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5 higher education marketing trends from 2022

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Higher education marketing is an enormous challenge. Operating in a world that’s completely different than ever before, and with increasing pressure to stand out from the crowd, what are the trends to watch for in the future?

Related: 5 Higher Ed Marketing Trends in 2023

In 2021, we saw a huge pivot in higher ed marketing: away from traditional, in-person marketing and towards digital marketing and virtual events. Not only was higher ed marketing facing up to Gen Z, they were also adapting to Gen Z in lockdown.

Not long after the COVID-19 outbreak began, a YouTuber compiled the new ads created by brands. “Every Covid-19 Commercial is Exactly the Same,” they titled the video, and pointed out all the hallmarks of a coronavirus commercial: the sombre music, “in these difficult times”, ending with “we’re here for you”. It’s a reminder that – to borrow the cliche, now more than ever – your marketing needs to stand out from the crowd.

Students and prospective students have constantly changing expectations as social media, the digital landscape, and even culture shifts, which makes it that much more to stay in the know with the latest trends.

But don’t worry, we have that sorted out for you. To help you keep up with these trends, here is our rundown of the marketing themes we gathered from 2022. 

1. Understanding the crowdsourcing habits of Gen Z

Connecting with Gen Z can be difficult if not approached correctly. They’ve been accused of having a short attention span, they don’t check their email, or they’re distrusting of brands. 

But actually, if you speak their language and build loyalty – they can become your best advocates. 

Their decision-making has been described as “crowdsourcing”- Meaning, they seek the opinions of their peers, influencers, and reviewers. 

In our opinion, the best way to speak their language is to involve them in the conversation

Related: Higher Ed Digital Marketing Tips for 2023

You can also start to connect with your Gen Z prospective and current students by connecting with their sense of humor. 

Gen Z love weird – and there’s been lots of exemplary social media case studies where universities and other companies are overcoming Gen Z’s skepticism of brands by getting in on the joke. 

In lockdown, they turned in their droves to TikTok. And, if you work in higher ed marketing, no doubt you’ve made an account or been asked to. 

No app encapsulates the Gen Z sense of humor better than TikTok. But beware – it’s filled with in-jokes and long running memes: if you get it wrong, you will face mockery. 

More and more brands are getting savvy to this dry wit and approach to marketing, a trend likely to continue. Get in quick, though, as it is well established that brands and politicians kill memes.

2. Reaching Gen Z with conversational marketing 

“Conversational Marketing” is growing as a buzzword in marketing – in 2022 that will continue. 

Consumers expect a higher level of service and interactivity, and they are less likely to pick up the phone or type an email. Increasingly, marketing has been about “providing value” – and it doesn’t get better than providing the service your future students want in the medium they prefer.

University websites have a lot of information to convey, and a lot of audiences to connect with. Researchers, staff, students, prospective students and staff, the community… the list goes on.

Related: Unibuddy Higher Ed Digital Marketing Guide: What You Need to Know in 2023

If you or someone you know has researched universities in the digital age, you’ll know the abundance of information can sometimes be overwhelming, and universities are getting better at organizing and presenting in a logical way.

But many university and college websites are still missing one crucial element – humans. The human voice and opportunity to chat will be crucial for making university websites and marketing stand out in the 2020s.

3. Data insights shedding more light on higher ed audiences 

Research by McKinsey found that the marketers who were best at understanding their audience were the most successful in all measures: acquisition, conversion, satisfaction and more. 

How well do you understand the students that you’re talking to? And how are you gathering those insights? 

Many universities now are tracking the return on investment of all their conversion and marketing activities. Sophisticated CRM systems and other software have been developed for this purpose. This makes it much easier to analyze and understand the student journey, as well as what influences students on decision making. 

No doubt you are also conducting surveys of your new students and prospective students to understand their motivations and influences on their decision making. 

At Unibuddy, we’ve dedicated hundreds of hours to analyzing student conversations to give you even more insights into what students care about. Our research has segmented students into course, country of origin, level of study, stage of application and more. Based on this rich conversational data, we have a unique insight into what students care about and when. Check out some of our case studies for more information.

4. Growing emphasis on personalized messaging 

Shaped by unprecedented digital connectivity, globalism and social change, tomorrow’s university students are vastly different from those before them.

Digital content is what engages young people, but they are very savvy to glossy marketing and often lack trust in brands. So what can universities do? Marketing across all sectors is becoming increasingly personalized, and higher education is no exception.

Highly targeted and segmented messaging is helping universities connect with their students, tell a compelling story and, ultimately, boost conversion to application, acceptance and enrollment.

In user surveys, every generation prefers speaking to a human – but none more so than Gen Z. Despite being digital natives, it seems like young people still seek out more real connections.

Nothing is more personal than a 1-1 connection, and your personalization efforts must include this opportunity to interact.

5. Growing preferences for short-form video

Taking advantage of your online presence is key to staying up-to-date with the latest education marketing trends. With the world being at our fingertips, Universities should look to incorporate short-form videos (around 90 seconds) into their marketing strategy. For starters, it’s an easy way to get prospective students involved, and it can be easily shared with their friends! A few ideas on short videos include:

  • Video campus tours
  • Answers to FAQs about the school
  • Student-guided mini-tours around the campus — think dorm room tours, cafeteria tours, or even a tour of the campus gym!

Here’s how they approach digital student recruitment at the American University in the Emirates:

Nearly every student who applies to university has a social media account, and what better way to capitalize on sharing your higher ed institution than by engaging students fast, easy, and with the ability to scale across the world.

Unibuddy offers all of these capabilities, and more. Designed for students but shaped by current industry needs, Unibuddy has all the tools necessary to improve your higher education marketing strategy while keeping up with the latest trends. Learn how Unibuddy can transform your recruitment process to stay competitive and request a demo.

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