It’s no surprise that one-to-one communication is the most effective way to develop a relationship with a student.
The development of social channels has certainly facilitated the adoption of online conversations, word-of-mouth programs and the practical application of influencer theories.
Yet, we still use direct marketing techniques, which, despite the declarations of despair and alienation from students, parents and some marketers, still work. They produce results.
What we have is a divide – the direct, outbound approach which includes advertising, direct mail, direct email and the un-intrusive inbound content approach which includes blogging, social network and rapid content creation and distribution.
How do we bridge this gap and build a complete experience for our students? Here are some initial thoughts on the matter.
1) Technology will not save you
Just because you’re using the newest toys, doesn’t mean that you’re more likely to interest new students. Social media are just tools. They are ‘media’ that facilitate communication. Having a hammer won’t make you a great carpenter. Having Facebook won’t make you a great communicator.
Conversation lies at the core of your outreach and to be a great conversationalist you need 1) a strategic plan for authentic branding; 2) to know who your audience is; and 3) to understand what makes your audience tick. None of these things require social tools. You can jot most of it down with a pencil and a napkin.
2) Understand the layers of intimacy
Every time someone declares the death of a marketing tool, I’m reassured that our profession is safe. Each channel that we employ has it’s own purpose. As marketers, our job is to understand which tool will reach the right audience at the right time.
Not only does each marketing vehicle have it’s own purpose. Each tool has it’s own level of intimacy with the student. Direct approaches are less personal. Outreach is more personal. Seems pretty obvious, but if that’s the case why would you expect a student to like you on Facebook before they’ve found out more about you?
Couple your outbound tools with your social outreach strategy to generate awareness, but when students start expressing interest, drop the broadcast messaging for more intimate interactions.
3) Integrate the technology
Technology will not save you, but it sure will help. Using a CRM to manage, measure and monitor your interactions with students is essential for keeping current on the type of conversations you need to have with students.
An effective flow would move a student from a direct mail inquiry to a social network like Zinch where students gain control over their personal brand. Afterwards, counselors would make Facebook requests to the students. From there, accepted students should be invited to a Facebook group or student run network. After that, strong connections with other students should increase yield.
The trick here is to know *when* to make a tighter connection. You have two markers: 1) students outreach and 2) your own experience. If students are contacting you, it’s a sure sign that they’re interested. If they’re holding back, you’ll have to rely on more personal ways of communicating one-to-one.
All this comes down to a communication driven strategy. How can you use the right tools to deliver the right connection at the right time? Without a strategy you’re just swinging a hammer without a blueprint.