The 7 Hottest Higher Ed Digital Marketing Trends for 2019

Date posted: December 26, 2018

digital marketing trends

The increasingly international and interconnected world of student recruitment continues to create new opportunities and challenges for institutions of all kinds, and 2018 was another year of great change in both digital marketing and education.

As it comes to a close, however, it is time to start looking forward, and 2019 is already shaping up to be a landmark year in digital marketing for schools, in which we could see the rise of emerging social media formats, exciting new features, and even brand-new platforms.

Curious to learn more? Here are some of the biggest new developments to keep an eye on as the next twelve months unfold.

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1. Could Stories Overtake Other Social Media Post Formats Next Year?

While social media stories are now far too well-established in and of themselves to qualify as an upcoming trend, the growth and adoption of the feature could be one of the most important things for those in higher education digital marketing to keep an eye on next year.

The format originated on Snapchat, which meant it was mainly popular among younger users. However, as more and more social networks have introduced their own versions of the feature, its usage has grown among people across all channels and age groups.

In Facebook’s Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2017 Results Conference Call, Mark Zuckerberg predicted that the sharing of Stories would eventually overtake posts in feeds. Later in 2018, Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox reiterated this view, going as far as to state that “the Stories format is on a path to surpass feeds as the primary way people share things with their friends sometime next year.”

If this comes to pass, it could represent the most fundamental shift in the way social media is consumed in the modern era. Schools and other brands alike will need to reorient their strategies away from the familiar news feed formats and focus on capturing attention in the Stories reel.

Example: An Instagram Story from the University of California. The unique mix of visuals and text in Stories requires more savvy for schools to navigate than traditional social media feed posts.

digital marketing for schools

It will also have a dramatic effect on advertising. Presently, Stories ads are just one of a number of formats available on social media ad platforms, which derive much of their value from the range of different options they offer to customers. Should Stories become the dominant way that users consume social media, networks will need to ensure the ad options they offer are attractive in order to continue monetizing their platforms effectively. Mark Zuckerberg himself has acknowledged as much, commenting that one of his company’s immediate priorities was “making sure that ads are as good in Stories as they are in feeds. If we don’t do this well, then as more sharing shifts to Stories, that could hurt our business.”

Interestingly, Facebook itself will perhaps be the deciding factor in whether Stories do ultimately surpass feed posts. The social network’s own version of the feature has taken time to grow, and still lags behind its subsidiaries like Instagram and WhatsApp in popularity.

While Facebook Stories now has over 300 million daily active users, this still means that over 70% of their user base is not using the feature yet. Still the largest social network in the world, convincing the bulk of Facebook users to make the switch will likely be crucial to consolidating the status of Stories as social media’s new standard.

2. YouTube’s Version of Stories Could Be a Valuable New Outlet for Schools

With that in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that more and more social networks are hopping on the Stories bandwagon, and perhaps the most intriguing of these is YouTube. Originally called YouTube Reels when it was launched in late 2017, YouTube Stories has been slowly rolled out to select influencers over the last year, and was recently opened up to any channel with over 10,000 subscribers.

YouTube’s version of the feature has some important differences from its competitors. For a start, the clips last for 7 days on the site after posting, as opposed to the 24-hour lifespan of Stories on most other sites. They are also displayed to both subscribers and non-subscribers of the creator’s channel, giving them more potential reach.

In addition, YouTube Stories allow users to leave comments and questions which can be answered by creators and viewed publicly by anyone. This could give schools a new avenue for engaging with followers using the medium, although it should be noted that creators can only reply to comments with photos or videos, rather than text.

Stories creators on YouTube have also shown a tendency towards using the feature for different purposes than those on other social media sites, emphasizing engaging their community and promoting the full-length videos on their channel more than offering spontaneous day-to-day updates. For instance, behind-the-scenes looks into the making of videos, as well as promotional teasers for upcoming content, have been common on the platform in its early days.

Check out this video for an illustration of how YouTube Stories work:

While YouTube Stories could be a useful channel for schools if it becomes more popular and widely available, it’s worth noting that the feature has received mixed reactions. Many YouTube users feel the site should be more focused on improving the features it offers within its own unique niche, rather than attempting to compete with other platforms. The lack of linking or ‘swipe up’ options on the feature has also been criticized. Nonetheless, YouTube Stories is still in its early days, and a bit of tweaking could see it become a real competitor to the likes of Instagram and Snapchat.

3. Will IGTV Rival YouTube for Student Recruitment Videos?

If YouTube Stories represents the video giant’s attempt to compete with Instagram, it’s worth noting that the rival company is fighting back. Launched earlier this year to much fanfare, IGTV is a standalone Instagram app that hosts videos of up to one hour long, and is widely seen as Facebook’s latest attempt to unseat YouTube as the dominant video platform on the internet.

IGTV’s key differentiator is that all videos on the app are presented in vertical format, rather than the horizontal shooting which is standard across TV shows, movies, and most YouTube clips.  This makes the content instantly more mobile-friendly, as users don’t need to rotate their phones to view it.

As we mentioned in a previous blog, IGTV has not been particularly successful so far, with view counts on the app coming in at considerably lower than might be expected. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that it should be written off just yet.

For one thing, unlike YouTube Stories, anyone can create content on IGTV, which could help drive more adoption. Indeed, many schools are already active on the app.

Example: A video about Spanish flu posted on IGTV by the University of Cambridge.

igtv for schools

Perhaps more importantly, Instagram recently introduced an option that allows users to share previews of IGTV videos in their Instagram Stories. This could allow them to harness that feature’s enormous popularity to nurture the growth of their new project.

The prospect of IGTV becoming part of a more complete social networking experience along with Instagram’s other offerings is perhaps where its real potential lies, and many experts have encouraged users to think of it along those lines. For instance, AfterBuzz TV COO Phil Svitek encouraged brands to strive for cohesion between their IGTV and main Instagram accounts.  “Treat it as a part of Instagram instead of a whole,” he said. “Your entire Instagram (photos, stories and IGTV) should be cohesive. They should convey the same themes just in different ways.” If IGTV does start to really take off in 2019, schools could be very wise to heed these words.

4. Exciting New Social Network Vero Could Offer Opportunities for Higher Ed Digital Marketing

In its early days, the social media landscape tended to fluctuate quite a bit. New sites and apps were introduced and rapidly gained popularity, only to quickly fade away and be replaced by the latest trends.

Over the past several years, though, it has become something of a more closed shop as the market has reached a kind of maturity. In the past decade, arguably only Instagram and Snapchat can truly claim to have broken through to become one of the major players in the market, and even those platforms are now 7 and 8 years old respectively. What’s more, the former has long been bought out by Facebook, while the latter has seen its audience and influence erode in the face of competition from the bigger, more established platforms.

However, there is a chance that this could begin to change. The more the market has become the sole preserve of a few dominant players, the less choice users have, particularly given their recent tendency to compete by mirroring each other’s features. This could potentially open the door for newer platforms to find a niche.

So what new social networks are worth considering when it comes to digital marketing for education? One interesting proposition is Vero, which launched in 2015, but began gaining widespread attention and new users earlier this year. Styling itself as a more ‘authentic’ social network, Vero allows users to control who sees their posts by categorizing them under four options: close friends, friends, acquaintances, and followers. This simple system gives users more of a sense of control and privacy.

The platform is also ad free, and is aiming to stay that way, eventually planning to introduce a subscription model in order to monetize. While this might seem like a disadvantage for brands, it also means that the site’s feed has no algorithm, meaning all posts appear in chronological order. For schools who can gain followers on Vero, this means that organic reach would be drastically better than it is on other networks.

Here’s a video from Vero which illustrates the company’s philosophy and approach:

Essentially offering a kind of ‘old school’ social networking experience, Vero could make a huge impact, though its fate will most likely depend on whether internet users can come around to the idea of paying a subscription for social media.

5. Is the Future of Search Voice-Based…

Away from the social media battleground, the development of search marketing in the near future is largely predicted to revolve around the continued rise of voice search. Over the past number of years, the increased use of voice search assistants on mobile and desktop like Siri, Cortana, and OK Google has cause a shift in how people search for things on the internet, with more emphasis on localized queries, answers to questions, and real speech.

This has only been intensified by the use of smart home voice assistants like the Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, and Google Home Hub, combined sales of which are expected to grow to 275 million worldwide by 2023.

higher ed digital marketing

Search engines have adjusted their algorithms accordingly to prioritize pages that can help answer common voice search queries, and many experts now recommend that marketers should begin developing dedicated voice search strategies in order to optimize their efforts for these devices.

6. … Or is it Visual?

While voice search gets a lot of buzz due to its widespread adoption, it’s worth paying some attention to the continued development of visual search, too. Google Lens and Bing Visual Search have made great strides in bringing this technology forward, creating easy-to-use applications which allow users to point their camera at objects and have search engines bring up information about them.

While there are obvious limitations to the usefulness of visual search, it could still become a bigger part of the larger search engine world in the future. Imagine, for instance, if a prospective student could call up information about your school by pointing their camera at a building on your campus, a brochure, or even one of your admissions team members’ business cards? It’s an intriguing possibility that is already becoming a reality.

Example: Google Lens correctly identifies the contents and information of this business card.

higher ed digital marketing trends

Source: Lifehacker

7. 5G Internet Will Revolutionize Digital Marketing for Education

One final big thing to look out for in the digital world next year is the long-awaited arrival of 5G – or fifth generation – mobile and internet technology. Offering unparalleled speed and responsiveness, a number of service providers in various countries are already beginning to roll out 5G internet networks, while Samsung and Verizon are partnering to bring out the first 5G smartphone in early 2019.

Check out this interesting video from Engadget to learn more about what 5G will bring:

While it will take time for 5G to become the standard across the globe, it’s exciting to think about what this sort of speed and connectivity could do for your higher ed digital marketing campaigns.

As always when discussing new developments in the digital world, it’s important to preach caution. After all, for every Instagram Stories there is a Google Glass, and it’s possible that even the most hotly tipped trends will fail to catch on among internet users.

Nonetheless, staying on top of what’s new and current will help to ensure that your school is not caught napping when the next big thing comes along, and can continue to maintain an online presence that truly engages and connects through 2019 and beyond.

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