Dec 6, 2017

Educators - The Essential Guide to Content Strategy

by Digital Marketing Institute

Did you know that 75% of marketers are increasing their investment in content marketing? Despite this, many educators still view content marketing as a campaign rather than an integral part of their ongoing business process.

With content becoming more important as a way to engage with students and alumni, colleges, universities and training companies need to create a strategy that can help raise brand awareness and help them achieve their content marketing goals.

While it’s great to produce insightful and well-crafted 1,000-word blogs, if it's not backed by a content marketing strategy, this kind of content often falls into the online content vortex, rendering it obsolete. So, how can you create a strategy that makes your institution stand out, establishes you as a thought leader and addresses the pain points of your target students? Read our handy guide to learn more.

Do your research

There is not much point creating content of any kind if you don't understand your target audience. While you may think that your audience is recent undergraduates with a thirst for IT, research may reveal that the people you should be targeting are, in fact, working professionals in need of upskilling - are the ones searching for the type of learning programs you offer.

By examining your offerings, conducting focus groups, creating social media surveys and leveraging the wealth of data available, it will be possible to get a better gauge on what your target audience is looking for, what makes them tick, and how you can help them. Conducting focused consumer research is not only the foundation of your content strategy, but will also help you create effective personas.

Identify student personas

Identify student personas

Once you understand your audience and get under their skin, it will be far easier to develop marketing personas that will help focus your content in the most effective way possible, offering your maximum audience value. After all, according to Accenture, 75% of consumers admit to being more likely to buy from a brand that knows them by name and shows an understanding of their relationship with them.

Personas are critical as they help to segment targets so you can tailor content that resonates with them. Personas can help with any form of content, from a sponsored ad on Facebook or an email providing useful links right the way through to blog articles. It's key to remember that personas can change so make sure to revisit them every few months to ensure you are still targetting the right cohort and expand your breadth of understanding if possible through online interactions with your content.

To understand how to create these incredibly useful content profiles and find out more about them, have a look at our article on how to build personas to drive engagement.

Carry out competitor analysis

Much like the notion of not knowing how to focus your content marketing efforts if you don't understand your audience, if you don't have a grip on what your competitors are doing, it will be difficult to compete.

By examining competitors, you will gain a deeper understanding of the kind of content you should be producing. Carry out valuable competitor research by first deciphering who the competition is and how they present themselves online along with the pain points they explore to engage with prospects.

Armed with your curated list, explore the social media channels as well as websites to see what they are promoting and what seems to resonate with their audience. For instance, are competitor videos that get vast numbers of views engaged with most on Instagram or are the best performing blogs shared on Facebook? Or do they use blogs to engage with students and gated eBooks to capture details so they can re-market to them? Examine what works for competitors and use this knowledge to the audience, locality and social outreach.

By doing this well, not only will you be able to craft your content strategy to ensure it makes a maximum impact, but identify areas or subject matter that hasn't been covered by your competitors - content that will help you stand out from the crowd.

Create killer content

While many people online are experiencing ‘content shock’ due to the volume of content created, great content will always shine through. Once you know your personas, competitors and the channels to use creating killer content is the next step.

Above all, focus on the assets that will provide the most value. For example in 2018, video is set to continue to grow with platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn introducing Live Video, while Snapchat and Instagram focus on their video offerings to engage even more with users. There are easy ways to produce video that doesn't have to be time-consuming such as turning an infographic or blog into a simple motion graphic video or creating a video based around statistics (such as job market figures).

A shining example of content that really resonates with its audience comes from Zendesk. Rather than explaining its product, Zendesk creates editorial and video content that evokes emotions and sparks a rapport with its audience. This quirky film demonstrates the frustration of bad phone support in a humorous way - and it's videos like this, which has over 14,000 views alone, that have helped build Zendesk's growing success...

Remember that students will be looking to invest in you and your institute personally and emotionally and by creating fun content that addresses their pain points in a natural way, you are sure to spark engagement. This, in turn, will help you entice the right students to your institution.

Build in analysis

When it comes to content, you have to measure, analyze and then measure again. It's the only way to enjoy sustainable success.

So, examine the metrics you want to measure to assess the success of your content. For example, blog views will show how your audience is growing while the time they spend reading an article or how far they scroll (scroll depth) will demonstrate how people are engaging with content. Social shares are also a good metric to use for articles as it shows the reach of your content and using platforms such as aherfs can help to see what websites are linking to your content and help provide insight into what keywords you should be using for SEO.

For paid media, clicks and comments are great, but impressions and conversions are the metrics that show how people are interacting with your content as well as the actions they're taking in response to your material. In addition to this, social sharing is essential as it will give you a gauge on the reach of your content. It's possible to measure social media sharing can by using platforms like BuzzSumo.

Conduct A/B testing

Conduct A/B testing

When it comes to creating content, experimentation holds the keys to success. Each digital platform will have its own magic formula: for instance, headlines and phrases that work on Facebook will not necessarily work on LinkedIn, and so on. Take the time to understand each available channel and its functionality before trying out different a host of different approaches to see which works best.

Also, it's worth noting that you should never underestimate the value of a headline. Why?Because it's the first thing people will come across when they see your content. Test a small selection of different headlines across different platforms to see what gets the best response, and use A/B testing software to help you try out different versions of your site content before tailoring it to help get the best results and ultimately encourage the best enrollment rate.

A/B testing does take time, but it will be worth the effort.

Amplify your best assets

This may seem obvious, but many people overlook this approach. Essentially, when you learn what works, keep doing it! Amplify the content that works the best and if it's been yielding great results or a positive response, make an effort to ramp up the production of that content - it will be worth the time and investment.

For example, if a mini-series on your blog has picked up plenty of momentum, compile the content into an eBook along with interactive features and bonus chapters. Or take a lead from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire's book and repurpose and amplify winning content to reach a new set of eyes.

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire blog post

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire Medium post

By taking the best performing content from its 'The Power of AND' publication and using the tone, idea or subject matter to produce, as well as push out, similar content on Medium, the college has given itself an additional content outlet while providing itself with a more significant reach.

Exciting, valuable and intriguing content is still the best way to connect with and spark up meaningful relationships with potential students. Developing a content strategy that takes all the various elements mentioned here into account means you will be targetting the right people with the right content on the right platforms.

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