10 Universities with The Best Content Marketing Strategy

November 5, 2021
Eliza Nimmich

10 Universities with The Best Content Marketing Strategy

In this digital age, having a strong online presence is more than important—it’s mandatory. From individual people, to businesses, to fast food chains, being present online and creating an “image” to show the world has become one of the most effective marketing strategies of the modern era.

Even colleges have gotten on board as more and more universities work to develop user friendly interfaces and strong social media presences. Of course, this isn’t a situation where you can just set up a website or Facebook page and never look at it again. Each platform is carefully cultivated to create the persona that particular university wants you to see. From a serious ivy league to a more organic state college, digital marketing is used to attract applicants and impress donors.

Let’s take a look at some of the best university marketing strategies of 2021!

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The University of Wisconsin

YouTube can be an excellent tool for university marketing, but you have to be very intentional about the content you post. You also need to make sure that you’re keeping content video varied enough to appeal to more than a niche audience, and current enough that you don’t get relegated to the YouTube graveyard of out-of-date videos.

The University of Wisconsin is a prime example of how YouTube can help you appeal to a wide audience. They have videos that talk about college side hustles to appeal to students, successful alumni to appeal to future students, and commencement videos for students’ families. Each video is also carefully organized in a playlist so that you can easily navigate their channel to find exactly what you’re looking for.

The key here is that there is something on their page that will appeal to everybody and that the school can always link to for other marketing opportunities.

Screenshot of Wisconsin university website

Boston University

Having a central hub to highlight university publications is also a great way to help boost content marketing. By collecting articles written by students, faculty, and alumni Boston University school is able to showcase its prolific publications while covering enough topics to interest a wide audience. Importantly, they are careful to tag their published articles to make the interface simple to search and find exactly what you want to read about. Categories like “Wellness” and “Voices & Opinion” make browsing easy for readers who simply want to see what the school has to offer.

The amount of internal and external linking also presents each article as a tool to help boost the website’s visibility—making it more likely to be seen by potential donors and future students—while working to humanize the university. Articles that showcase a BU graduate’s new clothing line that donates 10% of their profits to charities show a successful yet caring side to the university. This helps the school craft a specific image to project into the digital world in which their graduates are relevant, generous, and prosperous.

Screenshot of three publications

Spelman College

If you want a prime example of how to use Instagram to your advantage, look no further than Spelman College. They utilize every feature Instagram has to offer to curate a beautifully designed account. Every image on their page is clear and beautifully lit—even the candid shots. They also utilize the Story, Highlights, and IGTV features with equally photogenic content that makes every post look TV quality.

They also use their Instagram page as a platform to create excitement over university news in conjunction with their website. Instead of relying solely on their blog, they utilize the power of multiple platforms to reach a larger audience.

Screenshot of a comment section of an Instagram post for Spelman College

Indiana University

Depending on your generation you may be rolling your eyes at this one, but like it or not, TikTok seems like it’s here to stay. It’s the recent fad social media, but despite seeming like simply a place for silly videos it can be an incredibly useful tool to revolutionize your enrollment strategy.

There’s nothing more cringe than a marketing gimmick that just misses the internet’s new “inside joke” or viral challenge, and it can be hard when these trends move so quickly. As of this year, TikTok has over 1.65 billion downloads, and it has become the front line for most of the Gen Z memes. At this point, universities either need to get on it or fall behind the times if they want to be able to reach this large audience of future applicants.

Indiana University is a prime example of how these trends can be utilized to increase engagement with your content. By attracting current students and encouraging them to contribute to the content, the university is able to stay relevant to the trends while getting more views on their videos.

Rhode Island School of Design

Maybe it’s a given that a design school would have an absolutely gorgeous Instagram page, but that doesn’t make their page any less beautiful.

Specifically, the RISD Illustration Department Instagram features student-created art in every style imaginable. Not just a page of pretty pictures though, each post is used to highlight and promote a student with all the important captions, tags, and hashtags. This helps to signal boost to their students by linking to their professional portfolio pages while also creating new linking opportunities for the school.

Screenshot of a comment section of an Instagram post by an artist

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Of course, everything MIT does is professional and efficient. However, their social media hub really is a work of marketing genius. This hub collects MIT’s posts in one “Social Wall” so that you can easily browse all of their social media content at once. Each thumbnail also includes a timestamp so you can see how new it is, and an icon to show you what platform the link will take you to.

Feel like just looking through their Twitter feed? Click on their Twitter icon and you’ll be taken to their directory where you can see every departments’ social media links. That way you can get really specific and see if you’d like to browse their Department of Chemical Engineering’s feed or maybe their Center for International Studies instead.

Santa Fe College

With all the different social media, blogs, marketing strategies, and viral trends out there it can be easy to forget the value of a strong website. A website on its own may not be enough anymore, but a home page that’s difficult to navigate or outdated can be just as damaging as having no online presence at all.

Santa Fe College’s main website uses a bold yet simple color scheme, clear menus, and has plenty of internal linking. Overall, the page is extremely easy to navigate while still looking professional and containing useful resources.

Perhaps most importantly, this careful design extends beyond their main page. Santa Fe College strikes a balance between simplicity in design and only including useful information. You can see this clearly on their Little School page where they talk about the childcare they offer for students and faculty. The page maintains a strong design while adapting to appear more child-friendly and yet they are still careful to include important information without getting bogged down with over-the-top self-promotion.

Screenshot of Santa Fe College website

University of North Dakota

YouTube is so difficult to utilize correctly that any university using it successfully deserves a shout-out. Not only is the University of North Dakota’s main YouTube channel beautifully organized, but they have mastered the art of linking. Every video has links to the university’s other social media pages, the main website, about page, majors/programs, and application page. This gives every viewer an opportunity to further their engagement with the school instead of just bouncing to the next video.

Uploaded videos also have in-depth captions with strong keywords to help them survive YouTube’s rocky algorithm. With so many videos and a long history of spotty “recommendations”, it can be easy for videos to get lost in the depths of YouTube. By using keywords and updating regularly, this university manages to keep its channel looking constantly refreshed.

Screenshot of the University of North Dakota's YouTube channel

University of Wisconsin Madison

So nice, we’re showing them twice: the University of Wisconsin knows how to craft a social media presence.

Social media doesn’t just have to be a source of self-promotion, it can also be a tool to give updates on campus life, news, and events. According to PEW Research Center, social media is quickly outpacing print as a news source in the United States. This gives schools an opportunity to use their social media accounts to reach a wider audience with their current and future students.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is doing this on their Instagram through weekly COVID-19 updates. In addition to posting pictures of student life, this university is harnessing the power of social media to keep its students informed on what’s happening. By creating content that’s relevant to students they can increase engagement as students are more likely to interact with posts and boost visibility.

Screenshot of Wisconsin university website

Bowling State Green University

Probably one of the most underutilized marketing tools is the podcast. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a drastic increase in the popularity of podcasts, and it doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon. According to Brandastic, over 155 million people listened to a podcast every week in 2020. What?! That is a huge audience that universities can reach as long as they can find their content “niche”.

Talk about news, culture, the arts, or take a page out of BGSU’s book and give students a space to focus on interdisciplinary work that helps them move beyond their major. This university’s podcast is designed to appeal to students from all disciplines while addressing big social problems—a topic that strongly appeals to the Gen Z crowd.

Feeling Inspired?

If you take nothing else away from this (except maybe some drool-worthy design ideas) we hope we got you thinking a little bit about the importance of a multi-platform attack in your content marketing strategies. In this digital age a “set it and forget it” web page just doesn’t work anymore. You need to integrate multiple forms of social media, SEO, internal/external linking, and some serious design skills in order to craft an online presence that will convince your audience to engage with your content.

Plus, it doesn’t hurt to practice some TikTok dances along the way…

Eliza Nimmich
Eliza Nimmich is a founder of Learnt.io, an instant tutoring marketplace. An avid software entrepreneur, she loves combining a creative blend of technology and design to create a wonderful user experience in learning.

About the Author

Eliza Nimmich
Eliza Nimmich is a founder of Learnt.io, an instant tutoring marketplace. An avid software entrepreneur, she loves combining a creative blend of technology and design to create a wonderful user experience in learning.