Do you ever wonder if prospective students are reading your content?
If the answer is yes, that’s a legitimate concern — and you’re not the only one.
Marketers across various industries are continually looking for ways to increase engagement for their content. For schools, that means creating websites, landing pages, web publications, and multiple types of content that are compelling enough to nudge prospective students to apply or persuade alumni to give back.
Aside from engaging and encouraging your target audience to take a desired action, great content will help strengthen your school’s brand.
To get you started on creating quality higher ed content, we’ve put together 12 traits to guide you toward creating stunning content that will engage prospective students, alumni, and staff alike.
Images, videos, GIFs, you name it — any of these visual elements can help boost your content’s recall rate since visuals are 60,000 times easier to process than words. Not to mention that visuals transform your content into an aesthetically pleasing viewing experience. Visual content is an excellent way for your communications materials to show off your school’s culture, campus, and world-class facilities.
It’s hard enough to hold people’s attention these days, and there’s no better way to lose your audience than a dull, static piece of content that doesn’t allow for any interaction. Including animations, transitions, and elements will elevate your readers’ journey. Whether it’s first-time visitors or student applicants that are visiting your website, you show you are committed to all of your audiences when you create an engaging content experience for readers of all stages. Interactive content enables your audience, drives the reading experience, and boosts engagement throughout the session.
Emotions are powerful, and stories drive emotions. There’s no denying that people make emotionally-driven decisions if they can relate to your narrative. This is the moment for you to share your school’s story and showcase your values. To make your narrative even more compelling, try including stories as told by your school’s faculty, students, and alumni. Social proof can help strengthen your brand identity and trustworthiness in the eyes of new audiences.
Conversations aren’t just something you have in real life — they also extend to paper (or the screen). Writing in a conversational style helps you communicate better and connect with your prospects more genuinely. Nothing turns people off more than a written sales pitch. When writing your content, imagine yourself talking to your prospects and write the way you would speak to them. Instead of forcing your prospects into performing your desired goal, offer them benefits and solutions, and find out how you can help them achieve success.
As with any conversation, your content should lead them down a specific path to the desired action: your CTA. Do you want your audience to sign up for a trial? Do you want them to subscribe to your newsletter? Whether or not they take the desired action will be determined when your prospective students feel comfortable engaging with your content and spend time reading it thoroughly.
Don’t treat each of your content pieces like individual islands. They should complement each other to form a narrative for your prospects. This helps readers connect the dots and remember why they came to you in the first place. For example, instead of sending your alumni an event invitation and a separate blog post about giving back to your school, tie the two pieces together in the same sequential campaign. Add social sharing buttons or social media feeds onto your content to enable your audience to share them with their connections and simultaneously interact with you in real-time.
This is where you draw on your school’s past to tell a story. For example, do you have a tradition that’s unique to your school (e.g., Harvard’s Primal Scream)? Don’t be afraid to add fun facts and use new ways of delivering your content and attract readers’ attention. For example, Middlebury College’s website doesn’t share the typical website layout that shows a navigation bar and school logo at the top like other schools. Instead, their website renders each content piece as color bars in a very minimalistic design, which stands out from the rest.
In our age, social media is the easiest way for news or content to travel. Leverage the power of social media by making your content shareable on all essential platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
Making something “shareable” isn’t just adding social media buttons. You should tailor the content and use the appropriate format for each platform. For example, if you have a blog post that you’d also like to promote on Instagram, consider creating a square image or infographic related to the post, and then link to the post in your Instagram profile.
Imagine yourself having a snack on the go while you’re working on other essential tasks. Would you prefer a whole meal with utensils or something bite-sized and portable? The latter sounds like a more convenient option, and this is exactly how most people prefer to read their content. Breaking up your content into smaller bits can help your audience process content more easily and retain the message you are trying to communicate in a much more effective way. Creating snackable content involves thoughtful planning on both design and text. Write in short sentences or bullet points. With regards to the layout of your content, use whitespace to separate images, and create visual blocks for your readers.
Given that higher-ed institutions include people from very diverse backgrounds, being inclusive should be second nature. Universities are also required by the government to be ADA-compliant to accommodate individuals with disabilities. There are plenty of online resources that will guide you towards creating content that’s compliant with accessibility standards and inclusive of disabled audiences.
Your content shouldn’t leave your visitors in a confusing maze. A piece of content that’s easy to navigate reduces barriers and helps your audience reach the desired goal faster. For starters, an easily navigable website creates a better experience for users and makes your content more visible to your prospects. A well-designed navigation bar can tremendously reduce the amount of time it takes for your prospect to get from the homepage to your contact page. Having your content readily visible rather than buried under layers of different pages means your visitors are more likely to revisit your site.
Help your prospects feel welcome by personalizing your content. This can be as simple as addressing them by name in the email subject line or writing in the first person to address your readers directly. If your content is targeted (email, sending a content offer, etc.), use personalization tokens to automate the process. This can also help you save time when working with big audience groups.
Our reading habits have changed. As the world becomes more saturated with web-based content, people are getting increasingly good at skimming. Your Generation Z and Millennial prospects are probably skimming through your website pages, emails, and content on their smartphones as they’re performing other duties. Delivering your content in bite-sized chunks with a focus on delivering maximum value allows prospects to capture the core benefits you want to emphasize.
For example, instead of creating a multi-page program brochure, a one-pager with a bulleted list of information on your programs and offerings may be much more skim-friendly. This can help get prospects to understand the value of your offerings in a short time without asking them to commit to spending time on your content while they are still learning about your institution.
Whether you’re creating new student materials, reaching out to alumni, or connecting with faculty and staff, you have the same end goal: to engage your audience. Keeping these twelve traits in mind will help you create content that captures your prospect’s or alumni’s attention and move one step closer to their goal.
Minnie Ongsricharoenporn is a content marketer at Foleon. She pens the ready-to-share pieces that inspire our customers to create even better content for themselves.
Learn about the future of interactive web content by signing up for our product news and blog updates.
Follow us for fresh content, tips & tricks and awesome examples.