The Glacier team is honored to be included as a featured speaker at the upcoming Social Media Strategies Summit for Higher Education, happening virtually this October 18-21. At the summit, Matt Diteljan, Glacier’s CEO, will give an influencer marketing lay of the land, offering actionable recommendations institutions can use to navigate this expanding market. Read a sneak peek blog here about the opportunities in influencer marketing for colleges and universities!
Why do influencer marketing and advertising provide such a unique opportunity for Higher Education institutions?
Influencer marketing is such a unique opportunity for Universities and Colleges because of how powerful and effective influencer marketing is, along with the low adoption of influencer marketing in higher education. Influencer marketing has taken the world by storm over the past few years to the point where large brands are committing billions of dollars to their influencer programs as they are seeing some of the highest returns on investment from any media channel. Start-ups are investing a significant portion of their budget into influencer marketing and seeing exponential growth, while only approximately 22% of Colleges and Universities are using any form of influencer marketing. This presents a blue ocean opportunity for any savvy higher ed marketers looking to get an edge on the competition and be the first to harness the power of this unique advertising medium.
How can an institution’s influencer advertising initiatives be integrated into its other social and digital marketing strategies?
There are 2 ways to integrate influencer marketing into other social/digital strategies. It should really fall in either of these two buckets in your budget:
Paid Media: It is a great idea to pull some budget from your social/digital budget and begin testing it with some influencers. Influencers are fantastic at creating content that resonates with their audiences. This is what they do best, and it’s how they have grown such a following. Therefore, a best practice is to hire an influencer to create great content promoting your institution, and then reuse the best performing content in your own paid media campaigns. User-generated content has been shown to perform significantly better than content created by brands or higher ed institutions.
Here’s a great way to think about it: not only are you reaping the benefits of having the influencer’s followers see your advertising, but you also get the content that you can reuse in your paid channels! It's like paying $5k or $10k to have a beautiful video created that you know will perform well with an audience, and then also having 30,000 plus people seeing it as well! It's the ad creation and the ad distribution all tied together. It’s all about finding the right influencers to match your institution. We have seen success with larger influencers that are simply passionate about your school, prospective high school students, or your own college students.
Content Marketing: We are seeing an increase in higher ed institutions realizing the power of using their own students as content creators. Every college or university has an army of young, brilliant content creators already creating TikTok and Snapchat videos. Finding a way to empower these young people to tell their stories and show how great student life is on your campus is a great way to create amazing, authentic content that you can repost on your own TikTok, Snapchat, or Instagram accounts.
What are some great ways institutions can ensure the influencer relationship fosters influencer creativity while staying true to the institution’s brand?
It is really important to give influencers the proverbial sandbox to play in (i.e. the rules of the game, the do’s and don’t do’s) and then letting them have the freedom to create within that. No one likes to be micromanaged, especially creatives. What works best is telling them what they must have, and must not have, in the posts and then letting them run with it. If you still need some reassurance, you can always have the final say over a post before it goes live. This will allow you to have complete control over what gets posted before it goes live.
We have seen some clients hand over their TikTok accounts to 5 students and let them completely run free with creating content on it with no supervision. They have had a good deal of success. The worst campaigns we have seen are the ones where the client tries to wordsmith every post and then it becomes incredibly awkward and staged, and probably does more harm than good. Give the influencers the sandbox they can play in, and then leave them alone!
What tips might you have for an institution considering in-house resources vs. outsourcing their influencer marketing programs to an agency?
If you are going to do it in-house, hire someone who has influencer marketing experience. It will be a very steep learning curve to figure out how to do it properly, especially in higher ed since it is so new in this industry. To do this well, you will also need to allocate a significant amount of someone’s time to influencer marketing. Recruiting, coordinating, creative directing, and managing influencers throughout the year takes up more time than you think, so if you are going to do it internally, you need to make sure you are giving the person enough time to do it well. If you are going with an agency, make sure they have experience in higher education. Higher ed is a very different form of influencer marketing than consumer packaged goods, eCommerce, and other verticals very common in influencer marketing. You will want to make sure the agency has experience in the higher ed vertical.
What might you recommend to an institution with leadership hesitant to invest in student influencer marketing?
As Jim Collins, the Harvard Business School strategy guru, likes to say, fire bullets first, then cannonballs. Marketing is all about constantly testing different strategies and tactics to determine what works best for your school. You do not need to pour $100K into an influencer campaign to see if it works. You can start small with $10K (the bullet) and get a feel for how it will work and how it will look for your school. If it works, ramp up the spending (the cannonball). If it doesn’t, don’t invest more! Then all you lose is $10K but are endowed with invaluable learnings.
What can attendees expect from your presentation at the upcoming Social Media Strategies Summit for Higher Ed?
They can expect to learn the latest from what is happening in higher ed with influencer marketing. They’ll gain insight into what other schools are doing, what is working, what isn’t working, and how they can invest their valuable media dollars into influencer marketing to take advantage of this highly effective media channel the big brands have been using for 10+ years.