How to use video to market your university

11th May 2015

In the age of higher fees, increased student expectations and a competitive global education sector, marketing has never been more important for universities. With 83% of 18-24s using social media more than once a day, and 71% regularly watching TV programmes online (according to a study by Dr Chapleo) it’s no surprise that digital is leading the way.

Each institution needs to find a way to differentiate itself from competitors, reach online audiences and cut through the noise. Video can help as part of a Higher Education marketing strategy targeting people at all stages of the cycle – from prospective students to alumni and brand advocacy. Here are our top tips to help.

Give the audience what it wants, where and when it wants it

Omnichannel marketing offers a multitude of new opportunities for Higher Education marketers. You need to ensure that you are communicating effectively with your audiences at all the relevant touchpoints including optimising for mobile and adjusting your content for each channel. For instance you only have 15s to tell your story with Instagram video but it still needs to fit into your wider brand identity.

Studies have shown that the 16 to 24 year old audience are comfortable with brand content but don’t necessarily want a conversation. They’re interested in discounts, competitions and convenience rather than chat. But most of all they want to be entertained. Remember 62% of 18-32 years olds will check their smartphones if they have downtime rather than think, with 32% even checking their phone in the conversation lulls. (Dr Simon Hampton, University of East Anglia).

Think of the opportunities for your university to connect with this key audience during these moments. Your video content can really help to engage, but you need to take advantage of this time in tight content-led campaigns.

We have spotted some campaigns such as Keele University’s “Nuts about Keele” campaign which tries to offer content rather than selling. However for universities, potentially there is a gap in the market for those who can create content rather than just sell. With 63% of 18-24s happily checking out native ads if they like the content (Adyoulike), it’s worth thinking about content first.

A critical objective for universities is to convert applicants, and Loughborough University ran a successful digital campaign at results time with their “#Iamin campaign.

They encouraged people to share their news with the hashtag and a selfie, and with their acceptance letter students received a pre-prepared hashtag sign which they could hold up to the camera. They also encouraged the accepted students to pass the message to their peers that there was still time to get a place through clearing. Videos were also shared, such as the Chancellor manning the phones during clearing, and a video directly addressing students who had just received a place.

Balance emotion and logic

When creating your video content, it is important to get the balance right between making emotional connections and logical arguments. Once you have caught the audience’s attention by engaging their emotions, you can highlight arguments for choosing your uni over others, and then return to emotions again to make your call to action work harder. (Think of it like a logic sandwich as nicely described by marketing expert, Bethany Thomas.)

A recent campaign which leads with emotion is the OU’s “what are you capable of campaign”. It pulls the audience in with an emotional story told to a rousing soundtrack which will resonate with the target audience who will be juggling work and family life with their studies.

University marketing with UGC videos

Gathering and curating user generated content can be an effective way to engage your audience. Your target market is keen to get creative and join in, and will love the fact that you have shared their video content.

The University of Dayton introduced an annual video contest with a theme around leadership, where students can submit videos rather than written content. This works because the university is addressing its audience in the way it likes to communicate.

To get ideas for your UGC campaigns, we advise listening to your audience and finding out what they’re sharing and engaging with. The University of Southern California got this spot on with their USC Dorms campaign on YouTube playing on MTV’s Cribs show. The videos highlight a distinctive dorm and give prospective students an insight into living away from home, and the audience could vote for the best room to fuel social media engagement. The key to this was that the marketing team listened to the needs of the students – in this case interested in what uni residencies were like.

Take students there with 3D

A university’s campus and facilities are a critical factor in a student’s choice making it a priority to show it in its best light. Tours and walkthroughs can really help to bring your campus to life for students, especially important for the international market.

Recently we worked with the University of Birmingham on a 3D video campaign. The film was used to highlight their latest developments at an event attended by 250 people. In the competitive marketplace drawing on 3D filming techniques can really add impact.

If you’re looking to create a video or digital marketing campaign for further or higher education get in touch with us.

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