While in-person campus visits are again a possibility at many colleges and universities, the shift to virtual and video tours and engagement necessitated by the pandemic have offered an option that many students and their families now prefer. The convenience of this format is undeniable, especially for prospective attendees who live far from your campus. However, virtual options often lack the personal connection and interactivity of a campus visit. So, how can you effectively reach and engage prospects virtually and help your college or university make a big impression?
Given the popularity of TikTok and Instagram Reels among traditional college-bound demographics – and among other age groups as well – the natural answer is to follow the trend and produce fun and creative short-form videos. These videos can build institutional brand awareness by showcasing your college or university’s personality. That may mean sharing beautiful campus snapshots, insider footage from current students, or videos of students and faculty participating in popular challenges or trends (the safe and appropriate ones, of course).
What Are Short-Form Videos?
Short-form videos are creative communications that are typically less than two minutes long. TikTok and Instagram Reels are two of the most popular social media video-sharing apps among content creators and consumers. The short-form videos featured on these platforms offer a vast array of content that caters to everyone from the aspiring chef or musician to the art or animal lover, to the viewer looking to improve their wellness or financial knowledge and stability. Many also embrace these platforms purely for the entertainment value of watching people take on silly challenges or share fresh comedic takes on relatable situations.
Individuals and companies are also increasingly producing and sharing short-form video content on sites like LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest. They have found these channels to be important ways to reach their desired audiences with content highlighting recent achievements and exciting opportunities or aligning their brand with popular trends.
Using Short-Form Videos to Extend Your Brand Reach
Connecting with your desired audience and building your brand depend on meeting your prospects where they are, capturing their attention, and making a big impression. Creating short-form videos, especially on platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels, means you’ll be engaging prospects where they’re already spending time. By aligning with trends, challenges, or interest-based communities, you’re encouraging viewers to associate your institution with what they enjoy or what matters to them.
Short-form video resonates with people because we are all immersed in a world dominated by social media and short video experiences. Our attention spans are evolving and even seem to vary among generations. While some studies indicate that the average person’s total attention span has decreased significantly over the last two decades, others indicate that people are more likely to struggle when they’re trying to divide their attention among multiple tasks or to focus on something surrounded by a multitude of distractions. The truth of the matter is that your audience’s attention is likely always divided.
That means your success in reaching these audiences depends on your messages’ relevance, accessibility, and memorability. Short-form video is the perfect way to augment your marketing strategy and, especially, to reach Gen Z, who make up a large portion of these platforms’ users.
How to Determine What to Feature in Your Videos
How do you come up with ideas for your short-form videos? First, gather data on what your prospective students are searching for or spending time on when they visit your website or social media pages. Finding most-often-asked questions can be a good start in determining video themes. You may also consider forming a focus group of current students who can weigh in on what they would have liked to know – or appreciated knowing – as they were deciding on a college. These students can also share what they love or value most about your institution so you can focus your content on highlighting those programs, opportunities, or campus attributes.
Use short-form video to set yourself apart from other higher ed institutions in the area or those with similar programs. Do you offer exciting research opportunities on campus? Are there any special traditions your students love? Are there any notable alumni who may resonate with prospective students who you could highlight in a video clip?
Pay attention to fun or creative TikTok challenges that you may be able to incorporate into your school’s marketing efforts, although obviously, not all challenges would be appropriate. You could try how-to or day-in-the-life videos featuring students or popular faculty members; student-led short campus tours with a friendly, personal feel; parodies of viral videos or memes featuring your own students, mascots, athletic teams, and/or well-known staff; and short, punchy Q&As about registering for classes, moving on campus, joining a club, or other subjects that may interest new students.
Best Practices for Creating Short-Form Videos for Higher Ed
When trying to capture and keep the attention of an audience familiar with short-form video content, be aware of some best practices that can help your college or university stand out from the crowd.
- Keep It Brief: Your audience is looking for easily digestible content that will entertain, inspire, or inform. After they’ve seen a few videos from you that fit the bill, they’ll likely want to see what else you have to offer.
- Align What You Want to Say With What They Want to See: Want to show off your beautiful research facilities? Put together dynamic clips of young researchers working in the space, set to a catchy song. Looking to promote your career-focused business or computer science program? Consider a short Q&A with a young alum who is making waves at a well-known company.
- Be Creative, Fun, and Funny: Most people who watch TikTok videos, Instagram Reels, and the like are looking to be entertained. Even educational or process-related content can be presented in a fun and engaging way if you pair it with the right trend or a friendly and relatable spokesperson.
- Avoid Being Too Heavy-Handed With Branding: Your audience should know the video is coming from you without being hit with a sales pitch. Avoid jargon, stats, and dry technical content. Instead, focus on creating a helpful how-to, do a funny take on a recent trend or include some beautiful snapshots of campus life – and gently work in your brand.
Ready to create your first short-form videos or enhance your offerings for better engagement? LIGHTSTREAM can help. Contact us today.