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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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Not Rocket Science

Global student recruitment, finding student segments domestically and abroad, is simply not rocket science.

We know the processes and don't need another generic report about what students are thinking and how important parents are to the process. If new student mobility trend data of significance emerges (thank you IIE and National Clearinghouse), you can count on us to evaluate it and report on it. But, most of the reports we are seeing right now from marketing agencies (like us) are rehashing everything we already know.

And annoyingly, they are somehow pointing to their nothing new findings as revelatory. Wut?

So, let’s get to work plotting out the work and bringing the successful results we all want.

The Formula: custom research on your differentiators, your strongest recruitment options (countries/regions), and messaging that engages your target audience on the channels they use.

That’s really about it. That’s what we need. Oh, and to do it successfully, that actually requires investment, technology, and expertise.

So...yes, trend analysis because decision making actually did change since 2019 - safety, cost, the value of education overall, visa issues - all much more significant. These factors existed before the pandemic, before the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, and the ever-horrific state of gun violence in the US. Not new info. All of these factors have been on students’ and parents’ minds for a while. Yours too, right?

And yet, international students continue to find value in a US education and the experience of living and studying in the US. And as they make their decisions, all the things we see in the latest reports and infographics about student mobility trends say essentially the same things we’ve seen for more than a decade.

Reputation matters. Rank matters (more in some regions than others). Career connections matter, parent opinions matter, etc., etc., etc. Tedious findings touted as new, ground-breaking, must-have trend analysis.

Read on for a few student influencers that are actually rising to the top of students' decision-making criteria, and more importantly, what all of this means for your institution's recruitment planning. 

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International Student Rebound: IIE’s Latest Survey

The near-term forecast: sunnier skies for international student recruitment.

That’s according to the “Spring 2022 Snapshot on International Educational Exchange” by the Institute of International Education (IIE). The long-running Snapshot series is part of IIE’s efforts to map the effects of notable current events on international educational exchange to and from the US. This latest release, which analyzes a full 559 institutions that completed the survey, includes the effect of COVID-19 as well as the war in Ukraine.

Look, every time the US suffers a drop due to anti-immigrant rhetoric out of Washington, policies that hinder work opportunities for international graduates, or less controllable obstacles like pandemics and international conflicts, each time these serious situations emerge, there are prognosticators predicting the end of US recruiting strength.

Every year, for more than a decade, at least one-third of US institutions saw a decline in their international student population. During the pandemic, that pain was spread much, much further, and deeper.

The past decade has been full of ups and downs and the US continues to find a welcome international audience despite it all. Opportunities for growth are out there for those institutions willing to put in the effort and make the investment.

Four key findings surfaced from the latest IIE report:

  • #1 Most international students studied in person on US campuses in spring 2022.
  • #2 US colleges and universities are supporting international students during the Ukraine crisis.
  • #3 International student applications continued to increase.
  • #4 In-person study abroad rebounds.

Offering up a few road signs to point you in the right direction

A report is just a report until you put it to use. Read on to better understand how you can use the survey to bolster your recruitment strategy this fall as well as learn what others are already doing.

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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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Recruiting Intel Digest: The Most Useful Stuff from Q2 2022

…and that’s a wrap for Q2 ‘22. While personally there were a few bumps along the way (thanks Covid for yanking #NAFSA2022 out from under me!), overall, the industry’s mood is decidedly improved over this time last year. Cautiously so, anyway.

Recent news we are following says that language programs are starting to recover from huge pandemic losses. Middle Eastern adults/executives are showing up first. As we know, language programs often act as canaries in the coal mine falling or rising in advance of fuller degree/certificate programs.

We bet you likely didn’t catch all of our posts this spring, admissions season being what it is – busy. Not to worry, we’ve compiled a few we think you won’t want to miss. Read on for our quarterly recap of the most valuable news from Q2 2022 and the Intead resources available to you.

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Some College, No Credential, Open Opportunity

Consider the fact that postsecondary institutions have lost nearly 1.3 million students over the course of the past two years. And last year over 940,000 “Some College, No Credential” students re-enrolled. Do the math.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center issued its latest “Some College, No Credential Student Outcomes” report, and the numbers are as you may expect. Large.

Based on July 2020 headcount, the NSC shows there are now 39 million people who can claim some-college, no-credential (SCNC) status—up 8.6% from 2019. In real-time, though, we are confident those numbers are even higher.

Look, we don’t need to tell you that we just wrapped up the fifth consecutive semester of declining student yield. After all, you’re knee-deep in recruitment expectations right now. And those of us working with the undergrad population, well, we’re down about 1.4 million students since 2020.

We are all feeling that and struggling with how all those predictive models seem to be anything but predictive right now. Weren’t they supposed to help us all hone in on growth? A few assumptions there need to be recalibrated.

But, there’s a story in this latest data that may be more optimistic than the doomsday headlines would suggest. Per various pundits’ predictions, a recovery rise in enrollment is on the horizon along with the demographic shift that points to an overall decline in the number of high school graduates. The SCNC crowd represents a significant opportunity that is so often overlooked as traditional recruitment efforts focus on the fresh out of high school crowd.

For the SCNC segment (a rather large segment that requires further segmentation -- they are not one block with common traits), it’s a matter of finding them and presenting your institution’s distinct opportunities to them. They clearly have different motivators and a different decision-making timelines than high school graduates.

Taking a closer look at the National Student Clearinghouse SCNC report – the third in a series – you’ll find that it quantifies the population growth of this large student subset and identifies levels of opportunity for re-engaging these one-time students. Sound interesting? It should if you’re looking to boost enrollment.

Unlike previous reports, this one tracks:

  • Re-enrollment (students who hold a valid enrollment record)
  • First credential (those earning their first-ever credential during the first academic year of stopping out)
  • Perseverance (indicated by continuous enrollment after re-enrolling in 2019/20).

So, lots of good stuff.

For our key takeaways on SCNC prospects including best-bet recruitment opportunities, read on. And for actionable inspiration on how to woo this important crowd, check out our ebook: Quality. Cost. Convenience.”

What others are saying: This must-read primer will help anyone looking to better position their institution within today’s complex and competitive recruitment landscape. This is your guide to adapting to the new competitive environment.

~ Dr. David DiMaria, Senior International Officer & Associate Vice Provost, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
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#NAFSA2022 Takeaways: Intead’s NAFSA 2022 Slides Now Available

The most common topics of conversation throughout #NAFSA2022:

  • So much is in flux right now globally and central to it all: China is not what it used to be. When will China come back?
  • The proliferation of tech tools for student recruitment is overwhelming. They all promise great things and we’ve seen these promises before. Which ones should I evaluate? Will they actually work? How do I know?
  • Boosting yield on applications is a struggle, especially with my team’s limitations on time, experience, and skills. We are understaffed to make this stuff work.
  • I need to find ways to make JEDI efforts more impactful in my recruiting programs and on my campus. 

These issues are being discussed in forums far beyond the NAFSA conference. How we tackle these topics will affect immediate and long-term recruitment priorities for all of us doing this work.

Intead’s NAFSA presentations addressed much of this. A BIG thank you to our amazing collaborators and colleagues from Benedict College, San Diego State University, Clark University, Northeastern University, CIEE, ICEF, and GNET.

Whether or not you were able to attend our live sessions, we’re making our presentations available to you. We think you’ll find them valuable resources as you move into the 2023-24 recruitment cycle. And where the slides don’t give you all the context you need, reach out with your questions.

In the meantime, read on to download our decks.

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The Lament That Goes Nowhere: A New Perspective

As I sat out most of the #NAFSA2022 conference in my Denver hotel room due to a positive covid test the day after I arrived, I worked the phone, email, and social media to keep as many balls in the air as possible. From my 34th floor room across the street from the real action, I provided helpful reports on Downtown Denver traffic patterns ; -)

If you missed our Big 10 Digital Campaign Case Study download, you'll want to grab that here. We ran out of the handouts at NAFSA but PDFs are forever!

During NAFSA, what I missed most, what I regret, is simply those moments when the Intead team is presenting and the NAFSA crowd is clearly taking in new ideas and sharing their excitement about how digital marketing, new tools, and deep insights into target audience decision-making (the stuff of real marketing: voice of the customer) all come together to create successful recruiting initiatives.

Despite what I did NOT get out of the conference, the Intead team (Patricia Tozzi + Iliana Joaquin on-site, and Rachel Trahan behind the scenes) took all matters into their own hands bringing their usual level of amazing. Meanwhile, I sat in my hotel room patching into all the important chats by phone and trying to avoid feeling pathetic.

There is a theme that has been running across international student conferences for many years, and #NAFSA2022 was no exception. It is a lament one often hears from department leads – in most institutions and across all industries. It is the cry of the under-resourced. The “If they only knew how important our work is" dirge.

These department chairs and administrative leaders are frustrated by colleagues and bosses up the chain who somehow do not recognize the value represented by the real work being done and the outcomes produced.

  • “How do they think they will get the growth outcomes they want if they don’t support us?”
  • “Why are they not seeing or valuing our success? Our potential? How hard we work?”
  • “Why do the resources always go to those guys?” (read: domestic marketing)

So, we get it. Your department needs more funding. For marketing collateral, for digital media buys, for tech tools and analytics. For more hands to simply do the work.

But, let’s turn the questions around. Read on for new perspectives on these longtime frustrations…

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Improving Student Yield: A Big 10 Campaign Case Study

Day One of #NAFSA2022 and it just feels so good to be back together. Optimism is in the air. The social media chatter among our colleagues here is exuberant.

Even if you’re not in Denver this week, we bet your office is feeling the energy of an industry that is projected to grow by as many as 1 million students globally next year. Sure, that growth is more of a rebound, but it’s welcome news nonetheless.

As the tsunami of NAFSA conversations washes over us, the buzz is all about diversifying source countries and everyone is wondering about the best way to go about it.

You, too? Right, because China.

We’re always happy to help lend insight into these international student recruitment conversations based on our global market research and recent client experiences. Often that’s best done through real-world case studies that speak directly to the need to diversify enrollment and improve yield. Today we release our most recent case study diving into a really successful international digital campaign we recently ran for a US Midwest Big 10 research institution.

Let’s meet in person!

If you’re at NAFSA this week, be in touch. We will absolutely do our best to fit in another meeting while in Denver. You’ll see Ben, Patricia, and Iliana racing from our presentations to a bunch of IEM sessions and all those networking events and 1:1 meetings.

Our 2022 can’t miss sessions:

In the meantime, read on to download our latest Big 10 case study all about improving undergraduate yield.

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New Book Review: The Real World of College

Like you, we spend a lot of time getting into the mindset of students. We need to understand their behavior, their decision making process, by region, by study interest, by age and other demographics.

So, when we read that education luminaries Wendy Fischman and Howard Gardner released a book based on more than 2,000 interviews with higher ed students, alumni, faculty, administrators, parents, trustees, and more, we couldn’t help ourselves. We had to get it.

The book, The Real World of College, What Higher Education Is and What It Can Be, is an analysis of interviews conducted at ten US institutions representative of a range of schools, from the highly selective to the lesser so. For us, the results reveal new insights and confirm long-held beliefs. It’s worth the read for anyone who cares about the student experience, student outcomes, and the long-term viability of our industry.

Reading it through the lens of student recruitment, of course, we’ve gathered key takeaways that can inform the work you’re doing now (recruitment marketing) as well as the longer-term stuff (onboarding, student services, career services, and alumni relations).

Always insight and action-oriented: Below we offer our top 5 takeaways from this great read and importantly, your clear action item for each insight.

Let’s meet in person!

If you’re at NAFSA next week, be in touch. We will absolutely do our best to fit in another meeting while in Denver. You’ll see Ben, Patricia, and Iliana racing from our presentations to a bunch of IEM sessions and all those networking events.

Our 2022 can’t miss sessions:

Read on for our top 5 book review takeaways for your admissions team…

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