Colleges and universities have found a surprising new channel for winning over prospective students: Buzzfeed.
Yes, BuzzFeed's "listicles" look very different than most institutions' official, polished, traditional literature—but that's exactly what makes it so effective, Tom Hesse writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education. He shares three reasons why colleges are publishing articles on the website.
1: You can get personal
BuzzFeed content isn't universal. It's not designed to appeal to everyone.
Mostly left-handed people open stories like "Things only lefties know," and children of Asian immigrants were in mind for the article "30 ways you know you were raised by Asian immigrant parents."
But the specific group in mind feels a strong connection to the article—they're very likely to read it and share it on social media.
According to Stephen Longuidice, BuzzFeed's vice president for brand development, many marketing strategies go for breadth, rather than depth. They cannot expect that everyone will read the content, so they aim to appeal to a broad audience and hope that a few will read.
"We look at that in reverse and think, If I can talk to this small, specific group right here about something that is so relevant to them, every single person in that group will embrace that," says Longuidice.
For example, the University of Wyoming published an article highlighting "11 Picturesque Places in Wyoming." Current student Ana Holley says the article was one of the factors that helped her decide to attend the school, and that she was particularly attracted to it because she wants to major in environmental and natural resources.
Watch out: It's possible to take message segmenting too far
2: Young audiences don't want "official"
Holley explains that writing on Buzzfeed gave her college a new kind of credibility. "I feel like [BuzzFeed] doesn't feel school official. It's not like a school website," she told the Chronicle. "Because it's BuzzFeed, which has all sorts of things on there that appeal to people my age, I thought that it was a really great resource to do that," she adds.
Research by Royall & Company, a division of EAB, shows that messages written from students' perspectives can see a 50% higher response rate.
Pop quiz! What's a fun way to engage prospective students and boost your response rates?
3: Digital is the future
If you're skeptical that a Buzzfeed article is going to make a prospective student commit to attending your college all by itself, you're probably right.
But light, fun content on channels like Buzzfeed and social media can be a good introduction to your college, says Emily Spitale, associate vice president for strategic marketing and communications at Temple University. They convince a student to take a second look at your college, and then they start to get a little more serious, she says.
Digital advertising will only grow in importance, Spitale tells the Chronicle.
"There's a need for and some smart reasons to start looking even at 15-year-olds," she says, including "How they use technology, how they get their information, and process that information, changes a lot more quickly than it did before" (Hesse, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2/14).
There's a difference between just doing digital recruiting—and doing it well