Bolstering Outreach In Education Through Digital Marketing How leaders in education can use digital marketing to boost student recruitment.

By Claire Roper-Browning

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As something that started out as just face-to-face interactions with prospective students locally, student recruitment is now a deeply complex -as well as hugely competitive- business that includes tailored marketing plans, target segmentation, and a global approach to attract prospective students. And to extend outreach to students locally and beyond, digital marketing has become a key component of this outreach, and it has assumed a crucial role in the last few years, especially considering the unique challenges that schools and higher education have faced with the transition to online learning.

Digital marketing has helped schools reach out to students, parents, and other stakeholders with relevant information about online learning programs, course offerings, and schedules. While recruiters traditionally attracted new students through on-campus events and tours as well as in high schools and local communities, now, online activities are key to extending outreach to students from different segments, geographies, and more. However, with digital marketing constantly evolving, educational institutions need to be able to keep up with the latest trends and techniques; plus, they need to have a solid understanding of their target audience to be able to tailor their marketing efforts accordingly. In this backdrop, here are three tips that can help digital marketeers within the education sector:

To bolster outreach to students, a well-defined digital marketing strategy that outlines the university's goals, target audience, key messaging, and platforms is key. This strategy should align with the university's brand and values. The first step is to identify the objectives of digital marketing efforts. Common goals include brand awareness, boosting enrollment in specific programs, and enhancing engagement with prospective students. Secondly, it's important to define the target audience according to factors such as age, location, academic interests, and demographics. Understanding the target audience helps tailor your messaging and content to resonate with them. Thirdly, it's important to select the appropriate digital platforms based on where the target audience spends their time. This could include social media platforms, search engines, email, websites, and other online communities. For example, a study by Pew Research in 2021 shows that Instagram was the most used platform among youth between the ages of 18 and in the U.S., reaching 71%. As usage patterns continue to shift, it's important that digital marketeers regularly look up data patterns.

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Content marketing is a crucial component of a university's digital marketing strategy, as it involves creating and sharing valuable, relevant, and engaging content to attract and engage the target audience. The key to effective content marketing is addressing the needs and interests of the respective target audience through researching their pain points, questions, and interests to create content that resonates with them. For example, prospective students are usually interested in information about majors, application tips, scholarships, and campus culture. For example, a study by AECC Global, an international education consultancy, shows that Indian students seek degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees such as business, management, mathematics, or computer science. Therefore, universities who are targeting Indian students interested in STEM should ensure highlighting these subjects as part of their content strategy.

Measurement and analytics play a crucial role in evaluating the effectiveness of your university's digital marketing efforts. Before tracking KPIs, digital marketeers should ensure they have clear benchmarks and goals for their digital marketing efforts. This could involve determining the desired percentage increase in website traffic, a target conversion rate, or a specific number of leads generated. By tracking KPIs, marketeers can gain insights into how well their strategies are performing, and make informed decisions to optimize their campaigns. This includes monitoring website traffic to specific pages like program pages, admissions information, and campus tour pages. It also involves tracking metrics like bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page), time on site, and pages per session to gauge how engaged visitors are with the content. Most importantly, the insights gained from analytics can help refine marketing strategies over time.

For example, if universities find that certain channels are performing exceptionally well in attracting students, they could allocate more resources to this area. In today's dynamic landscape within education, digital marketing has emerged as a transformative force in expanding student outreach. By harnessing the power of tailored content, strategic social media engagement, and data-driven insights, universities can effectively connect with their target audience. Through a comprehensive digital strategy, institutions can showcase their unique offerings, engage with prospective students on various platforms, and measure success through key performance indicators. As the digital realm continues to evolve, embracing these methods not only augments student engagement, but also paves the way for a more inclusive and impactful educational landscape.

Related: Dubai Chamber Of Digital Economy Launches The App Olympics To Advance Dubai's Digital Ecosystem

Claire Roper-Browning is the Regional Director of Marketing, Recruitment, Admissions and Communications at Heriot-Watt University Dubai.

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