As the sources and methods change for today’s students, so must student recruitment be adjusted to meet students where they are. The use of the internet for information and socialization is a given. The phenomenal growth of social networks in the last decade, and the increasing presence of information sources ranging from mainstream media organizations, to specialized blogs and websites, makes the targeting of quality student prospects an exercise in observation and flexibility. Proportionate with student use of online, verses offline information, the investment of student recruitment activities and advertising must reflect the dynamics of student interests.
Online lead generation has a number of advantages over print advertising and direct mailings. One of the greatest advantages is the speed with which contact and communication can be established with interested individuals. Whereas a print ad, or direct mailing, may go into the trash, or into a file of college ads, an online advertisement is displayed on a website, and becomes available for immediate action. Procrastination is prevalent with paperwork, but an online advertisement, well placed and targeted, is easy to respond to. Further, lead generation is not limited to advertising, as a college or university may elect to create its own Facebook or Twitter presence, putting a free web presence to good use in student recruitment, and allowing this popular student interest to work in concert with targeted advertising.
Printed recruitment materials tend to be very general in nature, giving an overview of a college or university, and providing response forms for the student seeking further information. Online advertising, however, can be specifically targeted. A culinary program can be marketed to individuals who read web-based content related to culinary studies. Advertising of dental programs can be matched with online articles pertaining to dental careers. As a student researches his area of interest, targeted advertising makes it possible for a specific institution to be brought to his attention. The institution can create ads for various programs, rather than merely providing a general overview. Through pay per click advertising programs, such as Google Adsense, high value advertising can be matched to high quality articles. The content draws the student, and the advertising provides the link to a specific organization.
Because quality leads are desired in order to make the best use of funds invested in lead generation, it is essential to protect the brand of one’s institution. Advertising should not be mass produced in every possible venue, as this will dilute the value of the advertising, and the quality of leads. There are a number of online universities which seem to follow an individual around in cyberspace, and the result tends to be a banner blindness, which negates the value of the ad, both for institution, and for student.
Print advertising need not be completely abandoned. However, it should be consistent with the demographic the college or university desires to reach, and will be much more effective as a follow up to online leads. Targeting today’s students is an exercise in understanding the concentration of their time, and the sources they use in obtaining information. Recruitment effectiveness depends more and more upon understanding how to best reach the students being recruited.