2018 is already a year of disruption, and now generational and technological shifts are poised to present the education marketing professionals with unique challenges. Today’s students are unlike any in the past, and marketing must change with them in order to stay relevant. Here are three of the most important changes to education marketing in 2018.
The exact line between Millennials and Gen Z is a bit blurry, but the younger generation is perhaps best understood as those who were born after 1995. There’s a key difference between the generations that’s mentioned wherever topic is brought up. Millennials are touted as “optimistic,” while Generation Z is “practical.” As Generation Z moves to become the next massive college-going group, the optimistic will move aside for the practical, and education marketing will have to adapt.
Let’s take a quick look at the generation poised to disrupt a number of industries — including higher education.
Generation Z is the largest living generation, and their impact on higher education cannot be understated. In many ways, Generation Z approach education as a response to the experience of Millennials — who got degrees and debt, but struggled to find jobs. This young generation is pragmatic and financially conservative. In fact, 56% worry about getting a job after college, and 48% cite student debt as a financial concern. Generation Z is looking for an education with good ROI, not just an experience.
Generation Z is also tech-balanced. They were born into a world of devices and communication apps. They know what tools are available to them at any given time — but they also know when it is time for face-to-face communication and real-life experiences.
All this adds up to the desire for an authentic and realistic marketing experience. Gen Z knows all about advertising and marketing online, and they’ll automatically disregard that which doesn’t live up to their expectations of relevance and legitimacy. They do expect to be marketed to — that isn’t the question, rather, it is whether the marketing effort speaks to them in a way that makes them want to listen.
One of the ways this is best achieved is with…
Young people lack experience. Contrary to popular belief, however, most young people are very aware of this. One of the most effective ways they make up for this insufficient experience is with the crowd-sourced opinions and impressions of their peers.
Review sites, social media, and word of mouth are hugely important to the modern higher education shopper. The desire for legitimate, unbiased, and relevant information drives shoppers to learn from one another. The types of content that will prove most effective in education marketing are those that offer an authentic and realistic experience that students feel is representative of reality and relevant to them.
As an institution of higher learning, one of the best marketing sources you have available are your own students, graduates, and evangelists. User-generated content is a highly effective form of social proof that can be leveraged to more effectively market your institution.
As of Spring 2018, Between Rihanna’s negative comments and a major UI change prompting a Change.org petition, Snapchat has been losing users rapidly to Instagram. This doesn’t mean that Snapchat should be abandoned, but it does mean that your ephemeral content creation shouldn’t be confined to just one platform. Young audiences are constantly shifting from platform to platform, and your marketing and advertising should be moving with them. Here’s how to get started:
One of the best ways to encourage the creation of UGC is to create and market your college or university’s specific hashtag. You can then distribute the hashtag among your marketing communications, with calls to action encouraging the use. Support these efforts with social and video ads featuring your hashtag.
To get your hashtag started, or increase the frequency of use around specific dates, you can put on promotions that reward social engagement. For example, if Anytown University wanted to emphasize happy graduates, they could begin a promotion in which graduated students who post a picture to Instagram with the hashtag #MyAnytownStory will be entered to win a 3-day “Happy Graduation” trip to Disneyland.
Prepare your marketing for the year by coming up with some of your campaigns before-hand. School events, holidays, recurring traditions, and general themes can all have specific types of UGC associated with them. Naturally, your plans for user generated content on if you are an online institution or have a physical campus.
There are new hashtags and mini-movements cropping up on Instagram and Twitter on a daily basis. If you want to keep your marketing flexible, leave room for capitalizing on these events as they form. A minor warning: be careful before bandwagoning — make sure a hashtag is what you think it is, and won’t land your institution in any hot water.
Video marketing and advertising is possibly the most important type of messaging. Highly accessible and easily digestible, video makes it simple to get your message out to more people more efficiently.
In education marketing, video content is particularly well positioned to be the ideal form for your messaging to younger generations. In fact, Gen Z’ers often prefer video content. 85% of students reported that they watched an online video to learn a new skill in the past week. Students are already accessing new skills in the form of video content. YouTube’s Trueview ads, for example, can target these students who are focused on improving their skills online, and draw their attention to the opportunities available at your institution.
Similar to video content, ephemeral content is a growing and important trend for education marketing in 2018. Ephemeral content — content that only exists for a short period, was popularized by apps like Snapchat and seized upon with great success by Facebook-owned Instagram.
Ephemeral content is so widely popular for a number of reasons. Happily, these also make it an exceptionally effective form of marketing.
With ephemeral content, authenticity is evident. The polished look of many traditional advertisements is enough to make some users shut out the message entirely, but the here-one-minute, gone-the-next nature of content like Snapchat videos or Instagram Stories allows brands to represent themselves differently.
Ephemeral content also has the major benefit of humanizing brands and professionals. Beyond your own institution’s Snaps and Stories, you can reach out to members of your institution to build a more solid social presence. Arm your professors, deans, or higher level administrators with the tools to create ephemeral content and get connected with your students.
Another major benefit of ephemeral marketing is its ability to be outsourced. Combine your ephemeral marketing and advertising with user-generated content by designating social media student ambassadors to create ephemeral content in the name of your intuition.
Keep in mind that not all your marketing should be shifted over to video and ephemeral content. There is still an important place for written content and more traditional display advertisements. Written content is still important to those considering higher education. After all, as fun and flashy as video content is, it might not be answering some of the bigger or more complex questions that your users have. In fact, one study found that 64% of college prospects would rather read a college website’s content than have the message delivered via video. Make sure that the important information you want to make available to your students is delivered in all forms of communication.
Education marketing is changing rapidly, and not all institutions will be able to keep up. Students aren’t interested in the traditional; they’re interested in what works. If your marketing doesn’t work for them, they aren’t interested. The above are a few things to look out for in 2018 as education shifts, but this isn’t a comprehensive list. Be always on the lookout for the latest disruption to education marketing — or make it easy on yourself and follow our newsletter.