According to HT Digital and IMRB Report (India) on “Student online behavior,” 93% of students access the Internet every day and 73% of students use the mobile phone. Nearly 91% access the internet to collect information about colleges and courses. Thus, going online for universities and colleges has become inevitable. Although this calls for investments in creating digital assets, building strategies and online advertising, the costs are quickly realized, easy to the track and attributable. The ROI is much higher in comparison to any traditional mediums used.
The following are 7 ways that universities and colleges can use digital medium in India.
1. Creating an SEO- friendly robust website to attract the right audience
A good website is a blend of three elements, namely aesthetics, functionality, and ease of use. A website is a very strong representation of any brand on the internet. The three elements are elaborated below
A well-designed website for a University or college needs to address the following factors-
- Depict the values, mission, and vision of the institution
- Demonstrate the key USP’s and highlight courses
- Images to have an emotional connect with students/parents and represent the current look and feel of the institution concerned
The functionality of the website is what determines the final design aspects, these have to be defined ahead, and some of them are listed below
- Provide Information on courses
- Drive More applications from new students
- Serve as a Medium of Communication for existing students, parents, and even donors
- Build an Alumni Network
- Facilitate payments
Unless a website is not created with the end user in mind, it will fail to give the results that it had intended to achieve. It has to be “easy to use” and intuitive. The following are key aspects to keep in mind. These aspects may not be always set right a 100%, but a study of user behavior over a period of time can help better these aspects
- Easy Navigation
- Simple Tabs
- Quick rendering on desktop
- Easy call-to-action
- Easily searchable on popular search engine
Developing a mobile version of the website is also a great way to boost the recruitment of students, as today many young people have access to a smartphone or mobile device. Also, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a key to drive organic traffic to the website, without traffic there is no point of having a website. The SEO will drive students/parents looking for relevant courses and information to the website.
2. Social media to connect, inform, educate, and create awareness:
Colleges and Universities must use social media to engage with current/ prospective students and parents. They should use social media to connect in a proactive manner, by engaging and demonstrating that the institution cares for its stakeholders. Content built with the right balance of words and visuals is well received and attractive to target audience. Several channels such as Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube, Twitter and new age channels such as Instagram can be tapped to achieve various goals. A mix of content and imagery
- Making announcements: As a medium of communication of important events and matters, such as graduation/exam dates, new rules, new courses, etc.
- Showcasing facilities, such as new infrastructure, e.g. library, swimming pools, dorm facilities, etc. that are an important part of the student life
- Drawing feedback from students to make certain decisions that require stakeholder inputs
- Serving as a thought leader by proactively providing interesting content around career and study areas
- Showcasing important events in the campus, such as annual days, sports days, etc.
- Driving awareness of world events and internal events (e.g. fundraisers, blood donation camps, etc.) that concern the student population
- Building a strong and loyal alumni network and encouraging participation. Posts on career achievements, promotions, etc. will help reconnect alumni, grow the University’s exposure and increase the SEO value of alumni and the college/university
3. Social listening to build solutions and proactively connects with students:
Social listening enables universities and colleges to proactively listen to the students and their concerns across platforms. These tools can be used to build solutions to serve the students/ parents. Many universities in the west use twitter tools to engage with students and the community. Also, intercepting prospective/ current student conversations and directing them to the right information in real time/ quickly helps build a lasting impression about the educational institution
4. Digital advertising to drive admissions, placements and increase visibility:
Digital advertising can be used to drive admissions, reach out for campus placements and to improve visibility the in the short term on search engines. Digital Ads can be placed across the Google network and on social media, i.e. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and can be targeted and optimized to reach the right audience. In the current generation, the students rarely use the traditional press for information gathering and hence making any spends primarily on digital ads makes more sense. The ROI is both traceable and visible, making every penny spent, accounted.
5. Mailers for consistent contact and generating inquiries:
- For communicating regularly with existing students, i.e. newsletters, announcements, etc.
- Generating admission inquiries from databases of prospective students and their parents
6. Blogs to educate and drive traffic to the website:
Students are constantly looking for information to further their study and careers, much in advance of them even graduating from schools. They use the internet to help them prepare better for tests, chose educational institutions or look for career guidance. A University / college can plug into this requirement and serve as a thought leader in the educational space, thereby adding value to their branding. Blogs are a good way to attract prospective students and also improve search rankings on Google.
7. Using online for payments and application process:
It is a humongous task to have prospective applicants and current students pay fees and make other payments over bank counters. A college/university website can integrate this functionality into their website and increase application conversions as well as ensure compliance of fee and other payments on time by students. The website and Social Media can also be used to communicate deadlines periodically for the same purpose
Going digital for University / College is not a decision anymore; it is just a “Must”. It is not what needs to be done, but “how to do it” that will make one university/college differentiate from the rest. It is important therefore to set the key USPs and define measurable goals before building a strategy and making expenses on the digital assets and advertisements.