Lessons from 4 Schools with Great Digital Marketing Campaigns

 In Digital Marketing

Higher-education institutions are among the many entities that have adopted new strategies to keep up with the emergence of modern technology. When combined, digital marketing and social media trends have allowed for a new landscape for promotional and advertising opportunities. Although, referring to digital marketing as a “trend” seems like a misnomer considering that, for most businesses, having strong presence in digital space is essential to remaining relevant today.

With access to so much information at our fingertips, it’s no wonder that digital marketing has taken a high-priority seat in industry strategies. We now have the ability to compare, learn, and search for most of what we want on hand. This makes buying decisions a little less complex for consumers and creates a challenge for marketers to quickly appeal to consumers with as great an impact as possible.

So you may be wondering, how do you market education anyways? As complex as this may sound, we found four schools that have taken digital marketing by storm.

Check it out! And don’t worry; this won’t be nearly as long as an 8am lecture.

1) Michigan State University (MSU) – Create a clever tagline

Michigan State University’s “Spartans Will” campaign embodies the University’s educational, athletic, communal, and societal goals in just two words. The tagline also allows for the development and growth of all the University by expressing the future potential of its students and faculty as well as promoting community togetherness.

In addition to being quick, clever, and versatile, the best features of this brand messaging are its potential for longevity and transferability across the University’s fields. Simple yet memorable best describes this future-oriented theme.

Hashtagging and sharing this tagline easily come to mind as calls to action when first viewing the MSU ad (above). The slogan is unmistakably Michigan State-brand-friendly, inclusive, and can be used for a variety of events, platforms, etc. associated with the school.  MSU has mastered the perfect multi-functional tagline by maintaining simplicity and placing complex thought behind its purpose. Great job, Spartans!

2) University of San Francisco (USF) – Create a strong brand identity

The University of San Francisco is quite unique in its ability to create an identity with its branding strategy. Much like how Nike specifically brands to athletic enthusiasts with “Just Do It”, USF speaks to the diverse humanitarian audience. As a Jesuit Catholic university, USF makes it clear in their mission statement and advertisements that moral values, inclusion, and pursuit of diversified education are of high importance. It does this through use of humor and cleverness in verbiage for poster ads as well as consistency in communicating the University’s values on social media.

The branding exists outside of the University’s website and USF exemplifies this in social media posts related to on-campus events, photos of student engagement, news stories, and other formats. USF uses social media to continue to tell the University’s “story” and commitment to its mission statement. Its strategy ultimately asks those who identify with the University’s core values and student body to join.

According to Forbes, authenticity is most valued by millennials as a key factor of brand interest and loyalty.  USF makes a point to show that their concerns are aligned with their audience rather than separate – the USF brand is one with its audience.

3) DePaul University – Be a source of solutions

DePaul University used its social media platforms to connect with its student body and audience using a unique pinpoint: their needs. For many college students, finding jobs, especially right out of college, can be an exciting and overwhelming process. Luckily, DePaul uses its Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to help its current students and alumni find positions within their collegiate community.

DePaul tweets information about resources for job application processes (such as resume workshops) and answers students’ job-hunt questions. On LinkedIn, DePaul shares job openings and lists of contacts for students to connect with to get their foot in the job market door. In this way, DePaul is actively acknowledging and engaging with the concerns of its students while simultaneously strengthening its social network—now with 5,500 active members on DePaul’s LinkedIn alumni account).

This strategy makes DePaul University a network and resource for its users by engaging in and addressing their real-life concerns.  Encouraging its students to be active with DePaul University’s online community is a great way to create opportunity for future social interaction and solving problems for its audience creates a more meaningful connection.

4) Syracuse University – Join the right conversations

Whatever your users talking about—the weather, politics, sports—it’s important to find out. Most collegiate entities are focused on sharing information specifically about the institution rather than the conversations going on about the institution or events outside of the entity. However, connecting with individuals online first begins with understanding and acknowledging them. Syracuse University rightly saw that sharing information on its social media accounts wasn’t enough to truly connect with its users.

Social media conversations can be complex because there are always a ton of things going on in the world. That’s why identifying content that is both important to your audience and relevant to you on social media platforms is a great way to begin crafting your strategy. You want your audience to engage with you, but you also need to engage with them.

Avoid posts that create noise or that don’t seem organic. Doing so bombards social media feeds with information that may not be relevant to the audience in real-time and is filtered gets filtered out, rendering communication to the intended target ineffective. Instead, Syracuse used its social media accounts to actively get involved in conversations with its audience by responding to users comments and sharing their posts in a timely manner.

At the core of effective digital marketing is the idea of connecting with many from a few key digital platforms; so making a point to understand your audience is key—their online behaviors, interests, and dislikes.


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Maya Parnell is a Senior and Advertising major at Michigan State University.  Strategy development, working with innovative teams, and achieving team objectives are a few of her areas of interest.  Though just in the beginning of her field experience, Maya has previous experience in media planning and project management. She sees value in data and is passionate about learning new information.

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