Jul 4, 2017

The Essential Guide to Using Content to Recruit Students

by Digital Marketing Institute

The world of education is highly competitive and students have a huge amount of choice when it comes to deciding on a course or certification. To compete for attention in a digital world, educators need to ensure the content they create is relevant, engaging, and informative.

Digital technologies have made it very easy to connect and inform, but the flip side is it can be hard to be heard through the noise with so much content being produced on an hourly basis. With search engines becoming the dominant method for finding an educator's website, having content that is relevant and unique is key to driving organic traffic.

In order to attract and engage students, universities, colleges and training providers need to be where they are - online. In this article, we explore how educators can use various types of content to recruit students.


Blogs are an excellent way to drive engagement with a specific target audience through compelling and searchable online content. So much so, that 38% of marketers rate them as the most important form of content for their business.

While it's possible to create blogs in-house by content or marketing professionals, you can also optimize your content and reach, by tapping into influencers that will resonate with your audience. In addition, integrating user-generated content into a blog will help provide key insights into the experiences of current students - a priceless asset, especially when you consider that 92% of today's young consumers trust their peers far more than a traditional online advert.

For example, Colorado State University uses its ValuEd blog to explore topics of interest to continuing education students. As a group of prospective students that may feel underserved in college recruitment, they’re an audience that has a lot of questions and concerns about the process of getting a college education later in life.

Colorado ValuEd Blog image

By covering topics including “Why Waiting to Go to College May Be The Best Choice You Ever Made” and “Should I Pursue a More Practical Degree?”, the college goes straight to the heart of issues faced by that audience to engage, educate, inspire and open up a valuable line of communication, something that has proved a big success for the institution.

Social media

32% of teenagers consider Instagram to be the most important social network; 81% of millennials check Twitter at least once per day, and 22% of the world's population uses Facebook. There's a lot of scope in social media.

Social media channels provide universities, colleges and training providers with new and unique ways of engaging with potential students. Not only does it offer students a real glimpse at what life is really like at an institution, but it can encourage conversations as well as high levels of engagement by using channels to provide quick responses to questions or concerns. What's more, social media encourages prospective students to connect with other students and gain insights into their interests and needs.

The University of Texas uses the power of hashtags to drive engagement and build brand awareness among the student population. Rather than using a handful of aimless hashtags to plug every post, the university is very strategic, allocating hashtags to particular events, achievements and occasions.

University of Texas Twitter post #WhatStartsHere

For example, it uses #HookEm to congratulate its Speech Team winning at a national competition, as well as #WhatStartsHere to showcase the accomplishments of its students and faculty to an active social community. So far, the University of Texas has 677,946 followers on its Facebook page - and counting.


With 68% of emails opened on a mobile device, with over half being viewed on a smartphone, it’s an effective way to engage with prospects. Emails can also be personalized both in the subject line and body of the email which is more likely to prompt the recipient to open and click through to content that resonates.

However, the effectiveness of an email campaign is directly proportional to the quality of the content it provides. To resonate with your audience, your content needs to speak directly to personas, providing solutions to issues while addressing any pain points. Content to promote in emails includes:

  • Blogs related to the subject matter of the program and the goals of the academic milestone to which they are connected
  • Tips and Tricks resources that cover topics like preparing for a college interview and what to expect from college life
  • Testimonials from alumni packaged on how a particular course helped them in their life after college
  • Help Guides or eBooks that cover topics like how to find a job after graduation and ideal roles that a course trains them for
  • Visuals and reviews of key events, both academic and social to offer a taste of life at your institution

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By 2019 global internet traffic from videos will make up 80% of all internet traffic. The popularity and accessibility of video has made this medium an integral part of any content strategy. Such is its impact that 4 times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than actually read about it.

As part of a recruitment strategy, video can also be useful in promoting the ethos of an educational institution as the University of Phoenix have proven with their powerful animation. Created to promote their technology programs, the animation highlights the story of Rosie who lost her job as a result of automation and turned to study to become an active part of the digital age. A month after launch, the video had received over 6.7 million views on YouTube.

Video can also be incredibly potent when it comes to telling a student’s story. Georgetown University created Georgetown Stories with the tagline ‘Fresh stories from the freshest students’ to showcase the lives of 13 undergraduates throughout the academic year using the power of video. Covering events, classes, parties, and friendships, the videos give a genuine glimpse into what it’s like for a real student at Georgetown.

Evergreen content

An effective content strategy requires a mix of resources to ensure you are providing relevant and evergreen content that can be used across platforms to drive traffic. While evergreen content can be time-consuming to produce, this type of asset has the power to add real value to a business, without time constraints, and as a result, rank higher in search engines.

eBooks are a popular example of evergreen content that can be created from existing content including blog posts to drive traffic and capture valuable data by gating the page to gain access to the eBook.

Simple how-to guides can also prove very useful in addressing the pain points of a potential student in a digestible and visually appealing way. By focusing on tips and tricks or sharing practical takeaways like 'how to get that job you have always wanted', an educator can provide content of worth which will go some way to moving them down the sales funnel.

For visual content with digestible facts and statistics, infographics make very useful engagement tools and work well across social media platforms. Moreover, emails with [infographic] in the subject line tend to get high open and click-through rates. Although infographics require time and resources, their shareability is considerable due to the magic mix of sharp design and relevant content and can drive brand awareness and engagement at an incredible rate.


Millennials are a particularly savvy online and conduct research through reviews and peer-based feedback to influence their purchasing decisions. In addition to this, they are wary of self-promotional marketing, valuing the opinions and testimonials of peers instead.

As a result, when prospective millennial students research a school or course, they look for stories from existing students and graduates to find out more. As a result, user-generated content is key to standing out from competitors, driving engagement, encouraging transparency and building trust rather than relying on institution-driven communications to grab attention.

An excellent example of an educational institution benefiting from the power of user-generated content is the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

To connect with potential students with a fresh, relevant and trustworthy tone of voice, the college hosts regular takeover days in which student ambassadors run live chats, answering questions and relating to the students. In addition to this, the student ambassadors can post via the social media channel they're running, building a library of user-generated content the college can use to promote events and put together engaging blog content that appeals both to prospective and existing students.

By leveraging the power of user-generated content and connecting with potential young talent, the University of Waterloo has expanded its social reach and enjoys a following of 118,129 on Facebook, plus an excess of 74,000 Twitter followers.

47% of millennials trust user generated content compared to 26% that trust content created by brands - Olapic

As digital technologies continue to evolve, content will become more important to engage with and influence prospects. As a society, we now spend around 8 hours a day consuming digital media, and many people search for direction and insights from well-crafted and powerful content.

The term content is king may have once been merely considered a buzzword, but now it’s more valid than ever. Big brands like Uber, ASOS and McDonald's use the power of content marketing to attract people to their products, so as a quality educational institution, why shouldn’t you? With content marketing, the sky’s the limit, so act now and reap the rewards of creating and sharing content that is unique to you and your institution.

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