From our student-led research, we know that students’ university applications are influenced by their parents as well as their friends and peers, and that’s no different during the current circumstances. You also can’t forget about other influencers; employers, friends and current/former students, who may shape the decisions your students make. So don’t just create messaging targeted at students, influence their influencers too.
How to target parents
How can you reassure them about the current changes to exams and modes of learning? Create a unique landing page, designed specifically with parents in mind, and include targeted content and information relevant to their queries. Alumni could be particularly powerful when influencing parents, who are largely interested in career progression and opportunities post-university, so seek out influential and successful alumni online and make use of their experience and contacts. For authentic connections, make the most of user-generated content. This will give parents a real feel for future opportunities, student sentiment about the institution and success stories that speak louder than facts and figures.
Don’t limit your targeting technique
A staggering 86% of 50-64 year olds use Facebook, whereas only 5.4% of 55-64 year olds use Instagram. So, you know your prospective students’ parents are on Facebook, presenting an opportunity to tap into them as decision makers and influencers in university choice. However, you need to make sure your targeting settings are well-defined.
Currently, Facebook’s targeting is limited to what the platform deems to be 'parents of teenagers', which isn’t exactly the most accurate way of identifying your audience. Some won’t have confirmed their status as a parent on social media, while some may have more complex relationships to the children they are considering university for (such as stepchildren, grandchildren, and so forth). To ensure you’re targeting accurately, use Facebook's lookalike audience feature to target parents who Facebook’s algorithm deems similar to the ones who have previously interacted with your ads. This can provide you with a more reflective, dynamic audience pool than you might achieve with interests targeting. Use these audience features to ensure that the valuable influencers in your prospective students' lives know about your upcoming virtual Open House.
Hosting events for your students’ influencers
1. Parent-specific Open Houses
First things first - host your virtual Open House on the platforms the parent demographic has access to - whether it’s Zoom or Skype, make sure it’s accessible to your target audience. There’s no point in using Instagram to target your students’ guardians, as they won’t see your ads or events.
2. Interactivity is the key
At traditional Open Houses, parents are often interested in different elements of university life compared to your prospective students who often care more about societies, socializing and course content. Give your parents the chance to speak to a wide range of people at your institution - tutors, lecturers, welfare officers and alumni - and answer their questions.
3. Set up a parent journey map
This will allow you to look at all your online and offline resources that you have at your disposal, and outline what to send and when. Create a content and comms calendar that will help tackle the most common parent anxieties to reassure them in their Higher Education choice.
4. Align your technology
Make sure you’ve got the infrastructure set up for a smooth experience for the influencers. Using student specialist platforms such as Akero and making the most of tools like Akero’s page containers allow you to have parent-specific landing pages, which can then trigger parent-specific email comms. Aligning your technology in this way will give your students’ influencers confidence in your institution, in addition to sending out the right comms when critical decisions are being made.