In the past decade the choices of communication channels have grown dramatically. What was once a limited to TV, radio, newspaper, direct mail, phone, websites and email has exploded to include social media, messaging apps, search advertising, banner advertising, geofencing and more. This has created a big challenge for higher ed marketers when deciding which channels should be used, how often, and how much spend should be allocated to each channel to recruit today’s increasingly mobile-first students. Higher ed marketers and admissions pros not only have to make these decisions, they also need to keep up with the changing landscape to build successful student recruitment programs. What was successful 5 years ago to target younger audiences, Facebook for example, has been displaced by social apps like Instagram and SnapChat. It’s a constantly changing landscape and each creates a new set of challenges.
The impact of technology on student recruitment
Technology today is a big driver in shaping the student experience from your online presence to the communications they receive after inquiring about your institution. The student search experience includes how a prospect, their families and/or influencers search for schools, reputation and rankings, follow-up communications, tours and interviews, scholarship opportunities and their emotional connection with the school. The final decision is ultimately based on the cumulative interactions between the student and your institution over the duration of the recruitment cycle.
To drive a more successful student experience you need to embrace digital transformation. This means providing multiple options delivering information to address personal communication preferences that include email, web, and mobile experiences, in addition to traditional options like mail and voice. Why not eliminate mail altogether? Although the focus is on students, colleges should ensure they accommodate preferences of all influencers such as parents, counselors, even grandparents, who have different communication styles and channel preferences. Embracing these constituent preferences can help you nurture prospects, as well as influencers, to create more successful outcomes.
The growing teen preference for App-based communications
With so many communication channels out there why add to the complexity with mobile apps? For starters if you don’t you may find yourself struggling to reach the next generation of inbound freshmen. There’s a lot of studies being done on the communication preferences of teens ages 12-18 that indicate an increasing teen preference for mobile communication apps.
We asked college bound students about their search and communication preferences in a recent social survey. Not surprisingly, the results support the growing appetite for more app-based search and communications options.
When asked how students search for colleges today, 77% of students surveyed are relying on web searches, 15% on college counselors and 3% on college placement services. And 5% are already using college search apps like CiMobile to search for their perfect school.
We then asked how schools currently provide information and communicate with them after they have requested information. According to respondents the leading channels were Email (81%), Traditional Mail (10%), and Phone (3%); and some are already using a Messaging app (3%).
However, when asked for how they would like to search for and receive information, a whopping 79% of the 1,665 students surveyed responded that a consolidated mobile app experience that would allow them to explore, receive info from and communicate with admissions personnel would make the selection process easier.
Attracting today’s mobile-first students
It’s clear that teen communication preferences are shifting once again. To successfully reach today’s inbound freshmen and future classes you need to start adding mobile to your communications mix. Good marketers know that the key to success is a multi-pronged approach that includes many touch points and communications channels to build awareness and nurture prospects. Students recruits are no exception.