The Role of New Media in Higher Education Marketing

Written by Dustin Manley

Universities and colleges are using digital and social marketing to develop more innovative and personal campaigns to reach prospective students. This practice is mutually beneficial, providing students with greater access to information and post-secondary institutions with a more level playing field.  

Before new media, the reach of marketing and recruitment campaigns was primarily dependent on budget and reputation. The more reputable a school, the likelier it was to have an annual budget capable of covering extensive domestic and international travel, advertising and recruitment campaigns.  In a traditional campaign, a mid-sized university in New York State would not be able to compete with the reach of schools like Harvard University, Oxford University, or the University of Toronto. New media provides small and mid-sized institutions with a global voice so they don’t have to directly compete with the larger schools.

There is the right student for every school; however, not every school is right for all students. New media allows schools to better control their messaging to reach their desired audience. As a result, marketing and recruitment campaigns have seen a shift from broadcasting to narrowcasting.

A prime example of this is Royal Roads University’s “Future View” campaign. Prospective students from across the world were able to experience the university through video streaming by Google Glass and GoPro cameras. People were able to attend real lectures, participate in Q&A’s with faculty, and tour the campus in real time. The campaign was run on a modest budget but saw a massive return on investment in terms of student recruitment, digital impressions, and press coverage.

Another innovative example is Loughborough University’s #IAMIN campaign. Along with their letters of acceptance, students received a detachable polaroid-sized photo frame with the hashtag #IAMIN. Students were encouraged to take a celebratory selfie and share it on social media with the hashtag. Loughborough University’s social media and website impressions saw increases of up to 400% and they exceeded their student recruitment goals.

While new media is fresh and exciting, both of these campaigns were also supported by a number of traditional marketing initiatives. Digital and social media will not replace media releases, in-person education fairs, and traditional advertising. A combination of new and traditional media is important for a successful campaign. Where new media excels, is engaging students and bolstering the traditional marketing initiatives.

New media has broadened the opportunities of higher education marketing and recruitment campaigns. The success of an institution’s campaign is no longer limited solely to their budget, but the depths of their creativity.