2021 has forced many of us to cope with new changes in a more virtual world, where our new normal embraces the digital landscape in an effort to build and maintain personal connections.
The same can be said about digital marketing—where consumers continue to seek personal interactions. With worldwide digital ad spending expected to rise to $441.12 billion in 2022 (making up 58.7% of total media ad spending), it becomes more important than ever to ensure that the right messages and channels are being used to reach the right audience.
Marketing trends are constantly changing to reflect new technologies, evolving consumer behaviours, as well as the world we live in. For schools, this means staying up to date on new trends that better resonate with current and prospective students. By applying these trends, schools can boost their marketing strategy and see better results in the year to come. Read on to discover our list of 7 trends that could benefit your school in 2022!
1. Student-Centered Content Promises to Drive Big Results
Quality content naturally attracts attention and can be used as a great tactic to improve your marketing efforts. In fact, consistent and high-quality content can help you boost engagement and build trust with current and prospective students. Not only can you gain traction on social media but you can also increase your school’s visibility and search traffic. With so many benefits, it’s no wonder that content marketing continues to trend higher—with 66% of companies expected to increase their content marketing budget next year.
But what makes content great? And how can schools leverage that to maximize results?
Knowing your audience and student personas is a key part of the process. Creating student-centered content and focusing your efforts on what would truly resonate can help you make stronger connections with your prospects—naturally driving conversions. You can explore a variety of platforms and formats, though it’s important to remember that quality trumps quantity every time.
It’s becoming more standard to have a blog, a space where you can showcase your school’s unique community, share relevant resources, and introduce engaging topics to your prospects. Even though blogs have been around for a while, it’s expected that they’ll continue to maintain a popular streak. According to HubSpot, 56% of marketers believe that blogging is effective and 10% have said that it generates the biggest Return on Investment.
A notable trend is guest blogging, where schools share a post on a third-party blog. Choosing to leave a guest post on reputable and high-traffic blogs can help you reach new audiences and create hyperlinks that direct others to your school’s website (also called backlinks). This can improve your SEO efforts, boosting your school’s web traffic and search rankings.
Example: TAFE Queensland posted an article on Study International, a third-party site that produces a variety of content for international students. The article is showcased on the homepage and features a personal story, engaging images, and relevant backlinks.
Source: Study International
The popularity of podcasts has skyrocketed in the past few years, and the market is even expected to reach more than 2 billion by 2023. Podcasts are often conversational, introducing content in a fresh and more personal way. This leaves you with many options and opportunities to create student-centered podcast content.
For instance, you can share lectures or community insights from your school—allowing prospects to hear from key faculty and other students in a more casual environment. Western University’s website includes a Podcasts page that shares a variety of podcasts, which feature different speakers, departments, and subjects for listeners to enjoy:
Source: Western University
University of Oxford takes a similar approach by sharing educational podcasts on a range of topics that could interest prospective students, ranging from Student Life to Women in Science and other topical issues:
In spite of the rising popularity of blogs and podcasts, video content still reigns supreme—so much so that it’s expected to make up over 82% of consumer internet traffic by 2022. Short-form video is the way to go on many platforms, but long-form video (around 2 to 6 minutes) tends to perform best on YouTube. However, producing content in both formats can give your school greater benefits.
Consider creating a long-form video that can be cut down to a shorter length for social media. You can repurpose that video for Instagram, YouTube, and other platforms to engage your students through storytelling while also avoiding high drop-off rates.
2. Catching the TikTok Wave: Video Marketing and Advertising Continue to Rise
As mentioned earlier, video content is overtaking other formats. Combined with the impact of social media, your school’s video and marketing efforts can go a long way in reaching your target audience and connecting with them.
According to DataReportal, TikTok passed the 1 billion monthly active user milestone in September, giving advertisers access to 24% of users aged 18 and above (excluding those in China and India). It’s now projected to reach 1.5 billion users in the next year, which would set it higher than Instagram.
Schools targeting Gen Z or teenagers can make use of this platform to increase awareness and engagement, particularly as it grows more popular within the next year. TikTok is all about authenticity, where creative marketing ideas for educational institutes can flourish. Here, you’ll want to embrace a new way of creating content—stepping away from repurposed video and moving towards organic, “TikTok-styled” posts that instantly resonate with your prospects. These types of TikToks can also be student-generated, using school-related hashtags (like #backtoschool) or school-specific hashtags like the one below, tagging #universityofedinburgh:
3. Collaborating with Student Ambassadors to Level-Up a Social Media Strategy for Schools
Influencer marketing has been a rising trend for a while now, but HubSpot anticipates it turning into a “common marketing tactic”—with micro-influencers leading the way. Micro-influencers are social media users with a dedicated following that typically ranges from thousands to tens of thousands of users. These influencers often connect with a niche audience, giving marketers access to a new or specific target group.
You can leverage this tactic by embracing student ambassadors as part of a winning social media strategy for schools. These student ambassadors have an established presence on social media platforms, where they become micro-influencers who are able to reach your prospective students in a more personal and direct way. By collaborating with them, you can showcase your school more authentically.
Instead of relying on school-produced content, you can include student-made content that connects your prospects to current students and the school as a whole. This establishes social proof that the student experience is as good as you say it is. In this way, prospective students can envision themselves on your campus, enabling you to build the foundations of trust and loyalty more easily.
Example: Marshall University created a Social Media Ambassador program where students can share their experiences on Instagram. Posts feature student meals, group hangouts, campus life, university events, and seasonal snapshots.
Your school can collaborate with student ambassadors in a variety of ways and on a multitude of platforms. You can produce videos on YouTube or TikTok, share posts on Instagram, and even create blog content – which can also be shared on social media.
Embracing this spirit, the University of Manchester is recruiting students to become “Content Ambassadors,” working with the University’s Student Communications and Engagement Team to create content that reflects their own experiences. Students are then incentivized by getting paid, attending creative development workshops, and working with the University’s team of social media experts—resulting in a win-win collaboration.
4. Conversational Marketing: Your Key to Connecting with Prospects in 2022
More and more online users are seeking personal connections and interactions in 2022, particularly in the post-pandemic landscape. Now, the buzz is all about conversational marketing, a dialogue-driven marketing approach that promotes one-to-one interactions via messaging apps and voice assistants. The rising popularity of AI conversational solutions is a great testament to this. According to Gartner, machine learning apps, chatbots, and mobile messaging are predicted to be a part of 70% of customer interactions by 2022.
For schools, conversational marketing means quick and personalized responses to student queries—potentially boosting conversion rates. Students that have questions about admissions or student services can use these chatbots and messaging apps to get quick answers, receiving helpful links to resources in a conversational and natural way.
Interestingly, RNL’s 2021 E-Expectations Report reveals that 50% of high school juniors and seniors use a chatbot to engage with a school instead of filling up the school website’s RFI (Request For Information) form. To capitalize on this trend, you can incorporate a live chat or messaging app on your school’s website and make it more effective by featuring calls to action (CTAs) that link to forms or an admissions advisor.
Example: The International University of Applied Sciences in Germany includes a chatbot on its website, which reveals different actions that the user can take. By choosing “chat with us” and selecting any of the listed options, the user is presented with relevant links and CTA buttons that direct them to email or call.
Pro Tip: To build on what was mentioned in the previous section, you can use these messaging apps to connect prospects directly with a student ambassador. The University of Amsterdam’s website dedicates a page to its International Ambassadors, allowing prospects to directly chat with them through a user-friendly interface.
Source: University of Amsterdam
5. Boosting Student Engagement via Hyper-Personalized and Interactive Email Campaigns
Like blogs, email marketing has been around for a while. However, it still manages to remain relevant despite emerging trends and new technologies. The key here is to use it correctly, with user needs and expectations in mind. To do this, you’ll want to segment your audience and focus on personalization.
This is where utilizing data makes a big difference. As a school, you can consider your prospective student’s location, interests, and activities (with the latest data privacy policies in mind, of course) and tailor your email to avoid generic content. With this technique, your email campaign becomes much more effective.
Personalization in emails is not exactly new, but 2022 will take it a step further by shifting us closer towards hyper-personalization. Deloitte describes the term as creating contextualized communications to a target audience by using data, analytics, AI, and automation tools—all while using the right channel at the right time and place. This means personalizing email campaigns instead of just elements of them.
Schools that want to optimize their student engagement via email can incorporate hyper-personalization into their email marketing strategy. It can be used to recommend courses or programs, relevant events or resources, and notable promotions that align with the interests of your school’s segmented audience.
Example: Prospects who started an application for a specific program (i.e. “Mastering Digital Marketing”) at the London Business School receive hyper-personalized emails that align with their expressed interest. In this case, the email shares details about a webinar hosted by an adjunct professor teaching in that specific program:
Here, it’s notable to mention that interactivity is growing popular as technology continues to evolve. In terms of email marketing, this means we might see a rise in interactive emails that allow users to engage with content inside the email itself—especially since it yields great results. According to Kapost, interactive content can generate twice as many conversions as passive content. This trend could also refocus how we measure performance success, placing a stronger emphasis on click-through rates (CTR) over open rates.
To give you an example, these emails can contain GIFs and videos, animated buttons or CTAs, hover or rollover effects, surveys and polls, and alternative design modes (i.e. light or dark theme) to name a few features.
Source: Really Good Emails
Schools can use a similar layout to share different types of information and resources—from program options to student services that prospects can benefit from. Although this is a rising trend, it’s hard to say whether it will fully take off next year within the education sector. That said, it does introduce innovative ways of using email to make a big impact and a memorable impression. If anything, this type of creativity and forward thinking can only serve to enhance your marketing strategy in the future.
6. Voice Search Optimization Could Pose Notable Benefits for Your School
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a key factor for the discoverability of your school. On-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO are all different categories that can help with your efforts. However, it can also be beneficial to optimize for voice search in 2022.
When it comes to voice search, it’s important to have a mobile-friendly website to work with. A 2018 study by Brightlocal shows that smartphones are the most popular tool for voice searches for local businesses and that 27% of people visit the website after making a voice search. With a mobile-optimized website, your school can improve its accessibility.
Although much time has passed, voice technology is improving as more people embrace voice assistants and smart speakers. In fact, Statista reveals that the number of digital voice assistants is anticipated to reach 8.4 billion units by 2024. This creates room for a lot of opportunities—and it doesn’t hurt to get a head start.
If you’re interested in capitalizing on this trend for your school, then you’ll want to make some of the content on your website feel more conversational. To do this, you can feature FAQ pages, format some lower-level headings (such as “h2”s) as questions, and ensure that your school’s information is listed on local business directories like Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, and others.
Ultimately, optimizing for voice search is not yet a necessity, but it could still improve the visibility of your school. As voice technology continues to evolve and draw more people in, it may very well be likely that we’ll see this trend make a comeback in the near future.
7. Marketing Hybrid Events to Attract Students and Generate Interest
Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 continues to affect marketing trends in 2022. As policies change to allow some in-person gatherings, it’s expected that marketers will embrace a new model: hybrid events. That’s largely because virtual events have been successful—leading 58% of companies to declare it as the content type that produced the best results for content marketing in the past year.
In fact, many schools have been able to use virtual events to engage new prospects despite physical boundaries getting in the way. The University of Alberta hosts a variety of online events and workshops, as well as faculty-specific events, to draw in prospects:
Source: University of Alberta
In the post-COVID world, these events can also be remodelled to engage a wider group of students through multiple channels. Schools can leverage both in-person (respecting the country’s COVID guidelines) and online events to interact, engage, and connect with different prospects. For example, the Renison English Language Institute (ELI) hosts a combination of virtual events and in-person events to enhance the student experience.
These events can be targeted to prospective students. The information gathered through event registrations can then be integrated with marketing automation platforms or your school’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to create personalized campaigns that drive great results.
As with everything in marketing, it’s important to keep a close eye on new developments as they occur. While higher education marketing trends in 2022 may not always involve new technologies, it’s likely that they’ll involve a new way of using them. Changing times naturally introduce new perspectives that bring about new approaches.
But sometimes, going back to the basics and making sure you have a strong foundation is the most effective strategy of all—overpowering any temporary new trend.