A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education shed some light on two known facts:
- Gen Z (and everyone for that matter) watches online videos (on YouTube, specifically)
- Authentic content is valued and impactful
YouTube, of course, is a great repository for video content. The challenge, unfortunately, is that in the ROI-focused environment of enrollment management we need more than “subscribers and commenters” to justify time and investment of effort.
Given the articles focus on “influencers” (current students who develop a following over time), one may come to the conclusion that there is not much you can do to shape the narrative. This brings me back to the early years of social media in admissions outreach where the fear was “losing control of the conversation”. Once again, in many ways institutions already have lost control. At best, we can only hope to be active and positive participants and listeners.
One solution? Advertising. Some might say the best YouTube strategy is to leverage tools like remarketing and audience targeting to buy ads on the platform. Given the fact that 85% of teenagers (if not more) use YouTube, this sounds like a sound strategy. However, buying billboards on the internet without a solid strategy is no better than buying billboards on the side of the highway.
A true online engagement strategy goes beyond buying eyeballs and truly leverages the medium of video and live engagement to build and distribute content that supports students throughout the process. While YouTube may be a primary platform for video in general, based on data from Ruffalo Noel Levitz we know that Facebook (yes, Facebook) is still the top source where students look for college information specifically (given that 61% of juniors and 67% of seniors have liked a college Facebook page).
The balancing act of “branded” vs. “influencer” content
Let’s face it. It’s easier to build a following for your “insider” perspective when you are a student at a US News Top 10 school. The vast majority of higher education institutions seeking to entice prospective students to apply and enroll at their institution don’t have the luxury of an annual PR machine building the value of said “influencer content”.
While we know that current student perspectives are the most influential form of marketing to prospective students, the fact remains that content that is “.edu” branded is seen as the most trustworthy on the web. While YouTube or Facebook may provide a great channel to capture eyeballs, the reality is you cannot control the advertising that wraps around your videos on these platforms. Imagine a retargeting ad for a competitor wrapped around your awesome student testimonial video. Talk about a distraction!
With that in mind … how do we pair the two?
Online engagement is more than e-mail and ads
Generating content (live content featuring current students sharing their stories in particular) is a great way to boost your visibility on social platforms. YouTube is surely one of those channels. However, why limit yourself to YouTube?
A true strategy for online engagement should include channels like Facebook Live and Twitter as well. The benefits of thinking more broadly are similar to a multi-channel advertising campaign that includes social media as well as mobile web, including:
- The opportunity to ensure you are where more of your prospective students are. While the students you are seeking to reach may be on YouTube, by simulcasting to Facebook and Twitter live (with no additional incremental costs or time!) you cast a wider net.
- Leveraging multiple social media channels also enables you to engage with stealth applicants and parents who may have followed you on one of these social channels but have not proactively added themselves to your inquiry pool
- Finally, understanding that institutional-branded content is seen as the most trustworthy content on the web means streaming via “.edu-branded” content is also paramount. While you may consider webcasting via a “canned” platform like Webex or Zoom, the reality is that those experiences require additional downloads and registrations, limited branding, and make it difficult to repurpose the content after your live presentation. The Conduit by PlatformQ Education allows for seamless access to your webcasting content via a fully-branded environment.
Making it happen
Of course, building a video content strategy takes more than slapping a webcam in front of a current student. It takes careful planning to ensure the content you are producing is aligned with your overall enrollment priorities and the needs of your prospective students. Additionally, it requires thoughtful planning with respect to promotion of your events.
Contact the PlatformQ Education team to discuss your key enrollment priorities and to see how a multi-channel online engagement strategy can support conversion and yield throughout the recruitment and marketing process.
Gil Rogers is the Senior Vice President for Marketing and Strategy at PlatformQ Education. Prior to joining PlatformQ Education, Gil served as Director of Marketing at the National Research Center for College and University Admissions as well as the Director of Enrollment Marketing at Chegg. Gil is a former Associate Director of Admissions at the University of New Haven (CT).