6 Digital Trends You Can No Longer Ignore in Higher Education Marketing

Carnegie Higher Ed Aug 08, 2019 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

Search Engine Marketing, paid social media advertising, and mobile advertising have all been staples of our digital marketing plans for almost two decades. The landscape of digital advertising is constantly evolving, and as marketers, we need to keep up with the trends in order to remain competitive. For higher education marketers determined to keep ahead of the pack, here are six digital marketing trends that colleges and universities can no longer ignore.

1. Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior. The power of AI is real and has tremendous potential across all areas of campus. From enrollment marketing and admission to student and academic affairs, artificial intelligence can help us do our jobs smarter and serve students better.

Think about the potential impact: as an admission practitioner, AI can give you more precise information about which students to target and which ones have the highest likelihood to apply, enroll, and graduate from your institution. It can also help areas like student and academic affairs by being able to foresee patterns that might indicate students at risk. Enrollment marketers can also tap into the machine learning power of Google, Facebook, and others, allowing us to digitally target prospective students even more precisely. We can utilize features like Google’s smart bidding to maximize our spend on the conversions that matter most or use machine learning to better understand user behavior and intent in order to serve ads to the most engaged audiences and those most likely to respond.

2. Chatbots

Powered by artificial intelligence, chatbots are a computer program that emulates human conversation. Chatbots range from functional to fun and can have huge benefits for higher ed communication. Because chatbots aren’t powered by humans, they never sleep and are available to answer students’ questions 24/7. An admissions chatbot could provide answers about application forms, deadlines, or enrollment processes, while your financial aid chatbot could answer FAFSA, scholarship, or tuition-related inquiries. They can be created for any department to field frequently asked questions. The best part? Machine learning gets smarter over time, providing even more accurate answers that improve the “customer” experience exponentially.

3. Voice search and smart speakers

Today, 20% of mobile queries on Google are done through voice search. By 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice searches. This is an increasingly important part of the student search journey and one that you need to be ready and optimized for. 

A good way to see how you are doing on speaker assistants like Google Home, Alexa, or mobile voice search is simply to act like a student. Use your devices to ask questions one might ask in natural speech, then assess the position of your pages and tweak content as needed. The changes you make could be small, but the potential impact for your school could be transformative. Here are some easy things you can do immediately to prepare your website for the rise of voice search.

4. Personalization

If you want to set yourself apart from your competition, you need to get personalized. That means personalized marketing, customized content, dynamic websites, tailored emails, and more. With stats like 90% of marketers believing personalization is the future and 74% of customers saying they get frustrated when content has nothing to do with them, you cannot ignore this digital marketing trend. 

There are so many ways to segment your students to help you deliver customized emails or provide dynamic messaging on your website based on a student’s interest and journey. Delivering personalized content has become a baseline expectation of prospective and current students, and it’s a trend you need to follow immediately.

5. Video marketing

Video is an emotional lens that words simply aren’t, and we know this plays a key role in the enrollment journey. Video ads trigger emotional responses that tend to move students forward in their college decision-making process. Short-form videos can pack a big punch with your digital advertising and also on your website. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that video just means YouTube. Video can be used as part of your digital ad creative on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn too. 

You don’t have to worry about holding expensive video shoots to make this happen either. Simply grab an iPhone and you’ll be surprised by all the versatile video footage you can capture.

6. Streaming media and OTT

With the evolution of “cord cutters,” students and parents are consuming TV and broadcast programming less through traditional cable and more through modern digital streaming services. Streaming media platforms present great advertising opportunities for higher education marketers and allow for precision targeting in a way traditional TV and radio could never deliver—including OTT. 

OTT, which stands for “over the top,” is video content streamed directly from the internet to laptops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs. Your ads can be shown before, during, or after the content the viewer has chosen to watch. Additionally, OTT allows for hyper-targeting to ensure your message gets in front of the right people. With the steady rise of streaming media, higher ed marketers should consider carving a little bit of their traditional ad spend budget to test the OTT waters—you will be very pleased with the ROI and trackability of those dollars spent.

Keep ahead of the curve of digital marketing

As digital marketers today, we have more ability than ever to target the right students, communicate more effectively, and deliver a better student journey. To stay ahead of the curve, you’ll need to get comfortable utilizing AI-powered technology, get better at creating customized content, leverage videos across all your channels, and be smarter about reaching a more targeted audience. These are now the new norms we can no longer ignore in 2019. If you’re not embracing them, be careful, because your competition might be.

Want to learn more about these digital trends? Check out our other blogs on the rise of video in higher education marketing, or learn more about how to reach cord cutters with OTT advertising.

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