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Five key FE digital marketing trends for 2014

Education marketing has moved on from just printing prospectuses, organising events and sending press releases. The rapid speed in the change of technology and rise in digital marketing has had a significant impact on the marketing function. Prospectuses have moved online, events are organised using Eventbrite and social media broadcasts latest news.

As we see out 2013, it’s time to take stock of the changing FE marketing function and prepare for the key digital marketing trends we can expect in 2014. 

1. Growth in marketing’s use of technology

Marketing departments in 2014 will need to understand and use new technology as marketing activity goes ever more digital. Everything from understanding SEO and content managed websites to marketing automation, integrated CRM systems and social media management tools need to be at the forefront of reaching potential customers. More material will be produced online, particularly on video as we want to be talked to rather than have to read it, and the popularity of Apps continues to rise. This shift from traditional marketing methods means that marketers must acquire a new set of digital skills in order to remain effective.

2. The rise of content marketing as a strategy

Content marketing is the sharing of media and publishing of content in order to acquire customers. Most commonly it is free downloadable information available on your website which is provided in return for contact details.  Content marketing works on the theory that people will visit your site and give you their details if there is something in it for them. By registering for this free information you are collecting valuable contact details from a person who is interested in what you offer and has opted to receive more marketing information from you. In 2014 there is likely to be a greater awareness of content marketing and more pressure on marketers to not just create content, but incorporate it into marketing plans.

3. The rise of the Mobile Only User

The revolution of mobile is here and is already having an impact on how people view websites. A rapidly increasing number of people (estimated at around 15-20%) now access the internet via their mobile devices, and this is a trend that is on an upward trajectory. What this means is that websites must be optimised for mobile display. If you’re not sure what that means, try viewing your website on your smart phone – if it’s just a smaller unreadable version of what you see on a PC, you’ve not been optimised. Optimisation re-orders the information so that it streams in a sensible, readable format on your small screen, whether it’s a smart phone, tablet or laptop. This growing trend for viewing websites via mobile devices will make the need for mobile friendly websites, email and content absolutely essential in 2014.

4. Social media marketing

Social media as a marketing tool is still not fully developed in organisations in the education sector. Too often it is used to post jobs, promote events or give weather warnings. Social media has changed the way we interact as human beings and marketers need the skills and tools to measure their influence on social channels and convert this form of digital communication into business leads. 2014 will see a more widespread usage of sophisticated social media measurement tools that better track how engagement and interactions have contributed to your business.   

5. Less focus on keywords, more focus on meaning

Google recently released Hummingbird,  their latest algorithm update, which gives the search engine a better understanding of concepts, meaning and intent instead of just focusing on individual keywords. This means that marketers will now need to focus less on keywords and more on creating quality content aimed at answering specific, long-tail search queries of a particular target audience. Marketers will need to fully understand the search questions of their target audiences in order to write content that provides answers to what they are searching for. Search engine optimisation for websites is a critical component of any marketing strategy, mastering this will be key for 2014.

With funding squeezed, it is often the marketing team that bears the brunt of cost savings. As we move away from traditional marketing techniques, digital offers a slicker, more measurable and cost effective way of marketing, but requires a new age skills set.  

So, this Christmas, as your marketing staff prepare to send season’s greetings by email, take a moment to consider how you’re planning the digital New Year.   

Amanda Sayers is managing director of Amanda Sayers Marketing Services Ltd, a consultancy specialising in the FE and training sector


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