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Awareness in #highered marketing

November 11, 2019

Campus Technology has a recent blog post talking about Eduventures research for respective students.

They report on awareness tools:

“…college e-mails were rated as the highest impact information source by 62 percent of the students surveyed, followed by word of mouth from family and friends (57 percent) and school websites (46 percent). On the other end of the spectrum, public transportation advertising (2 percent), radio or music streaming ads (4 percent) and billboard advertising (5 percent) were the lowest impact sources for raising college awareness.”


First, lets address “word of mouth.” Word of mouth is not a thing that exists in a vacuum. In order to tell someone about something I think they should consider, I need to clearly know about the thing, and have confidence in the thing to suggest it. This often comes from alumni of the institution, who tend to be the people who follow social media platforms. Look at the typical data fro a Facebook Page of a college, and the number of followers is mostly older alumni. Therefore, updating those alumni on the college is, in effect, helping word of mouth.

Second, lets address awareness as a whole. Awareness isn’t a this or that binary thing. One doesn’t become aware of something because of an email or a billboard, one can be more aware of the former because of the latter. I’m not saying that a billboard led to someone deciding to open an email, but all marketing is about owning a place in the consumer’s mind at the time of consideration. This is why Doritos does Super Bowl ads — not so people will buy them during the Super Bowl but instead so it can be considered when at the point of purchase.

Finally, this is just digital. A huge investment of resources is given to visits to high schools for a College Fair. As an awareness tool, that generates word of mouth from high school teachers and counselors.

Awareness then a deeper dive. 

This isn’t meant to just be a post that quibbles with research. There are many ways to generate an awarenesses for a school, be it the school visit, emails, word of mouth, etc. What happens next is probably something we all agree upon and that is a Google search for the school.

That search results in something called the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) and it is something every college enrollment management professional should understand. The SERP is where awareness meets nurture.

When social media platforms are not on the SERP, or don’t have a good reason to apply message at this time, then there is little to no value to the enrollment process. Many enrollment management officers push enrollment only social platforms which clearly have an agenda. Thus, you get this:

“Notably, social media received a middling ranking from students — 35 percent of respondents said they use it in their college search — yet only 4 percent said they trust it as an information source.”

When there is one place with Alumni talking about ow great the school is, and prospective students are invited to that page, the result is digital word of mouth to the already aware.

What do you think? Where do you think Digital Media fits into the awareness cycle? Follow me on Twitter. Also, check out some 3 Enrollment events I’ll be at or running here including a 3EDigitalLab in Boston and a 3EDigitalLab in New York.  

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