (what behaviors are you trying to push?) and the challenge of creative execution (who has time to create all that fun stuff?). You know this already: TikTok is no place for drab, factual, instructional content.

You probably know this as well (or at least have sense of it): TikTok has 1 billion monthly active users, making it one of the fastest-growing social networks globally. It also has 50 million daily active users in the US, meaning 18.68% of Americans log into TikTok every day.

Due to its eerily intelligent algorithm pushing content onto its “For You” discovery feed (the page you see when you fire up the app), it’s easier than you may think for new viewers (aka prospective students) to discover your institution’s account. To boot, content created for TikTok can be repurposed for Instagram Reels, Twitter, and other platforms, making it a time-effective investment.

Read on to learn how your enrollment marketing team can develop and execute a savvy TikTok strategy that will get you noticed and help boost your enrollment…

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Getting Started With Building an Audience

In the higher education space, your institution is competing with so many options that prospective students have. We know that most students attend a university within 50 miles of their home while large state institutions and the elite options have a stronger draw from coast to coast and beyond.

With these realities in mind, today we consider a foundational marketing goal: building a receptive audience so you can nurture prospective students from the point of awareness and inquiry to enrollment, no matter where they reside.

To state the obvious: virtual tours and informational webinars have taken on a bigger role (fewer campus visits), so a robust and engaging digital presence has never been more important to your recruitment process. Has your team evaluated and adjusted your approach to the student journey? Meeting them where they are in each step of their decision-making process?

We’ve offered a number of educational posts on student journey mapping processes you may want to read (for reference: our recent series Tracing the Student Journey Part 1 and Part 2).

We'll be talking about these enrollment management and student recruiting approaches and so much more at #NAFSA22 in just a few weeks. Let us know if you'd like to schedule a coffee with one of our team. We are leading 4 NAFSA sessions this year and one of them received the honor of being selected for live broadcast. Watch this space for details and we hope you can join us.

For now, read on for our top recommendations on how to build an audience online.

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Text Message Marketing for Universities and High Schools

Surveys from Mongoose (a popular SMS provider) tell us that a full 80% of students want to receive text messages from academic institutions. The caveat: they only want messages that matter. No fluff. We get it. We bet you do, too. And, the return on well-executed texts is more than worth the careful content planning effort.

SMS marketing is proving to be a direct, cost-effective way to recruit and retain students. If your institution hasn’t explored SMS marketing, now is the best time to start. It’s a little like the question, “When is the best time to start exercising?” The answer is always, now!

For those of you in the know, Slate added text messaging in early 2020 as one of their marketing features. There’s a reason for that. Important to note that the feature will not allow you to send messages through WhatsApp at this point.

Read on for the answers to Why do it? How to get started? And, what are the best practices for effective execution? The short answer: spot on content drives results.

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Spotlight on Your Institution’s Student-First Approach

We recently talked with students past and present from Vietnam to Bangladesh and heard encouraging stories.

  • A professor hand-delivered a recommendation during the early phase of the pandemic.
  • A class specifically designed around a student’s pursuits.
  • A helpful phone call to a trusted member of the international student services team when tragedy struck.

Stories that embody the kind of student-first experience we all imagine we provide to our students. It’s the kind of experience we certainly all tell the world of prospective students (and parents) that we will deliver.

The reality, unfortunately, is often quite different. Blame branding or the bottom line (lack of resources), but the undeniable truth is that competing priorities often win out over the well-founded ideal of student-first. 

Today’s post is not a how-to on making your website user-friendly. Today we put a spotlight on the policies and actions that put students first. We’re looking at what is undermining your institutional integrity and how you can address it. And trust us, students are well aware of how well your institution delivers on the promise of student-first. And they tell stories. So, yes, this post is enrollment marketing-focused.

When you delight, they gush with positive word-of-mouth support. And when you fail, they tell that story too.

To offer deep perspective on this topic, in addition to our own experience, we tapped a few colleagues who know more than a thing or two about fostering the student-first mindset:

  • David Hautanen, Vice President for Enrollment Management at St. Mary's College of Maryland
  • Jessica Sandberg, Dean of International Enrollment Management at Duke Kunshan University
  • Jewell Green Winn, Senior International Officer of International Affairs at Tennessee State University (and newly appointed chair of AIEA)
  • Brad Farnsworth, Principal of Fox Hollow Advisory and former Vice President at the American Council for Education (ACE)

They each had great perspective on the subject. We are so appreciative of their time and the insights shared. You, our readers, are the beneficiaries of their wisdom.  

Read on to learn concrete actions you can take now to help ensure your enrollment program is student-first. Is this post a good one to share with your leadership? Uhm, yes.

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Recruiting Intel Digest: The Most Useful Stuff from Q4 2021

Wrapping up 2021 was no easy feat. We’ve seen student enrollment numbers fall, rise, and flatten with the evolving worldwide pandemic that is COVID-19. More than a few in our field are burned out and trying hard to muster the energy to figure out how to bring their students the best experience possible.

We’re right there with you, wherever you are. Time to turn our focus to what we’ve learned from our recent experiences. Settle in for a Q4 wrap up of the info that can help you shape your 2022-23 plans. From strategy to tactics like chatbots and student recruitment platforms we know all of this will be up your ally.

Read on for our quarterly recap of Intead resources available to you — Q4, all in one place.
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Getting Started With Chatbots

Over the past decade, chatbots have become more accessible and less expensive to universities. By incorporating an AI-powered chatbot into your website, applicants, students, and parents can find answers to their questions instantaneously. Institutions also demonstrate that they have the tech-savviness necessary to educate Gen Z and Millennial students.

The upcoming AIRC conference in Miami will have great learning opportunities on tech tools like chatbots as well as the usual range of international student recruitment insights from all corners of the globe. The Intead team is excited to present alongside our colleagues from Fordham University, Northeastern University, and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science. Please be in touch to schedule a meeting with us at the event. 

Our recent presentation at the CIEE Summit offered up perspective on global partnerships and how they support an institution’s larger internationalization effort. Find some of that perspective here: 10 Ways to Develop Strategic Advantage for Enrollment. We are working on providing access to the full recording and slide deck.

Back to the chatbot discussion: with today’s conversational chatbots, you are creating the user experience your important site visitors have come to expect as they traverse the internet every day. It is all about building the relationships that drive enrollment conversion.

Read on for a breakdown of what you’ll want to consider.

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2 Ways to Get Gen Z

It is wonderful to see a number of institutions touting strong, even incredible, increases in applications for their fall 2021 enrollment. And then the crowing over the record number of students actually enrolling. These successes are fabulous, for sure.

Yet, NCES data just released, with about 50% of all institutions reporting, shows the broader, less rosy picture. Most institutions saw average enrollment declines of around 3% (or worse) in various student segments.

Those few who are cheering, and the larger number of enrollment managers furrowing their brows, are evaluating all of this in the context of what happened in fall 2020 when so many institutions saw frightening and dramatic declines. Bigger than the enrollment blips that 2020 and 2021 represent is, of course, the enrollment cliff predicted for 2025/2026. How are institutions preparing for the challenges ahead?

We’ve seen an increasing number of institutions re-evaluating the game plan and getting very concerned about whether or not they appeal to Gen Z. It is a valid question. An important question. And here’s the thing: marketing agencies everywhere are making the most of that question in ways that can be highly misleading – the level of exaggeration coming from the marketing world prompts a bit of an eyeroll.

Sure, the decision-making process has differences today, but honestly, it is more the same than it is different. Not saying institutions seeking to attract and enroll students don’t need to adjust. They do.

Note: We recently presented an AIRC-hosted webinar alongside Technion Israel Institute of Technology talking about digital marketing and Gen Z that is now available to subscribers to our Intead Plus library.

Read on for insights on two important avenues for getting Gen Z to think more seriously about your institution. And join us at the AIRC conference in Miami in December where there will be plenty of talk on this topic.

A key idea: re-evaluate the hoops you make applicants jump through.

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Harnessing the Influence of Your Brand Ambassadors

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.

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Do You Speak Gen Z? Part 2

Today's focus? Gen Z career aspirations and values. According to a recent study, over 50% of Gen Zers have their sights set on one single career plan.

Any guesses?

Let's just say, there are certain practical skill-building programs that might deserve more of your investment. More on that in a moment.


Boarding High Schools Take Note

Intead will be presenting tips and best practices for online recruiting along with TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools). "Recruitment Reimagined: Lessons from Higher Ed" -- online tools, digital campaign case studies, concrete results, great forum discussion. Specifically for private high school administrators. Wed, 10/28/20 at 3pm Eastern Time. Register HERE.


Last week we shared three key Gen Z traits to guide your recruitment marketing strategy.

This week we're diving a little deeper into the messaging part of enrollment management and student recruitment marketing. 

As usual, if any of the following insights get those marketing gears turning, we're here to talk. This is all just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to engaging and converting this new audience, and we'd love to learn about how your institution is evolving to meet the unique needs of Gen Z.

Plus, if you want to learn even more from us at the AIRC Conference, read on for the scoop. 

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