By 2020, there will be over 5 million apps in the Apple app store. That is a staggering number. If you enjoy playing games on your phone, you’re probably pumped. But if you’re a professional marketer faced with the job of steering your school’s communications efforts in the right direction you’re probably not so pumped. You’re responsible for choosing the right social media platforms to focus on, deciding which web-dev trend to follow, and constantly chasing your target audience to wherever digital world they have most recently escaped to. Combined with declining enrollment and pressure from above, the modern college communications director is facing a daunting task.
Cut through the clutter: 5 foundational digital strategies you need
Because of the sheer amount of options, there could be any number of channels and tactics that are useful to connect with your audience. If you’ve found something that works for your audience, by all means, continue using it. However, it’s important to step back and get a holistic view of the digital marketing landscape to address any missing elements or bottlenecks that could be hindering your marketing goals. The 5 foundational digital strategies are:
- Website basics
- Paid advertising
- Email nurturing & CRM
- Social media
- Mobile app
While entire tomes could be written on each subject, here’s what you need to know.
At this point, everyone has a website. Yet many colleges are still failing to utilize their site to its full potential. A website should be a lead generation machine that constantly impacts the bottom line. Here are four vital areas that websites often fall short in.
- Easy-to-find: a site that is built to cooperate with current SEO best practices is non-negotiable. If people can’t find your site, it’s going to be difficult to reach you audience through it.
- Easy-to-use: user experience (UX) is an extremely important element. Place the information your visitors want in logical, easily accessible places and format it in easily digestible ways.
- Mobile optimized: all sites must be optimized for mobile. This has a major impact on both a site’s ease-of-use and search engine ranking.
- Clear calls-to-action: a huge function of a website is to provide clear calls-to-action (CTA’s) that will prompt your visitors to take the steps which will lead them further down your decision funnel.
Unfortunately, the old adage “build it and they will come” has not been a viable option for digitally focused marketing communications. Paid advertising, specifically AdWords (advertising on Google’s search engine network) is one of the best ways to draw attention to your site or landing pages. Finding relevant keywords and crafting simple yet effective AdWords campaigns is probably the most efficient way to drive the right traffic to your website.
Once people have visited your site and followed on of your CTA’s by filling out a form for more information, you have their email. This prospect should live in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system where they can be segmented by what they are interested in or at what stage of the decision process they are at. Follow up with emails providing useful information as they research and move toward a decision for education. While these emails should always be based around value you are providing the recipient (relevant information, important notifications, or entertaining content) this is a good place to include more CTA’s to further move them towards a decision.
Social media platforms
“Let’s make something go viral.” If only it was that simple. Unfortunately, that’s an elusive prize to chase. A more effective use of social media comes from auditing your audience, finding your voice, and consistently providing value — hopefully through both entertainment and helpful information. The only way to do this is through developing a plan, sometimes called a playbook. Your social media playbook should describe the voice you’ll use, topics you’ll cover, and a content calendar. An escalation strategy should also be included. Creating great social content requires thoughtful strategy. Within that strategy, leave enough flexibility to capitalize on the latest trends or unique micro-influencers that comes along, but have a big picture strategy in place that can stand alone.
A mobile app
Having a mobile app for your college has now become expected. In fact, some colleges have multiple apps. While this might seem like just another thing for the communications team to worry about, it actually provides incredible opportunity. Imagine offering students who choose not to visit the campus in person the opportunity to take a campus tour via the app. This and many more functions are potentially available through a school app. It’s time to add your school’s app to the 5 million apps that will be available by 2020.
Interested in learning more? Download our ebook "Introduction to inbound for education marketers"
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