5 Takeaways from LinkedIn's Education Connect 2015

October 16, 2015

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At LinkedIn Education Connect 2015, which was held last week in New York, a host of education marketers and industry experts gathered to discuss the future of education. As technology transforms the global economy, it is changing students, colleges, and the education marketers who serve both. One thing is certain about the future of education marketing: It will continue to undergo great changes.

Here are five takeaways from Education Connect for marketers (and not just education marketers) that can help them understand the changes taking place -- and benefit from them:

The World is Changing, and Students are Changing Along with It

Speaking at Education Connect, Zoe Baird, CEO-President of the Markle Foundation says the world has moved from an industrial economy to a digital economy. That shift is causing changes in the workforce, which is leading to changes in what students require to find jobs. No longer are Americans working for Fortune 500 companies for their entire career; instead, more people in the U.S. are working for small businesses. “A B.A. isn’t enough,” Baird said for many jobs in technology or high tech manufacturing. Also at Education Connect, Ted Mitchell, Under Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education, noted that today’s students are increasingly diverse from traditional college students in age, race, and economic standing. “The 18-year-old going off to college in the family minivan and returning home four years later with a beard – it’s not like that anymore,” Mitchell said.

As Students Change, Education Must Change, Too

Students are changing, and students are the customers of institutions of higher learning. So, it’s marketing 101. If colleges are customer-centric – that is, student-centric – they must change to meet the evolving needs of students, their key constituency. Colleges are also adjusting to the diversity of their student body. For instance, Mitchell said that an increasingly common student, a working single mother, has a schedule that the traditional college can’t accommodate. “The Monday-Wednesday-Friday 10:00-10:10 class doesn’t work for the working single mother,” he said. Additionally, to gain a foothold in the modern workforce, students need not only new skills but proof that they have acquired these skills. Baird said that Purdue University is a leader in developing programs that certify students have mastered certain skills, such as coding. Instead of double majors, college students of the future might have “one major and five certifications.” (Marketers are already jumping on this bandwagon and getting certified in skills in using HubSpot, as you can see in our new ebook, The Marketing Skills Handbook). Colleges must keep pace, Baird said, or others will fill the gap. “If you don’t do it, a coding bootcamp will do it,” she said.

There Are Considered Purchases, and Then There’s an Educational Purchase

The buyer’s journey for choosing an MBA school is 18 to 24 months. For a path to purchase, that’s long. To put it in perspective, the typical path to purchase for a car is about 50 days, according to data shown by Stephen DiMarco, CEO of MB Digital, Millward Brown, at Education Connect. Not only is the buyer’s journey long, but education marketers must have their brands known to prospective students early in the process. “The decision process is exclusive, and it’s critical to the make it to the short list,” said Christina Jenkins, Director of Global Research, GSO Insights, LinkedIn, said. The prospective student audience is growing more diverse and hence is harder to reach and more difficult to segment. Plus there is growing competition from for-profit universities. Almost 60 percent of education marketers didn’t achieve their enrollment goal in 2015, according to LinkedIn research. “Marketing is an absolute cakewalk -- unless you’re marketing to students,” said Rob Humphrey, Enterprise Account Executive, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. “Education marketing is the most complex vector you can possibly undertake.”

Content Marketing Has Power

As a News Editor for LinkedIn, Maya Pope-Chappell sees some of the great content published every day on the LinkedIn platform. At Education Connect, she highlighted a handful of student posts on LinkedIn that garnered tens of thousands of page views and displayed the potential power of content marketing. For instance, Tai Tran, who is an instructor at UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, wrote a post titled, “#Race Together: 3 Reasons Behind Starbucks’ Failure.” The post generated more than 430,000 views and helped Tran, who is now a Digital Marketing Program Manager at Apple, become a contributor at Forbes and Social Media Today. "On LinkedIn you have a chance to reach a very wide audience," Pope-Chappell said.

How to Create Highly Effective LinkedIn Sponsored Updates

Research indicates that prospective students are three times more likely to consult their professional networks than their social networks when making an MBA decision. That’s a critical reason why many education marketers are using LinkedIn products, such as LinkedIn Sponsored Updates, to reach their target audiences on the platform. At Education Connect, Jon Lombardo, Content Marketing Lead at LinkedIn, offered six tips to help marketers, education or otherwise, produce highly effective LinkedIn Sponsored Updates. Here is Lombardo’s advice:

  • Design for mobile, because almost 60 percent of the LinkedIn audience access the platform on mobile devices.
  • Invest in great images, because visuals have more stopping power than text.
  • Use a consistent brand strategy, and don’t be afraid to display your logo.
  • Write multiple headlines, and test which ones perform best.
  • Less content can be more – strive for quality over quantity.
  • Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. Carve up your content and reuse it like a leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

The future of education most likely will deliver only more to change as technology continues to expand its influences on the economy, on prospective students, on universities, and education marketers.

To get a handle on how students are changing, download LinkedIn’s latest ebook, Connecting with Today’s Prospective Students: How Higher Education Decisions are Made in the Digital Age.

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