Utilizing Your Current Students as Marketing Influencers

Ben Boivin
Aug 22, 2019

Stop bragging about your accomplished alumni and start connecting current students to prospects!

Go back ten years, and you’ll find college search brochures highlighting alumni celebrities and famous guest speakers. While parents and students may still be impressed with the alumni base, influencer marketing is the newest trend making waves with your prospects. In today’s society, current student testimonials, vlogs and authentic campus videos are taking over as the internet natives apply to your college or university.

If you are not utilizing your current students for your marketing plan, you’re missing out.

This summer at the 2019 Liaison User Conference, Marcus Jones, senior communications specialist at CSU Dominguez Hills, presented on video vlogging and how it has helped grow his inquiry pool. He used some of his marketing budget to purchase a GoPro Hero for designated students to use around campus and the response has been excellent. Rather than spending thousands of dollars on a professionally shot informational video, he utilized student workers in the admissions office to help craft authentic footage that shows everyday life on campus. He then posts them for free on YouTube and allows prospective students to find them on their own rather than making them feel forced to view these videos.

Does it work?

In short, yes! According to a article, videos created by the top 25 YouTube stars earned 3x as many views, 2x as many actions and 12x as many comments as celebrities did. While your campus may not contain a Top 25 YouTube sensation, you likely have dozens of students who are already using their own YouTube channels to grow an audience and build a brand.

Similarly, Instagram usage has grown over 10x in five years and most (if not all) of your students are currently using it. So how can you take advantage of their skills to grow your institutional branding? We have seen clients create “social media student committees” and “social media coordinators” in the admissions office. Consider contacting the communication and marketing department to see if they have any interested students who may want to help. These same students would love to add a line to their resume and gain experience in the field they are likely pursuing as a career.

Why does it work?

Marketing influencers create more authentic experiences between viewer and creator because authenticity tends to foster trust and value in social media consumer relationships. Campaign engagement is one of the main metrics used by marketers for measuring influencer campaign performance. Instagram continues to have more than 500 million users log into the platform every day, while Facebook and YouTube are the only social networks with more. The influencer marketing culture is a billion-dollar industry, but it won’t cost your institution anything as long as you have the right students staying on top of your post consistency and cadence.

How does it work?

Consider utilizing students as influencers for campus events. You can even task orientation leaders with social media posting before, during and after new student orientation events to build familiarity with incoming students before they arrive. We have also seen examples of clients conducting a “where are they now” style YouTube and Instagram campaign where they film students one, two and three years after they attended orientation events to give advice to new students. Once again, trust and authenticity are key in this style of marketing.

This style of marketing can also be used to highlight career fairs, move-in advice, local and international community service and sporting events. Target performing arts majors by taking your influencers backstage or brag about your campus cuisine by taking the camera into the cafeteria. From the sidelines to the chapel to the fitness center to the open mic night, influencers can be used in nearly all aspects of your communication strategy. A recent study shows that a large majority of marketers (86%) have decided to dedicate a budget to influential marketing this year due to its effectiveness and reach.

There are many times when student workers and campus ambassadors are just too busy to take on any additional work, but that is why creating a social media post schedule and saving videos for future reference is so beneficial. You can even link prospective students and their families to your YouTube channel or Instagram handle through print pieces or email campaigns. The sky is the limit with influencer marketing, and you have what it takes to utilize this tactic for years to come. With EMP’s new Campus Capture product, we can even help you create authentic video montages to utilize in various campaigns that are created by your own student workers.

Enrollment marketing is ever-evolving and it is our job to help you stay connected with all the latest trends. Sometimes the most cost effective, useful tools are right in front of us, and in the case of influencer marketing, they may be sitting inside of your office as you read this post.

Ben Boivin

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Over the last three decades, Liaison has helped over 40,000 programs on more than 1,200 campuses more effectively manage admissions through its Centralized Application Service (CAS™) technology and complementary application processing and support services. The higher education technology leader supports its partner institutions’ total enrollment goals by pairing CAS with its Enrollment Marketing (EM) platform as well as the recently acquired TargetX (CRM) and advanced analytics software Othot.