Unlocking Alternative Paid Media Channels for the Higher Education Sector

Unlocking Alternative Paid Media Channels for the Higher Education Sector

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Brands and content creators are increasingly expanding their online presence across various platforms. They have been actively promoting additional platforms to their audience, encouraging them to follow them on each new platform. They often use phrases like ‘If you enjoyed this content, check out my other YouTube channel and follow me on my TikTok account for more. Also, don’t forget to catch my live stream on Twitch every Saturday.’ – These phrases have become a staple in video outros for many creators.

When you consider the advantages of single users being counted as multiple followers making multiple interactions, it’s a smart move to use an outro like the above. Additionally, it opens the door for others to join their community, even on a secondary, less conventional channel.

This approach enables creators to stay connected with their audience as they bounce between platforms throughout the day and display content that is either more detailed or slightly different to their main content. For instance, a YouTuber might discuss the latest tech gadgets on their main channel, cover new video game releases on a second channel, focus on home tools on Instagram and pin affiliate content on Pinterest whilst engaging in tech discussions on X.

Similarly, as digital marketers, we can use this omnichannel strategy to extend our clients’ reach beyond the Meta and Google ecosystems. By using tailored messaging to tap into platforms like Pinterest, Reddit, Quora, TikTok, Twitch and Spotify, we can effectively promote specific faculties, niche courses and less visible fields of knowledge.

Universities now have the opportunity to ultra-refine their targeting, increase their awareness/consideration and get quality results among younger Millennials and older Gen Zs, a demographic known for its advanced digital fluency and constant desire for connectivity. This particularly applies to Gen Z, who can effortlessly switch between screens, sometimes using up to five at once. This multitasking ability can be translated into more opportunities for an institution to be seen.

For example, imagine you want to promote a few science courses to this demographic. On Pinterest, your audience could see biomedical student projects through visually compelling pins, while on Reddit users that participate in niche science communities could see ads that align with their interests. On Quora, they could see how your University has established authority by seeing your answers to scientific questions, and on TikTok, we could target them with updates on faculty events. We could use Ecosia with the new science programmes available for the next term and lastly, prospective students could join you on a Virtual Open Day via Twitch.

Let’s take a closer look at each platform.

Pinterest: Tapping into Visual Inspiration

This platform has over 498 million active users globally, with a significant portion being Gen Z and Millennials​​. Pinterest offers a unique opportunity to reach users who are drawn to eye-catching visuals, serving as a hub for inspiration. This makes it ideal for promoting courses in the Creative Arts as well as other higher education areas  including:

  • Graphic Design and Visual Communication
  • Film and Media Studies
  • Architecture and Interior Design
  • Digital Marketing
  • Fashion Design and Merchandising
  • Sustainable Design and Environmental Studies
  • Health and Wellness

Strategy:

  1. Visually ‘aesthetic’ Pins: Showcase student work/portfolios, creative projects behind the scenes, exhibitions and events,  campus facilities, and course highlights.
  2. Thematic Boards: Develop boards that align with course themes, such as “Graphic Design Trends and Innovations.”
  3. Pinterest Ads: Reach a broader audience, using promoted pins, carousel, image, video, collection ads and keyword targeting.

Pinterest is particularly effective for reaching high-income households, as it’s twice as likely to be used by these demographics compared to lower-income households​​. This makes it a valuable platform for promoting premium courses and programmes. Additionally, 90% of Pinterest users are in a shopping mindset, which translates to significant spending habits and a higher likelihood of enroling in courses showcased on the platform​.

Sources: Sprout Social​​, Metricool, SocialPilotSMM Dashboard.

Reddit: Engaging in Community Discussions

Reddit offers a new way for universities to authentically engage with potential students, taking advantage of diverse and niche-oriented communities. With around 52 million daily active users, predominantly aged 18-29, Reddit is an ideal place to connect with UG and PG demographics who are deeply involved in specific interest areas​.

Here are some examples of faculties and their relevant subreddits (Forums)

  • Computer Science and IT: r/learnprogramming, r/datascience, r/cybersecurity​
  • Health and Medical Sciences: r/medicalschool, r/nursing, r/publichealth
  • Engineering: r/engineering, r/AskEngineers, r/ECE​
  • Environmental Science: r/environment, r/sustainability, r/renewableenergy​
  • Business and Finance: r/MBA, r/finance, r/marketing, r/startups​
  • Humanities and Social Sciences:: r/psychology, r/sociology, r/politics, r/history​
  • Education and Teaching:: r/teachers, r/education, r/edtech
  • Law and Criminal Justice:: r/LawSchool, r/legaladvice, r/criminology​

Strategy:

  1. Participate in Subreddits: Engage actively in the relevant subreddits by providing valuable insights, sharing informative articles, and participating in discussions related to the course topics. This establishes universities as knowledgeable and helpful members of the community.
  2. AMA Sessions: Host Ask Me Anything sessions with faculty members, alumni, or current students. This approach allows prospective students to ask questions directly and gain valuable insights from those with firsthand experience, this is particularly effective in fields like law and criminal justice.
  3. Reddit Ads: Use Reddit’s advertising platform to target specific subreddits and interests. This can enhance visibility and reach within the communities that align with your course offerings.

Sources: Backlinko, Foundation Marketing, Writer’s Block Live.

Quora: Answering the Right Questions

Quora attracts individuals seeking expert advice and detailed information, therefore this channel is perfect to help establish authority by addressing common prospective student questions and concerns related to the different courses, the admission process and university life. Quora has around 300 million monthly active users globally, although specific breakdowns for Millennials and Gen Z have not been fully estimated yet, it is believed that a significant portion of Quora’s user base belongs to these age groups.

Here are some examples of courses that can be promoted on Quora:

  • Tech and Computer Science: Data Science, Cybersecurity
  • Medical Sciences: Global Health, Paramedic Science
  • Business and Management: Project Management
  • Sciences: Forensic Science
  • Education: Educational Technology
  • Mental Health: Clinical Psychology
  • Finance and Accounting: Financial Planning
  • Engineering: Energy Engineering

Strategy

  1. Create High-Quality Content: Develop content that addresses common questions and concerns of prospective students, such as career prospects, course details, and application tips.
  2. Run Quora Ads: Target users who have shown interest in related topics. Quora’s advertising platform allows precise targeting based on user interests and behaviours.

Sources: HGS Interactive Blogs, TrueList.

TikTok: Engage with Dynamic Content

With 1.2 billion monthly active users globally and 17 million in the UK, TikTok offers a robust platform for reaching potential students​. Awareness ads can build initial interest and brand recognition thanks to TikTok’s viral content potential and high engagement rates, where users spend over 90 minutes per day on the app​​. Following this, conversion ads can target these engaged users to drive specific actions, such as application submissions, making the phased approach highly effective.

Here are some examples of TikTok interest fields and their corresponding faculties/courses:

  • Entertainment: Faculty of Creative Arts and Media Studies
    Courses: Film and Television Production, Digital Media and Animation, Performing Arts, Music Production and Creative writing.
  • Beauty and Fashion: Faculties of Science, Design and Business
    Courses: Pharmacy and Cosmetic Science, Fashion Design, Fashion Marketing, Entrepreneurship.
  • Physical and Mental Health and Fitness: Faculty of Health Sciences and Psychology
    Courses: Sports Science, Nutrition, Physical Therapy, Clinical Psychology, Social Work.
  • Technology, Gadgets and How-to Guides: Faculties of Engineering, IT, Industrial Design and Architecture.
    Courses:  Computer Science, Software Development, Game Development, Cybersecurity, Mechanical Engineering, Industrial Design, Architectural Technology.
  • Education and Learning: Faculties of Education, Psychology, Language Studies.
    Courses: Primary and Secondary Education, Children Psychology, Career Counseling, History, Literature and Language Studies.
  • Lifestyle and Vlogging: Faculty of Social Sciences, Humanities and Business.
    Courses: Communication, Journalism, Sociology, Anthropology, Travel and Tourism Management, Marketing.
  • Science, Nature and Green Living: Faculty of Life Sciences, Medical Sciences.
    Courses: Biology, Zoology, Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Forensic Science, Global development and Sustainability.

Strategy

  1. Create Engaging Content: Use tutorials, behind-the-scenes videos, and student testimonials to showcase course offerings. Highlight unique aspects of your programs and student projects.
  2. Use Hashtags: Use popular and relevant hashtags like #universitylife and #ukuniversity to increase the visibility of your content and reach users interested in educational content and campus experiences.
  3. Collaborate with Influencers: Partner with TikTok influencers who align with your University’s values and can authentically promote your courses.
  4. Run TikTok Ads: Use TikTok’s advertising platform to target specific demographics interested in higher education. Ads can be tailored to highlight specific courses, application deadlines, and Open Days.

Sources: Digimind Blog, The Social Shepherd, SMM Dashboard.

Twitch: Streaming to the Gaming Community

With around 140 million monthly active users, predominantly aged between 16-34, ​​Twitch is the platform to reach and engage in real-time with tech-savvy students through its interactive nature. This channel is primarily used for live streaming a diverse range of content from video game streaming to creative art, music, cooking, crafting and educational content in the form of tutorials, chat shows, podcasts, and discussion panels.

Promoting courses on Twitch is particularly effective for the tech and interactive media fields such as:

  • Technology and Computer Science: Game Development and Design
  • Creative Arts and Design: Digital Art and Animation, Music Production and Media Production.
  • Engineering: Mechatronics, Electronic and Electric Engineering
  • Business and Management: Digital Marketing and Finance

    Strategy
  1. Stream Live Events: Host live events such as game development workshops, esports tournaments, and virtual campus tours. These events can showcase the practical aspects of your courses and engage prospective students in real-time.
  2. Use Twitch Ads: Use Twitch Ads to target specific communities and interests that align with your academic programs. Tailor your ads to highlight unique aspects of your courses.

Source: Twitch.tv.

Spotify: The one for the Music and Podcast Enthusiasts

With 602 million monthly active users worldwide and a strong presence in Europe, including the UK, Spotify is a key platform for reaching younger demographics. 56% of Spotify’s user base is made up of Millennials and Gen Z. These users are highly engaged, with an average daily usage of around 118 minutes per user. So, by advertising on Spotify, universities can align their brand with the cultural preferences of young adults, enhancing the user experience when integrated within playlists or podcasts. This platform supports various ad formats, including audio, video, and display ads, enabling universities to capture and retain user attention in multiple ways.
Here are some examples of courses that may align with the audience fields of interest on Spotify:

  • True crime: Criminal Justice, Criminology and Forensic Science
  • Science and Technology: Climate Science, Archaeology, Artificial Intelligence, Bioinformatics
  • Personal Finances and Investing: Economy, Finance, E-commerce.
  • Health, wellness and lifestyle: Cognitive Psychology, Disability Studies.
  • Learning and Education: Early Childhood studies, Education Policy, History of Art. 

Strategy

  1. Spotify Ads: Use Spotify’s ad platform to target users based on their listening habits and interests. You can create audio ads that highlight specific courses, faculty achievements, and unique aspects of your programs. These ads can be placed between songs or podcasts, ensuring they reach users when they are most engaged.
  2. Collaborate with Influencers: Partner with popular podcast hosts or music influencers who match with your University’s values and programs. They can help promote your courses and provide a trusted voice that potential students are likely to follow.

Sources: The Tech Report​​ 33rd SquareTechPenny.com​.

As we navigate these new digital alternatives, it becomes evident that the future of educational marketing lies in understanding the unique strengths of each platform, engaging across multiple touchpoints allows for a richer, more immersive experience that can significantly boost our marketing goals. By doing so, universities can not only stay ahead of the curve but also grow a dynamic and responsive online presence that truly resonates with the diverse interests and preferences of modern students.

PATRICIA AVENDAÑO

PAID MEDIA EXECUTIVE

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