In the run up to Scottish Higher and A-level Result day more universities than ever are embracing digital advertising to recruit potential students through Clearing. The use of digital includes standard display advertising and a move towards more ‘native’ content. Here is a quick round-up of different digital mediums being used and a simplistic pro and con to each channel.
1. Display advertisements placed through a media owner
The standard advertising platform across the web where advertisers take slots usually through tenancy or CPM basis on student focused media owners. These media owners will be providing information directly relevant for A-Level / Clearing audience meaning reaching the target market is guaranteed.
- Pro: Display message directly to target audiences
- Con: Potential for advertising format fatigue
2. Facebook Advertising
Facebook enables different advertising formats such as display and suggested posts. Both styles attempt to look more like branded content or native advertising. Facebook advertising is easy to set up and can be controlled directly by the marketer, including what metrics are set and what the campaign objective is. With a population of over 1 billion there is a lot of potential audience to reach. A potential downside is the time investment needed to respond to comments on suggested posts.
- Pro: Easy to set up and Facebook enables marketer to buy advertising by different measurements
- Con: Changes to the Facebook algorithm can prioritise family and friend feeds over promoted media
3. Google Ad -words
Universities have been using PPC advertising for some time. Ad Words are relatively easy to set up and do not require a creative so can be set up directly by the marketer. As interest in running PPC advertising over Clearing has increased, so has the cost at this time of year.
- Pro: Easy to set up and does not require expansive creative
- Con: Clearing keywords can get very expensive in August
Using # trend to get into clearing feeds started in July with most institutions using it to let potential students know what courses are available. This is becoming an increasingly normal channel to broadcast details of vacancies.
- Pro: Free and easy to do
- Con: Messages disappear quickly through the crowded hashtag
5. Twitter Advertising
Twitter adverts are the official promotional slots that can purchased directly with Twitter. There are two main formats; a promoted tweet or a lead generation card. These promoted slots sit at the top of the feed and have a longer tail then normal tweets. Twitter provides the standard metrics of re-tweets and favourites but also offers a conversion metric too. The lead generation cards can integrate with external CRM systems such as Eloqua and Salesforce. Such is the take up of university advertising on Twitter that Twitter itself now advertises to Higher Ed marketers.
- Pro: A range of solutions and metrics available
- Con: Popularity will drive up costs
6. Promotional tweets / influence marketing
Brand endorsements have existed in the fashion and cosmetic world for some time but are a relatively new channel for universities. Endorsements or 'influence marketing' involve content promotion through influencer networks, giving an authentic feel to the message.
- Pro: Harnesses the power of word of mouth in a measurable format
- Con: Relatively untested for Higher Education but definitely one to watch
Advertising through YouTube includes display options run through the Google network as well as native content in the form of the clearing infomercial. Somewhat ubiquitous now, no university YouTube feed would be without their own guide to Clearing. These are usually (but not exclusively) short video guides from students who have been through the process produced by the university and/or professional video production team.
Occasionally the students themselves create something special. University of Lincoln student Thomas Ridgewell (TomSka) created a series of spoof videos. They are highly tongue in cheek, authentic and innovative. Although perhaps not initially well received by officials, students loved them. They still receive lots of love four years on and represent the holy grail of shareable content.
- Pro: YouTube is a really important site for young people and the platform provides great opportunities for paid and free content.
- Con: Video production can be expensive and there is the real possibility of “Dad at the Disco” excruciating inappropriateness if content is not produced sensitively.
8. Google email placements
A new type of ad format somewhere between an email and a web advert.
As a new channel for clearing placements there are limited case studies to draw opinion from. My initial thoughts on the format are the short content, large action button and pre-downloaded images suggest click through rates should be higher than a conventional email. Interested to hear thoughts and experiences.
9. Programmatic adverts across affiliate networks
Same format as standard digital display however advertising is purchased programmatically across affiliate marketing networks. These networks are more likely to accept CPC and even CPL payments model meaning better ROI and cost effectiveness. However, there could be less control alongside which content or stories adverts display. In the example below adverts are displaying across Mashable, a great choice to reach innovator/ early adopter audiences.
10. And the rest…
Of course there are many other channels such as Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and the “My stories” feature of Snapchat. As this blog was intended to be quick and has already broken that promise, I'll look at the rest another time!
A quick summary...
These are not arranged in a hierarchy since each channel has merits and challenges dependent on a variety of factors such as brand, copy and target market. It is interesting to see how new media is being incorporated in the marketing mix and how education marketing continues to evolve.
For anyone wanting more tips and ideas of promotion through formats mentioned above, there is a great blog article here: