Higher ed marketing is one of our favorite topics here at RDW. It’s one of the reasons we conducted our first annual State of Higher Ed Marketing survey earlier this year. We are happy to share three key takeaways from that survey as the final installment of our Back to School series.

Content marketing is truly king

Nearly 90% of the higher ed marketers we surveyed said that content marketing was either important or very important to them. However, 50% of respondents struggled with finding the time to create it.

Higher ed marketers who struggle with content should look to Cornell University’s College of Engineering. Cornell recently launched CollabSpace, an online platform where emerging engineers can share “maker” projects and collaborate with like-minded students of different ages. Open to pre-college students in high school and junior high, CollabSpace content is user-generated which minimizes the burden of content creation for Cornell staff. It’s also a wonderful way for the College of Engineering to begin building relationships with would-be enrollees at a time when they are beginning to consider college options.

Facebook still leads the pack (at least for marketers)

65% of respondents rated social media as very important to their marketing strategy with 70% naming Facebook as their platform of choice.

However, higher ed institutions shouldn’t neglect platforms like Instagram and Snapchat which are increasingly favored by generation Z audiences. Whether you are considering advertising programs on SnapChat, organizing an alumni meetup, or exploring a new niche network to connect with prospective students; don’t limit your marketing activity to Facebook alone.


Conversions are the “great white whale” of digital advertising

Tracking to conversion was the biggest digital advertising hurdle according to survey respondents. This came as no surprise to us. In our experience, many colleges and universities have difficulty closing the loop from advertising sources (paid search, display ads) to third-party application software that doesn’t live on their websites. We recommend working closely with your marketing team, agencies, and application vendors to implement analytics solutions that will provide insight into the entire student journey. In the meantime, consider tracking inquiry forms, pre-assessments, and other critical touchpoints to understand the ways that visitors are converting on your website before they click “apply”.

If we can glean any major theme from our survey, it’s this: Higher education marketing comes with a unique set of challenges and solutions.