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Recruiting Intelligence

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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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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State of Higher Education 2022: Top 5 Takeaways

Your campus may feel a little cozier this fall as housing units start to fill up again. Welcome news, right?

The enrollment dip we’ve been living through could rebound to pre-pandemic levels, meaning we may see nearly 1 million more enrolled students aged 18-24 in 2022 than in 2021. This is according to analytics giant Gallup.

Likely your team is seeing a positive shift in inquiry and applications. (No? Then be in touch).

The big question still is whether all that activity results in actual enrollments. There is reason to be skeptical at many institutions.

In Gallup’s recently issued The State of Higher Education 2022 Report, done in partnership with Lumina Foundation, we see some interesting results. The central goal of their work: to help inform institutions how to better support current and prospective students. The survey included adults aged 18+ who have completed high school and are living in the US.

Many survey participants are currently pursuing a degree, others unenrolled from their certificate or degree program since Covid. Many others are prospective students who never enrolled in a certificate or degree program after high school.

We are thrilled to have these insights in advance of #NAFSA22 to inform our discussions with all of you. If you’ve not yet scheduled a meeting with us at the conference, please be in touch quickly. Our schedule is nearly filled up. You’ll be receiving a summary of our 4 NAFSA don’t-wanna-miss-em presentations by email.

From Gallup, we took special note of the finding that despite the many (many) disruptions caused by the pandemic, US adults (aged 18-29) remain interested in pursuing higher education. There have been many stories of the growing anit-higher ed sentiment. So how do we lock in on those with high intent?

If you haven’t read the report, it’s one you won’t want to miss. Read on for a link to the report and the top 5 takeaways we think will be the most valuable to your team…

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New Market Entry: Key Benchmarks for Student Recruitment Initiatives

"Where else should we be?"

This question comes up consistently in our workshops, webinars, and client conversations,

The reality: you’ve been wanting to diversify your recruitment efforts for years. Until the pandemic and the latest global political wrangling made recruiting from China problematic, your leadership wouldn’t listen. Now they will and they’re wondering why you hadn’t diversified earlier. 🙄

China and India have always been safe bets for international student recruitment. Of the nearly 1 million international students in the US, 34.7% are from #1 student sender China and 18.3% from #2 India, per the latest Open Doors data. #3 South Korea claims a distant 4.3%.

Despite Covid, these sources of international students in the US remain front and center.

If the majority of your recruitment efforts are focused on China and India, well, we get it. Your leadership team is comfortable investing where they feel safe and is typically fearful of starting something new. These markets are proven and for the most part steady, pandemics notwithstanding. But should all your eggs be in these two baskets?

Of course not.

Relying on only one or two markets for the majority of your international student intake leaves your institution vulnerable to market fluctuations. For most institutions, that strategy does not align with the overarching mission of diversifying your student body. It only aligns with the revenue side of the equation.

Here’s the thing: you relied heavily on those two markets because of the significant challenges of identifying and succeeding in a new market. How do you even do that?

[Side Note: maybe you’ll want to start with our country comparison cheat sheet]

So, let’s suppose you’ve done the market research analysis and you’ve found a new market (or two). How do you know if you’ve selected the right one(s)? How do you evaluate your investments in these new markets since they don’t behave like the markets where you already have experience?

You know it will take patience, too, as most institutions won’t yield real results until 2+ years of targeted recruiting and nurturing. Will your institutional leadership give you enough time to prove the effort? Or will they see the lack of traction after year one and pull the plug? (You’ve seen that before, we know).

This is where identifying effective benchmarks can help you set expectations and make the case for sustained investment.

We’ll be talking about this and so much more at #NAFSA2022 in Denver this month. Be in touch to set up a meeting with us. And please join us for one of our four interactive NAFSA presentations where we are honored to share the dais with our colleagues from Benedict College, San Diego State University, Clark University, Northeastern University, CIEE, ICEF, and GNET.

Read on to learn how you can tell which new markets are a good idea to enter and how to know if early recruitment efforts are likely to create the traction you need over time. Use these benchmarks to create your plan and set leadership expectations.

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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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What’s the Story Behind Your Data? Part 2

Last week we shared stories of clients’ unexpected results from our analysis derived from data they had on hand. Insights that helped them improve their enrollment management and enhance recruitment channels they didn’t even know they had.

Success comes from translating your data into insights that point to actionable tasks to improve your operation, and your results. 

This is work that Patricia Tozzi, our Chief Strategy Officer, engages in every day with our team. In Part 2 of this blog series, she discusses more actionable steps around data translation. Those of you who have worked with her have seen the results. This week we focus on where to start.

Side note: if you’ll be attending the 2022 AIEA conference in New Orleans (Feb 20-23), be in touch and we’ll find time for a coffee and an exchange of ideas.

Read on for Patricia’s take on finding meaningful data and putting it to work…

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