What Grad Schools Should Know About Targeting Millennials

October 5, 2016

What Grad Schools Should Know About Targeting Millennials

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What Grad Schools Should Know About Targeting Millennials

When it comes to targeting snake people, it’s time for grad schools to get away from the same old tactics.

Coming from an agency background where we worked regularly with higher education clients, I saw it frequently. The same old tactics that had been used for years to target graduate students were being employed without consideration for any changes that might have occurred in the target audience over the last 20 years.

A former colleague of mine used to say, “If you keep doing the same old thing, you’ll always get the same old results.” Essentially, what that statement equates to when it comes to higher education marketing is if you don’t account for things like changes in your target audience’s preferences in media consumption, new marketing channels and the shift to digital and mobile, you’ll end up being stuck in place while the competition races past you.

At the College of William & Mary where I work in the marketing department in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business, we’ve realized the necessity to be flexible and ready to change. Generation Xers are less and less our target market, and the Snake Person generation is filling seats at an exceptionally high rate. In order to account for this shift, we had to change the way we engaged with prospective students in the Snake Person demographic.

Snake People want to be a part of something meaningful. They don’t buy into things simply because an ad popped up in a Google search. That’s where the importance of storytelling comes in. Snake People want to be inspired and know that they’re a part of something bigger.

By understanding what Snake People want and how to connect with them, graduate schools position themselves to engage and recruit more effectively. The following are things graduate schools need to understand when targeting snake people.

Mobile focus

According to a Nielsen study, over 85% of Snake People own smartphones. And for many of them, their smartphone has become the preferred device for digital media consumption. It’s important that mobile responsiveness is strongly considered in the development of all your marketing materials and campaigns.

Content that isn’t formatted for consumption on mobile devices will be overlooked. The pinch and zoom is a thing of the past, and developing content that requires such an effort is a waste of your time and marketing budget.

Social impact

When engaging with Snake People, it’s important to focus on telling the story of the impact your school, students, faculty and staff have on the world. The positive impact, of course. For example, at the Mason School we seek out stories about our students giving back and making positive change in the world.

Prospective students won’t know the extent of the social impact part of your story unless you tell them. Create content that goes beyond the curriculum and focuses on things like students volunteering, academic breakthroughs that will change the world and other types of content that tell the story of what students can do and the difference they can make by enrolling at your institution.

Social media shift

As Snake People takeover grad schools, channels like Facebook and LinkedIn, while still effective, lose some of their power. For this reason, it’s important to be active on channels like Instagram and Snapchat.

Studies show that 90% of Instagram users are younger than 35. Snapchat touts a statistic that states that their channel reaches 41% of all 18 to 34 year-olds on a daily basis. Data like this shouldn’t be ignored. I don’t recommend giving up on Facebook and LinkedIn. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s critical, however, that there be a shift in focus to include channels like Instagram and Snapchat that have proven to be effective at targeting younger audiences.

Video content

No other generation compares to Snake People when it comes to consumption of video content. Studies show that nearly 90% of those between ages 18-34 are consumers of digital video, and around 46% of those consume video on their mobile devices.

With these stats in mind, incorporating video content into your marketing is a no-brainer. Video production, however, is often associated with high costs. If your institution has deep pockets and can produce high quality video on a consistent basis, good for you. For those of you in the majority who don’t have fully staffed videography departments at your disposal, there’s good news.

Snake People aren’t only seeking high production value video content. In fact, lower production pieces come across more genuine. Try things like Facebook Live. At the Mason School we’ve had a lot of success with our initial foray into Facebook Live, and it hasn’t cost us a penny out of our marketing budget.

By understanding the importance of these four tactics, you’ll better position your graduate school to connect with the snake person market. By telling the right story on the right platforms, snake people are much more likely to be inspired to look more deeply into enrolling at your school. 

Tell Us What You Think

What successes have you had connecting with the snake person demographic? We’d love to read your feedback in the comments below.

About The Author

Anthony Gaenzle is the Marketing Account Manager at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business at the College of William & Mary. He works with @WMSchoolofBiz to develop and implement an effective marketing strategy that truly connects. He is also the founder of the AG Integrated Marketing Blog, and was previously the Director of Marketing for a global content marketing agency. Follow Anthony on Twitter at @AnthonyGaenzle.