7 Admissions Marketing Video Strategies that Work

If you’re like me, you remember a time not long ago when getting a thick, well-produced glossy photo admissions booklet in the mail from a university was the gold standard for higher ed admissions marketing. That was back when the internet was something you accessed for a couple hours each night — or at least you could once your sister got off the computer!

It’s a different world now, and higher ed marketers have bigger challenges when it comes to grabbing and holding potential students’ attention. That’s why we’re here to show you 7 video marketing strategies for each part of the admissions funnel that work for Gen Z and that will get results for your institution.

Why admissions marketing is important for universities

Admissions marketing is critical for higher ed institutions because they have to compete for incoming students the same way businesses have to compete for customers. Effective admissions marketing builds general “brand awareness,” it attracts and engages prospective students, it helps universities reach out to parents who are paying at least part of the bill, and it helps maintain communication channels with alumni, whose donations are important for funding and for years mattered for ranking in publications like U.S. News and World Report.

But higher ed admissions marketing is getting crowded. High school graduation rates are flat, and college enrollment has dropped by 11% since 2011. Any institution looking to recruit more and better students has to get creative to stay ahead of the curve.

Admissions Marketing through video is critical for universities




What admissions marketing works best for students

That means delivering your value proposition in ways your audience wants to receive it. As it turns out, that’s impossible to do without embracing video. As outlined in a Forbes article earlier this year,

It’s video or vanish for companies attempting to lure Gen Z consumers… Despite the demand for pretty pictures, video has comes to rule the social media landscape. It’s a richer form of content than just text or photos and it’s more versatile as well.

Higher ed admissions marketing experts are catching on, recommending video as a best practice for institutions of any size and shape. It is, stated quite simply, the new reality in this industry.

If you want to increase your exposure and conversions, you have to leverage video in your higher ed admissions marketing. That means more than just posting a few fun snippets of your tour guides or producing high-gloss campus beauty shots that just happen to be moving. It means building a culture of video across all of your marketing channels, at every stage of your prospective student journey.

Innovation is key. As schools are flocking to video by the hundreds, you have to stay at the cutting edge of the concept. Through these 7 steps, you can improve your higher ed admissions marketing success throughout the enrollment funnel, from building your inquiry and application pool to yielding your admitted students.

Admissions Marketing TOFU Videos

Looking for the initial interest? Video can help. If you know how to use it, this tactic is almost tailor-made to drive inquiries and applications by breaking through the noise of social media and other digital channels. Two tactics are especially relevant here: OTT ads and VR capabilities.

1) Over the top video ad buying

You might already use video in your digital ads. It’s time to dig deeper than simply hoping to place a short commercial in the news feeds of a broad audience. In the age of limited higher ed marketing budgets, every exposure counts – and you have to make sure your video gets in front of the right eyes.

Enter Over the Top (OTT) video ad buying. At its core, it’s a better way to target your ads, focusing not just on a specific channel but digging deeper into specific audiences and demographics that become likely applicants and students.

OTT ads are videos placed in front of streaming channels like Hulu and Roku TV. They allow you to reach the same audience types as traditional TV, but with far more narrow targeting possibilities:

  • Limit your geographic reach to specific zip codes and neighborhoods.
  • Focus on specific age groups.
  • Build your audiences based on the TV shows and movies they like to watch.
  • Leverage third-party data like household income or buying habits.

The targeting and advanced analytics on the success of individual ads and larger campaigns have made consumer brands flock to this medium. OTT ad revenue continues to skyrocket.  But it’s still largely unknown in higher education, allowing forward-thinking institutions to move in and gain a first-mover advantage.

2) VR videos to build a connection

Every college loves to talk about their beautiful campus. Those who distinguish themselves from the noise tend to be the ones that can actually prove what they’re saying is true. Of course, that can seem difficult without getting your prospective students on campus for an in-person visit. Enter virtual reality.

Many universities are already offering virtual tours to show their campus to out of state and rural students early in the funnel. True VR takes that concept further. It allows them to immerse themselves in your campus life before they ever step foot in it. VR videos come with many advantages:

  • They showcase your academics and faculty/student interactions.
  • They offer a glimpse into student life and the experience outside the classroom.
  • They build emotional connections by making your prospects feel like they’re already a part of the community.

That connection can be the difference between you and the other 3-5 schools they’re considering early in their application journey.

3) Interactive videos to give power to your audience

Interactive videos are becoming increasingly effective, as well. Think of it as a ‘choose your own adventure’ book for the digital world. Rather than a linear experience, your viewers can choose their own path to mold and modify the video in any way they wish.

It’s easy to imagine how interactive video might work to convince your students that your institution is the right fit. Consider:

  • A walking tour that allows your audience to choose which parts of the campus they want to see.
  • An explainer video on your residence halls that changes based on the room type they prefer.
  • A student experience video that changes depending on individual preferences and interests.

That’s just the beginning. Interactive video embraces the preferences of Gen Z, giving them control as they find their way in the enrollment journey.

Admissions marketing videos for mid-funnel

Video is common at the top of the funnel, but it doesn’t end there. Inquiries and applications only matter if prospects complete them and become eligible candidates for admissions. The right video can help in that process as well.

4) Engaging how-to and explainer videos

How-To videos have become popular on YouTube, where makeup tutorials and video game builds regularly garner millions of views. You can find tutorials on anything from cleaning your gutters to doing your taxes. It’s only a matter of time, then, until higher ed admissions marketers discover and truly leverage this trend in its quest to drive prospects down the enrollment funnel.

Explainer videos, engaging animated shorts that explain a product or boil down a process to a few simple steps, are especially popular. According to one survey, 91% of consumers have recently watched an explainer video. Think about just a few of the potential applications in a higher ed context:

  • An overview of your application and the steps your students should take to complete it, familiarizing them with anything from your online platform to your payment system and where they can turn for help.
  • A short guide on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which is necessary and beneficial for the vast majority of applicants but remains one of the biggest sources of confusion in the student journey.
  • Tips for the college journey, such as the best times to visit, apply, and search for scholarships. This positions your institution as a helpful resource for prospects and their parents as they try to navigate the journey.

5) Shoppable videos on Instagram and Snapchat

We’re entering an age of video engagement, where straightforward viewing is no longer enough for most audiences. Enter shoppable videos, a simple concept in the eCommerce industry: when you see a product on screen, a button pops up that allows you to buy it right there. Studies are already beginning to show significantly higher engagement and conversions when this method is applied.

Potential applications are a bit less straightforward in higher education, but it’s easy to make the leap without too much of a brain twister. As your audience watches your videos, imagine being able to link them directly to relevant next steps within that experience:

  • Links to your housing and student organization as they watch a video about campus life.
  • Links to your financial aid and scholarship pages as they watch a FAFSA explainer.
  • Links to your individual department pages and contacts as you talk about academics.

Technically, these videos are not ‘shoppable’. But they leverage the same general concept to make the watching experience less linear and more active, allowing your audience to choose where they want to jump off to learn more information.

BOFU Admissions Marketing Videos

Yield and melt are only gaining in importance. Just as the top of the funnel becomes more competitive, the bottom promises to do the same thanks to new NACAC ethics guidelines that enable continued recruitment from multiple schools even after the deposit. Used the right way, video is one option to combat poaching and close the deal with your incoming freshman class.

6) Live glimpses into campus life

Over the past few years, we’ve seen plenty of hype surrounding Facebook Live that is beginning to fizzle out. That doesn’t mean you can’t embrace live video; when leveraged the right way, it remains an immensely powerful tool. Its popularity continues to increase, as 82% of consumers prefer watching live video over reading an organization’s blog.

That means you can leverage it, but it has to be authentic. It’s increasingly clear that this means more than just showing some videos live; real interactions with real people will bring your audience to you. Think of some of the potential applications:

  • Live Q&A sessions with admissions counselors that are reserved for admitted students.
  • Live videos with student ambassadors who showcase their life on campus and answer questions.
  • Live sessions with resident assistants on what to bring for orientation, how to live in a residence hall, and more housing-related questions.

The idea here is to focus on authentic snippets and snackable content that is easy to interact with for your prospects and families. Features like Instagram’s Questions sticker, introduced last year, can help in building these types of interactive experiences.

7) Personalized videos to build the prospect connection

Finally, it’s time to get personal. The further your prospects move down the enrollment funnel, the more personal they expect their interactions to be. A standard recruitment video broadcast to hundreds or thousands of admits probably won’t do the trick. You have to take it further.

Again, the concept is already catching on in other industries. Across the spectrum, 98% of marketers agree that personalization helps to increase brand relationships, and personalized videos have 16x higher email open rates and 4.5x higher click-throughs. Segmented email marketing is already a powerful tool; adding personalized video to those emails can make them extremely effective for recruitment.

The charge is deceptively simple: know your admitted students, and send them personal videos (ideally addressing them by name) that specifically address their situation and needs. It can work especially well in a custom subject like financial aid but is relevant across a variety of topics. Videos from admissions counselors, other students, and future professors can all make a major impact.

This personalized admissions acceptance video was produced using a combination of this gorgeous video shot and edited by Roundhouse Creative and a script we wrote to easily import admitted student data into a platform that generates these videos then emails them to students along with a personalized letter of acceptance.

Ready to boost your admissions marketing through video?

If you’re not using videos in your higher ed admissions marketing strategy, you’re behind the curve and might struggle to compete with other institutions. But even if you are leveraging it in traditional ways, you’re only drawing even. As college recruitment becomes more competitive, the best strategy is to stay ahead of the competition and borrow from the for-profit sector when it comes to the newest developments in video marketing.

Innovation is the key to success. From personalized video to true VR experiences, the time for more interactive, relevant marketing that speaks directly to your audience is now. Used the right way, and through channels that your audience expects and prefers, video might just be the right tactic to turn around and improve your strategy going into the new year

Not sure where to begin? Contact us to learn more about building a video strategy designed to get (and keep) your audience’s attention in the enrollment funnel.