Change is constant, not only within the higher education sector but also within the next generation of prospective students we seek to attract to higher education.
From a global pandemic to demographic shifts and changes to the admissions system, to name a few, the sector constantly has messages to communicate with its target audiences. To keep up with changing demands and expectations, universities have, in turn, changed the way they reach students.
According to the student recruitment platform Unibuddy, 95.52% of institutions are now using social media to reach students, compared to less than 60% five years ago. This shift reflects how traditional outreach channels are no longer working to reach students.
The UCAS Freshers Report 2022 highlights the social media platforms used regularly by freshers over the past seven years.
As we can see in the chart below (taken from the report), the use of Facebook has been falling significantly since 2017, and Instagram has taken over to retain the top spot. As a recent entrant to the market, TikTok has become the most downloaded app over the past two years and has become the fastest-growing news source of choice for young people.
Gaining popularity, we might expect BeReal to find a place on this chart next year as the simple, stripped-back approach to photo and life sharing has seen a huge increase in use during 2022.
Gaining the attention of Gen Z is the first step, staying connected and having influence throughout the application process is another challenge. In their report, “The next generation of student recruitment”, Unibuddy highlights the greatest obstacle to staying connected with students is losing interest to competing institutions.
So how can institutions generate awareness and maintain interest from their future students? It’s all about content. Effective content educates, engages, entertains, and encourages action. Ultimately it builds trust and uses nudge theory to prompt desired behaviours – from downloading a prospectus to attending an open day and making a firm choice to an offer from your institution.
While prospective students are the focus of student recruitment campaigns, we must not forget that there are key influencers to the conversation and decision-making process. From school advisors to friends and family, sharing personal experiences of university as well as information gathered from researching through guidebooks, league tables, websites and of course social media. It’s important to note that Gen Z influencers are likely to have different usage of social media, from choice of platform to the type of content they are most receptive to.
For universities to make the grade with social media, they must understand how different generations use social media and tailor content to appeal to each group, to support their informational needs and to support the prospective student in their application.
Social media is simultaneously the most measurable marketing channel, and also the one this is most difficult to assess. Like traditional media, a lot of the added value of social media will never be measurable. It also does not work in isolation.
Ultimately, for universities, successful student recruitment is about the numbers enrolled. On 18th August 2022 (A Level results day), 19% more 18-year-olds in the UK have gained a place at their firm or insurance choice compared to 2019 – that’s 425,830 students (an increase of 16,870).
Higher education continues to be competitive for both prospective students seeking a place to study, as well as for universities to attract the right students for their institution.
Social media has a key role to play and measuring its success can include multiple data sets and insights from reach, to engagement, website visits and more.
In the webinar, we’ll be looking at the current social media landscape including LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and the latest Gen Z favourite, BeReal.
We will also look at the key messaging required at different stages throughout the student recruitment journey, and most importantly how to measure success.
The session will be packed full of dos and don’ts and best practice examples to help you win the attention of prospective students ahead of 2023 enrolment.