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Best practicesMarketing

9 Higher Education Marketing Trends to Watch in 2022

by Sirley Carballo · May 09, 2022

Marketing trends can change at a surprisingly quick pace, and if you’re working with prospective students who recognize the good from the bad–you’ve got to keep up.

Student turning around and smiling at the camera.

To create the most effective campaigns possible, your marketing team must consider factors like student-centered content, target audience, and popular web and social channels. A solid strategy combines all of these elements into one cohesive plan that delivers helpful and timely messages to the right people. 

In this post, we’ll spotlight the top higher ed marketing strategies you should know about this year (and beyond). These digital marketing trends are relevant as you boost student engagement, strategize student recruitment, and consider the culture and progress of campus life.

Top higher education marketing strategies

In higher education, marketing trends can direct your steps in a number of ways. From nurturing relationships with current students, to hosting events, to combatting declining enrollment, you can use modern tools to your advantage.

Not sure where to start? We’ve done the heavy lifting for you. In the list that follows, you’ll discover which emerging trends are most popular this year. Then, you can start to envision how to use these digital marketing techniques at your own college or university.

1. “Short form” platforms

Modern students are familiar with receiving digital content in quick, short bursts. That’s why "short-form" platforms, such as TikTok, are one of the hottest video marketing trends this year. “Short-form” generally refers to videos that are shorter than two minutes in length, a highly appealing way to present new content.

Across the board, marketers expect the popularity of short-form videos to increase. That’s why over 70% of marketers plan to use it to their advantage. With so much video content in circulation, it’s more important than ever that colleges and universities jump on board.

To maximize the result of your short-form initiatives, consider the areas where your marketing results are underperforming. If a major focus involves the number of new applications, think of how you can use short-form platforms (a proven winner) to generate the improvements and results you want to see in another significant area.

2. Interactive and conversational marketing lingo

In college marketing, it’s crucial that you have a good grasp of the students you’re speaking to. “Gen Z,” as this cohort of students is known, has a unique way of communicating and speaking to one another. 

In 2022, learn how Gen Z students communicate–both with each other and with the brands that they follow and trust. Not only does this inform your ideas of what they like, but it also helps construct conversational marketing messages that hit the mark.

One major perk of using conversational speech in your digital marketing strategy is that you can quickly establish trust and loyalty. These are important characteristics when convincing college students that your university is the right fit for a long-term commitment. 

3. Student-focused blogging

You might hear some marketers saying that blogging (as an aspect of content marketing) is a thing of the past, but we don’t think that’s a hard and fast rule.

What is true, however, is that blogging for the sake of publishing content (without a focus on creating student-centered content) is a big mistake.

In 2022, it’s time to deliver student-centered content that helps future students and applicants feel at home. Not only are these blogs and content pieces more attractive (and clickable), but they also generate more return on investment when you’re tasked with goals like increasing enrollment and student engagement.

Whether you incorporate guest blogs (inviting special authors to contribute to your online space) or spotlight current students individually, make your blog a place where the student experience is a key part.

4. Personalization

One of the most important words you’ll hear in student marketing is personalization. This is the process of making your big-picture marketing messages applicable to students on a very one-on-one, individual level.

Remember—while you might believe in the larger mission of your college or university, lofty facts rarely matter to students who are trying to picture themselves at a new school. Personalization involves a level of clarity, both in your marketing messages and in the lives of real students as they make major academic decisions. 

From a data or marketing perspective, personalization means knowing things like:

  • Which pages a student has visited on the site
  • The social media posts that have captured attention enough for a student to click
  • Notable actions that a student has taken toward applying
  • Personnel that a student has already engaged with at the school

Modern students value not having to repeat steps that have already been completed. Using tools that provide personalization makes this scenario less likely, and thus improves the student’s perception of the college or university.

5. Lookalike audiences

A lookalike audience is any segment of new prospects that mirrors the segment you’re currently targeting. It’s simply another way to test or change small aspects of your marketing campaign to see how effective they are in real-world scenarios. 

In the world of higher education, your admissions team might have important demographic data about the students who have gotten through most steps of the application process. The marketing team could then take this data and create new audiences to see if it’s possible to capture untapped interest in the school’s academic programs. 

Modern marketers can use lookalike audiences to build unique or improved ad campaigns. Lookalike ads can target entirely new audience segments, which ultimately expands your reach. Depending on your department’s KPIs, this could be a turning point in how many new prospects you’re able to reach. 

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6. Short-form video (embedded on website)

We’ve already looked at the benefits and popularity of short-form social media platforms like TikTok. Next, we’ll focus on how you can incorporate the same beneficial short-form video presentations onto your school’s website. 

Alongside your digital or website team, brainstorm how you can display short videos (under 90 seconds) onto your homepage or other high-converting pages. Creative ideas can include:

  • Short student interviews
  • Insight from academic leaders or professors
  • Campus and facilities tours
  • Sports and social highlights

What’s the benefit of using video segments in this way? These elements make your site more interactive, visually appealing, and convincing. 

7. Podcasts

Podcasts are another trend in 2022 that colleges and universities can incorporate to great effect. This year alone, podcast subscribers and listeners are predicted to account for over 20% of all internet users

Although there are millions of podcasts currently available, producing and releasing a podcast has a low barrier to entry, allowing anyone to get started. Costs can be minimal, and most of the production work can be performed in-house. 

If you’re interested in capturing a new segment of the market through podcasting, make sure you’re using a personalized, student-centric approach. It’s a good idea to poll students or college data about which topics are most relevant or helpful. This will allow you to produce highly focused, practical shows and episodes that drive your marketing forward.

8. Campus or student ambassadors

Campus ambassadors are appointed students who represent the main values of your school or campus culture. Ambassadors can be empowered to recruit new students, lead events, or drive PR initiatives for your school.

Because this tactic provides a “human” touch to your messaging, campus ambassadors are an effective way to reach new students and build avenues for trust. 

Many larger schools (or those with the right marketing budget) can even recruit third-party ambassadors to represent the school to the broader public. This might involve former graduates who hold significant titles or who have platforms in key industries. Make sure that any appointed representative wholly represents the values of your campus.

9. Voice search optimization and mobility

Many marketing teams are already taking advantage of search engine optimization (SEO), but did you know that voice search optimization is one of the latest trends?

Voice search refers to smart voice technology (like phones and speakers) that receive audible messages to perform online searches. For example, a prospect might ask “What university has the best engineering program in my state?” Voice search will pick up and recall a result based on a rapid internet search.

To improve voice search optimization and rankings, you should make sure that your entire website is mobile compatible and optimized for different types of devices. Then, use highly searchable pages (like FAQs) to break content down into conversational topics and responses. This work behind the scenes can help voice tools detect and share your website more frequently.  

Can a CRM improve your marketing strategy?

Choosing the right software or platform is one way to take your college or university marketing to the next level. Not only does the right platform allow you to personalize the student journey, but you can put people at the very center of your marketing initiatives.

At Element451, we specialize in this very strategy. Whether you need prospect nurturing, automatic messaging, or personalized follow-up to improve conversion rates, we’ve got the secret sauce to get your campus growing. 

Not only can you take advantage of the latest trends in higher education marketing, but you’ll do so with the latest CRM features and tools right at your fingertips. It’s a winning combination for both you and your students. 

Stay aligned with today’s marketing trends

Alignment means delivering the right messages, to the right people, at the right time. If you’re focused on growing your college marketing efforts this year, don’t miss the trends that matter the most to prospective students and families.

Book your Element451 demo today to learn how the right CRM platform can help you capitalize on major marketing trends this year.


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