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Digital Marketing Strategy for Higher Education

Upal Pradhan
Managing Director-Kratos
Friday, January 13, 2017
Upal Pradhan
In recent years, the higher education landscape in India has become increasingly competitive, as universities and colleges from across the globe, strive to recruit and retain high-quality Indian students. In today's technology-centric world, college management is recognizing that more and more prospective students will be first introduced to an education institution through their mobile device. These students are part of the mobile-only generation, and it's the way they interact with everything they do. This makes it a critical new channel for reaching them.

This is why higher education marketing strategies need to ensure they say their story, no matter where or how the students consume it online. Higher education institutions have to incorporate online and digital strategies not only to recruit students, but also to research prospective students. They have to engage with various constituents via multiple communication channels.

This is done at a basic level through a mix of paid and organic placements in the digital space to generate leads. The next stage is in connecting with them across multiple devices (mobile, Tablet, Laptop) and multiple channels (Social, FB, Twitter, Instagram, search- Google, Bing Blogposts and 1000s of other educational, gaming sites the students visit). Building a brand and a relation that lasts means building an interactive relation with the target audience over the period of 2-3 years (when they are in 11th and 12th) across device, across channels through really useful and interesting content to build the kind of recall and loyalty that's unparalleled. Given that prospective students most likely will conduct their college search on smart phones, a digital marketing strategy in the coming years needs to focus on the mobile experience.

Best practices for a successful mobile strategy

Mobile web
Start with the mobile web first, as that strategy gives you a wider reach. Despite the well-known popularity of smart phones in India, many feature phones are still in use. In addition, students may prefer to use a browser as opposed to downloading an app in the initial search. Prospective students who have decided to apply or their parents will make the commitment to download an app. After you have a robust mobile website, add native apps.

Mobile optimization is not about making information fit on a smaller screen. The mobile friendly website should be search engine optimized, concise and easy to navigate and have interactive features such as chat and blog. Information that would be helpful for prospective students, such as interesting college information, makes the audience come back.

Native app
A native app developed within a mobile ecosystem following the technical and user experience guidelines has the advantage of faster performance. It is the most powerful and sticky user engagement tool in digital. But it works only if it provides the user with a one-stop solution and not the college specific information.

Educational institutions that are looking for a long term connection with students, should invest in building a branded app that provide one stop college search, access to student blogs (like Pagal guy), useful content and guidance for students, as well as interactive chat features. The app needs to motivate to download and regular use of the app

The promotion for the app can be through Google and Facebook ads as well as ads on relevant education and student blogs and sites where teens spend their time. Some of these sources would be more precise but would also be very costly. Hence it is important to keep a live monitoring of cost per relevant user channel wise and dynamically shift ad spends.

Remove the guesswork
One significant advantage of mobile technology is the ability to use an analytics-driven approach to reach targeted student audiences through search engines, mobile smartphones, text messaging, email newsletters and social media. New ad technology platforms, methods of tracking, dynamic ad content, provide opportunities for institutions to engage with prospective students personally and across channels. Students respond positively to proactive and personalized communication that makes them feel heard connected and supported.

Do not wait for the complete implementation to be in place before beginning a digital strategy. Start with your mobile web and grow from there. Looking at your analytics and user feedback, add more modules or features.

Being Social
Social media usage in the college search process has greatly increased over the last few years, with a greater increase in use of visual-first platforms (such as YouTube and Instagram). Social media is a double-edged sword and it needs to be very responsive with the least turnaround time. The focus in social media should be on regular user engagement and the measure should be percentage of subscriber liking a post, retweeting, sharing and commenting.Digital Marketing Strategy for Higher Education should engage with, students and stakeholders. It should capitalise on strategy to increase applications and raise student satisfaction.

Upal Pradhan
Upal has more than 7 years of experience in the mobile and entertainment space and more than 5 years of experience in mobile advertisements. He has been the India head of Techzone since 2010 and has been instrumental in the evolution of Techzone into one of largest mobile entertainment and platform companies. He has a Master in Business Administration (M.B.A.) in Marketing from IIT Kharagpur and a Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) from Bengal Engineering and Science University, Shibpur. His company Kratos provides various stakeholders in the mobile ecosystem, solutions that are technology based, transparent and based on ROI.

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