Hybrid learning, online degrees, and microcredentials have broadened the higher ed options for “nontraditional” students, such as mid-career, out-of-workforce, life-long, and international learners. But these learners come from different age cohorts, life stages and physical locations than the “traditional” recent high school graduate, meaning their information diets, content habits and decision-making pathways likely differ greatly. This expanded group of target prospective students means that higher education marketers need to consider influencer marketing.
Changes In Digital Advertising
Compounding the education sector-specific evolution, changes in digital advertising – ranging from new privacy laws, new policies from large tech companies, and behavioral preferences of today’s consumers – have created a dramatic communication gap in the market, making it harder than ever before to deliver targeted, personalized and relevant content to a target audience.
Shifts in content and behavioral preferences add another challenge. WEF found that Millennials and Gen Z – who comprise more than half the American population, per Brookings – favor information channels like online video streaming platforms, audio streaming platforms and even gaming as their preferred information sources, with relatively little interest in newspapers, websites, or TV.
These audiences now trust the voices in their local physical and digital communities. The same Edelman research (see slide 14) found that “people in my local community” rank 20 points higher in trust than CEOs and government leaders. It perhaps shouldn’t surprise, then, that most Millennials and Gen Z prefer to consume media created by their peers, rather than content created by companies, per MIT Sloan Management.
Today’s prospective students prefer streaming video content created by trusted local social media messengers, also known as influencers – specifically, nano-influencers (follower count between 1,000 and 5,000) and micro-influencers (follower count between 5,000 and 100,000).
Why Nano-influencers and Micro-influencers Work in Higher Ed
Large armies of nano-influencers and micro-influencers offer higher ed marketers the most effective and cost-efficient way to reach prospective students, at scale, with personalized content from messengers they already trust.
Influencers aren’t merely for Gen Z; they can reach many age groups with high efficacy. Most consumers find nano-influencers and micro-influencers highly authentic. Almost two thirds of consumers trust what influencers say about brands more than what brands say about themselves in their advertising, and almost 60% of consumers bought a new product based on an influencer recommendation.
The low cost of nano-influencers and micro-influencers empowers brands and organizations to scale by partnering with dozens, or hundreds, of nano- and micro-influencers – an important tool for impact when most consumers require five to seven engagements before taking action.
Recommendations for Higher Ed Marketers
Nano-influencers and micro-influencers can help higher education marketers seek to reach new prospective students in many ways:
- Raise awareness for learning options, such as evening classes for in-person learning, online degree programs, or micro-degree programs, through messengers that your target audience already trusts and engages with regularly: the social media personalities of their age group, personal interests, and local community. For example, a working mom nano-influencer could create content about how flexibility in her learning options allowed her to finally earn her degree without breaking the bank, even amidst a busy schedule.
- Differentiate from competitors by highlighting your institution’s unique selling points.Nano-influencers and micro-influencers among the students who represent your target prospective student can show what life is like on and around campus. For example, students leveraging non-traditional learning pathways can display how the institution keeps morale and engagement high while supporting their learning objectives. Students participating in in-person or hybrid learning can demonstrate campus life (such as the experience of different campus organizations), the IRL and hybrid experience, and highlight differentiating offerings from the institution in their content.
- Showcase outcomes of earning credentials. Nano-influencers and micro-influencers, who are graduates, can reinforce the impact of their educational journey to prospective students, such as career promotions, finishing a long-in-the-making degree, or leveraging insights learned from a recent course.
Our company, XOMAD, has managed social media programs where armies of nano- and micro- influencers have driven prospective consumers to download apps, visit websites, attend in-person events, and much more.
Interested in learning more about how influencer marketing could work in higher ed, or how to leverage nano- and micro- influencers to elevate and expand your study body? Get in touch today.