Digital marketing trends in education: What you need to know

Digital marketing has become an indispensable tool for education institutions looking to connect with students, parents, and stakeholders. Staying abreast of the latest trends in digital marketing is therefore crucial for educational institutions to remain competitive and effectively reach their target audience.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the key digital marketing trends shaping the education sector. It’s an opportunity to assess and enhance your institution’s digital strategy and get insights on how institutions can leverage these trends to ensure your online presence aligns with the expectations of today’s stakeholders.

But remember, digital marketing must seamlessly collaborate with human marketers and recruiters, creating a symbiotic relationship that leverages technology’s efficiency and the nuanced understanding brought by human touch.

1. Personalization

Tailoring the experience

Personalization has emerged as a shift from one-size-fits-all approaches to strategies that cater to the unique needs and preferences of each prospective student. This trend emphasizes the customization of content, messages, and interactions to align with the specific interests, preferences, and characteristics of prospective students. Rather than presenting generic information, personalized marketing aims to create a more intimate and relevant connection with the audience. The importance of personalization lies in its ability to enhance engagement, foster a sense of connection, and ultimately drive enrollment by addressing the unique concerns and aspirations of individual students.

How to implement personalization?

Segmentation and targeted emails

  • Divide your audience into segments based on demographics, interests, or academic goals.
  • Craft personalized emails addressing recipients by name and offering program-specific information tailored to their academic interests and campus – student life – preferences.

Personalized landing pages and tailored content

  • Create landing pages that dynamically adjust content based on user data.
  • Utilize data analytics to tailor website content, showcasing specific courses, faculty members, or campus facilities aligned with individual interests.

Leverage data analytics and marketing automation

  • Utilize data analytics tools to gather insights into user behavior, preferences, and engagement patterns.
  • Implement emailing and messaging automation tools to deliver timely and personalized messages, ensuring prospective students receive information at the right stage of their decision-making process.

Continuous improvement through feedback

  • Encourage feedback from students and use it to refine personalization strategies.
  • Iterate on your personalized campaigns based on feedback, new material and ensuring ongoing improvement and resonance with your audience.

Embarking on the journey of personalization need not entail complex marketing workflows for numerous segments. Begin by identifying a primary persona – your main prospective student – and initiate the personalized journey for this specific audience first. This incremental approach allows for a smoother implementation, making it easier to expand and enhance the personalization strategy as you progress. Start with one and build from there.

Download The Persona Template prepared by EHL’s Education Consulting Team

2. Video content

Engaging audiences in the digital era

Video content is a powerful tool, captivating audiences and providing a compelling way for educational institutions to convey information in a visually engaging and emotionally resonant manner. Prospective students, accustomed to the immediacy of visual storytelling, find video an accessible and compelling medium. This trend is further fueled by the prevalence of online platforms and social media, where video content often takes center stage, dominating news feeds and capturing attention.

How to engage your audience with video content?

Virtual experiences for connection

  • Leverage virtual campus tours to provide an immersive experience, showcasing facilities and creating familiarity for prospective students.
  • Feature video interviews with faculty members, offering insights into teaching philosophies and fostering a personal connection.

Humanizing academic programs with testimonials

  • Use video testimonials from current students, sharing authentic experiences, challenges, and achievements.
  • Embrace peer-to-peer, resonating strongly with the target audience and building credibility.

Compelling storytelling and interactive engagement

  • Craft narratives that evoke emotions and resonate with the aspirations of prospective students.
  • Incorporate interactive elements like clickable links and polls for an engaging viewing experience.

Optimization for diverse devices

  • Ensure videos are optimized for smaller screens, prioritizing mobile device usage.
  • Implement subtitles and design visuals for clarity on various devices, including phones, tablets, etc.

Consistent branding for recognition

  • Maintain visual and tonal consistency in all video content to reinforce your institution’s brand.
  • Build recognition and trust among your audience through cohesive branding.

While video is often perceived as a costly venture, the rapidly evolving technology offers numerous cost-effective solutions. Institutions no longer need an extensive video crew or exclusively high-end production; authentic and less polished content can equally make an impact. Embrace the simplicity of DIY production and follow some straightforward tips to ensure your video content resonates effectively.

3. Social Media strategies

Beyond likes and shares

Social media’s evolution in education marketing is marked by its transformation from a supplementary communication channel to a primary platform for engagement. Today, it is not just a space for sharing updates; it’s a dynamic arena where institutions can showcase their personality, respond to inquiries, and actively participate in conversations. This evolution reflects a paradigm shift in how prospective students, parents, and alumni expect to interact with educational institutions.

How to leverage Social Media platforms?

Identify optimal platforms

  • Evaluate and identify the social media platforms that resonate best with your target audience and that are most popular in your target market.
  • Focus efforts on platforms where your audience is most active and engaged, tailoring content accordingly.

Visual and video storytelling

  • Utilize Instagram’s – or other visual-centric platform – for showcasing campus life and achievements.
  • Leverage features like Stories and Reels for dynamic content.
  • Embrace the popularity of video content across platforms, including TikTok, to connect with a younger demographic.
  • Craft engaging and shareable videos that showcase various aspects of campus life, academic achievements, and unique experiences.

Community building and engaging in conversations

  • Establish groups for prospective and current students to foster community (on Facebook or WhatsApp, for example).
  • Share engaging content, including event updates, faculty highlights, and student accomplishments.
  • Actively respond to comments, messages, and mentions, encouraging dialogue for a connected community.

Professional engagement and user-generated content

  • Leverage professional platforms like LinkedIn for thought leadership, research insights, and industry trends.
  • Connect with alumni for networking opportunities and highlight success stories.
  • Encourage user-generated content to provide authentic perspectives and involve the community in shaping the institution’s narrative.

Consistent posting schedule and leveraging hashtags

  • Maintain a consistent posting schedule across all platforms for trust-building and keep the audience engaged and informed.
  • Create and promote relevant hashtags to organize and track conversations, fostering unity within the online community and facilitating content discovery.

In alignment with the earlier discussion, there is no imperative to maintain a presence across all platforms; quality surpasses quantity. It is advisable to prioritize the platforms where your audience predominantly engages, ensuring a focused and impactful approach.

4. Chatbots and AI

Enhancing user experience

Chatbots and AI bring efficiency and interactivity to the forefront of education marketing. These technologies enable institutions to automate communication, providing instant responses and personalized interactions. The benefits span from enhancing user experience to optimizing internal processes, creating a more streamlined and responsive environment.

How to streamline communication and offer instant support?

24/7 accessibility and clear objectives

  • Utilize chatbots for round-the-clock accessibility, providing information to prospective students irrespective of time zones.
  • Clearly define the objectives of your chatbot, aligning its functions with your marketing goals for enhanced user experience.

Course information, FAQs, and Natural Language Processing (NLP)

  • Program chatbots to offer detailed course information, admission procedures, and frequently asked questions.
  • Implement Natural Language Processing to enable chatbots to comprehend and respond to user queries in a conversational manner, enhancing engagement.

Application assistance and continuous learning

  • Streamline the application process with chatbots guiding applicants through necessary steps.
  • Enable chatbots to learn from user interactions, regularly updating and refining responses based on feedback and changing information.

Seamless handoff to human agents

  • Integrate a mechanism for chatbots to seamlessly hand off complex queries to human agents.
  • While chatbots excel at routine tasks, a smooth transition to human support ensures a personalized touch when needed.

Institutions can initiate their chatbot implementation without the need for complexity or ubiquity. Instead of having it available on every page from the outset, a strategic approach involves starting with the institution’s most visited pages. Focus on integrating the most relevant and frequently asked questions on these pages, ensuring that prospective students and site visitors receive immediate assistance where it matters most. To ensure the effectiveness of the chatbot, identify dedicated team members responsible for updating answers promptly and following up on user requests. This targeted and well-managed implementation streamlines the user experience and allows for a gradual and effective integration of chatbot functionality into the broader institutional digital framework.

5. Mobile optimization

Reaching prospects on the go

The prevalence of smartphones and tablets necessitates a strategic focus on mobile-friendly marketing. Prospective students, parents, and stakeholders frequently access information on the go, making it essential for educational institutions to prioritize a seamless mobile experience. A mobile-friendly approach enhances user satisfaction and positively impacts search engine rankings, as search engines increasingly prioritize mobile-responsive websites.

How to put together mobile strategies that work?

Responsive web design

  • Implement principles of responsive design to guarantee a consistent, user-friendly experience across various screen sizes.

Optimized content delivery

  • Compress images and optimize multimedia content to reduce mobile load times, contributing to a positive user experience and improved search engine visibility.

Mobile-friendly navigation

  • Simplify navigation for mobile users with clear menus, concise content, and easy-to-access calls-to-action, enhancing engagement and facilitating information retrieval.

Mobile apps

  • Provide a dedicated platform with features like push notifications, personalized content delivery, and interactive functionalities for a tailored experience.

Mobile analytics and feedback tools

  • Utilizing mobile analytics tools and feedback mechanisms helps institutions gather insights into user behavior, preferences, and engagement patterns, enabling continuous improvement in mobile marketing strategies.

Examples of successful mobile marketing campaigns

  • Utilize mobile-friendly enrollment platforms to increase application rates and enhance accessibility.
  • Tailor social media campaigns for mobile platforms, creating visually compelling content for maximum impact.
  • Host interactive mobile events, including webinars, Q&A sessions, and virtual tours, catering to a broad audience.

6. SEO for education

Ensuring visibility in search engines

SEO serves as the driving force behind an institution’s online discoverability. The goal is to ensure that when prospective students, parents, or other stakeholders search for relevant information, an educational institution’s online content – website, blog, social media – appears prominently in search engine results. Effective SEO boosts visibility and builds credibility and trust among the online audience.

How to optimize website content and improve SEO?

Keyword research and optimized content

  • Conduct comprehensive keyword research to identify terms relevant to your target audience. Make sure to include keywords related to the pain points and challenges they commonly face.
  • Create high-quality, engaging content aligned with identified keywords directly addressing identified pain points, offering solutions, guidance, or insights to provide valuable assistance to your audience.
  • Consider integrating a blog into the institutional website for regular updates and informative posts.

Meta Tags, descriptions, and localized content

  • Craft compelling meta titles and descriptions that seamlessly incorporate relevant keywords, enhancing search engine visibility.
  • Implement local SEO strategies strategically to capture the attention of prospective students in specific geographic locations.
  • Develop localized content to cater to the specific needs and interests of the targeted geographic locations.

Quality backlinks and regular content updates

  • Build high-quality backlinks from reputable sources to signal content trustworthiness.
  • Consistently update your website – and blog – with fresh and relevant content, showcasing an active and up-to-date online presence.

7. Interactive content

Engaging and informative experiences

Interactive content transforms the traditional one-way communication model into a dynamic, engaging experience. In education marketing, this can range from quizzes and polls to more immersive experiences like virtual events. The impact lies in its ability to grab attention, enhance user participation, and create a memorable brand experience. By providing audiences with an active role, interactive content not only entertains, but also educates and influences decision-making.

How to create engaging and informative interactive content?

Alignment with educational goals

  • Ensure that interactive content aligns with the institution’s educational goals, effectively conveying key messages and a clear next step to boost conversion.
  • Whether showcasing program features or campus culture, interactive elements should serve a purpose in line with educational objectives.
  • Adopt virtual campus tours to provide prospective students – particularly international prospects – with an interactive exploration of campus facilities. Make sure they can focus on their points of interest, and gain valuable insights into campus life.

User-friendly interface

  • Prioritize a user-friendly interface that encourages seamless interaction, with intuitive navigation for quizzes, polls, or virtual events.
  • Users should easily understand how to participate and engage with the interactive content.

Provide value

  • Ensure that interactive content delivers genuine value to the audience, whether through educational insights, entertaining experiences, or personalized recommendations.
  • For example, use interactive quizzes to help potential students discover suitable academic programs based on their interests, preferences, and career goals.

Promote social sharing

  • Integrate social sharing features to encourage participants to share their results, experiences, or insights.
  • This extends the reach of interactive content and fosters a sense of community engagement.

Again, the interactive content must fit the institution’s brand to best create memorable and shareable experiences and be incorporated strategically into marketing campaigns.

Incorporating personalized content, captivating video narratives, and strategic social media utilization is more than a trend; it’s a transformative strategy that can significantly impact an institution’s success. As educational institutions wholeheartedly embrace these strategies, they unlock the potential not only to attract prospective students, but also to cultivate enduring connections within their community.

It’s crucial to recognize that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach; these strategies must be adapted based on the unique market dynamics, audience preferences, and available resources of each institution. Hence, a meticulous approach, due diligence, and methodical planning are paramount.

Furthermore, the effectiveness of digital marketing in education is maximized when it harmoniously integrates with the expertise and personal touch of human marketers and recruiters, forming a dynamic alliance that enhances outreach and engagement strategies.

By doing so, institutions position themselves not just to ride the wave of current trends but to shape a future where education marketing is dynamic, impactful, and tailor-made for lasting success.

EHL Hospitality Business School
Communications Department
+41 21 785 1354

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About the Author: Rayne Chancer