The website and social media channels have become the most essential touch-points for universities – but how can they use its fullest potential?
For my Master’s Thesis at the FH Joanneum Graz I decided to work for a university as a client. The personal why behind my choice is that I have always found education fascinating, which genuinely shapes how our society will look in the future.
And what shapes our perception of a university? It’s online presence.
Student brochures and education exhibitions are the past: today’s students get information and obtain their knowledge on the web: it’s all about websites, review sites or social media.
Therefore it’s vital that prospective students, alumni, or potential donors find useful, well-structured and valuable content on the institution’s website and have an overall positive user experience. Content strategy can help you to make sure that content is on brand, well targeted, and tailored to the right audience.
To build a brand
Content can help you to tell a compelling story that differentiates the school from its competitors. Start with a competitive analysis:
- Who are your closest competitors?
- What are peer institutions doing in terms of content and messaging?
Knowing the competition can help you to define your brand hierarchy: a USP (unique selling point), brand pillars and tone of voice.
To address the user on every step of the journey
User research will help you to identify who your target audience is: by creating user personas and empathy maps you we can obtain knowledge about their main interests, needs and potential pain points.
You need to use different messages on each step of user journey:
- Is it a high school student in the awareness phase trying to find out whether or not the school matches with their goal?
Content such as Life at the university, Student testimonials are probably relevant.
- Someone already in the decision phase looking for where to enroll?
Make sure that the Apply or Enroll buttons are clear.
A good content strategy will take into consideration all the steps a student, alumni or donor go through when visiting your website therefore helps you to create more relevant and personalized content.
To engage supporters
Provide tactics for bringing back disengaged alumni and donors. Sure, each university relies on the number of future applicants but they are not the only visitors of a university website. Keeping students, alumni and donors engaged can easily turn them into brand advocates who enjoy being part of this vibrant community. Content such as career services, events, networking opportunities, and student/alumni profiles are all great ways to do so.
Support and maintenance
Offer a realistic governance plan appropriate for your marketing team – content strategy doesn’t end in the planning phase. The real work is just about to start. To ensure that your content strategy will be successful in the long run, you need a structured content governance plan that identifies who’s in charge of each and every task.
You may expect that the bigger the university the better the content – but sometimes it’s quite the opposite: a great case study of the University of Texas Permian Basin shows how a small institution can benefit from well-defined content strategy 💡