20 July 2016

Digitally driving student acquisition

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The most powerful marketing tool you can use today is free.

13 million Australians spend over 18 hours a day online and one fifth of their days are spent on social media.

Digital acquisition strategies which infiltrate these platforms are thus more likely to succeed than those in traditional avenues.

Given the drastic changes occurring within the vocational education sector, it is vital that providers find innovative ways to engage and attract their target audience. Tertiary educators have had to better engage with potential and current students not only through digital learning programs but also through digital acquisition channels and social media.

Western Sydney University’s ad, Deng Thiak Adut Unlimited, shared the incredible journey of one of their former students and quickly went viral. Deng Thiak Adut was taken from his home in South Sudan at six-years old conscripted into the army. Deng was still young when he was shot in the back. Two years later, Deng was smuggled out of the country with his brother and arrived in Australia as refugees in 1998. In 2005 Deng enrolled in a Bachelor of Laws at Western Sydney University and now works as a lawyer.

Cinematic, inspiring, sobering, the video was released in September 2015 and has since received over 2.3 million views. YouTube comments indicate the ad’s success at appealing to the viewer’s humanity: “I'm proud that an Australian team came up with such an amazing emotional creative, well thought out campaign that is simply perfect in every way.”

In a contrasting but equally innovative approach is TAFE Western Sydney Institute’s Educating Rob, a YouTube miniseries comedy which follows Rob TAFE journey because he’s had enough of his parents nagging him.

Whilst video pieces like the above may be impractical for your institution, it has been proven that students enrol initially and retain their enrolment if there is a strong social connection to the institution.  By taking advantage of social media platforms you can foster the relationship your institution has with its students.

Those in the age bracket 18-29 are the most prolific users of Facebook, with 82% engaging with the platform. Facebook is therefore the most logical choice of social media platform, but consider extending your presence to Instagram or Twitter.

If you want your target audience to ‘like’ you, go digital.


Claire Dowler is a Conference Producer with Akolade. She recently graduated with a double degree: a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Media and Communications Studies majoring in International Communication. Claire minored in sarcasm and puns.

A ballroom-dancer who collects salt and pepper shakers and volunteers for animal rescue, you might say Claire has eclectic interests. 

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