Marketing is always about connecting with the customers for the development of the business. It is not only developing relationship with the customers but it also deals with the relationships with employees, stakeholders and others. There are various kind of marketing strategies followed by companies such as Close Range Marketing (CRM), Relationship Marketing, Transactional Marketing, Scarcity Marketing, Word of Mouth Marketing, Viral Marketing, Mass Marketing, Seasonal Marketing, Digital Marketing etc. After considering the type of marketing there are factors that are necessary for any company to decide the strategies. The strategies are as follows (KOTLER & KELLER, 2012):
- Developing Customer Intimacy
- The Brand Image
So, while considering any kind of the marketing strategy we must consider the factors necessary for the progress of the organization. Among the kind of marketing strategies one kind of strategy that is important or I would rather say the cost-effective type is “Digital Marketing”. So, let’s go through the Digital Marketing concepts and various factor necessary for the successful Digital marketing. Digital Marketing is related to all the online efforts that an organization needs to do. Online efforts refer to the google search, social media, email and websites that allows to develop a relation between current and future customers. As the information technology industry is very dynamic with respect to the technological changes research suggest that people have become more tech-savvy. This as lead to increase in sales of technological products such as Laptops, Smart Devices, Tablets etc. The important part for any company is to create their own brand image in the industry there are in. In Digital Marketing the branding takes place online. There are various medium for doing so. The important items that fall in the digital marketing are digital advertising, email marketing, online broachers etc. In digital marketing, there are assets and tactics divided. In online marketing the assets are covered by the websites, interactive tools, blog spots, social media links, earned online coverage, online brochures, branding assets such as logos, fonts etc. The tactical decision that one as to take such as Search Engine Optimization(SEO), Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Pay Per Click(PPC), Affiliate Marketing, Native Advertising, Marketing Automation, Email Marketing and Online PR. This helps to create the brand image in the online industry. Search Engine optimization is related to the google ranking of the websites and necessary steps to get the website at highest rank. The dependency of SEO being successful are numbers of visitor on the website, Images, Pure content in the website, Social media linking, title image etc. Content Marketing is necessary for developing the brand image among the market segments. It is not only related to creating a brand image but also necessary for generating the lead generation or to increase the customer traffic. Inbound marketing is related to converting prospect customer with the help of the online brand image created. Social media marketing is related to various social sites that are free source of marketing also. As depending on usage pattern of the customer various social sites have various preference. So, companies decide on the footfalls of the social sites and concludes on using those sites for digital marketing. Pay-Per-Click is one kind of method to increase traffic on websites or product center. It is related to paying the publisher the amount for displaying their ads. Affiliate marketing is promoting other products on online stage. Native marketing is related to content that are displayed along with the other free content. Email marketing is kind of marketing were the company communicates with their target and non-target audience with the help of mail. This mail can contain freebies, promotional discounts etc. Online PR is related to that kind of the digital marketing which consist of blogs, publications, websites etc. This are kinds of digital marketing which plays significant role for each industry were organizations think of going for online mode of marketing. There various industries such as Finance, Sports, Entertainment, Chemical, Medical, Banking, Educational etc. This are few industries that are mentioned, every industry has their own way of designing the marketing strategy. So, the reasons that different sectors are inclined towards digital marketing are as follows (Wikipedia, 2016):
- Tracking of the customers.
- Quality conversion rate
- Develops relationship with all kinds of customers.
- Less investment and higher rate of interest.
- Ease of analysis
- Understand the competition.
This advantage is related to company growth in the competitive market. In this paper, we would be talking about the strategies that are followed by Educational institutes for digital marketing. There are various educational institutes starting from junior school, higher school, graduate schools, master’s schools and PHD schools. This schools are divided into on-campus and off-campus class schedule. The off-campus are online courses. So, universities diversify themselves with both product line i.e. on-campus course as well as off-campus course. In any kind of marketing there are few concepts that one as to keep in mind being at right place at right time with right cost. So, for university to be strong and to satisfy the above concept university should be accepted among masses. Just being student and understanding their perception so what does the students considers before taking admission in a university. The necessary things that students consider before taking admission are as follows:
- Name, Location, Campus and Courses offered in the university.
- Ranking of the university.
- Fees and facilities provided.
- Score cut-off
- Living expense.
- Political, economic and environmental stability.
- Social lifestyle.
- Demographic of students coming in for admission.
Above are few question that student consider before getting an admission in the university. Priority changes depending on the need of the student. Let’s consider the steps that the university would take for making their presence online. There are many university across United States and all have diverse ways of making their presence feel in the online space. The cheapest mode of marketing is digital marketing. So, for a university to go online one as to understand the tactical decision that they must take. So, the digital marketing start from website of an educational institutes. Factors that are important while developing the websites are as follows (Barr, 2012):
- Layout of the website should be specific.
- Should have pure content and images used should be related to the university.
- User-friendly website.
- Look and feel of website should be pleasing for the students, professors.
- Should have professional outlook?
- Website should have complete detailing about the location of the university.
- Query forms, different forms etc. should be there in the websites.
- Information should be highlighted.
- Website should be dynamic
- Website should be customized in different language across globe.
- Supported in different browsers.
- Should be used on various mobile platform.
- Smooth transmission between different pages of the websites.
- Different videos associated with the university should be placed on websites.
- Testing of websites
This are the important points that needs to be considered for any educational institute while developing a website. Website plays a significant role in digital marketing because it becomes the selling point. This is the front face of the university when the international students approach for admission. The above mention factors plays a major role or play a influential factor for admissions (Costil, 2015).
The next step once the website is created is Search Engine Optimization. In this tactical approach of search engine optimization, we would try to increase the page rank. There are several ways to increase the PageRank. They are as follows:
- Effectiveness of the content in the website should be high.
- Website should be dynamic so that continuous upgradation takes place.
- Specific keywords and should be related to the university.
- Optimization with respect to the university keywords should be used.
- Overloading of the keywords should be avoided.
- Backlinks should be used.
- Creation and submission of the sitemap
- Using social media to beneficial effect.
- Images that are being used should be related to the university.
- Having titles for each page of websites.
- Having meta robot tags available.
- Designing the landing page.
- Decreasing the loading time.
- Criteria for uniqueness of pages are code similarity, text similarity, pages, title, headings, page titles and metatags.
For effective Search Engine Optimization one as to take follow these steps so that there is an increase in the traffic to the website. This is essential for the creating online brand image of the product that we are trying to convey to the customers. As this increases the page rank in various search engine such google, Bing etc. the websites are linked with. So, every search engine as their terms and conditions that needs to be followed so that the websites get at least basic page rank. They are the one who approve the websites to get the necessary page ranks. So, for example if we consider the website of University of Illinois Springfield it should satisfy all of the above factors for the having the highest page rank. This can be explained in later with the help of the example of other university. In this search engine optimization, social media marketing plays a significant role as the number of social sites linked with website leads to increase in the traffic on the websites. As number of clicks increases on every page of the websites the ranking keeps improving. So, this is important tactical digital marketing strategy educational institute needs to follow for increasing their lead generation. So, there would be specific set of professionals doing this work. They are Webmasters, SEO engineer and Website optimizer. Tools that are used for Search Engine Optimization are as follows:
- Google Webmasters
- Google Analytics
- Open site explorer
- Website grader.
There are paid tools also that are being used also:
- Seo Moz
So, the educational institutes can use any of the tool for the effective and efficient search engine optimization. The social media channels that can increase the page rank or could help in the digital marketing are blogger, WordPress, Tumblr etc., social bookmarking sites like Digg, Jumptags etc., and social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat etc. (Wikihow, n.d.)
After all this there are various tactical strategies that educational institutes can follow is by sending mailing document to the prospect students. In today’s world, we can take ahead digital marketing with the help platform independent social sites such as WhatsApp, Snapchat etc. This change is due to change in usage of technology pattern of the students or customers. Due to dynamic nature of the technology one as to keep on updating their ways to market institutes online.
Social media has become an increasingly important medium for hoe organizations communicate with their key audiences and cultivate and cultivate and extend their brands. Major higher education institutions are no exception. This paper would explore how higher education institutions are using, have adopted and are employing social media. This study forms the basis for evaluating the degree of adoption and employment of social media and understanding the best practices for higher education institutions use of social media as a public and media relations tool. The issues to be investigated include:
- Marketing strategies used by the educational institutions in social media.
- Understand the way in which institutions promote their higher educational programs to the international students via promoting themselves over the internet.
- The strategies which have been successful and which could benefit the institutions.
- Various methods of online marketing.
- Successful search engine optimization methods.
- Difficulty in increasing the hits on the ads, websites and pages.
- Adapting to various political, economic, sociological, technological, environmental and legal factors.
- Difficulty in understanding the place of promotion and target people.
- Difficult in finding experts for digital marketing.
- Need to keep a continuous track on new developments that takes place in university so that it keeps updating digitally.
- Uniqueness in Ideas.
The different elements which must be considered for an effective overall inbound marketing strategy.
- Difficulty in keep track on spam mails that are sent to prospect students should be limited.
- Employees are also customers of the university so including them should also be one option for effective digital marketing.
- Using social media effectively and efficiently.
- Blogs, video’s, article should be shared across the University portal.
- Digital screen across the university helping everyone to be aware of the things happening in the university.
- Daily mail notification regarding the events, recruitments, etc. happening in the campus.
The purpose of this research is to investigate the practices used in online marketing in promoting higher educational institutions. The research has been conducted to understand several types of strategies that have been implemented for better marketing, how they might relate to and maybe derived from traditional marketing techniques. The emphasis is also to learn about new tools and practices that can be introduced which would further help in bettering online marketing.
The team has also explored features that could be added to websites and what kind of efforts are needed to make these features available and how it helps online marketing overall. Over the course of research, the team has also answered questions regarding the necessary time-frame needed for effective digital marketing in relation to several types of tools being used in the market. The pros of marketing over the internet in terms of the online reach, costs and the various drawbacks are also examined in this research.
Learning about new strategies which combined concepts from traditional marketing along with making use of new digital trends to forecast some future practices that are already being used in the market. Based on the research that has been conducted, the team proposes to come to conclusions regarding the topic and further introduce recommendations that may be followed by higher institutions in online marketing.
1. How marketers of higher educational institutions use internet as a medium for marketing
Although online marketing is a new space, the strategies and the people in charge of digital marketing in an educational institution still follow and derive new practices from traditional marketing. Marketing over the internet can be achieved through different channels whether it is by analytics driven increase in traffic, the type of content posted on a social media platform or any new feature on a website.
2. What are the current practices and strategies used to promote higher educational programs over the internet?
Investigating already existing practices that are being used to promote higher educational programs through online advertising, social media platforms. This helps in figuring out the strategies that have been more effective in digital marketing. The already existing practices that are being examined relate to individual areas like word search, e-mail marketing, social media marketing.
3. What is the future of marketing higher institutions over the internet and what new practices and strategies can be introduced to aid the existing ones?
The web is a fluid and ever changing medium. The trends regarding online marketing is pivoting towards different evolutionary practices. One of these trends is increased emphasis on user experience. It is important for higher institutions to create a one-of-a-kind digital experience which would reflect their specific culture and strengths. Mobile platforms are already the go-to for many kinds of marketing so educational institutions clearly have opportunities here. Sharing visual content like photos and video on social media is another important trend that can’t be overlooked.
4. Can this marketing be outsourced? What will be the pros and cons in such a case?
Digital marketing has surpassed traditional marketing efforts in importance and scope yet few institutions have scaled their web governance structure accordingly. A single web editor and social media specialist can hardly be expected to carry out an institution’s web interaction and publishing. Third party vendors who offer services like newsletters, social media mediator which could help in reaching out targeted audience through could be a viable option although the pros and cons of following this path need to be understood.
This paper analyzes the current practices and strategies of the educational institutions promoting their higher educational programs over the internet. The objective has been to investigate these existing practices relating to websites, search engines and social media. This helps in formulating an idea about the best practices and their impact on marketing over the internet.
The scope has been to understand the various tools available readily for the marketers. This includes google analytics, mobile marketing, online display advertising. Paid social media not only allows an institution to more effectively target audiences, but it’s also significantly cheaper than cost-per-click adverts.
The team has also made it a point to research about digital marketing companies and the services they provide to higher educational institutions. Services include analytics-driven traffic, advertising based on location.
It was important to limit the research towards US based institutions as the laws relating to internet usage by educational organizations would clearly vary from other countries.
While researching for the paper, the team was hoping to find information directly from institutions regarding the practices they use or at least the channels they go through to find digital marketing firms.
Like marketing in any industry or space, the institutions with more resources were assumed to reach a much larger audience than smaller institutions. The conversion rate of users was also assumed to be larger for institutions with bigger brands and well-known names.
Creating social media accounts with a huge repository of content on websites like Facebook, Instagram would directly result in achieving better online marketing, this assumption was proved to be wrong due to the popularity and better reach of limited content applications like Snapchat.
For this paper, the research has been limited to only higher educational programs. Most of the data is collected from peer reviewed journals and other internet sources because the marketing strategies will not be revealed by the educational institutions.
One of the limitations the team has faced is the lack of transparency from educational institutions in sharing the various practices they have implemented to promote their programs over the internet.
Not much data is available in the public domain regarding the conversion rates from the general traffic a specific website or a social media account has received to actual admissions into various programs.
Another huge challenge was the difficulty in objectively exploring the perception that the leads (students) gained through digital marketing are not as engaged as those coming from other sources. Yet, digital marketing is different from other forms of advertising because it targets people who are already searching for what higher education institutions have to offer or imply their interest through other behaviors. As a result, a well thought-out digital campaign often leads to inquiries that are as qualified or more qualified than any other source the college uses, and oftentimes convert into students at a higher rate
As higher educational institutions discover the need to appeal to a diversified student group, successful marketing and advertising have turned out to be increasingly imperative exercises for higher educational institutions. Institutions should now market themselves extensively and attractively to separate themselves from contender establishments. Successful marking can help with increasing enlistment and enrollment, extending fund raising sources, and other different results. Today, effective marketing strategies and brand management require more than traditional marketing, advertising or brand improvement. Organizations that craft, deliver and deal with a unified brand message, involvement, environment and with unique and appealing marketing strategies gain a competitive advantage over its rivals. (Hanover Research, 2015).
The way the higher educational institutions market themselves has changed over couple of years and the most significant way of marketing is using internet as a medium where universities use a variety of new platforms such as social networking platforms, blogs, podcasts, search engine optimizations, ad targeting etc. for external engagement and communication. The term digital refers to the use of digital marketing strategies and social refers to the use of social media platforms. While social media provides great platform for the universities to market themselves, the university website, where universities present themselves to prospective students, is playing a significant role in reaching out target audience. Design, interface and the ranking in the search engine results of the university website are crucial when developing a website.(Hanover Research, 2015).
Marketing begins with reaching out the target audience. Before launching any campaign, higher educational institutions should make sure to do the due diligence to truly understand what the customers want and need. They should remember that the customers are always the top priority. Beyond prioritizing the customers’ needs and values, universities should make sure to understand the path they’re taking to sales.
Marketing is understanding what the customers want, which can be challenging when the university dealing with such a diverse audience. Successful online marketing is an understanding of the organizations exact needs and goals. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all customer marketing strategy. The customers are highly diverse and will demonstrate their own unique preferences, personality traits, and needs. The online marketing initiatives need to reach each one of these customer segments. The first step to any marketing strategy is to establish the customer personas. Knowing the customers is not enough. The organization also need a thorough understanding of how their values, behavioral characteristics, traits, and personality traits translate into sales with the organization (WALDEN, 2015).
Online Marketing strategies
Following are the general online marketing strategies employed by educational institutions(Woschnick, 2016):
Local Listings and Classifieds: Universities can create a business listing on online listing sites to ensure that consumers searching for higher education to find the institution.
Search advertising: Search advertising is a method of placing online ads on Web pages near search engine results. For example, with AdWords, the institution can deliver the message now someone is searching for higher education. Choose keywords that relate as closely as possible to the programs an institution offers.
Contextual ads: Contextual advertising takes display ads to the next level, by placing them on sites related to education offerings. For example, for higher educational, ad may better perform on university ranking websites, journal websites etc. Services are available that automatically distribute ads to sites based on the content of higher education website.
Contextual ads: Contextual advertising takes display ads to the next level – which could be very useful, for example, universities can choose places where they can find more potential candidates.
Mobile marketing: Many smartphones and mobile devices provide web browsing, GPS, cameras and video capabilities. Universities can develop creative promotions with text messages and location-based social networks.
Affiliate marketing: Affiliate marketing lets a user get other businesses to drive prospects to their website. Some affiliates may allow an organization to set up a store on their domains. A store on websites such as free online learning etc. can lead users redirect to university website (to get a degree from recognized university).
Social networking sites: Universities can cultivate new business through social networking sites where members share stories and recommend to other people. Universities often keep in touch with alumni with the help of social networking tools. Alumni share their experience with the university which can be helpful to the universities to promote higher education.
Online videos: Universities can reach new audiences by posting videos on video-sharing sites. Universities can make a short video about the university and their programs and post it as an ad on video sharing sites. MobileDemand is one of many small businesses with a YouTube channel to help spread company news and information.
Stories: Stories can give your brand a powerful voice, regardless of whether you’re running an enterprise organization, small business, or startup. Brand stories are cross-functional commitments that should guide your entire organization. Your sales team, engineers, product managers, executives, and entry-level professionals should all have a hand in articulating your brand’s messaging.
Trends in Social Media Usage by US Universities (Hanover Research, 2015)
- Facebook is the most usual form of social networking being used, with 98% of colleges and universities reporting having a Facebook page.
- 84% report having some form of an institutional Twitter account.
- 86% report having an institutional YouTube channel/presence.
- 66% report maintaining some kind of blog.
- 41% report the use of podcasting.
- 47% of admissions professional’s report using LinkedIn
Mobile development: Alongside the rise of mobile technology and connected devices, colleges and universities are making greater investments in having a mobile presence. This includes not only mobile versions of websites and other content, but also making a greater amount of course content mobile‐friendly.
CMS and CRM systems: Alongside the use of web analytics and other methods of harnessing “big data” in higher education, colleges and universities are relying more heavily on content management and customer relations systems. CRM systems are especially important tools for admissions professionals engaged in outreach to prospective students.
Marketing Automation: Through marketing automation, institutions can segment their database by student behavior, and serve and track personalized communications based on the behavior. Although the first marketing automation tools were limited, today’s marketing automation tools are able to integrate email, content marketing, social media marketing, landing pages, and comprehensive analytics in order to perform a wide range of functions,
In today’s technology-centric world, student enrollment strategies must also incorporate the latest trends in technology. According to a 2015 survey of college-bound high school juniors and seniors, 77 to 78 percent of respondents indicated that college websites make a difference in their perception of the institution.3 Moreover, 60 percent of seniors and 55 percent of juniors stated that they are more likely to consider institutions that use digital strategies – such as email, text, and social media – to communicate. However, 40 percent of seniors and 45 percent of juniors noted that they were more likely to consider institutions that use print and phone communications, suggesting the importance of a multichannel marketing and communications strategy (Hanover Research, 2015).
Over two-thirds of U.S. colleges and universities have some official school blogging activity on their campus. 41 percent of officials believe they can directly attribute an increase in enrollments to their social media efforts. Institutions report spending less on printing (30 percent), newspaper ads (23 percent), television (17 percent), and radio (16 percent) because of increased online presence.
Issue 1: Web Design and Analytics:
Responsive website design: A university’s homepage is the hub of its web presence and in attempting to appeal to a diverse range of visitors, the challenge is staying intuitive and uncluttered. If visitors should go back to your homepage every time to find the content they’re seeking, they aren’t likely to stay on the site very long. Website navigation is an integral component of overall site architecture from which all content can flow from.
Institutions are placing more emphasis on responsive web design to create intuitive and easy to navigate websites that can be viewed on multiple devices and platforms. Websites often feature elements and layouts to streamline and highlight content, including navigation bars, engaging visuals such as slideshows, and prominent “call to action” buttons that encourage students to apply, for example. Surveying the alumni and provide statistics on how many found work in their field after graduation is important for universities to include in the websites. Visitors to the website want proof that their degree will lead to a rewarding job. This evidence should be prominently displayed in the academics/programs section, to spur inquiries and prompt applications. Often, students are left to research salaries and industry trends on their own – which means navigating away from the domain, and relying on others (very possibly competitors) for important guidance. Overall quality of programs (by comparison with competitors), Quality of teaching (according to student feedback), Viability of training programs in the current marketplace (according to projected demand), Professional success of graduates (according to the Graduate Employment Report), Speaking of top honors and positive ranking results is vital to showcase on the website in a dedicated section that prospective students can browse through while researching the institution and programs (SHERWIN, 2016).
When a university is developing a website for more than one language, the layout should be designed with that in mind. Every element of the alternate language site needs to translatable, and needs a responsive and dynamic structure that will make this possible. The typographic layout and fonts you use for your website can make a significant difference to how intuitive it is for international users (Coward, 2010).
Blogs, social media posts, video content, and even common school website elements such as program pages and student testimonials are all now very much part of the fabric of the overall recruitment strategy of many institutions, which each component strategically focused to tap into the needs and values of target personas, and optimized to increase online visibility and nurture leads towards the next stage of the conversion funnel. As websites get flashier and content marketing grows ever more flamboyant, solid ROI content (effectively presented and easily accessed by visitors) can be reassuring to the overwhelmed decision-maker.
Mobile optimization involves much more than making information fit onto a smaller screen –where content must also be rewarding, easy to navigate and quickly accessible. While mobile devices have become a central part of everyday life for most people today, this is particularly true for the college demographic. By properly understanding the mobile users’ preferences and behavior, the university can deliver a more intuitive and productive experience. Digging into the education analytics data and persona research to determine which types of searches are bringing users on different devices to the site and which searches they’re performing when they get there. Look for trends in content accessed and shared on phones and analyze the typical path that mobile-using prospects follow. There ways to use auto-fill or buttons to reduce the need for tedious typing on smaller devices. Optimize images, minimize external scripts and plugins and optimize high traffic pages for a better mobile experience.
Administrators want their institutions to receive a prominent spot in search engine results, particularly Google. Especially for institutions that offer niche programs, it is increasingly important to ensure that search results include these programs at the top. University keywords should reflect all the several types of user queries that could help someone find when they’re looking for something the university offers. Different keywords have different purposes, and they should be held accountable to the goal that most aligns with their purpose. Phrase and exact match types expand to cover close keyword variations, so they don’t need to worry about creating additional keyword clutter. Relevant images that support the main point of your ads tend to perform the best. The content and quality of your headlines matters and will determine how well the ads perform (Stemper, 2016).
Use of web analytics: Colleges and universities are relying on data‐driven analytics to determine who, how, and where they are reaching their audiences. The use of analytics software is increasing as the higher education web ecosystem is becoming increasingly complex, and the amount of material institutions have online is expanding (domains, subdomains, etc.). Getting a better handle of this data is a new area of concentration for colleges and universities. It is important that how this analyzed data is used by the university to reach their target audience and in developing new marketing strategies (Stringfellow, 2016).
Issue 2: Marketing on Social Media
One of the areas of digital marketing is Social media which happens to be the dynamic and fluidic one. The professionals in the marketing department must be in constant adaption of the tactics to keep up with the latest trends and features. This refinement in the strategies is required for effective marketing of the institutions programs and recruit the millennial students. Social media happens to be the practical and workable tool due to its low cost of operation, wider reach and arguably the fastest means of communication to the prospective students in the modern age (Kelleher & Sweetser, 2012).
The millennial era has involved an uncommon place out in the open talk recently. We are progressively engrossed with the sheer tremendousness of this era (the biggest up until now), and additionally millennials’ unmistakable social viewpoint, ways of managing money, innovation inclinations, and financial difficulties. Millennials are ready to wind up noticeably our next pioneers and trailblazers, and as per Pew Research, as of now rule the US workforce (they outperformed Generation X in labor piece of the overall industry in 2015).
Given their impact, potential, and sheer numbers, its nothing unexpected that schools and colleges are considering how best to draw in and connect with this quick moving, exceptionally versatile, perceiving era of movers and shakers. And keeping that each instructive foundation or program will have its own unmistakable millennial persona(s), there are a couple of essentials schools ought to remember as a top priority when endeavoring to reach and enlist millennials.
More than ninety five percent of the educational institutions in the United States use at least one form of social media to engage students, increase enrollment and retention, and establish a foundation for strong alumni relations. A Shift from traditional advertising strategies have encouraged one way correspondence; be that as it may, marketing on the social media gives the schools a chance to interact with its followers, a two-way communication. 2016 saw some of the big players in the social media implement major changes to their platform that gave new chances and difficulties for advertisers. Among the most vital improvements were Instagram and Twitter’s changes, which on a very basic level modified the user experience. Also, both acquainted new features to face the market competition after Snapchat’s developing userbase, who themselves have additionally moved to grow and enhance their offerings. For schools, changes like these, consolidated with new components offered by diverse sources, for example, Facebook and LinkedIn, have implied consistent updates to their system keeping in mind the end goal to stay important and unmistakable in the social media circle. The expanding significance of international students in the United States of America has likewise brought challenges, with enrollment specialists implementing innovative ways in significant markets and areas, for example, WeChat and Weibo in China. Regardless, online networking stays a standout amongst the most essential components of student enrollment, also, a standout amongst the best roads for direct correspondence and engagement with potential leads. It will be intriguing to perceive what 2017 has in store in this energizing field. It is essential to be an early adopter of a new feature in the social media before the competitors so that the schools would gain traction to the changes and it results in more visibility and attracts more followers. This is important as the educational institutions must keep up with an audience who are highly informant of the digital world (Barnes & Lescault 2011).
There have been new features introduced by the big players like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook to gain an advantage over each other in a stiff competition. These are not minor updates but huge changes to the applications resulting in increased functionality opening new possibilities for users as well as the institutions. The main aim is to increase the number of users which would surely benefit the schools to market their programs globally.
New methods in which schools can better connect with millennials:
Use of Snapchat to reach out in spontaneous ways
Most schools today are already present on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram – but if the schools are aiming for the millennial students, it would be very fetching if it also has a platform on Snapchat, which is now more popular than Twitter, Pinterest, etc. among young students. Recent studies show that Snapchat is gaining ground as a marketing tool by the student recruitment teams of the colleges and universities.
Schools with their finger on the beat realize that instant messengers, (for example, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat) are developing as the new typical in web-based social networking – and Snapchat joins the power and interest of texting with pictures and video, in addition to extra components that resound emphatically with millennial clients: Personalized narrating that feels inventive, unconstrained, and fun (clients can tweak their snaps with hand-drawn doodles, inscriptions, and channels). It is quick paced, ceaselessly crisp substance (Snapchat Stories eradicate naturally after a day, and snaps sent to gets in touch with self-destruct seconds after being seen). What’s more, seven out of ten millennials use Snapchat, including 70% of post-secondary students. And on any given day, Snapchat reaches 41% of all 18 to 34-year-olds in the United States.
Use of Peer-generated Content to Build Trust
Millennials are a particularly savvy demographic of consumers, who are used to digging up reviews and consulting widely with peers before purchasing products and services. They are highly skeptical of self-promotional marketing, and above all else, value the opinions and testimonials of people like them when choosing which business to buy from, company to work at – or school to attend.
When prospective millennial students are researching a school or a higher educational program, they’re looking for stories from current students and grads – evidence to substantiate claims around things like personalized learning, providing an inclusive and fun learning environment, impressive job placements rates, excellent campus facilities, attentive instructors, high rates of acceptance into prestigious post-grad programs, etc. Its best if the key recruitment messages to be delivered by the university’s own students, rather than relying on institution-driven communications.
There are several ways to gather authentic, peer-generated material to enhance the content strategy and development – such as the Snapchat contests mentioned earlier. The universities of Houston and Michigan did use those submissions across marketing channels to promote themselves in genuine ways that resonate with millennials.
However, if the institutions are looking for a way to generate promotional content from current students on a regular basis, it is always better to form a team of millennial student ambassadors. Ambassadors can contribute unique ideas to engage with their peers, will work with the marketing team on specific campaigns, and will appreciate having their content published and distributed online through the institution.
Demonstrate that the School is Socially Responsible
Millennials want to associate themselves with brands that do good in the world. To earn their respect, it’s important to declare a mission and set of core values that show a school stands for something, and is driven by more than the “bottom line”. And then follow by showcasing how the students live up to that mission in authentic and inspiring ways. Ultimately, it is the communication of the institution’s character through the acts of its administrators, instructors, students, and alumni – an essential element of branding for schools, and crucial for building trust with millennials.
Connect Students with Knowledgeable, Caring Mentors
Mentoring is fast becoming a key factor in student recruitment and retention. And some of the reasons why are easy to guess, and aren’t strictly applicable to millennials. For example, mentoring helps uncertain applicants of all ages clarify program selection, understand how their learning can be applied in the professional world, and feel motivated by recent grads who have been in their shoes. But some benefits of including mentoring in recruitment (and retention) strategy are particularly potent to millennials. If we consider Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey and the high value respondents placed on professional mentoring throughout their careers, nine out of 10 respondents with mentors said that “the quality of advice”, and “the level of interest shown in their development” are extremely valuable and motivating. What’s more, employees with mentors are twice as likely to remain loyal to their organization (stay for longer than five years).
This touches on the idea of personalized guidance and growth-coaching that millennials often cite as important, both during their education and throughout their careers. There is a strong resistance to “one size- fits-all” models that simply “funnel” students into and out of academic programs. Millennials need to see that an institution values their individual goals, concerns, aspirations, and interests – and can connect them to a community of knowledgeable advisors that will offer customized support. Incorporating mentoring into the student recruitment strategy will reinforce a school’s commitment to nurturing growth at every stage, while subverting the notion of “assembly line” education where all students follow the same path to success.
Issue 3: Content Strategy
The past year saw several interesting developments in content marketing for student recruitment, as universities, schools, and colleges in all sectors continued to find new and increasingly inventive ways of engaging and informing prospective students. Blogs, social media posts, video content, and even common school website elements such as program pages and student testimonials are all now very much part of the fabric of the overall recruitment strategy of many institutions, which each component strategically focused to tap into the needs and values of target personas, and optimized to increase online visibility and nurture leads towards the next stage of the conversion funnel. In addition, many more forward-thinking recruitment professionals have also sought to embrace innovative technologies and trends in their content strategies, exploring the potential of adding interactive content and virtual reality elements to their initiatives, and providing prospective students with exciting and surprising ways to connect with their school (Media, 2016).
Finding the right content marketing mix for an institution requires careful development and analysis of the student personas, and recruiters should take the time to seriously consider their interests, tastes, and values in order to create offerings that will really resonate with their wider online community.
More than ever, parents and students are looking at post-secondary education as a practical investment that ought to “pay off” with tangible outcomes – like a secure job after graduation, the potential for income growth, and the knowledge needed to evolve and advance. In response to demand, a growing number of websites have emerged to help decision-maker’s comparison shop for colleges with the best “return on investment” (ROI). These resources look at several factors when evaluating schools, including:
- Total cost of college (text books, living expenses, room and board, etc.)
- Potential debt
- Expected future income (based on program of choice and projected industry demand)
- Graduate outcomes and job placement
But schools who put “ROI content” front and center on their own website make the task much easier for prospective students and parents to complete, without navigating away to pursue their research elsewhere. Giving decision-makers the tools they need to evaluate your institution should be the primary goal of the recruitment content strategy. Facilitating the easy discovery of key information on the website helps nurture the conversion process – while enhancing reputation for transparency, helpfulness, and overall trustworthiness.
The following are examples of ROI content students and parents are likely to look for on a school’s website:
- Net Cost Calculator
- Average Salary & Career Outlook for each Program
- Statistics on Job Placement & Alumni Success
- Accessible Data on the School’s Performance Track Record
Web Development for International Students
A website can say a lot about a school. A well-crafted, intuitive, and aesthetically pleasing design immediately gives prospective students the impression that your institution is professional, knowledgeable, and dedicated, and that the institution values the needs of wider school community and strive to provide them with the best possible experience (Fusch, 2010).
However, web development can often be challenging for educational institutions in today’s continuously changing online student recruitment landscape. Evolving trends and tastes have made rebranding and redesigning their site a priority for many schools, while the continued rise of mobile technology has made responsive design essential to ensure students can access a site through different digital devices. Not only that, but the increasingly global nature of student recruitment has made providing alternate language content and other resources for international students a necessity, as schools seek to provide an inclusive online environment for potential applicants from all over the world. As a result, the past year has seen institutions in all areas of education making web design and development one of their primary focuses, devising new tactics for continuously improving and evolving their online spaces, expanding their multi-lingual offerings, and striving to create a better, more intuitive experience for mobile and desktop users alike (Fusch, 2010).
Higher education websites, especially mobile sites, are where prospective students first interact with the school and form their first impressions. As it is the virtual front door, they have enormous reputational impact and engage more people than any other online student recruitment activity, including a clear majority of international prospects. Ensuring that the online visitors reach their destinations as quickly and easily as possible should be a top priority for every institution.
Continuous improvement of the school’s website with evolutionary design
Higher education websites are both vitally important to a school’s success and very easy to get wrong. With so many academic departments and inner colleges to represent, diverse audiences to cater to and objectives to accomplish, making a website that satisfies all types of users on all types of devices is a tall challenge indeed. In addition to these essential requirements, universities are eager to establish a distinctive brand that conveys that they’re progressive, inclusive and cool (among many other attributes). When institution leaders eventually decide that their existing sites aren’t doing the job, the sheer size and complexity of higher ed websites make redesigns a huge undertaking. They have significant up-front costs and implementation times, frequently going over budget and taking longer than expected. The worst part is that when the expensive new site is finally unveiled, colleges risk finding that their traffic has dropped precipitously or that they’re facing a backlash from irate users (Rocheleau, 2016).
Although not strictly website related, attempted logo rebrands from the University of California and Trinity College were recently brought back to the drawing board after passionate rejections from their respective communities. True website success is measured by more subtle means – analytics data will reveal detailed page views, conversions and bounce rates and it can take weeks or months to objectively assess whether a website is performing as desired.
There are many reasons why traffic may drop following a redesign – because SEO was not effectively implemented into the redesign process, the new site didn’t undergo sufficient internal testing, users are confused by the new navigation or the overall design simply doesn’t satisfy user needs.
In order to find the answers to the research questions qualitative research methodology and content analysis techniques were used. To conduct qualitative research in depth interview had to be conducted by interviewing people that are responsible for social media marketing of institutions. The University System of Georgia consists of different types of institutions which include research, state university, state college and comprehensive. The social media managers of each institute were interviewed which helped gain insight on the way higher education institutes make use of social media. After the completion of the interviews only content analysis is to be conducted to provide deeper knowledge regarding the topic (Hall, 2014).
The research was conducted by selecting each institution within the group of institutions and assigning a unique number to each group. Once the numbers were assigned then the next step was to contact the person that will be participating in the research from the institutes. And one important condition was to approach the institutes that have social media accounts. The institutions were contacted to get details of the person responsible for managing social media accounts for the institute. Once the contact details were gathered telephone calls or emails for recruitment were sent to the respective person. The email even included information regarding the details of the research and even the risks associated with participating in the research (Hall, 2014).
The data collection method used is the qualitative research method in order to analyze the utilization of social media by educational institutions. Qualitative research method is considered best because in involves open ended, loose and interactive conversations to be held between the researcher and the participant which kind of a friendly way to carry out the task. And this method even enabled the participants to freely express their views and explain about the tools and techniques they have been using for promoting their institutions (Hall, 2014).
The researchers conducted interviews by developing a questionnaire that consisted of collection of questions that were approved by the institutional review board. The questionnaire consisted of around 40 questions and some of the questions consisted of sub questions too. The interview lasted for almost an hour and the questions covered included the time when the institution first adopted social media, reasons behind the use of social media, social media tools utilized, managing social media, the social media platforms in use and the value achieved by utilizing social media. The list of questions that were developed helped in finding answers to the research questions which include how higher educational institutions use internet for marketing, current practices used by the institutions to promote higher educational programs over the internet, future of marketing higher institutions over the internet and can this marketing be outsourced and the pros and cons. The questions in the questionnaires were divided such that set of questions were allocated to answer each research question (Hall, 2014).
In order to protect the confidentiality of the participants involved in the research there names are not revealed. Not only the names of the participants, but also any other information that can reveal the identity of the participants is not disclosed and all this information is replaced by giving each participant a unique number for identifying them. The participants are described by providing them with a number followed by a letter. The number describes the type of institution and the alphabet describes the department which can be either the office of admission or student life office (Hall, 2014).
The second data collection method used is called as content analysis. While conducting the interview each participant was asked what their primary social media platform is and how do they utilize it. Once the participant tells about the platform the researcher conducts a thorough content analysis of the platform and the information gathered from this analysis can be helpful in providing answers to the research questions, how do educational institutions make use of social media and what strategies have proven to be effective. As part of conducting the analysis the researcher numbered each day from Monday to Friday for few months and weekends were excluded because institutions do post anything on the social media platforms during weekends as they do not operate during weekends. The researcher than made use of a random number generator for picking five numbers which represent different dates and the content produced during these days on the social media platform selected by the participant would be analyzed. In this research method, there were different aspects taken into consideration while performing the analysis which include the number of posts made daily, user engagement, use of tools like hashtags, additional attachments and the type of content posted. The results from the analysis were then compared with the responses of the participants regarding their utilization of the platform; this will help in better understanding the platform (Hall, 2014).
To get the information required for the research on online marketing of higher education institutes representatives of the office of admissions and student life office were included as participants in the research. One of the assumptions of the researcher was that these participants would provide detailed explanation regarding how effectively higher education institutes utilize social media; in addition to that they would also demonstrate the way in which the social media platform enables communication between external and internal communication strategies. Another assumption was that qualitative methodology of research would be sufficient in achieving effective responses to the questions (Hall, 2014).
Data Analysis Method
On the completion of the interviews, the researchers produced all the information gathered into a written format and reviewed it carefully. During reviewing the researchers identified repeating patterns which included strategies themes, practices, reasoning etc. by the participants. The data was then presented in a way which would help understand the use of social media by institutions and the current practices of the institutions. The results produced were further analyzed by using diffusion of innovation theory which further explained the adoption of social media platforms by these institutions (Hall, 2014).
Results and Discussion
The researcher had selected 13 participants to interview from the University System of Georgia in order to better understand the utilization of social media by higher education institutions. The interviews were followed by analysis of the content. The 13 participants that were selected belonged to the age group of twenty-three to fifty-five years old. Out of the 13 participants there were three males and ten female participants. And as mentioned earlier each participant represented one of the two offices which include student life office and office of admissions. Upon conducting the interviews, it was realized that the primary social media platform that was utilized by institutions to interact with students and audiences and to communicate information regarding any events and programs organized by the university was Facebook. Facebook enabled the institutions to spread positive information related to the institution and even allowed them to identify popular online trends and become a part of it (Hall, 2014).
Research Question 1
The first research question is how marketers of higher educational institutions use internet as medium for marketing? Through the interviews and content analysis it was realized that higher educational institutions made use of social media or internet in order to spread messages among the audiences. And the audiences could be anyone alumni, students, parents and communities that depend upon the institution or department. Moreover, through the interviews it was found out that the institutions make use of social media as an additional communication method but an important one in addition to the other communication methods that they already use in their departments (Hall, 2014).
Although the main purpose behind the use of internet is to communicate effectively with the students, apart from that the institutions have even realized the significant role that social media can play in promoting their brand online. Therefore, many institutions even use social media to promote their brand online and maintain a good image of their institution among the students. In the interviews the participants have clearly mentioned that they have to select carefully the content to be posted on social media as it is important that the content is in alignment with the goals and missions of the university. And the managers of social media for institutions know social media can make or break the reputation of the institution (Hall, 2014).
Institutions of higher education are utilizing social media in an appropriate way. As it was noted in an interview with one of the participants who mentioned that internet is being aggressively used by institutions to achieve their primary goal which is to attract more students and increase the enrollment of students. Therefore, the institutions try to reach as many students as they can so that their enrollment numbers always stay up. The same goal is shared across both the departments the student life and admissions and throughout all the institutions (Hall, 2014).
Through content analysis it was realized that most of the institutions utilize the internet in almost similar ways and to achieve similar objectives. As it was observed that almost all of the institutions made posts to inform students and other audiences about an even that was being organized by the institution or any other department and other posts included links to articles in the newspaper that represented the institution in a favorable way and other posts included information regarding competitions or games upcoming in the future and even posts included reminders regarding events and deadlines for registrations etc. Another thing to be noted was that the admissions office was more inclined towards achieving the strategic goals of the university. While the student’s life tend make posts that included more of graphics, videos and images (Hall, 2014).
Posting videos, online clips and photo albums for attracting international students is one of the best practices adopted by universities as a way of explaining the first-year students about the life at universities. When the freshers view these videos and photos they are unlikely to drop out of the university. This is an innovative way adopted by the universities to advise the freshers as well as to manage their expectations related to higher education (JISC, 2010).
Research Question 2
The second research question is what are the current practices and strategies used to promote higher educational programs over the internet? It was made clear through the research that the institutions that ranked higher attracted more students online. One of the strategies that were employed by the institutions was to attract students online by providing them with a $25 gift card for participating in a selfie challenge and this strategy helped students to engage with them online. This strategy allowed the institution to gain more engagement from the students online as the number of likes, counts and comments increased as the students realized that the institute is providing people with gift cards. Thus, this strategy proved to be effective in attracting audiences (Hall, 2014).
In addition to that institutions used to different techniques and displayed profound knowledge regarding engagement strategies. As part of their engagement strategy the institutes launched social media campaigns and involved current students in their campaigns as part of their strategy. One of the campaign involved requesting students that received acceptance letters to share their achievement with their friends on Facebook by posting their image with the acceptance letter their social media account. Once the student posts the image the institute then shared the image and uploaded it on their timeline and this strategy helped them increase engagement as the followers of the student commented and liked the photo shared by the institute (Hall, 2014).
The institutions made sure to involve current students in the marketing strategies. The offices having authority to promote the institute online encouraged students to help them and be part of their activities. Though the students did not post their views online but the social media marketers form the universities considered the ideas, perspectives and opinions of the students as important and utilized the student’s perspective in attracting prospective students. And they even recognized the contribution of the student online by displaying the student’s name and appreciating their participation. And the prospective students that view the institutions post recognizing student’s contribution appreciate it and would be encouraged to be part of such an institution that considers students as an important part of their institute. In addition to that the universities even engaged students in a brainstorming session so that the university can find out important aspect of the institution that the students observe which can be helpful in attracting prospective students. Once they receive inputs from the students they post and describe about the interesting part of the institution online and make it visible to all the prospective students online (Hall, 2014).
Another observation from the interviews was that research institutes, state colleges, state university all of them were using only one platform for social media marketing which was Facebook. While all the other participants in the survey accepted to use more than one social media platforms. Inquiring about the future in social media adoption the state colleges and universities indicated no interest in expanding their social media limit, thereby limiting themselves to only one platform. The research participant on the other hand displayed interest in adopting new social media platforms as a part of their marketing strategy. But the expansion would be made only once they utilized Facebook in a much better way. As it is the part of their plan to be effective in using Facebook for marketing first and once that is achieved they can move to other platforms like Instagram, Twitter etc (Hall, 2014).
The participants from state colleges and state universities clearly explained that they were not interested in expanding their adoption of social media platforms. And they were not putting a lot of efforts to encourage engagement form the students and audiences on these platforms. These institutes were not investing their time on researching the social media utilization techniques of other institutions and had designed no plan for improving their social media presence. The social media managers of these institutions were well aware of the fact that their social media utilization methods needed improvement but they responded by explaining their lack of time for all these activities (Hall, 2014).
The other institutions on the other hand put in their best efforts in order to increase engagement of the students and communication between the students and the university. They launched several campaigns in order to achieve their goals. One of the campaigns was the institution posting the images of the students that received a banner once they were admitted into the institution. And this image was posted on the admissions department page which attracted their audiences and prospective students that are following the institution to write comments and even like the images. Another campaign was to post pictures of the students holding posters in their hands and the poster contained points explaining the things they will be able to achieve and the contributions they will be making to the world by becoming a part of the institution. And such campaigns seemed to work well as they attracted many followers and encouraged many students to become a part of the institutions (Hall, 2014).
Through performing content analysis it was observed that the institutions that posted graphics and videos in addition to photos observed that they received more interaction from the students and audiences that viewed the videos. Whereas the institutions that were not posting content like graphics, hashtags and videos on social media platforms received fewer interactions from the students (Hall, 2014).
To adopt online marketing strategies, it is important to research whether the university has the staff size and the essential knowledge for taking up the digital marketing initiative. The institutions having the essential knowledge have proven to promote their institutions better using social media platforms. Once the institution and the respective department is confident regarding their resources and knowledge regarding online marketing only then they should take further initiatives towards expanding their reach. There are different strategies that have been applied by institutions and some of the strategies failed while the others succeed in gaining attention from the audiences and fostered communication between the institutions and students. The strategies that proved to be effective will be discussed further. One of the strategies that helped in attracting prospective students was to involve current students in the digital marketing initiatives. Because when the prospective students are looking for schools or programs they will be looking for stories from the current students through which the prospective students can get assurance regarding factors which include fun learning environments, job placements, campus facilities and high rates of acceptance into post grad programs. Thus in order to have the power in the message the institutes want to deliver it is essential that the message is delivered through the current students of the university. Thus the Facebook posts that involve students explaining about their experiences in the university are effective strategies (Hall, 2014).
Another approach that has proven to be effective includes developing responsive websites. As most of the students these days carry smart phones and they use the smart phones to look up the information they are searching for. Similarly, whenever they are searching for educational institutions also they use their smart phones to access the website of the institution. And as they carry their smart phones everywhere with them so they depend upon the smart phones only to look for resources. Developing a responsive website design ensures that the students can access the website and the essential functions and features optimally across all the devices and platforms. The sites design switches according to the size of the viewing screen. By building responsive websites the institutes have successfully attracted the students that use mobile technology more when compared to the other technologies (Patel, 2015).
Further the participants in the interview have mentioned clearly that social media is an effective way to reach students across the world. Social media is considered desirable because students already spend most of their time using different platforms of social media. And such platforms even have a wide geographical reach when compared to other platforms which enable them to reach audiences and students that they cannot interact with otherwise (Hall, 2014).
Research Question 3
The fourth research question is ‘What is the future of marketing higher education institutions over the internet and what new practices and strategies can be introduced to aid the existing ones?’ After performing thorough research over the internet and getting in touch with few marketing professionals some of the strategies have been identified that can be helpful to further the approaches of higher educational institutions. One of the strategies could be inbound marketing. Developing an inbound marketing strategy will require schools to take various elements into consideration which can include creating website content, social media and email content and aligning these elements with the strategies of the school. And there are different ways in which an institution can achieve this. Although many institutions already have their accounts on different social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc. But in order to farther their reach they should start using Snapchat. Snapchat is a mobile visual messaging platform that is more popular than Twitter and is even gaining popularity among institutions as a student recruitment tool. Snapchat has the features of instant messaging applications including additional features of images and video messages. As almost seven out of ten millenials use Snapchat it is an effective way to reach millenials. Marketing automation is another technique which if done effectively can enable messaging to be much more personalized, timely and relevant. It can help brands to be presented as more human than the manual methods that are being used by marketers. Moreover, research has proved that marketing has helped businesses in experiencing large amount of increase in qualified leads. And this strategy can be helpful for schools too since it will save the time consumed by marketing and the saved time can in turn be used in calculating the return on investments (Rowntree, 2016).
Another effective strategy can be developing a content strategy. Blogs, video content and website content have always been a part of the recruitment strategies of the institutions. It is essential for the college websites to have content describing the total cost of college, job placements, future income etc. As most of the students are looking for post secondary education that will pay off with outcomes that are tangible. Providing resources like net cost calculator, net cost calculator and average salary for different programs. Another way can be by building well designed websites and adding features like multilingual websites for students from different countries. And making the websites mobile friendly is essential too as it will be easy for the users to access the site through their mobile devices whenever possible (Kumar, 2016).
One of the important strategies is incorporating Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as part of the digital marketing strategy. The SEO strategy will maximize the online visibility of the institutions and it will ensure that prospective students are exposed to the offerings provided by the institutions. It will also help in measuring the results produced so that necessary improvements can be made to generate better results in the future. In addition to this pay per click which can add great value to the marketing campaign which will even improve search engines and social media sites. Many universities are making improvements to their SEO and PPC approaches so they are in coordination with the algorithms of Google and various other major search engines that have added features which include mobile optimization and voice search. The changes in social media sites algorithms has also resulted in marketing and recruiting firms to make changes to their strategies in order to align them with the changes made to the news feed algorithms of Instagram, Facebook other popular social media sites which has made the reach of brands limited and made pay per click method of promotion more important (Kumar, 2016).
Research Question 4
The research question 5 is ‘Can this marketing be outsourced? What will be the pros and cons in such a case? Using a traditional approach for carrying out the marketing strategies is not considered to be suitable in current market conditions. In order to assure effectiveness of the digital marketing strategies both in house and outsourcing techniques need to be considered. As the importance of digital marketing is increasing, more number of companies is promoting themselves online. Rather than spending huge amounts on developing and using digital marketing tools the organizations including educational institutions should rather focus on investing on effective digital marketing strategies. And mainly two strategies are available which includes doing all the activities in house or outsourcing to a digital marketing agency. And the choice to be selected depends upon the current situation of the organization or institution. The main reason behind outsourcing particular services is when the current service is unable to generate new customers (Steimle, 2013).
Outsourcing work to digital marketing firms is an effective way to meet the marketing expectation of a firm. Many firms that specialize in digital marketing can be found in most of the cities. The advantage of making use of a digital firm lies in the amount of expertise they can offer to their clients. A digital marketing firm that provides full marketing services that will integrate search engine optimization, social media and marketing content development efforts as one. The firms providing full digital marketing services are usually expensive. And startups should not outsource their digital marketing processes because they cannot afford them. Another approach could be to outsource only the selected components of the digital marketing approach to a digital marketing firm and performing some of the activities in house only. Having an in-house department to carry out all the digital marketing efforts can be practically impossible for small to medium sized organizations. There may arise situations where the skills required to carry out the digital marketing efforts may be difficult to develop for the in-house employees or it can be too expensive. Moreover, it will not even be financially feasible to hire someone part time or full time as their skills will not be required consistently and constantly (Steimle, 2013).
Outsourcing to a digital marketing agency will allow the organizations to achieve the skills that are required and at the right time. This approach even provides better control over the budget. Moreover, outsourcing will allow you to work with marketing professionals all over the world rather than employing a single marketing professional and working with him. Through outsourcing the institutions can even negotiate rates as they will have different choices of outsourcing firms available. Outsourcing will help the institution to gather fresh ideas to from the marketing experts and the in-house employees can focus on the core operations of the institution which will improve their performance too. Once outsourced the clients can even demand the work to be completed within certain time limits thereby always meeting the deadlines and this will not be possible with in house teams. For many institutions outsourcing digital marketing will make sense on many distinct levels since it provides flexibility and affordability. It might take some time to find out the digital marketing firm that will be most suitable for the institution but the financial advantages that can be achieved makes it worth the risk (Steimle, 2013).
- Gaining an objective partner: As an owner of the business it becomes a bit difficult to separate what you want to do and what should happen. For example, developing a Facebook page will not be useful when it will not solve the purpose that it was built for. In such situations outsourcing teams prove to be useful as they make decisions based upon industry trends, data and the company’s objectives. And they will be providing honest feedback regarding the steps to be taken to provide the institution success online.
- Concentration on the company’s success will be interrupted: Digital marketing strategies change quickly as there are changes made to the search engine and social media algorithms. In trying to keep up with this rapidly changing environment the companies can get distracted from their core objectives and services. By outsourcing the digital marketing activities, the company can focus on their core objectives as the responsibility of keeping up with the changing trends will be handled by the marketing firms.
- In house, digital marketing activities can be expensive: As digital marketing involves a lot of things taking care of all these things will consume a lot of time and resources and all this will in turn cost the company a lot.
- The return on investment will be clear: The digital marketing firms will develop a detailed report explaining the position of the institution online and the performance of the institution online. The marketing agency will clearly depict the results of performing the digital marketing activities.
- Marketing agencies will use updated tools and resources: Several types of marketing tools are available that make tracking the online success easier. The tools include analytics tools, social monitoring tools etc. All these tools are expensive to use but digital marketing agencies understand the importance of these tools and make the investments to obtain these tools. Thus, the institutions can reap the advantages of these tools through the marketing agencies (Cline, 2015).
- No one knows the businesses better than the owners: The marketing agencies try their best to understand the business as the owners do but they simply cannot have the passion for the business similar to the one that the owner has. There can be occasions when the owner will know better about the products and services than the marketing agencies.
- Having an office does not assure optimal service: Unfortunately, not all the marketing firms are experts in their fields and sometime they do not even have an idea about the activities that they are performing. It is essential that the skill set of the marketing agency also changes according to the changing marketing conditions.
- Marketing agencies have larger clients: The marketing agencies have different clients to manage and they have scheduled time for each client. So, one cannot expect immediate action from the agencies when required. But marketing agencies need to ensure that having larger clients will not make them ignore the other clients.
- Marketing agencies can be expensive: The marketing firms are going to charge depending upon the services that are being used. Thus, if an institute wants superior service from the marketing agency they should be willing to pay firm the price for the service even if they are expensive (Cline, 2015).
Some of the participants that were interviewed found it difficult to make use of social media because they did not have the required time and staff that need to be devoted to performing marketing on such platforms. Thus, most participants were aware that because of the lack of the required resources for marketing they could not perform the marketing effectively. Some of the participants even agreed that they received a lot less attention and interaction and communication than the other institutions that post information online because they do not put as much effort as put up by others. And most of the participants realized the importance of marketing on the digital medium and they even wanted to improve themselves in the marketing section but they also knew that they would require additional staff to achieve the results they desired (Hall, 2014).
Some participants have also observed the changes that are being made to the platform and Facebook can be taken as an example, many changes were incorporated to this platform as a result it made it difficult for the participants to operate upon this platform. And due to the recent changes, some of the pages even lost the visibility that they used to achieve earlier. Thus, to rectify the difference in performance caused by changes to the platform many participants even changed the platform and moved to a different platform that could provide them a similar opportunity to interact with their audience and attract prospective students (Hall, 2014).
The interviews even consisted of questions for describing the process that takes place within the institute to carry out the marketing initiatives taken up by them. Many participants believed that they did not have a process in place in order to get the tasks done, while the others told that they had a particular procedure which they used to follow for the marketing campaign. Those institutes that were lacking a procedure described a process that was quite informal in which they would discuss their ideas randomly with other members of the staff. Whereas the participants that had a solid procedure to follow managed to interact with their audiences on the digital platform very smoothly by making use different strategies like marketing campaigns etc. One of the institutions that had a campaign for admission upon the social media platform described that their campaigns used to follow the guide for best practices of the institution during the campaign. When asked whether the institutes had a digital marketing policy within their respective institutions some of the participants were not aware whether they had any such policy or not while the others described that having a digital marketing policy in an institution is a necessary thing and they had one in place (Hall, 2014).
As noted in most of the interviews that the most popular media platform to promote the institutes is Facebook. Many institutions agreed that they even used other platforms that included Instagram and Twitter in addition to the primary platform in order to carry out their digital marketing practices. And it was observed that the participants used to post content by sharing it from other platforms and they did not customize the content in order to send personalized messages to their audiences. Some of the participants believed that this was done so that the person responsible to post the content does not have to put in extra effort to personalize the content and the person could directly use the content from a different platform and post it over there (Hall, 2014).
While performing content analysis the analysis of the tome was also a part of the process. While performing analysis of the tone it was observed that most institutions followed a professional tone throughout their marketing initiatives. The admissions department followed more of a professional tone whereas the student life department followed a more formal tone within their messages (Hall, 2014).
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