Education CubedWhat we learned from Social Media Week 2017

We were in London a couple of weeks ago, attending Social Media Week at the BFI Southbank, gleaming some pearls of wisdom from a selection of key speakers from the world of digital media and marketing. We came away from the event with some interesting insights into how people are using social media and what it means for businesses looking to engage with new and existing users.

When it comes to university applicants, students still look to conventional university advertising, but are increasingly using social media as a way of gathering information and making informed choices when it comes to higher education. Many regard it as a ‘fun, conversational’ mode of communication through which they can seek opinion but not detailed information on which to base their decisions.

We had numerous discussions about whether we are moving uncontrollably towards a world where visual and audio content are becoming more important to consumers, overtaking the written word. Its seems things are certainly moving in that direction but there is no denying that the written word is still an important piece of the content jigsaw.

So does it matter if students’ attitudes towards traditional marketing are changing? In a word, no. It just means that educational institutions need to think seriously about embracing digital media and working with their wider team of marketing experts to come up with genuine, trusted campaigns that will spark students’ interest. As digital marketers, we have seen a significant shift by our higher education clients to digital communications, which is fantastic news from a business perspective.

Digital users are now so tech savvy that they are capable of ingesting huge amounts of information and content from numerous media channels at any one time. Scrolling speed varies with age; the younger the user, the faster the scroll. People are also retaining information more quickly. Time spent on mobile devices continues to increase and 57% of mobile users admit to regularly looking at their smartphone whilst watching TV. This opens up many opportunities for institutions to create new and ingenious ways to reach people via digital marketing. The key to success is to ensure you deploy engaging, creative campaigns and broad targeting.

The way people seek and process information is changing all the time and as an industry, we must embrace the changes and deliver killer digital marketing campaigns that will attract students’ and make higher education institutions look fun, unique and aspirational.

The main purpose of university marketing is to draw attention to and get potential students to register for open days and ultimately choose your institution over others – today, it’s not essential for them to see a printed prospectus to sell your place of study. In the future, there will be even more trust placed in social media and visual/audio content will continue to thrive.

The growing power of digital media influencers also caught our attention – if you haven’t heard of macro-influencer Zoella (AKA Zoe Sugg) and her huge army of YouTube subscribers, where have you been for the past five years? Word of mouth influences 92% of purchases and influencers help leverage word of mouth at scale. Whilst you probably won’t be enlisting the help of Zoella any time soon (she reportedly earns in excess of £50,000 per month from her vlogging empire which now has over 12 million subscribers), when thinking about using an influencer, consider the following points:

Use influencers who have reach
Do they bring authenticity to your brand
Will they increase trust in your brand values
Can they offer meaningful product endorsement
Will they drive conversion

These days, influencers don’t necessarily need a large following to drive conversion. In fact, micro influencers with a smaller number of more engaged followers are now the go-to option for many companies looking for an influencer. Find someone who fits with your brand and they can work wonders.