Are Social Media Influencers
the Key to University Marketing?

Authentic Storytelling Is The Future Of Enrollment Marketing

Way to go Tulane! You’re #1! According to Niche you are officially the top party school in the US. The celebration over being given this great honor must be rippling through campus. Surely, you are leveraging the heck out of this on your website and social media. Am I right?

When I last checked, there wasn’t any mention of it on the “Why Tulane” section of your site; just information about your core curriculum, study abroad opportunities, and student volunteerism.

In the dog-eat-dog world of college admissions, colleges are eager to stand out from the pack and influence prospective students to take a closer look. Surely, the VP of Marketing had some fun ideas about how to use being labeled the #1 party school in the nation. After all, it must be a huge draw for prospective students. So why isn’t it emblazoned in every piece of collateral? My guess: there is no way in Louisiana that a tongue-in-cheek campaign like that would ever find its way onto a budget request.

You see, we all talk a good game about wanting to leverage social media and influencer marketing to create authentic slices of the real college experience on our campuses, but in the end, higher education is still way too conservative to push the envelope. Okay, maybe celebrating “non-academic pursuits” isn’t exactly PC. I get it. But why are we so resistant as an industry to let our current students truly and freely be our voice in social media?

According to the 2019 Influencer Marketing Report:

             “Brands need to fine-balance providing influencers  with enough creative freedom, while also ensuring  the messaging                       positively reflects the brand and helps grow awareness. Nearly 40% of influencers believe that overly restrictive content                        guidelines are one of the biggest mistakes brands and agencies make when working with them.”

Amid the recent buying-your-kids-way-into-college-scandal, we all got a huge introduction into the life of one social media influencer who has the ears, eyes, and influences the decisions of millions of teens at the tip of her iPhone. As Wired recently reported:

          “Olivia Jade Giannulli could have been an incredible asset to USC if only they channeled her influential powers where it                          counted.”

Why aren’t colleges and universities reaping the benefits of their strongest marketing assets - their current students? Most likely it’s the unpredictability of what the content might include. Our inability to control the message and steer the narrative outweighs our desire to experiment with new mediums. Imagine, if you will that the admissions office had engaged with Olivia to post about her day-to-day experiences as a USC student? The good, the bad, and the ugly of both the academic and not-so-academic life at USC. Can you even imagine all the buzz this authentic, ongoing content could have created? How much interest could have been generated in USC from teens and prospective students?

So maybe we’ll never be ready to celebrate being named the biggest party school in America like we would any other academic accolad, but as marketers looking to engage with prospecting Gen Z we need to be ready and able to expand beyond the comfort of traditional advertising and start embracing authentic storytelling for better engagement.


About Thinking Cap Agency
Thinking Cap Agency is the higher education sister company of Refuel Agency. With over 25 years of higher education marketing experience, Thinking Cap is a performance and digital-driven agency that has mastered the student recruitment process from awareness to enrollment. Thinking Cap Agency serves institutions nationwide with headquarters in New York City, and offices in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, CA, and Princeton, NJ.

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