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The Best Content Marketing Strategies for Higher Education


Your institution has a story unlike any other, but to capture the interest of prospective students, academic leaders and other stakeholders, you must give them a chance to hear it.

Content and digital marketing in higher education provide a way to get those stories out there. Whether it’s the accomplishments of specific departments, groundbreaking research or campus initiatives supporting students, content marketing acts as a powerful amplifier for your institution — extending your narrative far beyond the confines of campus.

By developing the right content marketing strategy, you can build a consistent online presence and entice a broader audience, strengthening your institution's reputation and appeal.

The Importance of Content Marketing in Higher Education

To attract the best, you need to demonstrate your institution's value. Whether it's prospective students or academic leaders, people thoroughly research universities before making a decision. Content marketing is vital here; it ensures that when they check out your institution, they find engaging content.

Whether they stumble upon your page or intentionally seek it out, you want to offer them something interesting to explore.

Neglected websites and social media pages don’t reflect an active, lively campus community. Instead, they send the message of disinterest and missed opportunities. By investing in content marketing, you not only enhance your online presence but also showcase your institution's energy, student engagement and commitment to providing an outstanding educational experience.

Best Practices for Content Marketing

Content marketing is all about strategically creating and sharing valuable, relevant and consistent content to connect with a specific audience. Rather than being overtly promotional, this content aims to inform, entertain or educate, ultimately encouraging desired actions from the audience. It encompasses a range of formats that can include blogs, videos, social media posts, infographics, podcasts, e-books, webinars and more, catering to different preferences and interests.

Effective content marketing isn't just about churning out random pieces of content; it's about being strategic. By following best practices and crafting a consistent content marketing strategy, schools can ensure that their content resonates and captivates their target audiences. 

Understanding Your Audience Through Research and Segmentation

Research and segmentation are vital for developing a content marketing strategy, enabling schools to target the right audiences and address their pain points, positioning the institution as the solution.

Begin by conducting research on your existing student body to gain insights into who is naturally drawn to your school. For instance, does your school have a strong emphasis on STEM or athletics? Do you attract many first-generation students? 

By developing segments based on these characteristics, you can create profiles for each audience, informing the content you'll create for them. This approach ensures that the content you develop is strategic and targeted, resonating with specific segments of your audience to drive engagement.

Identify Goals and Objectives

To boost brand awareness and engage with audiences, institutions must set clear goals for content marketing. While the primary aim is enhancing brand visibility and fostering audience engagement, this may conflict with the desire for immediate conversion-focused results, especially among administrative decision-makers.

It’s crucial to understand the long-term impact of content marketing in establishing a robust brand presence. By defining specific goals and objectives, institutions can align efforts with broader strategic goals and showcase the value of brand-building initiatives despite short-term conversion pressures. 

Examples include reaching a targeted number of social media followers, driving blog traffic, increasing brand mentions or engagement on social media and enhancing brand reputation through thought leadership content.

Create Compelling Content Tailored to Educational Needs

While showcasing campus life is exciting, prospective students ultimately want to know they'll receive a top-notch education. By incorporating academic storytelling into your content marketing strategy, students get a balanced view of work and play.

You might consider developing a series of educational blog posts exploring academic programs, faculty expertise and research opportunities. Infographics and visual content can make an otherwise boring topic engaging and digestible. Videos can help students envision themselves on campus, actively engaged in learning. This type of educational content builds trust among your audience, setting your institution apart from the rest.

Leverage Social Media Platforms

Social media is a potent tool for understanding your students and engaging in meaningful conversations. While staying current with trends and lingo may feel daunting, doing so can leave a lasting impression on students, demonstrating your commitment to being present in their digital world.

Just as students follow friends and celebrities, they'll follow your institution if they feel a connection. But remember that social media is often used as a mental escape. When crafting content, consider the mindsets students may be in when they come across it. 

Think of social media as content distribution channels, offering a direct way to convey specific messages to your audience. Your social media posts shouldn’t be about reminding them of their coursework or exams; they should focus on inspiring, encouraging and perhaps even sharing a few laughs. 

Implement SEO strategies

When prospective students, staff and faculty search for institutions and programs, they typically prioritize the top results and overlook the rest. So, if your website appears at the bottom of the page, you're less likely to even get a chance.

SEO is crucial in content marketing, as it optimizes online content to enhance visibility on search engine pages (SERPs) like Google. Higher rankings increase the chance of discovery by users seeking relevant information.

Simple strategies for improving SEO include using relevant keywords in your content, optimizing meta tags and descriptions, creating high-quality and shareable content, and ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly. 

Incorporating internal linking and regularly updating content can also boost SEO rankings. These strategies can help higher education institutions enhance their online visibility, attract more organic traffic and improve student recruitment.

Create Email Marketing Campaigns

Yes, today’s students still use email, and crafting engaging email marketing campaigns is essential. However, it's crucial to prioritize engagement over conversion, recognizing attention as a valuable currency.

Institutions can capture their attention by developing email campaigns that showcase student club and organization highlights, providing insights into the vibrant co-curricular activities available on campus. 

They can share updates on sporting events, fostering a sense of school spirit and community. Campus events, including leadership programs and other high-impact practices, can be promoted, encouraging involvement from students and faculty alike. 

Additionally, featuring student highlights can shine a spotlight on individual achievements and contributions to the academic and social fabric of the institution. 

Shifting your email campaigns' focus to engagement rather than immediate conversion cultivates relationships that naturally lead to higher conversions over time.

Measure Success and Analyze Data to Adjust Strategies

To refine content marketing strategies, it's crucial to continually evaluate analytics and track for content performance, making adjustments as needed. 

By tracking metrics like website traffic, email open rates, social media engagement and conversion rates, institutions gain insights into the effectiveness of their efforts. This data-driven approach helps identify which content resonates most with your audiences, which channels perform the best and where improvements can be made. 

Armed with this information, institutions can adapt their strategies in real-time, optimizing content to better meet the needs and preferences of their target audiences. 

Whether it involves refining messaging, adjusting posting schedules or reallocating resources to high-performing channels, ongoing analysis and optimization are key to maximizing the impact of your content marketing initiatives.

The Lasting Impact of Content Marketing

Colleges and universities worldwide are witnessing the impact of content marketing as their social media channels explode in popularity. By staying on top of trends and being active on social platforms, institutions develop relationships with their audience, building brand awareness and loyalty.

Jodi Tandet

Jodi Tandet

Jodi Tandet is Modern Campus's Manager of Brand Content. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing from Emory University and a Master's in College Student Affairs from Nova Southeastern University. As a campus professional, she's advised student organizations, planned co-curricular events, developed leadership programs and staffed trips abroad. Jodi lives in Riverview, Florida with her canine roommate, Maisi.

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Last updated: June 10, 2024


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