Our top ten higher education digital campaigns

With over 130 universities and colleges in the UK alone, educational institutions need to constantly come up with ideas to make themselves stand out.

As traditional ways of marketing are becoming more and more obsolete, the internet seems to be the only way to go. From using social media as a teaching method to creating a successful YouTube channel: which universities have been successful in raising digital awareness?

These are 10 of the higher education campaigns that we loved most.

Georgetown University

How to give prospective students an honest and genuine impression of what life as a freshman is like? Booking a stand on a university fair is one way, but why not show it first-hand?

In 2014, Georgetown University followed 11 undergraduate students throughout their first year. As they each recorded vlogs during classes, events, parties and socials, they gave their audience the ultimate sneak peek of their personal Georgetown story.

Needless to say, it was a huge success. Not only did the campaign give potential new students a solid impression of Georgetown campus-life, it was also an incredibly effective way of creating a connection between the university’s community and the outside world.

As the campaign has been going on ever since, with new undergrads being carefully selected each year, the results have been booming – both for the university’s social media presence (a combined increase of 270% in engagement) and enrolments (6.2% increase).

Brunel University London

Brunel University London decided to use the students who had accepted a place at Brunel to attract other students who were undecided. As part of its Clearing campaign, every student who was offered a place at Brunel through clearing was sent an ‘I’m #goingtobrunel’ branded t-shirt and a welcoming postcard, all sealed in a silver envelope.

The campaign was a great success with pictures of new students wearing their Brunel t-shirts going viral. The university’s head of marketing, Carly Marsh, said the initiative was so strong that current students and alumni requested their own t-shirts too.

The campaign achieved its aim of making sure each new student felt welcomed in to the Brunel family, whilst reassuring them that their decision was the right one. It also encouraged social shares and appealed to a set of students who were as yet undecided.

We loved it.

University of Nevada, Reno

Having famous alumni is excellent marketing material in itself, but it’s made even better when universities are prepared to joke around with it.

The University of Nevada brought history back to life by creating Facebook accounts for two of their most memorable students, Joe McDonald and Leola Lewis.

Through regular Facebook updates including personal diary entries and photographs, students could witness how – over a hundred years ago – Joe and Leola’s love story unfolded on campus.

“Instead of using long University archives and biographies, we are using Facebook to tell the history of the University, keeping it interactive and friendlier. It’s a good way to get the attention of students,” Donnelyn Curtis, director of the university’s department of special collections, explains.

University of Sheffield

The importance of international students is often underestimated, which is why University of Sheffield launched the #WeAreInternational campaign.

With feelings of xenophobia rising in both the media and political sphere, the university felt that it needed to shine a positive light on the situation.

“We are deeply proud of our international university communities and what we gain from our diverse student and staff population is immeasurable”, the campaign founders say; an ethos that goes far beyond their own interests.

That is to say that rather than raising awareness for the university itself, this campaign was launched to create a better understanding of a complex and sensitive issue worldwide.

As a result, the hashtag is now supported by over 100 international universities, as well as the National Union of Students. Keep it up!

University of Tennessee

Tagging a celebrity in a tweet may seem like a bit of a cheap win, but it sure did work out for the University of Tennessee. In 2017, they promoted their upcoming ‘Dolly’s America’ course by sharing it on Twitter whilst tagging the queen herself.

Being the subject of a prestigious university course must have flattered miss Parton, as she retweeted the message to all of her 4.5 million followers and thus provoked an outburst of responses, interviews and press coverage.

It doesn’t get any easier than that.

London Metropolitan University

With a student base that is predominantly international, London Metropolitan University takes pride in its diversity. A message which was at the core of their 2015 “Do Something You Love”-campaign, which promoted the university’s welcoming and flexible attitude.

With a broad student body comes a broad recruitment audience, resulting in a video and social media campaign telling a range of unique stories that will resonate with lots of different people, thus soothing the pressure of picking the perfect university.

People from all backgrounds or walks of life are welcome here, and what’s more, thanks to the university’s whopping 95% employment rate students won’t have to worry about their future either.

Was the campaign a success? Well, the video’s been viewed nearly 30,000 times, so they must’ve done something right.

University of California

An educational institution that is doing particularly well on Instagram is the University of California.

With over 30.5k followers – which, for a university, is a whole lot – they did not only manage to create a proper community but know how to keep it entertained, too. With an average of 500 likes per post, they have proven to know what makes their followers tick, including gorgeous footage of nearby national parks, creative artwork made by students and more personal snaps of campus life.

With this, the Californian university shows that Instagram is not just for businesses that are aesthetically impressive; as long as it feels natural and relevant, it can be the right platform for universities, too.

University of Leicester

Solid social media strategies require some out of the box thinking, which frankly can be as simple as shining the light on the right people.

University of Leicester, for example, has been put in the spotlight thanks to one of their lecturers, Dr Vikas Shah, who hangs out on Instagram as the ‘X-Ray Doctor’.

On his magnificent feed, he shares daily riddles in the form of X-rays, providing his students with some valuable knowledge even when they’re outside the classroom. His following is huge and his engagement levels are consistently high, making the University of Leicester a very lucky bunch indeed!

University of Northampton

A similar situation is at hand for the University of Northampton, as their senior lecturer Kardi Somerfield enthusiastically uses Twitter to guide students in keeping up with advertising and marketing trends.

Encouraging her students to use Twitter, Somerfield actively compiles lists such as the ‘AdStudent Picks’, in which she gathers “worthy Twitter Accounts for Advertising Students to follow to help with studies”.

In addition, she invented and promotes the use of #AdStudents, which doesn’t only help students find tweets and comments that might be relevant for them; it also automatically creates a social community: a brilliant example of practising what you preach.

Cambridge University

And last but not least, this rather lovely video published by Cambridge University in the winter of 2014.

For a university that rejects about 65% of applicants every single year, a marketing campaign might not be their highest priority. Still, there is something to say for wanting to capture and share the magic of your campus – especially when it concerns one of the most beautiful and historic colleges of all time.

The video’s been viewed nearly 19,000 times and finds its way back to all Cambridge social feeds every Christmas. What can we say – if it works, why change it?

And that’s it:

Ten digital higher education campaigns that tickled our fancy. What do you think? Did we miss any? Let us know!

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