Updated in november 2020
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.
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).
Now that the COVID-19 is changing the way we live our daily routines, going to college is a completely different thing now. This is why Georgetown University offers a multimedia, first-person experience of its students dealing with their study from home new routines.
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 yet to make their decision.
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
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
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 worked 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, 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.
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?
To follow on, here you have some of our new for 2020 top five higher education campaigns.
University of Leeds
Video marketing is on the rise, and the University of Leeds knows about it. Video content has the power to compose a powerful message, which can be accessed through your smartphone. This is why the University of Leeds highlights in its video marketing campaign how university life is, putting their staff first and solving any doubts regarding the COVID-19 situation.
Moreover, their YouTube channel has more than 4,000 subscribers.
Boston University has identified those social networking sites that millennials are using the most and has successfully created the right strategy. Therefore, the university uses its Snapchat channel to share information on the latest news and events. Everything started due to a blizzard, as the students had more time to spend on their smartphones, the organisation created the account. Moreover, the university has continued using this channel to engage its audience while hosting live Q&A sessions. Boston University has more than 3,000 followers now, and the numbers are growing.
University of Westminster
Shooting and sharing Instagram stories that mixes videos, images and captions is also a good resource for higher education institutions. Hence, the University of Westminster does a great job in terms of engaging their audience via their social media channels, which uses filters and visual media to show its location and main attraction points. Any online user can easily look for the hashtag #LONDONISOURCAMPUS and see what is going on at the present moment.
A top strategy to increase interactions and reach your audiences in social media is to enable current students to participate in your social media accounts. This is the case of Allegheny College, where the creation of hashtags (e.g.#acgatorgram) allows students to promote events and class reunions while having the chance to build a school community.
The University of Oregon
The University of Oregon “Throw your O” campaign calls students, staff and followers of the institution, to share how they have found their passion in life and how they are creating their own path on the world. With the hashtag #ThrowYourO The University of Oregon creates a bespoke engagement strategy across all social media channels.
And that’s it:
A total of 15 digital higher education campaigns that tickled our fancy. What do you think? Did we miss any? Let us know!