Online student recruitment is a field full of talented, dedicated professionals with extensive knowledge of the field and dozens of creative ideas to improve lead generation for their institution. The vast majority are well versed in the latest trends, best practices, and methods to build a successful inbound marketing strategy. So why is it that some schools excel in online recruitment where others seem to fall behind?
For many schools, the biggest obstacle to achieving their online recruitment goals is simply time. A recent survey conducted by QS Digital Solutions among recruitment professionals reported as many as 17.6% of schools viewed time restraints as their main challenge in 2016.
This statistic is possibly not that surprising. Each element of a successful inbound marketing strategy requires a certain amount of available working hours that some institutions simply don’t have, especially smaller schools with limited staff. And when recruiters spread themselves too thin, deadlines get missed, mistakes are made, and campaigns fail to reach their full potential.
So how can schools facing time limitations still get positive results from their online recruitment initiatives? Read on for a number of simple but effective ways to save time on your campaigns.
1. A ‘Reverse To-Do List’ Will Keep Your Recruitment Campaigns on Track
Many online student recruitment initiatives are incredibly time-sensitive. In order to generate the maximum amount of leads and get the most from their campaigns, schools have to plan to ensure their online visibility is at its highest during crucial times of year when prospective students are more likely to be researching their destinations or deciding on offers from different institutions.
Recruitment fairs, open days, and other initiatives also require schools to time their campaigns impeccably in order to ensure their success. This can put a lot of pressure on recruiters, particularly those with limited resources, as failing to have their campaigns ready to go on time can seriously limit their chances of keeping up with the completion.
Example: In the UK, universities use the UCAS application system to make offers to students. When all the offers have gone out, schools allow students to apply for any available places left on their courses between July and September, which is known as ‘Clearing’. It’s highly competitive, and most universities run concentrated Clearing campaigns.
The video guide to the system from The University of Hertfordshire below is incredibly effective, but was also probably time consuming to put together, so planning was very important to delivering the finished product on time.
So how can recruiters ensure that their campaigns run on schedule? One simple yet effective way is to create a reverse to-do list for your initiative, starting from your ideal deadline and working backwards. In the example above, for instance, the university would have set a deadline for the video to be finished before clearing in July. From there, they might work backwards, estimating when the final editing needed to be done, then shooting, casting, writing the script etc. Working this way can help give you a much clearer view of how much time you actually have, and stop you from getting sidetracked or taking too long completing a particular task.
2. Synergise Your School’s Social Media Posting Schedule
Many recruitment professionals find that managing their social media profiles is surprisingly time consuming. Because social media posts tend to be short in nature, it can appear deceptively simple, but between managing your presence on a number of different platforms, keeping up with trends and changes, and responding and engaging with your followers, your social media workload can pile up quickly.
One way to keep on top of things is to use scheduling and management tools to organise your accounts. Many schools will already use tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to schedule and monitor their social media updates across a number of different platforms in one place, and this can be tremendously helpful.
Recruiters can also make use of automation tools to synchronise certain common tasks, such as posts that need to be duplicated across more than one social platform. For instance, IFTTT, a synchronisation service which connects a number of different apps and allows users to create ‘recipes’ which cause their actions on one platform to automatically trigger an action on another, can be an incredibly useful tool for this.
Example: Many schools add content from their other social media platforms to their Pinterest boards. You can see a few examples below of some common IFTTT recipes for Pinterest which automatically import and share content to the platform from other sites such as Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter.
Automation tools should be used cautiously and only when necessary, as it’s important to maintain some diversity across each of your social media platforms rather than sharing identical posts on every site. Tools which allow for automated responses to comments from followers are also best avoided, as they can make interactions feel impersonal. Nonetheless, when seeking to perform some small functions, automation can be extremely helpful in taking some of the busywork out of social media management and freeing up your time.
Example: The University of Michigan has a Pinboard for its Instagram photos. Tools like IFTTT can enable schools to automate processes like this, automatically sharing their content from one site to another.
3. Automate Your PPC Recruitment Campaign Tasks with AdWords Scripts
Like social media, PPC campaigns can quickly become time consuming for recruiters. Keeping track of campaigns, adjusting bids, and implementing new keywords can all accumulate. Fortunately, there are some options available that can help ease your workload.
- Automatically adjust bids on keywords
- Add new keywords to campaigns
- Pause campaigns
- Create customised reports
- Detect broken links
All of these tasks can be set up to run systematically and at regular intervals, taking a lot of the pain out of the day-to-day management of PPC marketing for higher education. The scripts can also interact with external data sources or create alerts to notify you when significant targets or met. As with social media automation, they should be used with caution and reviewed manually on a regular basis, but provided proper care is taken, AdWords Scripts can be a huge timesaver.
Example: Google offers a number of ready-to-go, automated AdWords scripts that can save you a lot of time and heartache in your PPC campaigns. The below example is a new ‘negative keyword’ script, which alerts of you of any potential problems your negative keywords might create in helping your ads show up in relevant search queries.
4. Increase Your School’s Content Output with User Generated Posts
While every stage of the inbound marketing process can be time consuming, content creation is possibly the most labour intensive. For schools that are looking to build their presence on the web by producing well-researched quality posts, it can be difficult to keep posting regularly, particularly if you don’t have dedicated content strategy and development staff.
One possible way to increase your flow of content is to include more user-generated posts on your site. Many schools allow current students to post regular blogs, or invite guest blogs on occasion from faculty members, alumni, or other people associated with their institution. You can even use it as a means to produce content focused on a key part of your audience. For instance, some schools have had great success by allowing international students to keep diaries or video logs.
Example: York University in the United Kingdom posts a number of student diaries, covering everything from regular first year undergraduates to students doing a year abroad as part of master’s program. This particular entry comes from Chinese chemistry student Lisa Ying Jao, who offers prospective recruits in a highly desirable market a relatable and engaging view of life at the school.
It’s not just written content that can be sourced from you school’s wider community. Your student body can also be useful in providing photo content for image-based platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. By encouraging them to share their snapshots of campus life on social media, perhaps using a specific hashtag, you can create a regular stream of great photo content to keep your followers engaged.
Example: The University of Berkeley invite students to share content on their official Instagram page using their #BerkeleyPOV hashtag. Student photos provide them with a wide array of different and interesting images.
While your school should still create its own content on a regular basis, user generated posts can be a great way to make sure there is always new material on your website and social media platforms to keep users engaged and drive traffic. It can also provide you with a number of fresh and diverse voices to reach prospective recruits more effectively.
Of course, none of these techniques offer a cure-all solution for your time management issues. Improving the efficiency of your inbound marketing initiatives can take some time to get right in itself, and a lot of trial and error before you find the right balance for your school. Nonetheless, with a bit of creative thinking, you can always find ways to increase your productivity and get more done with your day.
What’s the biggest problem your school has with time management? What timesaving solutions have helped your campaigns in the past? Leave a comment below and tell us about your experiences!