Research Perception BuildingSocial Media Outreach

A roadmap for universities to build an effective content marketing strategy

“Content is king.”

So goes the maxim beloved of digital marketers, search engine optimization strategists, and online branding consultants. When it comes to attracting new audiences and driving engagement, offering a range of engaging content is the most important means of captivating an audience. Like any other worthwhile undertaking, a university needs to have a robust strategy in place to ensure optimal results.

Why your university needs a content marketing strategy

In the current overcrowded digital landscape, universities have a difficult time standing out from the crowd and effectively communicating their unique value proposition. This is where the transformative power of a well-crafted content marketing strategy comes into play. A proper content marketing strategy can unlock opportunities to engage, inspire, and connect with target audiences. A strategy is a roadmap for universities to establish themselves as thought leaders and innovators. With strategic content creation and distribution, universities can position themselves as leaders in their field, attract top-tier talent, and foster a strong sense of pride and loyalty among their stakeholders. In brief, a content market strategy can allow universities to be heard above the noise and ensure future success in the increasingly competitive world of higher education.

Furthermore, prospective students are increasingly using social media as one of their primary sources of information when selecting a university. With other universities scrambling to gain the attention of these students, an effective content strategy is invaluable for ensuring a healthy stream of admissions.

See also: Spurring Innovation and Attracting Talent: The Many Benefits of University–Industry Collaboration

Top tips for creating your content marketing strategy

Create and stick to a varied content calendar

According to many content marketing consultants, inconsistency is a major killer of nascent brands on social media. A poorly updated profile is unlikely to appear on user newsfeeds, and repetitive content is likely to drive users away more than pull them in. A content calendar can help you stay consistent and ensure a good content mix. It also provides an at-a-glance record that can help you recognize the content that resonates with your audience.

Share compelling stories

Stories tap into the power of emotion, allowing universities to create meaningful connections with their audience and make their content relatable and memorable. Through storytelling, universities can influence their target audience’s perception, fostering a stronger affinity and deeper engagement with their brand.

For example, posting about a new and promising invention developed at the university is great, but including an interview with the project lead telling their story in their own words can effectively promote the same intended information with greater emotional impact.

Leverage Different Content Formats

Universities offer more than text, and your content should be no different. Experiment with various content formats such as blog posts, videos, infographics, and podcasts based on the events, art, and research taking place at your institution. This can reach people with various content preferences and build an image of your university as a dynamic place with a lot going on.

Include user-submitted content

As a university, the audience of your content marketing strategy will include both new viewers and your existing students and faculty. These existing stakeholders will be among the most likely to interact with your content. For them, the opportunity to use your channel to reach their peers in the university will be indispensable. By encouraging students, faculty, and alumni to contribute their own content, such as testimonials, blog posts, or videos, you can inject much-needed authenticity and diversity to your content while fostering a sense of community.

See also: Showcasing Your University’s Research Through Social Media: Six Effective Strategies

Universities that are doing it right

Harvard University

Harvard is a titan among universities, and their online presence is no exception. Across their various Harvard University accounts, they boast over 12 million followers, and this does not include other pages relevant to their brand such as Harvard Business School or their publication Harvard Business Review. All of America’s Ivy League universities have performed very well online, but Harvard stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of their numbers of followers.

One noteworthy feature of their content strategy is the sheer volume of high-quality posts. Harvard has approximately 48,100 tweets to date (while Yale and Stanford, which are Ivy League peers of Harvard, have posted around 29,100 and 21,100 tweets, respectively). Looking at their timeline, one can see that Harvard has an excellent content mix. They have been very successful in selecting and promoting a wide range of research accomplishments, profiles, and summaries of events. Overall, their content strategy successfully promotes Harvard as a center of excellence in just about every academic field. Regardless of your background or interests, it’s hard to look over their social media accounts and not find relevant content that builds a positive image of Harvard.

London School of Economics

The London School of Economics’ (LSE) content marketing is especially impressive. As a specialist university, they have harnessed their specialty to carve out a particularly big online niche across various social networking platforms. In particular, they have performed very well on LinkedIn, with over 700,000 followers. LSE’s strength in content lies in their effortless blending of articles on current affairs in politics, business, and economics with more traditional promotional material on campus life and achievements. An informative article breaking down the impact of Brexit on the economy can lead users to their page, where they also encounter a well-curated selection of multimedia-based posts promoting the LSE brand.

This success on LinkedIn underlines another important point: focus on platforms that are congruent with your goals. LinkedIn is geared towards professionals who are likely interested in topics such as the economy and business management practices, which dovetails very well with what LSE offers and their desired image.

See also: 5 Best Practices for Showcasing Research on Your University’s Website


It would be unwise to overlook the need for a content marketing strategy. Creating a strategy aligned with your organizational goals can help you carve out your niche and be heard above the noise.

David Burbridge

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