Anna Downes, co-founder of VideoSherpa

Video Marketing is more crucial than ever for student recruitment. Due to COVID-19 and the safety measures that will be in place for the coming year, traditional student recruitment practices, like open days and careers fairs, may not be able to go ahead this autumn.

The onus is on colleges to reach out to prospective students and give them the key information they need in the way that they need it, and video marketing is the way to do this. 

Video helps showcase your college to those who can not travel and visit it in person, but it also helps you get valuable, persuasive content in front of potential students who may not otherwise have considered your college.

When planning an effective video marketing strategy for your college, it’s important to have clarity and agreement across the team on a number of key issues:

1. Who Are Your Key Audiences?

Slick, corporate promo videos may keep the governing body happy, but may not deliver on your student recruitment and enrolment goals as effectively as you would like.  

Just as prospective undergraduate students will have different questions and concerns from potential postgrad or adult education applicants, your video strategy should recognise and segment these different audiences.  Creating shorter form videos that directly addresses the questions of different niche audiences will be far more effective.

Don’t ignore the powerful impact the student voice can have.  88% of users trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. These days a lot of information about campus culture and what college is really like for students is passed from word of mouth between friends, relatives, and social media connections. This kind of personal sharing of experiences is extremely valuable to prospective students. Peers can be extremely influential, helping to shape the student’s final college choice. 

At the end of the day, students want to hear from other students. It provides them with genuine accounts from real people their own age they feel they can trust and understand, rather than scripted pieces from lecturers and staff. It resonates with them. 

Capturing the student's own advice and stories is therefore incredibly important and persuasive. Using student’s own stories has a greater emotional appeal for the viewer – conveying their curiosity, fears, enjoyment, and pride at their college experience can be far more convincing than endless course brochures! 

Harnessing the voice of your Alumni is another powerful way to convey the benefit of studying at your college – hearing first hand their college experience and how it has furthered their career is exactly the kind of proof points that today's prospective students want to hear.  

Every college has an enormous repository of these stories in the 1000s of current or former students so it would be a shame to let this great resource go to waste. 

2. What Are Your Key Messages?

What is the USP of your college?  What makes it stand out and become the first choice preference for next year’s students?  

When so many colleges offer the same standard elements of an undergraduate or postgraduate education, it’s important to clearly communicate the most unique aspects of your institution which could include your location, your cultural connections, your language & history, your international exchange programs, etc. 

One size does not fit all – your students are a diverse group so you need to create lots of content that focuses on their specific areas of interest, which could include: 

  • Different courses of study – one of the main causes of the high student dropout rates are the expectations vs reality of students about courses. Many students pick courses they think they are interested in without understanding what the course entails so making introductory videos and highlighting the key modules of the courses offered will prove invaluable.

  • Student facilities on campus - What facilities does your institution have to offer? What sets you above the rest?

  • Accommodation - Showcase your on-campus accommodation to students traveling from far locations without them having to be on site.

  • Sports - Highlight the sports teams and the camaraderie between them, the facilities and events that your institution offers to entice future students.

  • Accessibility – What supports are in place for disabled students and students in need? 

  • Funding Opportunities

  • Societies and Clubs – Showcase clubs to peak student’s interest and show them what else is available to them outside of the lecture hall

  • International Opportunities – Film places students have previously gone, student interviews abroad showcasing the opportunities your school offers

  • Placement Opportunities - Display the range of placement offers your institution offers to prospective students

Authenticity and storytelling are key. Focus on the student experience, rather than a sales pitch on behalf of your college – what will life really be like for them if they come to your institution? 

Students (especially undergrads) often have no idea about what college is actually like compared to second level education, and it can be difficult to find this kind of information. Show them with video what their experience could be! What will campus life be like for your students? Give them virtual campus tours showcasing labs, lecture halls, seminar rooms, locker rooms, parking, accommodation, etc 

Answer the questions that they most often ask – engage with prospective students - run a survey or poll on your social media accounts and then create videos to address the most comment topics they are interested in. This makes students feel heard and more at ease.

3. Where Will You Find & Reach Your Potential Students?

Once you have clearly identified your target audiences and focused on the different messaging for each segment, you then need to find the easiest way to get this content in front of them.

And that is on social media. 16 – 24year olds spend more time online than any other age group, at an average of 3 hours per day.  Popular sites like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat all have one major thing in common – video content.  

86% of colleges now have a YouTube presence, but it’s vital that colleges are maximizing the reach and influence this channel can give them by creating strong and diverse video marketing content for all the potential students of their college. 

When it comes to the Gen Z target audience, mobile consumption needs to play a large role in your strategy - 98% own their own mobile phone, 90% admit to going online multiple times each day, while almost one-third of Millennials are exclusively smartphone users

Video is also ideal for mobile consumption, and having a video embedded in your site increases your SEO by 53%, helping to bring your institution to the top of a google search. 

4. Empowering Digital Communications Across the Institution

Creating video content is easier than ever before. Today’s video making software tools mean that much more content can be created in-house, and not just by the marketing & communications teams, but also by other stakeholders across campus.

For Higher Education institutions, bringing video production in-house makes complete sense, reducing the cost of hiring external video agencies and giving them the ability to create as much content as they need, exactly when they need it. 

Cloud-based video platforms that colleges are using to create their own video content are a great tool. 

Video is such an effective tool for today’s colleges and an effective video marketing strategy has the potential to significantly improve it’s audience awareness, engagement and student recruitment goals.

Anna Downes, co-founder of VideoSherpa

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