How to Improve Your University’s Website for Enrollment
If you’re feeling like recruiting college students has gotten harder than ever this year, you’re not alone.
College campuses across the country have moved to online learning. While this helps keep students and faculty safe, the downside is that many students are taking a gap year until they can resume in person learning once again.
In fact, as of October, Penn State has experienced a 300% increase in students taking a gap year!
Incoming freshman Leo Biehl explained his choice to take a gap year: “Before Penn decided to be full remote, I was still planning to go to campus. Once of the big reasons I decided to go to Penn was because of the incredible kids I would meet and would be around.”
When it comes to marketing to college students, it’s important to stay looped in to the trends — which social media platforms are the most popular, Generation Z inside jokes, pop culture references, and more.
The most important thing to remember with all your digital marketing strategies for college students is that they’re seeking a sense of community.
College students base their choice of school on many different aspects, including finding a sense of identity and belonging. They want to feel connected, build friendships and relationships, and find a place where they can be themselves.
The more they gain a sense of community and belonging, the more likely they are to enroll.
While you might not be able to welcome students to join your campus community right now, you can still bring a sense of belonging and camaraderie to them.
Enter: TikTok. Here’s the 101 on the hottest new social media platform and TikTok marketing tips to help enhance your student enrollment strategy.
TikTok is a video-based social media platform that was founded in 2016. As of this year, it reached over 1.65 billion downloads.
Each video post is limited to one minute. Post capabilities include fun snapchat-like filters, an endless archive of songs (both artist and user created), and easy editing hacks to make interesting, engaging, and educational videos.
It’s more than the posting features that sets TikTok apart from other social media platforms. It’s known for its addicting interface that allows you to scroll through videos that have been carefully catered to your tastes — videos made by the people you follow and by other users whose content you might enjoy.
These algorithms can help college students find others who enjoy the same things they do, no matter how niche.
Travel videos, jokes about college life, horoscopes — TikTok nails every interest a college student might have. And since the users they follow are everyday people like them, it gives them an opportunity to connect and form real life friendships.
Over 60% of TikTok users are Gen Z, which is the primary demographic of today’s college students.
With its short-form content and ways to connect to others with similar interests and beliefs, there’s no wonder college students are flocking to it.
By joining TikTok, you’re gaining access to a vast network of potential students organically. On top of that, you gain ways to create valuable video content you can use on other platforms.
@syracuseustaying safe, it just makes sense! Video Credit: @amandachau15 #fyp #foryou♬ 아무노래(Any song) – kozico0914
TikTok often has trends that incorporate a “challenge,” or a prompt for users to make a video about, usually to the sound of a trending song found in their “sound bank”.
You can use the trending song as the background music to your own video, and others can click the song to see everyone who’s participating in the trend.
In the example above from Syracuse University’s TikTok, they’ve taken advantage of the “just make sense” trend. In this trend, people use the same song as the background music while making videos about things in their lives that “just make sense.”
Syracuse added a college spin to the trend, and used it to highlight items in their wellness kits to help protect against Coronavirus.
Universities can use this challenge and others like it to encourage enrollment in various ways. Participating in a trend alone shows the university is attuned to the trends and interests of potential students.
Weave creative content that shows off just how great it would be to enroll in your school for a double bonus!
A challenge like the “just makes sense” challenge, for example, can be used in a “things in my dorm that just make sense” highlighting some items that represent the exciting student life at your school.
@rittigersFamily reunions are the best. #pets #dogs #doggos #finalsweek #RITikTok #fyp #foryou♬ Inspiring and inspiring orchestral songs Reunited(142573) – mimi&kiki
Millenials can be tricky to market to in traditional ways. They see through many of the generic ad tactics used in commercials and other marketing methods. They’ve been targeted by advertisers in every way possible, and it can easily become the “same old, same old.”
To stand out, it’s important for a college student to feel like they’re going to a school that understands and supports them.
When it comes to your TikTok enrollment strategy, that means creating relatable content that’s emotionally evoking to show potential students that your school isn’t just interested in filling seats.
In the TikTok above, Rochester Institue of Technology did a great job with this by creating a montage of college students returning home to their families.
Missing family is a huge challenge for kids in college, and this method is guaranteed to pull at students’ heart strings. It shows the university cares about the student’s lives beyond campus, and recognizes them as more than just paying students.
Relatable content help build trust with potential students, making them more likely to choose your school.
When it comes to marketing to Gen Z, no one knows how to do it better than Gen Z itself.
College students themselves know all the inside jokes, hot spots, and best perks about your school and campus.
Choose some students to help guide and create TikTok content for your school. You can do an open call for content and curate the posts from there, or designate a small team to take over the account, whether it’s for one post, a campaign, or permanently.
@austinpeaystateTIK TIK TAKEOVER W/ @jennaandseth & @sethpry ! Stay updated to see where & when we are on campus ! Tag 5 friends to let them know ! #foryoupage #fyp♬ original sound – Austin Peay
In the example above from Austin Peay State, a student hosts a “TikTok takeover” where they execute challenges with other students to give them a chance to win free school merch.
This gives a sense of campus-wide fun and camaraderie that makes it appealing for potential students.
Potential college students are much more likely to attend a school with a campus that feels like home.
Find creative ways to show off your beautiful campus and the little details that set it apart from others — whether it’s the giant water fountain on campus or a tiny walking trail nearby.
Put shots of your campus to catchy or trendy music that evokes emotion and is relevant to the scenery, and edit it in a way that’s captivating and tells a story.
@ufThankful for a beautiful place to call home.
University of Florida has multiple methods of doing this. In the example above, they cycle through quick, eye-catching shots of every part of their campus.
In effect, this helps potential students picture themselves there, making them more likely to enroll.
Like many social media platforms, TikTok has analytics to help you measure your engagement and help guide your enrollment marketing strategy.
Simply click your profile picture, then “view analytics.” Here, you can see which videos got the most engagement, when you gained or lost the most followers, the best posting times, and more.
Determine which of your videos got not only the most views but also the most interactions to most effectively guide ongoing content planning.
And while you work on your TikTok strategy, be careful not to neglect other platforms. TikTok is an essential tool to social media marketing for Gen Z, but it certainly isn’t the only one!
Now is as good of a time as any to make sure you have strategies laid out for every platform. While you’re getting privy to video marketing and trends, why not apply your knowledge to Snapchat next?