Higher education is booming in the United States. From 2000 to 2016, undergraduate enrollment in this country ballooned 28%, from 13.2 million students to 16.9 million students. Amidst this growth was an uptick in online and distance learning programs - by 2016, nearly a third of all undergraduate students were enrolled in an online university.
With the increase in college attendance came a need for universities to differentiate themselves and attract the right students at the right point in their educational journeys. For one of our clients, an established online university that was a part of a greater state-school system, the challenge was building on past success to meet the changing and growing base of university attendees.
This university prided itself on its robust options for nontraditional students, veterans, parents, transfer students, and non-degree seekers. Its success lay in providing options for these demographics, but as the digital world shifted, the university was faced with a new set of challenges: how was it to build on past digital gains, keep up with new platforms, and still maintain a relationship with current students and alumni?
Read on to see how we partnered with this university to help their marketing efforts blossom.
As mentioned, this university was successful in its past digital marketing efforts, but the team there knew they wanted to take their presence and conversion abilities to the next level.
Their issues lay in building out and maintaining content that was informative, engaging, relevant, and consistent in tone, messaging, and voice.
The goal of their content was to balance recruitment efforts with relevant information for existing students and alumni. It was one thing to get new students in the proverbial “door;” it was quite another to continue to provide current students and alumni with helpful, engaging content alongside those efforts.
Additionally, the university was well aware of their target demographics but was in need of a segmentation strategy to address specific pain points and needs of each of these audiences.
Guided by the principles of inbound marketing, we built out a strategy for the university to address all their audiences, grow their digital footprint, and increase conversions. Additionally, we implemented an integrated marketing strategy to weave our marketing efforts with the university’s blogging, radio ads, banner ads, and messaging about featured programs.
Stage one of our content strategy was to segment their audiences and help in the further development of buyer personas. Using these personas as a guide, we built (and continue to build) monthly social media calendars with content built to be leveraged across a wide variety of platforms.
Studies show that most adults in the United States interact with at least three social media platforms, so we placed equal importance on growing each individual channel in an effort to capture the most traffic possible. We began with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, ultimately building out the university’s Instagram account and building the follower base on that platform.
Our aim on social media was to keep the university’s voice, messaging, and tone consistent - and to consistently post across platforms. We implemented an agile content strategy aimed at increasing engagement through social campaigns, community management, and relevant content.
Additionally, we crafted content and messaging to assist in conversions at every stage of the buyer’s journey for the university’s target audiences. Whether a visitor to a social page was exploring options for higher education, ready to engage with the university, or about to begin classes, they would find content that was meaningful and relevant.
At the heart of our social strategy was to drive visitors to the university’s website, where they would be able to interact with even more high-quality, relevant content and, ultimately, apply to the university or reach out for more information.
After just over 1.5 years of working together, we were able to see profound results across all metrics - engagement, impressions, follows, traffic to site, and conversions.
We saw a 286% increase in social followers, a 119% increase in impressions, and a 278% increase in engagement across social channels. These increases contributed greatly to an overall lift in traffic to the website - in this same time period, we saw a 30K% increase in new users to the website and over a 54K% increase in overall sessions from social.
Overall traffic to the site increased from approximately 150K hits to well over one million in this time period. Most profoundly, application submissions on the website topped 4800 - up from a negligible amount in the quarters leading up to our engagement with the university.
Now, enrollment at this university has nearly reached 20,000 students. With more and more digitally connected students seeking out flexible solutions for earning or completing their degrees, universities need solutions. We will continue to partner with our higher education partners to deliver results that have a powerful impact on the bottom line.