University marketing can be difficult to get right. There are a lot of misconceptions and advice, which while useful for major brands, doesn’t necessarily work in the higher education sphere.
We’ve compiled some of the major myths we hear from higher education institutions to help universities improve their marketing.
1. Social media is the most important marketing medium
Social media has been the major marketing development of the last decade, if not the 21st century so far. Since the big social networks took off, and Facebook became an omnipresent force to be reckoned with, marketing departments in every sector have been competing for the biggest presence.
Social media marketing is important and here at QS we’ve written a lot of articles about optimization methods, new platforms and why universities need to be on the cutting edge of emerging trends and technologies. Despite this, though, social media is still not the main priority of university marketing. The most important marketing channels are still official websites, emails and other tried-and-tested methods.
It is absolutely vital that universities are active on social media; prospective students will expect it and it’s the perfect way to cultivate an open persona. Presence on social networks fosters an image of being open to scrutiny, criticism and interaction, as well as enabling easy contact between students and institutions.
While these are all good reasons to invest in social media, it still shouldn’t be the main focus of university marketing campaigns, when other methods are more successful. Students are still looking for serious reputability in institutions, and that image is difficult to present via social networks alone. Placing too much focus on social media marketing can be a hindrance as much as an asset.
2. It’s just like marketing a product
There’s a lot that universities can learn from commercial brands, but marketing an institution in the same way you’d market a product is doomed to failure. The endless stream of similar slogans tacked on to university names does little to reinforce the reputation of an institution. “Just do it” might work well for a company trying to sell athletic gear. It’s simple, motivational and it reflects the brand identity. But universities are not selling clothing; they’re selling self-investment and students want to know that their education is more important than a simple three-word slogan.
Millennials especially are averse to overt marketing; patronising adverts and slogans are met with scorn. What they’re interested in is honesty, authenticity and to be treated as adults. So the key to ensuring your university stands out is not to buy into the marketing ploys and gimmicks, but to ensure you approach your target audience in an open and responsible way.
3. Website responsiveness isn’t a priority
While it’s true that even from our latest report, students still prefer to research universities on a desktop rather than a mobile phone, the importance of having a responsive site that works on every device should not be overlooked.
The way people use the internet is changing rapidly, and young people are on the cusp of that. Students will access university websites through different devices and browsers, so constructing a website which loads equally well on all of them is vital.
Interestingly, around 80% of time spent on social media is now via mobile, according to comScore’s 2016 US Cross-Platform Future in Focus. Therefore, any time invested in social media marketing may be a fruitless effort if prospective students reaching your website in this way are unable to easily access it with their phone. This trend is only going to become more pronounced as the internet of things develops further.
Do you have any more common university marketing myths to bust?