Get the most from digital

Never before have we spent so much time ‘€˜switched on’€™, says Emily Perry, Director, Humm Media

We’re obsessed with digital. From logging into email, checking friends’ comings and goings, or playing the latest Angry Birds instalment on our mobile phones. Never before have we spent so much time ‘switched on’.

As a result, students have become incredibly digitally savvy; spending more than 15 hours per week online sourcing opinion and delving deeper to boost their knowledge. They demand much more from those they interact with, meaning digital technology has become a vital, yet exciting, element of higher education marketing strategies.

Whilst it has obvious benefits; easier and cheaper, instant communication with the target audience and access to a wealth of data that was previously never measured – it also has its challenges. Where to begin, what to share, how far to move away from traditional methods? Our advice is to start small and build and so we outline just three ways you can get the most from digital in your university:

Get social

Most businesses now use some form of social media to enhance their brand. However the options available to universities are endless – Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Foursquare, Flicker to name but a few. It can therefore seem like a daunting exercise to undertake. Though, if you pick the perfect channels for your goals and messages then you only need to use a small number to make a real impact.

Reviewing social provides the perfect opportunity to involve your students. Ask them which channels they use, why and what they would want to see from you through here. Then, quite simply, pick the most popular. It’s likely these will include Twitter, Facebook and blogs on your own website. And rather than attempt to find exciting new things to say every day, create quarterly campaigns and build momentum. Warwick University used this approach successfully with their Twitter hashtag, #Warwick2014. This was provided to existing and potential students who were encouraged to share their experiences through videos, tweets and pictures. A schedule of social media content, including blogs and links to articles and interviews, was also created and used alongside the hashtag, meaning students knew where to find useful information in a click of a button and through just one medium.

Showcase using video

For many, deciding which university to attend also includes a judgement on the campus and the surrounding area. This is your differentiating factor; the reason why an individual should join you as opposed to your competition. Video provides the opportunity to bring your university to life. Whether that’s creating a formal virtual tour, as the University of Birmingham has recently done, or putting together a selection of hand-shot clips for your YouTube channel.

Depending on how creative you want to be, you could again involve your students. Asking them to film short videos on their mobile phones which they believe demonstrates the unique elements of your university and adds colour to the prospectus. Once approved, these can be uploaded onto your website and shared through social channels; telling the real stories of life in your university.

Make digital part of your research

Digital marketing isn’t just for the attraction and engagement of students; it can also provide a valuable avenue for academic research projects. Not only does it allow you to extend the reach of the findings in a simple and cost-effective manner, but it also helps enhance institutional reputation.

Again there are a number of digital marketing tools available to help you do so, however we recommend:

✥Research website – this could sit within the university website, though has its own homepage with links to news, articles and project progress. Take a look at Boston University’s research website for a brilliant example.

✥Responding to news stories – for any news stories linked to your research, use forums to comment on the story, positioning you as thought-leaders on the subject. You can also add a comment function on your research website, allowing the researchers and interested parties to communicate directly.

✥Learning tools – such as online lectures or animated videos enabling audiences to see how the research is conducted and engage with the subject in a different setting.

✥Infographics –present research findings in a visually appeasing manner. Create infographics to communicate in an easily digestible medium.

Humm Media helps individuals and businesses make the right noise. Whether that’s boosting your profile as a thought-leader or demonstrating that you’re a great employer; we work with you to create powerful PR campaigns, clever content marketing and award-winning submissions. For more information: / emily@hummmedia / @EmilyBPerry