The 2015 NAGAP Annual Conference in New Orleans last week was a stellar event for anyone in the graduate enrollment management (#GEM) field. The theme for this year's conference was "GEM Defined: A New King of Rhythm" — which was highly appropriate, given the incredible amount of idea-sharing that was crammed into the 2.5 days of educational workshops!
Whether you missed the conference or attended but didn't get to go to all of the workshops you wanted to, fear not! Here are 3 enrollment marketing takeaways that we learned from this event...
(NOTE: You can also find great tidbits of content by checking out #NAGAPLearns on Twitter!)
#1 - Grad schools need their own social media identities
Far too many graduate schools and enrollment departments have been piggy-backing off of their main institution's social profiles, competing with content that pertains to existing students, faculty, and alumni. Enrollment management needs to finally get into the conversation by providing social content that prospective students would be interested in.
Less than 50% of the graduate schools we talked with at NAGAP maintain their own social profiles,
and of those that did only about half of them were posting regularly to their social networks!
Note that this does not mean you should only fill Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn with traditional recruitment content that promotes your next application deadline. Some of that event-driven content is okay, but primarily graduate schools need to use social networks to put out resources related to their programs and their respected career paths.
#2 - Don't dabble with your content marketing strategy
Besides just social media, there was a lot of conversation this year about blogging and content marketing. The biggest challenge was a lack of consistency with producing content. Many conference attendees admitted there was little or no strategy behind the content they were producing. And on top of that, most of the content was less of an educational resource and more of a recruitment sales pitch.
That's where inbound marketing comes into play for graduate enrollment management. Inbound provides the strategy that guides your institution's content and leverages it to attract and generate prospects for your graduate programs. Here's the simple formula for inbound marketing:
Educational Content + Conversion Strategy + Marketing Technology = Inbound Marketing
To be fair, there is really a LOT more to inbound that just the above formula, including things like landing pages, calls-to-action, longtail keywords, and tracking cookies.
Interestingly, we found that most graduate enrollment managers were already involved with one of the key elements of content marketing, but lacked the time or the staff (or the support from their marketing/communications department) to pull off a comprehensive strategy. This is a key problem that graduate schools will continue to face in the next year.
#3 - SEO has changed (but grad school websites haven't)
By far, the most common theme we ran across was a graduate school that was waiting on (or hoping for) a major website overhaul (literally, more than 8 of every 10 grad schools were in this situation)!
And what does your website have to do with your content strategy anyway?
It doesn't matter what content you have available; if your website makes it too hard to find, you aren't getting value out of that content. And by "value" I specifically mean converting website visitors into actual inquiries that you continue to track as they consume more of your site content.
But the problem isn't really the look and feel of your graduate admissions website pages. The problem most schools have is that their site lacks enough content to rank higher in Google's organic search results. And that doesn't mean you just need more copy on your website!
Actually, it means you need more landing pages filled with keywords and premium content (eBooks, videos, guides, research, etc.) related to the areas in which your programs have thought leadership.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves! Some topics deserve their own blog posts for goodness sakes. There's plenty more to talk about from the NAGAP conference, and if you happened to miss our workshop — Inbound Marketing for GEM: How to Leverage Content to Attract Students — I made a scaled-down slide deck that you can download below. It's a helpful introduction to the basic methodologies of inbound marketing specific to graduate enrollment management. Enjoy!