Reaching the next generation of students with great content

By Christina King, Zoodikers

With A-Level results looming this Thursday, what better time to consider the importance of content marketing to reach a Generation Z audience? This blog will provide useful tips for marketing professionals at universities and colleges who are looking to attract potential applicants.

But let’s start by understanding what we mean by content marketing. The Content Marketing Institute defines it as:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

The aforementioned clear market segmentation is key. Know your audience; research where prospective students are active and what they are interested in. Then you can tailor your content accordingly.

For colleges and universities looking to attract recruits for their 2018 intake, it’s important to identify first and foremost, where prospective applicants are active and then take your message to them. More than ever, there is huge competition between universities in the UK to attract talent, thanks to the removal of the cap on student numbers and a fall in applicants in 2017. So it’s a real buyer’s market, and these young buyers like to be communicated to in new ways.

Marketing Week applauded the campaign’s success: “The partnership paid off. Content produced during the festival weekend achieved 10.6 million social impressions and over 200,000 organic video views leading to a 7% increase in attendance at University of Reading open days in October 2016 and a 30% rise in applications during clearing in August. The university had to shut its open day registration in 2016 for the first time ever.”

Widening the net

The UK’s vote to leave the European Union in June 2016 has also had a major impact on the further and higher education sectors as the University of Sheffield’s Head of Marketing,Carrie Vernon explains:

“The EU referendum took lots of people by surprise. We were getting enquiries from foreign students who were worried that the UK wasn’t going to be so welcoming, so we thought there was a great need to dispel some of those myths and to ensure the UK continues to be welcoming to international students.”

Sheffield decided to take this as an opportunity to refresh its #WeAreInternational campaign, to emphasize the university’s diversity and inclusivity. It created a series of socially shareable images and videos telling the stories of international students and staff living, working and studying in the UK. The content campaign was visible worldwide, therefore establishing Sheffield as a welcoming place in the minds of thousands of potential international students

Tips for success

We also need to consider how to structure our content to ensure it is meaningful. Remember to build loyalty and trust through consistent messaging. As a recent Neilsen study reveals, hard selling is no longer trusted and as a result we’re seeing the slow death of advertising. It’s been replaced by peer reviews, brand websites, and editorial content.

Above all, your content marketing should be three things; relevant, regular and refreshing.

  • Relevant– Content should be tailored to prospective applicants’ needs and wants. Use it as an opportunity to show your audience that you know what they are interested in and what is important to them.
  • Regular– Ensuring you are consistently sharing effective content that makes you more recognisable. If you publish updates at regular intervals with a similar writing style and themes, this will allow your audience to get to know you and become familiar with the university.
  • Refreshing– We are in an era where universities and colleges will publish blogs and other forms of digital content everyday so you need to make sure yours is valuable. With an astonishing 173MM blogs worldwide, it is vital you come up with innovative and interesting topics that will engage with your audience.

Measuring your success

Content that offers useful information will help to forge a connection between the potential student and the establishment. By consistently offering good content, universities generate interest in their website and entice users to return which will grow recognition from applicants.

Need more help?

Zoodikers’ Managing Director, Katie King, will be running a strategic social media training course for colleges via the Association of Colleges on 10 October 2017. Find out more here: