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Why more universities are using online student recruitment in 2017


Online student recruitment for universities

Finding the right student marketing strategy means learning to be adaptive. For universities looking to implement more agile marketing practices – practices that can adapt to their recruitment goals – digital marketing is becoming an increasingly popular option. Especially for those of us who are tasked with recruiting more and more international students every year, we need to make sure our universities are presented in a place where students can find them; and that place is online.

As a student, you are more inclined to select a university option based on the availability of information and the capacity to get direct, instant, and engaging information that directly answers your questions; and how accessible this information is can determine whether you’ll choose one university option over another. Following the convincing data (which includes plenty of testimony from students themselves), it is about time that universities begin moving their marketing and recruitment efforts online.


Going where students are: capturing attention early

When asked about what advice she would offer universities who may be falling short in their marketing efforts, Shannon Snow, Google’s Head of Industry in Education, has this to say:

“Be early. When looking for a university option, the average student is only considering about four universities or less; and that consideration set is determined very early in the decision-making process.”

Moreover, says Snow, “75% of students don’t go beyond their initial choice set”. So, where universities tend to fall short is in their efforts to become a part of a student’s first set of university choices. To earn a space on this list, in a student’s mind, universities need to capture their attention earlier rather than later.

There’s little doubt that the current generation of prospective students spend a large portion of their time on the internet – browsing social media, seeking entertainment, and communicating with friends and family. Online is where the most fruitful discovery happens; it is where students start their study search, and where they turn to for information. Flyers and glossy brochures are nice to have; but if your university is not among the handful of most popular universities in the world, the impact of these materials will be limited. Fairs, furthermore, are also a good way to connect with prospective students; but how can you be sure to reach the maximum number of students on a global scale? Considering the limited reach and mobility of students, it’s difficult to imagine how this method could be sustainable for global recruitment.

Instead, strategies like optimizing university websites, online marketing, webinars, chat sessions and, even, interactive virtual campus tours have proven remarkable success in fostering interest from international students. The average student wants to access information immediately, spending a limited amount of time searching, before she decides to select a specific school or university to apply to. So, if you want to be somewhere where you will surely get an international student’s attention, the online recruitment route is the way to go.


Adapting to the online environment

The first half of online student marketing is about switching the form and content of your marketing strategies; the second half is about fixing your mindset. Imagining what prospective international students are thinking is one way to get your mind re-oriented for marketing. The other manner is thinking creatively about how your university will stand out against other university options.

Students who are considering their university options have no illusions about how big that decision is and what is at stake. They know that a university is more than how flashy their websites are and how pretty the campus looks.

However, young people also know exactly how they’d prefer their information: clear, instant, direct, and accessible.

When these same students are, for example, shopping for a hotel or flight online, it shouldn’t take long for them to find the prices/rates or the availability. If they feel like they have to dig around for the information, it is likely that they will turn away to someone who is being more transparent, and who appears to care about what they actually want to see.

Although searching for a university is different from booking a hotel, the impressions that students have are largely the same. Studies have consistently shown that users most keenly respond to finding vital information immediately, and are inclined to trust a site that gives that information directly, rather than having to search for it.

Moving to an online environment means keeping these impulses and instincts in mind. Your mindset when considering student recruitment means turning around, re-structuring, and, even, abandoning some of your basic marketing training. The 21st century’s reliance on online marketing is about changing to an environment of instant gratification and transparency.


Measuring and keeping track

Imagine you’re at a university recruitment event. You’re sitting at your table, handing out your brochure to every weary-eyed passerby, and making sure they hold on to the materials that you give them. Occasionally, even, you’ll have a conversation with one or two students, watching them nod their heads over and over before walking away to their class. Can you measure the impact of those conversations? How do you know those students actually went and looked at the information like they said they would? How do you follow the path that that first encounter led to, and how do you see where it goes?

In most cases, keeping track and measuring in that way is practically impossible. You invest tons of time and resources into those face-to-face events, but you have virtually no idea what their impact is.

Online recruitment fills this gap, giving you immediate data to show you the exact value and impact of your marketing campaign. With every web page visitor, you can track who eventually views your programmes, goes to your lead forms, contacts your university, and eventually applies; you can even get broader data on where students are searching from, what devices they are using, and other demographic information to help you adjust your marketing strategies. This is a unique benefit to online marketing and has consistently helped enhance the recruiting efforts of universities all over the world.


Finding the right platform

To enter the online marketplace, your own website is vital but hardly sufficient to truly activate the power of digital student recruitment. You also have to find the right platform, with the right capacity and reach, so that your university is discoverable.

Online search platforms like Studyportals and others are equipped with searching capacity and listings that enable institutions to make their information transparent and instantly accessible, satisfying precisely what prospective students are looking for in their search.

So, in order to adapt and adjust your marketing strategy to fit the online environment, finding the right domain with the perfect content for the 21st century, universities are encouraged to reform and re-orient their marketing to meet the demands of the internet age. This means taking advantage of the tools that are right at your fingertips and opening your horizons to new possibilities for data, marketing, and recruitment through online education search.

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