January 15, 2020 Guest Blogger

Influencer Marketing for Higher Ed: Engaging Generation Z

“…indisputable evidence that influencer marketing definitely has its place in the marketing departments of higher education institutions.”

Influencer marketing can achieve amazing results across all industries. That’s why many of the sectors previously thought would rely on traditional advertising methods are turning to social media and influencer for help.

Why? A large volume of research suggests that influencer marketing might be the most effective marketing channel for reaching Generation Z.

Gen Z is generally considered to be the generation following millennials, i.e. Z-ers are individuals born after 1995.

Given that research suggests Generation Z increasingly turns to social media for purchasing recommendations and advice, it’s no wonder that higher education joined the trend as well. After all, gen Z is a large pool of potential college students who are either currently in college or have yet to enroll.

Is Influencer Marketing Effective in Higher Education?

Although many universities still believe that traditional higher ed marketing channels such as TV, career fairs and brochures are the go-to solution for attracting students, ACT’s research has shown that 80% of high school students said social media was useful in their search for a college.

This is indisputable evidence that influencer marketing definitely has its place in the marketing departments of higher education institutions.

“Looking at our numbers from college campaigns, it’s safe to say that social media marketing is becoming increasingly important for this sector. If we take a look at growth rates, we can expect influencer marketing to become among the most important marketing channel for higher education in the next five years,” said Melanie Browner, marketing manager at TopWritersReview.

Influencer Marketing: Endorsements

Just like with other brands and businesses, you can achieve huge success by contracting celebrities to endorse your college or university. For high school students and those aspiring to enroll into higher education, a recommendation from a favorite celeb goes a long way.

At the same time, this is not a very common method among the top universities in the US and around the world. Only a handful of higher ed institutions have chosen this strategy. Hiring celebrities for social media endorsements can be quite costly, and there’s no way of predicting at least somewhat accurate results of the campaign.

This is why most universities opt for influencer marketing leveraging the following methods.

Influencer Marketing: Current Students

This is arguably the best possible influencer group that can promote a higher ed institution on social media. There are a number of reasons for this. First, college students are predominantly very active on social media and highly tech-savvy. This means that they can single-handedly grow their campus social circle to a huge following on social media.

Secondly, high school students who are pondering which school they should go to will often browse experiences from current students. These testimonies are actually the most realistic illustration of how it feels like to study somewhere.

Influencer posts from current students can range from campus life posts and jokes to blog posts about ‘a day in the life of a college student.’

If you’re a higher education institution who wants to leverage current students for influencer marketing, there are a number of ways to motivate students to post university-related content:

  • Start a hashtag with a prompt (e.g. #bestclassever, #topcampusspots, #campusquestions etc.)
  • Organize a raffle with a social media post as an entry requirement
  • Hold a blog-writing contest related to life at your university
  • Host a party or an event which students can share on social media

Influencer Marketing: Alumni

Next to students who are currently studying and/or living on campus, students who have graduated can be great influencers, too.

Encourage alumni to post about their alma mater by asking them to post what they liked about their time in college, what they learned, how it has changed them and more.

On your institution’s social media profiles, you can also post interviews with notable alumni. If your university has influential alumni, try reaching out to them to set up an interview and let them present their experiences at your university.

You can also promote alumni who have become experts in their respective fields. For example, if you have a Creative Writing program, you can feature a successful alumnus who is a writer. 

Influencer Marketing: Aspiring Students (High-Schoolers)

Even though college students are the primary influencer group for this type of marketing, it’s important to remember that high school students are the target audience. Therefore, many of them might rely on recommendations from their peers rather than older students.

The way to promote your university on social media with the help of high school students is to reach out to high-schoolers and find those who want to apply to your university. Then, you can set up an influencer campaign in which they explain why they want to go there. 

Influencer Marketing: Administrators

This might be a tough one, but if you manage to convince your professors to promote your university on social media, it can be highly effective for your target audience.

For high school students and young adults, teachers present a very high authority and are a sign of credibility and legitimacy for whatever they choose to stand for. It’s the same case with universities – even if you have doubts about the reality of what it’s like to live on campus, you will surely believe what a professor has to say about an academic program.

Professor posts on social media that promote a university can also be a unique and interesting way of engaging and keeping in touch with current students or alumni. This is why many universities around the world have started encouraging their academic staff to spread the good word on social media.

Just like in other sectors, influencer marketing can do wonders in higher education marketing. From increased applications and enrollment to an improvement in the university’s branding, influencer marketing achieves a myriad of benefits.

Freelance contribution especially written for Find Your Influence by Diana Nadim.