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Content Marketing for Higher Education: Best Practices and Tips

A student studies at a library

Universities deploy content marketing to aid in everything from recruiting students to engaging alumni. The uses of content marketing are endless as university marketing teams look to promote degree programs, build trust, and showcase their schools in a positive light. This guide aims to help university content marketing teams achieve their goals.

Benefits and challenges of content in higher ed

Benefit: Cost-effective marketing

Content marketing can deliver a substantial return on investment, making it a highly cost-effective strategy for businesses. If you have the internal resources to create content, it’s especially cost-effective. Your team can create, publish and promote content to attract and educate potential students and even repurpose it to get more mileage. 

Benefit: Build authority

Students want a university with a positive reputation and authority in the areas they want to study. With content on specific degree programs, interviews with thriving graduates, and Q&As with instructors who demonstrate their expertise in the field, you establish authority.

Benefit: Generate qualified leads

Is your team looking to boost its list of interested students? If so, content can help. By creating lead-generating content, you can offer valuable eBooks, checklists, or digital brochures in exchange for contact information. 

Challenge: Lack of resources

Marketing teams juggle many roles, which means your talents might be needed in other digital marketing arenas. Content creation is time-consuming, so some university marketing teams need help to carve time out for it. 

Challenge: Lack of buy-in

To succeed, you need the higher-ups to buy into content marketing. In some cases, universities aren’t willing to spare the staff or cash because they doubt its effectiveness. Without buy-in, it’s hard to leverage content marketing. 

Types of content for higher education

University content marketing can take many forms, but here’s a look at the most common types of content: 

  • Blogs and articles
  • Social media content
  • Webinars and online courses
  • Videos and podcasts
  • Case studies and research papers

The type of content you create depends on your goal, target audience, and information you’re trying to convey. For instance, a video might be best if you’re trying to recruit researchers and want to show your cutting-edge lab. If you’re trying to boost enrollment in STEM-based degrees for older students, you might create a blog post that outlines how students can find a work-life balance and promote it on Facebook, a channel commonly used by an older audience.

Steps to implement a successful content marketing strategy in higher education

  1. Identify your target audience

University content marketing can cater to very different audiences. While incoming students are usually the most common target, you can use content to recruit teachers and guest lecturers, connect with parents, or reach alumni for fundraising efforts. Each target requires a different kind of content. 

Identify your target audience with as much detail as possible to ensure you reach the right people. 

  1. Set clear goals

Every campaign should have a specific goal, along with KPIs you’ll use to measure your effectiveness. Put your goals and KPIs in writing, share them with your team, and ensure they drive your content creation.

  1. Create high-quality, educational, relevant content

Effective content is sticky; in other words, it stays with the reader or viewer. Ensure your team puts the necessary research and effort into each piece of content, be it a 500-word blog post or a 5-minute video.  

  1. Promote your content

Content is only valuable if it’s consumed. Make a plan to distribute and promote your content. Your social media channels are an obvious choice, but you can also add it to newsletters, university alumni magazines and promotional emails, or present it at events. 

  1. Measure and analyze

Once the content is dispersed, check your metrics. Revisit the KPIs you wanted to watch to see if you met your goal. Using analytics, make informed decisions on your next campaign. 

The importance of storytelling in higher-education content marketing

Storytelling is a powerful tool in university content marketing. Through stories, you make an emotional connection with your audience, improve engagement, drive brand awareness, and build trust. Take a look at the examples to see storytelling in action:

Belhaven University

For older students, going back to school while juggling a family and a full-time job is daunting. Focusing on that pain point, Belhaven University created this video, where real students talk about how they’ve found the time to succeed through the university’s unique class sizes and curriculum.

Franklin University

Franklin University asked students to share their transfer stories and promoted them on X with a recurring hashtag, #TransferToFranklin. The graphic with the student’s picture and quote offers a personal mini-story perfect for social. 

University of Central Florida

In an effort to show prospective students how a degree from the University of Central Florida will help them in the future, the college interviewed successful alumni. Take a look at this three-minute video aimed at incoming students:

Utilizing user-generated content

By asking students, alumni, and teachers to contribute content, you can build a library of useful content with minimal effort. A UGC campaign that asks students to share why they chose your university or encourages alumni to share their current job and location, for example, are both easy yet effective campaign ideas. 

UGC campaigns can: 

  • Be cost-effective
  • Aid in storytelling
  • Help boost content variety
  • Build trust
  • Engage with your audience 

Strategies to manage UGC

Successful campaigns get a bulk of content, so what do you do with it? Provided participants agree to let your team repurpose their content, you can take the following steps to manage the influx of content:  

Assess what comes in

Review the content that comes in and put any content that can be repurposed into a folder for later use. 

Make a plan 

Chat with your team and make a repurposing plan. Where do you want to use it? How? Identify ways to get extra mileage from the content. 

Schedule the content

With so many campaigns and tasks, reusing the content could fall off your radar. Instead, get the content arranged and scheduled immediately after it’s collected. 

For example, if you plan to reshare student stories on social, make the graphics all at once and schedule one each week. 

Case studies of successful content marketing in higher education

For many teams, seeing real content marketing examples in action is helpful. Consider pulling inspiration from these pieces of content: 

Focusing on their target adult learners, Franklin University offers this post, Top Tips for Balancing Working Full Time and Going to School.

UCLA has an entire site devoted to its alumni. It offers alumni news, articles on successful graduates, upcoming events, and networking opportunities. 

Texas Lutheran University compiles useful information for prospective nursing students into an email. Note the use of images, links to articles, and infographics. 

Common challenges in higher education content marketing and how to overcome them

Creating content that appeals to diverse audiences

Many university content marketing teams struggle to create diverse content to engage their audiences. To solve this problem, focus on defining your audiences. Know who they are, where they are, and what interests them. Look at your metrics to see what’s worked in the past, and use it to guide upcoming content. 

Making content with limited resources

Limited resources often pose a problem. If you don’t have the staff to commit to content writing, bring in help. Consider working with an external team that can manage the entire content marketing process for you

If budget constraints are the issue, lean on UGC campaigns to create content, repurpose existing content, and focus your budget on proven strategies. 

Measuring your university content marketing efforts

Quantifying success is formidable with content marketing, but if you take a data-based approach to each campaign, you’ll incorporate KPIs and metric monitoring into your routine. Set goals and list KPIs that you’ll watch before you create or publish any content. 

Content marketing gives universities a chance to promote degree programs, engage students, and establish authority in the higher ed landscape. While content marketing is a long-term marketing approach, with the right investment, you can see dramatic results. If you see the value of content marketing but want to improve your strategies, content production, and measuring, can help. Learn more about the solutions provided for teams just like yours.