August 4, 2023

8 Ways to Effectively Use Digital Media in Your Recruitment Strategy

  1. Know Your Audience - The foundation of effective digital media efforts is knowing exactly who you want to reach. Targeting a specific audience - or subset of a specific audience - will give you the most return on your time and your resource and budget investment. Universities serve a wide range of people from various backgrounds. Begin by defining who the audience is with a student profile, starting with the largest volume of students you want to reach, such as undergraduates, local learners, or online degree seekers. Take into account their demographics, interests, behaviors, motivations, and preferred communication channels. Also consider additional stakeholders such as parents of undergraduate prospects. Allow this data to guide your digital recruiting decisions and messaging. Gain significant value by conducting focus groups with current students in each demographic. 


  1. Provide a User-Friendly Website - In what condition is your website? Will prospective student visitors to your website feel welcome? A website is often the earliest exposure students have to your brand and experience, so it is crucial to make a positive impression. Choose a friend, family member, or co-worker who fits your target audience’s profile. Have them share their screen with you and ask them to think aloud as they walk through the process of navigating your site. Can they find the most important information easily? Is there a straightforward way for them to request more information? A user-friendly and intuitive web browsing experience is essential to prevent prospects from getting frustrated (or simply inconvenienced) and leaving your website. Shopping cart abandonment rates are over 75% in the retail industry. Think how that interest level might translate to your audiences and how to make your site as “sticky” as possible. 


  1. Optimize Your Website for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) - Organic website visitors have the highest intent of any prospects in the digital space and are the most likely to convert (request more information). Is your website optimized so that search engines can easily crawl it and serve information to prospects who are interested? Are links with more information going to PDFs or is that information directly hosted on the site? How often is the content updated? Are the images congruent with your current student body in addition to who you want your student body to be? Are image file sizes as small as possible so the page loads quickly? Are images relevant according to seasons, apparel, settings, and other contributing factors? Run an SEO audit to see what improvements can be made to optimize your site for the search engines to send you traffic and increase conversions. 


  1. Leverage Social Media - We are all aware that social media requires time and effort to maintain. The good news is that you do not have to be equally active across all platforms; the key is consistency. Spend the most time on platforms where your target audience (identified in step one) spends the most time. Look for where your prospects are already. Do you have a current student who has posted a day in the life or about moving into their dorm? Make a comment and welcome them to the institution. Begin posting content even before growing your audience, so you will have a robust profile for visitors who click on your links or from your comments. Seek out existing social media accounts which reference your school and interact with them to piggyback on their reach. This allows you to be socially present, even while awaiting internal approvals, which can be time-consuming at first. 


  1. Prioritize Email Automation - Resources are stretched thin on university campuses now more than ever. Allow software to handle tasks that you may not have the bandwidth for as a team. Dedicate time to set up automated emails to nurture your prospect relationships - segmented by audience or program - and timed to maintain relationships over a longer period. A simple outreach cadence of four to five initial emails over the first month followed by monthly check-ins or priority deadline reminders can keep prospects engaged until they are ready to apply or enroll. 


  1. Utilize a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) - Using a CRM is critical to effective recruiting. That said, establishing a CRM at your institution or division may be a long undertaking involving many stakeholders. In the meantime, explore smaller marketing-focused options that can allow you to integrate with your current systems in the short term. It may not have all the bells and whistles you want right now, but anything will bring you better ROI (return on investment) than wrangling a spreadsheet and will make your teams happier too. Designate two power users in your organization to become experts so best practices are utilized from the start, and thus streamline your work. The investment will pay off.   


  1. Targeted Advertising Campaigns - While online education enables institutions to offer more programs, traditional college enrollment audiences are decreasing. With online program advertising spanning a national audience, smaller institutions are still able to compete. Any university can maintain an advantage with nimble, personalized targeting. No need to worry about competitor ads; they benefit your institution too. "Rising tides lift all boats," they say. In this case, a competitor's advertisement may entice a prospective student to investigate nearby options, such as your school. Strategically flighted advertising campaigns will ensure your brand is in front of the prospect at the right time. 


  1. Implement Retargeting Strategies - Ensure you set up your site to capture visitor data so you can serve ads later to prospective students who did not request information on their previous visit. These ads effectively remind them of their interest in your institution so they can navigate back at a more convenient time. Most platforms offer this retargeting option, which magnifies returns on your advertising investment. Run these types of campaigns for visitors to both your organic website and paid media landing page. Display ads are commonly used for this and can generate awareness with just an impression, so while you may not see a high volume of last-touch attribution, they are helping move the prospect toward your final goal at a smaller investment. 
Rebecca Robinson headshot

Rebecca Robinson

Director of Marketing Strategy

As the Director of Marketing Strategy at Anthology, Rebecca Robinson leads the marketing strategy team in the student success division, collaborating with universities to increase institutional enrollment. Her team creates campaigns to generate quality prospects who convert into students using data analysis, research, creative services, and marketing automation. Prior to Anthology, Rebecca directed enrollment marketing efforts incorporating brand strategy, omnichannel campaigns, email automation, and content marketing for higher education institutions spanning 300 degree programs for many top-ranked universities.