There’s a new undergraduate prospect in town, and it’s Generation Z. With its oldest at the ripe age of 22, Generation Z makes up an overwhelming percentage of the undergraduate enrollment audience. With any new generation comes new challenges for colleges and universities. After a 30% leap in the past 15 years, total undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase by 14% in the next decade. However, this growth doesn’t come without its challenges. There are more options for prospective students now than ever, and the evolving landscape of the cost of education does not go unnoticed. It’s crucial that your institution market to the first wholly digital-native generation with the right strategies in place.
There’s a lot that goes into using digital marketing to increase undergraduate enrollment. It’s not just perfect email copy and great paid search targeting. All of the elements of your brand and digital presence need to work together (and yes–that even includes how students and alumni are sharing their experiences online). The following considerations are important to get your undergraduate enrollment strategy moving in the right direction.
Don’t take your website’s user experience for granted
Almost every interaction in the undergraduate enrollment process now takes place on your website (and unfortunately some not-so-perfect third-party application sites). Many organizations make the mistake of focusing on internal needs for their website, instead of a prospective student’s user experience. Generation Z was born online. They have a short attention span and an expectation for great navigation. An out of date or poorly designed website can most certainly affect your brand, and their willingness to keep your school in the consideration set.
Mind your influencers
Not only should you consider an integrated influencer marketing strategy, but you should be mindful of the many influencers you already have–your current students, faculty, and alumni. Working with these stakeholders and organizing their efforts through branded hashtags, regular monitoring, and even trainings and ambassador programs can help create a trustworthy platform for prospective students. With this audience, in particular, user-generated content is king. This audience is online constantly. They surf the web (and think that phrase is lame) for information about schools on college comparison sites and forums. 85% of the audience even prefers to do their research on social media. Having a pulse on this representation of your brand is paramount.
Create *authentic* storytelling content
I know, if you hear someone say the word “authentic” one more time you’re going to barf. I get it. But it doesn’t make it less true. Differentiating your institution through real, human representation of student experiences and resources is crucial to support undergraduate enrollment. Poll your student body and graduates for the reasons they loved your school. Find out what made them decide to attend. Once you’ve got the info, create ways to amplify those experiences through video, text, and sound on meaningful platforms. Don’t overproduce. The most important factor will be that the content doesn’t come off as an advertisement. Save taglines and scripted messaging for other types of communications. The value of this kind of content is to focus on your audience first.
Engage through marketing automation strategies
Staying top of mind and strengthening relationships with prospects is made simpler (and far more organized) with marketing automation tools. Use the tool as a way to more strategically distribute your content to your prospects, via email, personalization and remarketing. Setting up workflows and lead scoring can help marketing and admissions teams work more closely together to reach the end goal.
There are endless ways to make an impact with this new generation of prospective students. They’re engaging more than anyone before, but they also understand how these digital communications work. They won’t be “sold” to. It’s up to your organization to create a landscape of opportunities for them to interact, learn, and assess their interest. Increasing undergraduate enrollment with digital marketing doesn’t happen overnight. But with a sound strategy, consistent measurement, and a commitment to optimization, you can make a real impact for your institution.
Sarah Johnson is the Director of Digital Marketing Services with Incentric. She’s a recreational sports enthusiast and is driven by the opportunity to connect people through truly impactful digital strategies. You’ll know it’s her by her “irresistible” fake British accent and steady stream of quips.