Why is User Generated Content Important for Student Recruitment?

Posted by Rupert Forsythe on Dec 18, 2019 8:29:07 AM
Rupert Forsythe

User-Generated Content and Student Recruitment

user-generated-content-using-in-brand-communication-online-concept-picture-id1164715957Every higher learning institution needs a great content marketing strategy. With the advent of social media influencers, having a solid user-generated content marketing strategy can make or break the success of your school’s brand.

What IS User-Generated Content, Anyway?

While the term is somewhat self-explanatory, it bears some explanation. In order for your institution to get noticed, to generate interest, and to ultimately win future students, you need a good online marketing strategy. In today’s digital-centric world, social media means everything. When people like a product or service (or don’t it), chances are they will shout it loud and proud on social media.

This is a HUGE marketing tool for your institution!

User-generated content (UGC) is essentially free advertising provided by your University’s students and alumni. When a student shares a post about your school on their Instagram page, for example, about how much fun they had at the latest school-run event, that’s UGC working at its best.

Why It’s Important

Now, take that Instagram post, and increase it by the total number of students at your university. See the potential here?

This type of content has translated into today’s word-of-mouth strategy. The only difference is, what used to be word-of-mouth – one person telling a few other people – is now one person getting that message out to potentially thousands of other people. This is great news for your institution!

Social media engagement of your current students in an authentic way increases the likelihood that you will attract more students to attend your institution. There are so many benefits to UGC, the possibilities seem endless. Here are the highlights:

  • It gives your current students a voice to be heard
  • It increases your exposure and builds the institution’s SEO ranking and credibility
  • Your brand becomes more trustworthy because of the peer-generated content
  • Your UGC is authentic and cannot be replicated by competing institutions

Because of this authenticity, you have a unique brand strategy that is all your own, based on your user’s experiences. Each and every glowing review from a student or alumni increases your brand’s visibility and will lead to increased social engagement and higher web visibility.

The statistics don’t lie. Olapic, a prominent media company based on New York, conducted a study in 2016 called “Consumer Trust: Keep It Real,” showed that 49% of respondents having appreciation of the product would make them likely to post it on social media. And Stakla’s 2017 study of 2,000 young adults in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia, revealed the following:

  • The overwhelming majority of Millennials (93%) say authenticity is important to them when deciding which brands to support
  • UGC posts shared to social channels see a 28% higher engagement rate than a regular organic post.

And, according to ReadyPulse, a whopping 92% of young adults are more likely to trust a recommendation from a peer than from a brand or company. They want to see true-to-life scenarios – not an idealized version of the truth.


Educational Institutions and UGC – Who’s Doing Well with It

User-generated content can be used to showcase all elements of university life – from sports events to social events to everyday student life – and even its unique curriculum.

University of Tennessee – ‘Dolly’s America’

A great example of this is the University of Tennessee. They launched a course entitled ‘Dolly’s America.’ This course focused on Appalachian history as seen through the eyes of Ms. Parton, who just happened to be one of their alumni. To promote the class, they ran a piece featuring it in the school’s magazine, and subsequently tweeted about it, tagging Dolly Parton in the process. A response from Dolly’s twitter account days later resulted in over 4,000 likes and 725 retweets. It spread to her website – which published an article featuring the course – and this was picked up by not only the New York Times, but the Wall Street Journal and the BBC.

University of Waterloo, Ontario – Student Ambassador Live Chat

Another example of an institution’s direct approach to UGC is the University of Waterloo at Ontario. They use a clever mixture of social media content, student ambassador-led live chats and student takeovers to provide a level of engagement that runs much deeper than faculty-generated notifications and updates. Nine out of 10 students consult college review sites written by peers when researching where to continue their education, and this University’s brand engagement improves by 28% when future potential students are exposed to both professional and user-generated content. They can connect with students on a personal level, providing a level of transparency that is key.

University of Leeds – ‘Student Life at Leeds, video series

The University of Leeds uses video as a powerful medium to generate student recruitment. Video is highly visual and digestible (more stimulating that reading words) and is incredibly popular with today’s younger audience. The University’s ‘Student Life at Leeds’ video series showcases current student experiences in a very personal and authentic way – effectively putting the viewer in the student’s shoes as they go about their day at Leeds. In this way, viewers gain insight into the institutions they are considering to shape their future. Their YouTube channels boasts 4,400 subscribers and counting.

Allegheny College, PA - #acgatorgram

Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, which created a page on their school website listing their various hashtags. It proved to be a great way for students, alumni (as well as faculty) to be informed of how they can participate and document their various campus experiences. One of their more popular hashtags is #acgatorgram, which has garnered over 4,000 posts from students and alumni. In addition, they celebrated their 200th anniversary by promoting the hashtag #allegheny200. Thousands then used the hashtag to show their school spirit.

Universities can also nurture and enhance development of UGC by promoting hashtags to be shared via printed materials, at school events, and other social media accounts.

Skyline University College, UAE – Screens on Campus

Skyline University College in the UAE handled UGC in another creative way, with more of a two-way conversation with students to increase social engagement. They set up screens across campus displaying UGC using Tint and mirrored the content on its website. Over the first three months, they saw a 448% increase in social brand impressions and a 489% increase in the number of posts using their brand hashtag.

Dollys America

How Does StageClip Fit In with UGC?

StageClip works with educational institutions around the world to provide compelling and emotionally-charged UGC by focusing on one primary event – the graduation ceremony. We provide short video clips to each individual graduate which features their moment on stage. We provide them with their clip to share on social media with their friends, family and loved ones, same day.

Each and every graduate who walks across that stage to receive their diploma or degree has the opportunity to share their incredible moment with the world. And by doing so, this is a huge marketing boost for the learning institution itself. It is a proud moment for the graduating student (as well as their loved ones) and is a great marketing tool for future student recruitment.

These students aren’t paid to help promote your institution. There is a huge opportunity to inspire existing students and entice new students through each and every one of their social media channels.

Topics: Video Marketing, Social Media, Graduation Experience, Student Recruitment

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