3 Emerging Student Personas You Might Be Overlooking

If you’re a higher ed marketer and you’re not targeting these 3 emerging personas, you could be missing out on studnet applications.

As higher education changes, so are the kinds of students that are being attracted to graduate and continuing education programs. To really appeal to these kinds of students, colleges and universities need to incorporate multiple student personas into their inbound marketing strategy.
Graduate and continuing education students are becoming the new face of higher education. For this reason, enrollment marketers and admissions teams need to better understand the unique wants and needs of these new personas if they are going to attract them to their schools and programs.

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Below are three relatively new types of student personas that are higher education marketers need to become familiar with if they are going to better market their graduate and continuing education programs.

Second-Career Student

This student has already gotten a Bachelor’s degree that they’ve probably used to gain the job they have now. They are having serious second thoughts about their career, and have decided to earn second B.A. or B.S. in a completely unrelated field in order to pursue a new career.

Or, similarly, this student has their Bachelor’s degree, but wants to take their career in a different direction. Instead of getting another Bachelor’s degree, this student wants to earn a Master’s degree in a related field, or in something entirely different. If the latter is the case, that particular second-career student is likely researching jobs first.

Their job title search will lead them to question what combination of degrees will lead to the job that they want. This student persona is not shy about going after something specific. They’ve already paid (for or are still paying off) their first degree; if they’re going to get additional schooling, it might as well hit all aspects of what they’re searching for.

For example, a student who has achieved his or her BA in Geography might feel as if they have hit a wall in their career. They bounced around after school unable to find the right job, and ended up taking a research position at their alma mater. Now, realizing they need some sort of specialization, this student is looking into the field of economics in hopes that they can apply a new degree to the foundation of geography that they already have to achieve their new dream job.

This journey requires a very specific marketing approach to make this persona feel that they are securely on the path to their new career in economic geography. What a second career student is likely looking for, regardless of the new degree they’re pursuing, is a smooth transition back into the professional world.

Mature First Time Student

Although this student falls under the category of continuing education, they are rather unlike the previous persona. They have some people in their lives who have had the college experience, while they themselves have been in the workforce for a number of years, probably working a job that they aren’t passionate about.

Having matured over time, this persona has thought seriously about postsecondary education and is doing their homework on student financing options, ROI on different degrees and programs, and are likely planning to work at least part-time while earning their degree.

According to a study by Georgetown University, “about 40 percent of undergraduates and 76 percent of graduate students work at least 30 hours a week.” Plus, around one fourth of all working learners are full-time students in addition to also working full-time.

This population is driven, but cautious. An example of an offer that might attract this persona would be the ability to try out classes before committing to a program and payment plan. As a an enrollment marketer, you must appeal to their need for security and transparency.

Learning Parents

Parents attending college have an incredibly unique set of obstacles and motivations. They have the foresight to see exactly how earning this degree will affect them financially, personally, socially, and otherwise.

When a learning parent is continuing their education, it is not just them going back to school—it is essentially their entire family. Learning parents are diving in with the understanding that going back to school while raising a family is going to be one of the most challenging things that they will ever do.

Parents young enough to have children who will be affected by their decision to further their education are likely to be at least somewhat tech savvy, if not very. Taking this into consideration in tandem with their desire for a flex-time school schedule makes this student persona a great candidate for online courses. According to a U.S. News and World Report statistic (2012-2013) moms made up 54 percent of bachelor students in 147 online programs.

In the modern world of higher education, which is emphasizing completion not for graduation rates but for actual acceleration in the working world, programs designed for this student persona will want to focus on retention. The learning parent persona comes with it’s own set of risks, and showing high rates of retention will help the student feel comfortable in their decision to pursue a degree.

The Non-Traditional Advantage

This grouping of graduate and continuing education personas are a combination of working individuals seeking a career change, parents facing the challenge of going to school while caring for a family, and students over 25 who are making the informed decision to better their lives and prioritize their education. They want smooth transitions, flexible schedules, and a clear path from their program of study to their dream job.

By creating content that appeals to each of these personas in way that facilitates their different paths towards enrollment, your team is sure to appeal to a broader base of prospective students and increase your pool of applicants.

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50 Blog Title Ideas for the Travel and Tourism Industry

Are you a marketer in the tourism industry who’s run out of topics for your blog? Here are 50 sample blog titles you can use in your content creation efforts.

If you’re an inbound marketing newbie, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of content that you need to produce for your travel and tourism marketing campaigns. You need to churn out a constant stream of blog content—as much as two or three articles a week—to keep your audience engaged and coming to your site, but that rapid rate of publication makes it easy to run out of ideas.

It can be tough to compete when the tourism and travel industry is already saturated with beautiful Instagram photos, interesting videos, checklists, guides—the list goes on. The fact is, it’s important to always have an arsenal of subjects to write about.

When you run out of blog topic ideas to write about, it can be a tremendous sag on productivity. There’s nothing worse than having a blog that is active for months, only to run out of ideas that leaves your editorial calendar empty.

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If this sounds familiar, you’re in luck! Here are some example blog topics that you could write about for your business in the tourism industry.

(Editor’s Note: Keep in mind that search engines don’t like duplicate content, so make sure you’re tweaking these titles to fit your own needs. These are only meant to be inspiration for your own blogging efforts, not word-for-word titles.)

If You’re Trying to Bring More Guests to Your B&B

  1. What to Expect When Staying at a B&B
  2. Within a 10 Mile Radius: Cool Things to Do in Town
  3. Why Stay at a B&B Over a Hotel
  4. Awesome Perks of Staying at a B&B
  5. What Not to do at a B&B
  6. XX Secret Pet Peeves of B&B Innkeepers
  7. Your B&B Checklist: XX Things to Consider Before Hitting the Road
  8. How Opting for a B&B Can Improve Your Multi Day-Trip Weekend
  9. Choosing the Right B&B Based on Your Interests
  10. Next Level “Staycation”: Why You Should Get Away to a B&B Right Around the Corner

If You’re Trying to Reach Campers for Your Campground

  1. Your Camping Checklist: XX Things to Bring on Your Trip
  2. XX Steps to Surviving Your Family Camping Trip
  3. Camping With Teenagers: Keeping Them Interested and Entertained
  4. XX Household Items to Repurpose for Your Camping Trip
  5. XX Delicious Foods to Cook on an Open Flame (and How)
  6. Be the Star of the Tent: XX Common Camping Roadblocks and How to Fix Them
  7. Camping Smart: XX Simple Things to Do to Protect Yourself in the Wild
  8. The Glamping Movement: XX Glampsites to Consider for Your Family Trip
  9. XX Games to Play With No Equipment, Planning, or Supplies
  10. Campers, Tents, and RVs: Find the Camping Style That’s Right for You

If You’re Trying to Attract Wine Enthusiasts to Your Vineyard

  1. Red, White, and All the Rest: XX Steps to Branching Out at the Vineyard
  2. XX Items for Your Vineyard Basket
  3. XX Awesome Food Pairings for Any Vineyard Trip
  4. Vineyard Checklist: XX Things You Don’t Want to Forget to Bring
  5. XX Ways to Get the Most Value Out of Your Vineyard Trip
  6. Wine Language: What You Want at the Vineyard and How to Ask for It
  7. Top Vineyards in Your State
  8. Why Choose a Vineyard for Your Wedding and Reception
  9. XX Unexpected Private Events to Throw at Your Local Vineyard
  10. Classes, Live Music, Relaxation: XX Reasons to Visit the Vineyard This Summer

If You’re Trying to Find Patrons for Your Museum

  1. Rainy day? XX Reasons to Choose a Museum Over the Movies
  2. Enjoying Your Solo Trip to the Museum: XX Steps
  3. XX Museum Ideas to Intrigue Your Kids
  4. Best Interactive Museums in Your State
  5. XX Life-Changing Museum Exhibits
  6. XX Reasons to Travel Out of State for a Museum
  7. Exploring Your Hometown: Why it Matters to go to Local Museums
  8. XX Ways Museums Encourage Learning in Kids
  9. Choosing the Right Museum Based on Your Kids’ Interests: A XX Step Guide
  10. How to Get the Most out of Any Museum Visit

If You’re Trying to Find More Visitors for Your Seasonal Attraction

  1. XX Ways to be the Day-Trip Destination of Your State
  2. XX Reasons to Visit the Art Gallery This Season
  3. Your Aquarium Checklist: XX Items to Bring
  4. Make Your Own Tour: Turning Your Personal Interest Into Fun, Local Travel
  5. Pros and Cons of Indoor Water Parks
  6. XX Coffee Shops and Cafes to Visit in Your State
  7. XX Reasons to go to a Local Open Mic Over a Concert
  8. XX Things to Never Forget on a Family Day-Trip
  9. XX Reasons to Choose a Historical Attraction Over a Day at the Amusement Park
  10. Getting Closer to Nature: XX Reasons to Visit Conservatories and Gardens in Your State

Putting It to Use

There you have it, 50 blog title ideas perfect for different kinds of businesses in the travel and tourism industry. Share this list with your team and use the ideas as a leaping off point for content creation: Collaborate to identify which titles would work best in each stage of your ideal buyer’s journey, and make sure you customize them to your needs.

Need some more ideas on how to jazz up your content creation efforts? Check out our list of free and cheap tools that all content marketers should be using.

Inbound Marketing for Tourism

50 Blog Topic Ideas for Colleges and Universities

Blogging is a key part of any inbound marketing or content marketing effort, but identifying the right topics can be challenging. This list of 50 blog post ideas will help your marketing and admission team reach and recruit more prospective students online and improve the SEO of your college or university’s blog.

If you’re just getting started with blogging and inbound marketing for your college or university, you may be overwhelmed with the amount of content that you’ll need to create. Writing a blog post or two or three a week is a great way to begin ranking for search terms and attracting visitors to your website, but it’s also an easy way to run out of ideas. (And it’s kind of hard to write blog posts if you don’t have any more ideas, isn’t it?)

When the idea well runs dry, it can be a big sag on productivity and motivation. After all, a good blog topic and title are what you need to attract your prospective students to your site. But what’s a higher ed marketer to do when they honestly can’t think of any topics to write about?

If this describes you, then you’re in luck. Below are 50 blog title examples that your admissions or enrollment marketing team can use to jumpstart your content efforts the next time you run out of ideas or need a kick in the right direction.

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Note: This article is for those looking for ways to market their school to prospective students, donors, and alumni. It is not intended to be a list of ideas for student bloggers. If you’re a student looking to generate blog ideas, we recommend reading this post.

While we hope these blog post ideas will help trigger some great ideas for your college or university, please keep in mind that search engines don’t like duplicate content. These blog titles are meant to be inspiration for your own content creation efforts, not word-for-word titles. Make sure that you tweak them as necessary so that your content stands out from your competition, who could very well be working off of this same list!

Blog Post Ideas for College Admissions Blogs

  1. XX Facts to Know Before Applying to [UNIVERSITY or PROGRAM]
  2. XX FAQs for an Admissions Counselor
  3. XX Secrets College Admissions Teams Don’t Want You to Know
  4. Your Summer-Before-College Bucket List
  5. XX College Admissions Essay Writing Tips
  6. XX Tips for Choosing the Best Fit College
  7. College Application Mistakes to Avoid
  8. How to Pick the Right College: XX Steps
  9. Nail your College Interview in XX Steps
  10. Don’t Do This at your College Interview
  11. XX Tips for Grad School Applicants
  12. Aligning Your Future Career Path to a Grad School Degree
  13. Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year Between High School and College
  14. The Incoming College Freshman Summer Checklist
  15. XX Ways to Impress the College Admissions Team
  16. Extracurricular Activities that Impress Admissions Teams (and Which to Avoid)
  17. Use Your Desired Major to Choose the Right School
  18. Questions to Ask on a College Tour
  19. What’s “Rescinded Acceptance”? And How to Avoid It
  20. Turning Your Favorite Hobby Into an Attractive Extracurricular Activity
  21. What Not to Do on a College Tour
  22. Choose Your College Major in XX Steps
  23. What’s a Minor, and Do I Need to Declare One?
  24. Matching Job Titles to Humanities Degrees
  25. Declaring the Right Minor for Your Career Path
  26. College Clubs: XX Things for the Freshman to Consider
  27. Your College Dorm Checklist
  28. XX Fun Ways to Get Ready to Go Off to College
  29. XX Ways to Prepare for Your Freshman Year
  30. Use Social Media to Help, Not Hurt, Your College Admission
  31. XX Things I Wish I Knew Before Choosing my Current School
  32. How Scholarships Affect Financial Aid
  33. What are Federal Grants and Do You Have to Pay Them Back?
  34. The Difference Between Public and Private Scholarships
  35. The College Search: Why Choose Private Over Public
  36. High School Senior? Here are XX Universities You Should Be Following on Social
  37. Admitted, But Deferred: Why Universities Ask You to Start in January
  38. XX Reasons to Take Internship Credits
  39. Graduate Early Without Overloading Yourself With Classes: XX Steps
  40. Going out of State: XX Reasons to Leave Home for School
  41. XX Reasons to Go to a Small College
  42. XX Reasons to Go to a Large University
  43. XX Places to Travel Before College
  44. Liberal Arts vs. Research University: Choosing What’s Right Based on Major
  45. Do I Have to Stick With it? Advice from XX People Who Changed Their Majors After Freshman Year
  46. Take Summer Courses Without Ruining Your Entire Break
  47. XX Steps to Avoiding Credits that Don’t Count
  48. Taking College Credits in High School: Cut Undergrad Costs While Learning the Ropes
  49. XX Tips for Working Full Time While in School
  50. Making Connections: XX Ways to Align Your Part-Time Job With Your Major

Bonus: 10 Blog Post Ideas To Promote Your Degree Programs

  1. Is a [Degree Type] in [Focus Area] Worth the Time and Investment?
  2. How to Pursue a Degree in [Focus Area] While Working without Burning Out
  3. [Degree 1] vs [Degree 2]: Pros, Cons and Considerations
  4. Top Paying Emerging Careers in [Degree Field]
  5. How To Get A [Degree Type] in [Focus Area] without [Common Requirement]
  6. XX Things You Can Do with a Degree in [Focus Area]
  7. How to Increase Salary in [Career Field]
  8. XX Jobs You Can Only Get with a Degree in [Focus Area]
  9. xx Top Paying Companies in [Metro Area] for [Job Title]
  10. XX Reasons Why You Should Get A Degree in [Focus Area]

Exhaustive Doesn’t Need to be Exhausting!

Phew! There you have it. 60 blog title ideas for higher education that you can use as inspiration in your own blogging efforts. Share this list with your team and collaborate to identify which titles would work best in each stage of your prospective students’ journey towards enrollment. Or, use these titles simply as brainstorming material to put an original spin on some great bulk content.

Once you have an initial list, you can take it a step further by conducting keyword research, reviewing your analytics data, and surveying your prospective students and admissions team. What are the common questions prospective students have as they compare schools and evaluate your offerings? This should become the guiding light for your content editorial strategy.

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5 Ways to Get More Value from Your University’s Thank You Pages

Universities can use thank you pages to help guide prospective students along the enrollment process. Here’s everything you need to know to be successful.

Great job! A prospective student has clicked on a content offer on your website, is intrigued, and submits a form to download a copy. But it shouldn’t stop there.

If you’ve gotten a prospective student interested enough to provide you with their personal contact information, you should seize the opportunity to continue the conversion and keep them on your site reading your content and continuing their research with you instead of your competitors.

Thank you pages are an integral part of the inbound marketing process. They’re the perfect opportunity to provide more information about your program directly on the page, guide the student to start the application process, or to provide additional brand reinforcement that will strengthen their affinity for your school.

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Pulling off a thank you page that keeps the prospect converting is a bit of a science. Done well, a thank you page will round out a good experience with your prospective student. Done poorly, it will cause a slow leak in the enthusiasm balloon and could even push a prospective student away from your school.

Before diving into tweaks you can make to make your thank you pages more effective, you might want to consider the user’s context and their stage in their journey. What would be the logical next step to guide them to?

Here are five common scenarios to consider.

1. After they request more information

Higher education is one of the few industries lucky enough to have enough built-in demand that many prospective students will respond positively to a vague call-to-action like “request more information.” It’s just what you do when you’re on the website of a college you are interested in attending.

After downloading that information, students want to know the next step in the process, what will be expected of them, and any other resources that your school can provide that will help them continue the process. Provide it.

2. When they download a top-of-funnel content offer

Once a prospective student downloads any eBooks, guides, or other content offered on your university website, they are likely still in the Awareness stage of their journey, and not yet sold on attending your University or even that they need to pursue a new degree. Take advantage of this opportunity to bringing their attention to the value of a degree, and how it will help them further advance their career goals.

3. When they subscribe to email lists or newsletters

When someone subscribes to your University’s blog or newsletter, consider the context that brought them there. Are they a prospective student intrigued by a club, or alumni who want to stay up to speed with their alma mater’s latest happenings?

If you were clever enough to include a “Best Describes Me” dropdown field on your form that identifies the user’s persona, you can use this information to personalize the content of the thank you page to appeal to the interests of each different audience. This approach could allow you to prompt prospective students to visit campus after they subscribe, or to encourage your alumni to donate.

4. When they register for an on-campus event

A campus visit is a sure sign that a prospective student is considering applying to your college or university, and may be the make or break experience that will ultimately determine if they will enroll at your school or somewhere else.

To increase the odds that their experience will be a positive one, consider outlining a list of ways to get the most out of their experience, or provide them with a downloadable checklist of “must see” places to go while on campus.

5. After they apply

A thank you page following submission of an application to your university is crucial. This will be an opportunity to show sincere appreciation and to share more helpful information about the next steps in the process.

Consider explaining in detail what the new applicant can expect next, and try answering some of the most commonly asked questions during this stage of the process. If you offer an application status check, share the link here and tell them when it will be appropriate to come back to review.

This will help alleviate any anxiety the applicant might be experiencing, and also reduce the volume of support calls and status checks your admissions department will receive.

William & Mary University in Williamsburg, VA does this well. Rather than displaying a simple “Thank You” message after the application is submitted, they direct new applicants to a list of frequently asked questions they know the student is likely to have.

Some of the points included in the FAQ are related to late submissions, application completeness, financial aid, and receiving an admissions decision. W&M also includes several contact options in case the applicant has questions the FAQs did not address.

Knowing where to begin

While we hope you’ll take this approach into consideration for any new conversion funnel you create, there’s a strong chance you already have dozens if not hundreds of landing pages published on the web.

Optimizing the thank you pages of landing pages that are already converting a high rate and receiving a decent amount of traffic are typically a great place to start. This will allow you and your team to start on the areas where you’ll likely see the greatest return on your optimization efforts.

Bottom line: Don’t leave the opportunity to keep prospective students engaging and learning more about your college or university. Take these tips and keep prospects progressing further down their path to enrollment.

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5 Rules of Effective CTAs in Higher Ed Marketing

Use these 5 rules of higher ed inbound marketing to create attractive, honest, and effective CTAs that push your prospective students forward in the process.

The kind of content your university produces should align with the curiosity and needs of your ideal students. For this reason, it’s important to consider how well your calls-to-action (CTAs) perform in attracting and converting that target audience.

So far, you’ve been providing the right content at the right place and time through social media marketing and SEO. Now that the right prospective students are attracted to your university website, you’re challenged to convert these leads by obtaining their contact information—usually through a form on a landing page. Forms allow your higher ed institution to convert anonymous visitors into leads to nurture. But, they’ve got to walk before they run.

Warming up to the application process is a sensitive place for your prospective student to be. You want to make sure your CTAs are attractive, honest, and effective enough to push them forward.

So, here are five rules to follow for effective CTAs in higher ed marketing.

1. Placement

CTAs can come in many forms and can be placed literally anywhere on a page, but that doesn’t mean that you should just drop yours at the first open spot.

For example, you most likely wouldn’t place a CTA at the top of a blog post—the reader hasn’t had a chance to read the information yet, so a call-to-action before the content comes across as presumptuous. In this example, your CTA would probably be more effective at the bottom of the post, or at least after the first few paragraphs. This will encourage the consumer to read the post, which hopefully contains links to other areas on your website—which can improve session time and views on your pages.

CTAs also appear on social media. Since social media posts are generally more concise, the CTA can be anywhere within that content. You can use the same CTA from your website or blog on your social channels—or you can create a social media specific CTA like asking people to reply directly on Facebook, hashtag a certain word or phrase on Instagram, or retweet something from the school’s Twitter account. These are all appropriate, traceable actions that encourage conversion.

2. Traceability

Speaking of traceable actions, being able to measure the success of your CTAs is important. Your CTAs should be quantifiable and allow you to gather insight into how many people are clicking, how those people arrived there, and the helpfulness of your offer. If you’re not collecting this information, it’s difficult to learn from your successes and mistakes.

An advantage to using social media, SEO, and content in your approach is that you control everything about your CTA. Because these are not paid ads, there’s no pressure to get it exactly right the first time. The traceability allows your higher ed marketing team to see what is working, and tweak accordingly for the best possible response over an extended period of time.

3. Beware of Clutter

Cluttering your CTA can be a huge turn off to interested leads. Using jargon, complicated wording, or multiple hashtags and links can make your well-meaning CTA seem ‘spammy’ and, therefore, easy to ignore.

Being too wordy or philosophical can also compromise your message and cause prospective students to tune out before they opt in. Keep it simple, keep it accessible.

This is a good practice for all of your content creation efforts. Social media posts, blog entries, CTAs, and downloadable resources should be written as simply as possible so that you don’t alienate or bore your audience.

4. Actionable Language

When a prospective student clicks a button, it’s because they have an exact idea of the benefit they’ll be receiving because your presentation is clear and the effort required is minimal.

For example, if a prospective student interested in criminal justice finds himself on a page about careers in corrections, the phrase “learn more” would be vague and non-enticing. But, if your college or university can offer that student access to a newsletter about the criminal justice department’s various connections with state institutions, program outings, and internships, the CTA button might say “explore internships and opportunities.”

Words and phrases like “explore,” “discover,” and “find out” are actionable. They give the prospective student agency in the interaction. Similarly, using active voice rather than passive voice brings personality to your CTAs and reminds the person that, though they are opting in electronically, there are real people on the other side of that screen.

Rather than a button that says “download this offer,” you may want to say something like “get your free Ebook now.” Using words like “you,” “your,” and “my” improves the intimacy and trustworthiness of the interaction.

Simple tweaks like these that seem unimportant can have a big impact on how your audience reacts to your content. Language matters!

5. CTA, Landing Page, and Content Alignment

When a link or button for an offer brings a prospective student to a landing page, you want the copy to be relevant to the offer. Irrelevant or awkward landing page copy can damage trust between your brand and the prospective student.

In Higher Education, inbound marketing is about trust, helpfulness, and the desire to see prospective students turn into successful students. It is imperative that the content is relevant—beyond that, stylistic consistency is key.

For example, clicking a CTA with a blue background, orange lettering, and Arial font that brings you to a white page with red lettering in Times New Roman can be confusing. The person’s first thought will likely be “did I click the wrong link?” By keeping the look and feel of your CTAs, landing pages, and content consistent, you are subtly reassuring your audience that they are, indeed, following the steps of the process correctly.

You want to make the experience as streamlined as possible. Being sure that the CTA aligns with the style, voice, and content of the offer is the “putting your money where your mouth is” portion of this successful interaction.

Moving Forward

Once you’ve thoroughly built out the attract stage of the enrollment process with a focus on SEO, branding, social media style, and building/optimizing your student personas, it’s important to make sure that your CTAs are eliciting the appropriate response from your prospective students.

Using principles of conversion to transform these attracted students into qualified leads is the prequel to gaining your contrived persona as a real student. Follow these tips to polish your CTAs and do your content justice.

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3 Student Engagement Channels to Utilize In Higher Ed Marketing

Social media, brand ambassador programs and alumni surveys all offer higher ed institutions new channels to engage with their current and prospective students.

Administrative professionals in the higher ed field have begun, out of necessity, to view and push the idea of their school as a brand. Lately, schools have discovered cost effective, user-friendly branding tools that are increasing student engagement.

Higher ed institutions are getting noticed by prospective students online, nurturing their relationships with current students, and easily connecting with alumni for honest feedback. Campaigns designed to increase engagement, programs that leverage students as loyal promoters of their universities, and alumni surveys that truly engage are great methods to add to your school’s bag of tricks.

Read on to learn how these mutually-beneficial inbound marketing tactics are currently elevating university brands in direct, results driven ways. Here are three student engagement channels to utilize in your higher ed inbound marketing efforts:

Social Media

When it comes to the college experience, from the attraction stage to the decision to enroll, students are hoping to connect with your school for information and to see what life is really like on campus.

Ninety percent of people aged 18–29 use social media, and Snapchat is the most-used social media platform by people aged 12–24. With this in mind, colleges and universities have begun to create social media campaigns that are interactive, quantifiable, fun, and attractive to prospective and current students.

For example, in 2016 Montclair University in New Jersey created a scavenger hunt-like checklist for students to complete for an invitation to watch the homecoming football game from a VIP viewing area.

Montclair challenged students on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram to snap and share a series of photos. Each item on the checklist kept students engaged, working toward a goal and showing off their school on social media.

Highly visual platforms like Snapchat and Instagram are most popular for photo-sharing, and on the latter, photos actually receive higher engagement than videos.

But let’s not downplay the power of video on social media. Check out this example from the University of Southern California. After seeing so many questions on Twitter about dorms on campus, USC created a popular YouTube video series called “USC Cribs.” This series leveraged the involvement of their current students to communicate an experience to prospective students.

Brand Ambassador Programs

Student ambassador programs help to build up college and university brands, establish trust with a skeptical student population, and provide minute-by-minute accounts of the happenings on campus.

Branding in any case is used to amplify the exceptional qualities and benefits of a product. Student brand ambassador programs work the same way, however, they tend to boast added benefits. They are often completely volunteer-based and have the unique ability to show the behind the scenes gems of the university in addition to all the loud-and-proud events traditionally seen on the university website and formally posted on the school’s official Facebook page.

Angi Roberts, Print and Digital Communications Manager for undergraduate student recruitment and admission at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, said she realized there was a marketing issue when her department couldn’t find authentic content, or the time to create it.

“We’d created a social media monster; the time required to manage our accounts—let alone create content—was beyond our capacity.”—Angi Roberts

They were wasting resources managing the school social media accounts which featured lackluster messaging and impersonal administrative posts. The team was missing campus events because they were in meetings, creating analytics reports and trying to develop overall strategy.

According to this article on higheredexperts.com, Angi said she knew U of G’s prospective students were seeking insight into the real life of current students on campus. Shortly after having this epiphany, she created the social media ambassador program which mirrored the general student ambassador program she had been running for years.

Angi Roberts wrote on Higher Ed Experts that the top three reasons a college or university needs student-operated social media brand ambassador programs are as follows:

  • The marketing/communications department doesn’t have time to seek out all the great things that are happening on campus every day.
  • They simply don’t have access to real things that prospective students want to see. What’s the dining hall food like? The cheerleaders’ view at the homecoming pep rally? The impromptu snowball fight on the quad?
  • The department, as administrative professionals, simply cannot authentically connect with the incoming student population. (Who better to market to 18–22 year olds than their peers?)

Thanks to their new program, the Print and Digital Communications department at U of G reports seeing a 45 percent increase in engagement on Twitter during the first semester, and a 560 percent increase in Instagram likes.

According to Roberts, the school was able to turn these “vanity metrics” into real numbers by using social media engagement to link back to school webpages where the department could assess traffic and session times. They found that 40 percent of the traffic to the site was being driven by social media links.

Alumni Surveys

Tried-and-true methods like the alumni survey are not dead. The measuring of alumni experience to determine the level of satisfaction certainly helps a higher ed institution understand what to emphasize and where improvements can be made—especially on the marketing side of things.

From campus life and college resources, to academia, and extracurriculars, your school can use the alumni survey to obtain an all-encompassing impression from those who have been there and done that. Whether you already have one, or you are creating your alumni survey for the first time, here are some tips to use to help engage alumni and get accurate results from your survey.

Break It Up

Your alumni probably don’t have time for a 15–20 minute general survey. Instead of slaving away creating a holistic set of questions, break up the survey into sections and distribute them periodically to your alumni. Short surveys on specific topics will increase engagement and render more targeted data.

Use Data You Already Have

General information like graduation year, program of study, and geographic region are all examples of data your institution should already have. Not only do you not want to redundantly ask questions, but you want the survey to be as personal as possible. This can’t happen if the alumni perceives that your school has not considered his/ her most basic demographics before reaching out.

Don’t Neglect Recent Grads

Older alumni are often incredibly loyal and maybe even financially beneficial to your college or university. But, keep in mind that you are continually fostering a new generation of alumni.

Engaging young alumni can be challenging—data collected by the 2015 Voluntary Alumni Engagement in Support of Education survey revealed that “85 percent of alumni professionals believe their organization does a poor job, or needs to do more to attract and engage young alumni.”

Unsurprisingly, 75 percent of alumni professionals believe their school should update and improve the technology solutions/benefits they offer their alumni. Additional data indicates that this generation of post-grads want to use social media and web chat to communicate with their alma mater—and few schools feel equipped to provide this.

This reinforces that technology and young alumni engagement absolutely go hand in hand.

Summing it Up

When social media marketing for higher ed and student brand ambassador programs meet alumni surveying, it certainly merges the old with the new. Likewise, students and alumni, young and old, can be appealed to with the use of both modern technology and common sense questionnaires that are targeted, convenient and engaging.

Use these evidence-based tips to elevate the brand of your higher ed institution and shape your school to be the lifelong partner that it can and should be.   

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The Good, The Bad, and The Non-Traditional: A Guide to Multiple Personas in Higher Ed Marketing

Higher ed marketers miss a lot of applicants by only targeting their ideal student personas. See what additional personas you might be overlooking.

You’ve learned a little bit more about honing in on your higher education persona—a semi-fictional representation of your ideal student that is so important to success in inbound marketing. You’ve been thinking outside the box about your alumni, admissions team and the utilization of previously-acquired data to help stand out to ideal people looking for your school. Now, it’s time to think about the variety of people (personas) to which these factors and practices will apply.

Because higher education is so mainstream, there will undoubtedly be multiple personas to consider. Other than the general student persona whom we have deemed “traditional” (just out of high school, technologically inclined, a heavy researcher, etc.), there are a few others to take into account. Moreover, understanding who not to waste time and resources targeting will be a beneficial expansion on this concept.

To begin, let’s break down some additional personas and identify where and how they fit into your higher ed inbound marketing strategy.

The Parent Persona

The parent persona is another logical persona looking for tactile features and benefits from a prospective college or university. But, where a prospective student may be focused on clubs and campus life, parents may be more interested in post-grad employment rates and career services.

Parents tend to want to assess whether or not their child’s future major is particularly emphasized at the school of their choice. They want evidence of all-encompassing programs with notoriety and networking opportunities.

Furthermore, they are probably considering the financial side of things—and with more clarity. Parents are bringing their experience to the table and they are shopping for value. In general, their child’s future is the major focus. They are seeking stability, credibility, and real-world application.

The Non-Traditional Student Persona

The non-traditional student can almost be described as a mixture of the traditional student persona and the parent persona. This particular group is over 25, is either going to college for the first time or going back to school with a different career path in mind, and is definitely their own advocate in terms of career services and desired return on investment.

The concerns of the non-traditional student persona are likely going to be vastly different from those which fall in the traditional category. They could have waited to pursue an education because of financial issues, family, or just plain indecision. This group is thoughtful, dedicated, and experienced. They want value and job security from the program in which they enroll.

The Negative Student Persona

Now that we’ve outlined the personas for various types of people you want to attract to your college or university, we should now consider who not to target. You may be thinking, “why wouldn’t we want someone to be attracted to our school?” There are actually plenty of reasons to exclude a identifiable population from your higher ed inbound marketing outreach.

But first, what is a negative student persona?

A negative student persona is an additional semi-fictional representation—except it’s of your non-ideal prospective students. When using inbound marketing practices, a negative student persona is almost as important to your higher ed inbound marketing strategy as having a regular student persona.

You want to make certain that you are attracting your ideal students—the best way to gauge this sometimes is to be sure you’re avoiding your negative persona.

Here are a few personas that you would find in the exclusionary category:

The Indiscriminate Student

This student is applying to 5, 10, or even 15 schools and being rather impersonal in their approach to higher education. They don’t have a clue what they’re going to major in and have a lackadaisical mentality on longevity—they aren’t putting a lot of thought into it because if they’re not thrilled with their choice of school, they’ll just transfer. This student is not concerned with finding their niche at your school or becoming invested in any programs.

The Baited Student

Higher education, with its emphasis on yield rates, should be focused on attracting students who will not only apply, but actually enroll after acceptance. The baited student has applied to your higher ed institution and possibly even clicked on a content offer or two from your university website before that. But, even when they get in, they won’t enroll because they’re really hoping for an acceptance letter from their first choice school.

Having a high rate of applicants is a good thing, if your school can balance this out with a proportional enrollment rate. If not, the higher the applicant rate, the more skewed the ratio becomes.

You want to spend the time, money, and effort targeting students who have a future at your school, not just those who seem as if they might. You want those who, provided that they’re a good fit, consider your school to be their first choice rather than a back-up plan.

The Wrong-Fit Student

This student might not be a bad fit for your competitor, but at your school, they will struggle to find their place. Maybe this student’s inclination toward science, math, or a trade will be quelled by your large liberal arts college’s focus on the humanities. They won’t use your institution’s resources to their full potential, and when people ask him/her about their college they’ll remark that the experience has been “so-so”.

Or, more quantifiably, the student’s financial aid needs don’t fit well with the offering that they got from your school. These are areas on which to inform and educate prospective students before they find themselves espoused to your university and in over their head. Plus, in attracting a “wrong-fit” student, your school might have accidentally excluded a prospective student who is actually a better fit.

The Bottom Line

As a higher ed marketer, your goal is that every student you draw in finds success at your school. You want them to be always envisioning the graduation finish line but also simultaneously invested in their journey to it.

Using inbound marketing practices to create multiple personas—including negative personas—allows higher ed institutions to anticipate and attract prospective students that are a better fit academically, financially, and culturally while excluding those who do not meet this sensitive criteria.

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The Millennial’s Choosing Methodology: 3 Ways the College Search Has Changed

The college search has changed. Here’s how Millennials are using the power of the internet, social media, and honest reviews to help choose the right school.

Inbound marketing was born out of the changing needs of the current generation. It only makes sense that in choosing higher education, these tech savvy, creative prospective students need to be shown thoughtful, targeted information to meet them halfway in their search.

Yes, millennials will be found on your college or university’s website and on social media – but that’s not nearly the only difference. They are also going to be scouring online reviews and asking everyone they know for honest, detailed information about your school.

In the same way that they have the power and selectivity to heavily research their next pair of headphones or the cheapest hotel for the best price on their senior trip, they will consider every angle of your school according to their specific needs.

Fifteen years ago, prospective students didn’t have social media or college websites to assist with their search for the right school. The decision process was mostly influenced by information provided by representatives at college fairs, brochures received from a guidance counselor, or what they heard from a friend of a friend.

Today, students have much more control. Instead of waiting for an admissions counselor to come calling, students turn to Google, YouTube and Facebook, where they now complete over 75% of their research. Outbound methods are, as you might expect, increasingly driving millennial consumers away. According to a study by The McCarthy Group, as of 2014, 84% of millennials have clicked off of a website because of annoying outbound ads.

Luckily, through inbound marketing practices, your school can be transparent, helpful and invested in the individual experience of each prospective student. But, in order to create the correct marketing approach, you’ll need to understand the millennial’s choosing methodology. Here are three ways the college search has changed.

Millennial Skepticism

The aforementioned study by The McCarthy Group also revealed that, in addition to distrusting traditional media, millennials have a high distrust for ads. On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the lowest and five, the highest), they gave their trust of traditional advertising (cold calls, paper ads, pop ups) a 2.2.

This group desires real figures and findings. But most tellingly, they reportedly hold opinions of close friends in the highest regard. In essence, millennials are skeptical of “fluff” in marketing – especially when making serious financial decisions like where they’ll go to school and what career path to pursue. In fact, their collectively practical approach seems to be affecting college marketing from start to finish.

Recently, there has been an influx of desirability in trade-like programs. Rather than getting a broad liberal arts degree, millennials are showing heavy interest in STEM and other fields that traditionally offer all-encompassing education combined with real-world job training, solid internship programs,  job security and high pay.

The Anonymity Concept

Although millennials can be accused of “over sharing” on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter, many businesses have found that long customer surveys in which they are asked for very personal information (birth dates, billing addresses) they are reluctant to self-identify. The more anonymous that they can stay in this regard, the better their shopping and review experiences. This is very much in line with the college search.

The bright side? When millennials do show interest, it’s usually sincere. According to a recent study by Google, 73% of people who request information on a mobile EDU site actually want more information. This puts higher education marketers in a great position to provide pointed, enticing content offers for the next stage.

The Necessity of Nurture

The above statistic does refer to the mobile experience, because according to the Nielsen Company, an incredible 98% of millennials own a smartphone. This is likely how they are accessing your .edu where they will hopefully click to grab that extra information or content offer.

Knowing this, you can suppose that prospective students are providing their email from their smartphone so that they can read more information about your school later when they switch over to a desktop computer or laptop. They also could be reading directly from their phone – whatever the case, the same study by Google found that 3 in 4 people who request information on their phone will continue researching.

So what does that imply? It implies that lead nurturing should begin here. If they are clicking through various college sites to build up a list of research material to compare and consider, send them something interesting and helpful to win them over.

The inbound methodology for higher education is a thoughtful system of steps, based on data and validated by the successful student experience. The college search process has certainly changed, but implementing inbound marketing practices can remove the intimidation factor, and understanding this process can help to ensure that your higher ed institution is matching the savvy of its prospective millennial students.

Knowing when and where to nurture your leads is key since this target group is known to be skeptical and non-committal in the early stages of your new marketing method. So, keep these factors in mind and let them help guide you in the next sections which focus on the definition, creation, and fine-tuning of your ideal student persona.

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