Using influencers for student marketing: The why, the how and what to expect.

Posted by Jemma Legg on March 22, 2021

Since 2019, influencer marketing has skyrocketed and become an integral part of many people's decision-making process when making a purchase. Whether it's a new clothing line from your favourite brand, a holiday destination or a cultural/political movement that you want to support, there is an influencer out there to help guide you into making a purchase that feels right for you.

After some increased governance from advertising watchdogs in 2019, influencers now have to disclose any of their sponsored or paid activity for full transparency. There was concern among the influencer community that this would harm engagement and reduce the number of paid advertising contracts available. These changes don't seem to have slowed down influencers as the influencer marketing industry is on track to be worth $15 billion by 2022 from as much as $8 billion in 2019.

Influencers look like they are here to stay, so how can you work with them to give your institutions extra kudos with prospective students.


Why? - The benefits of using an influencer for student marketing.

  1. Builds credibility and trust.

    Influencer marketing is essentially a digital progression of one of the most timeless marketing channels…word of mouth. People follow influencers on social media because they want to be inspired and trust their recommendations.

  2. It's not a hard sell.

    Even with the recent transparency changes, an influencer recommendation or promotion still feels like a more authentic way to consume content. With more and more people using ad blockers on their devices, influencer content is more likely to reach your audience.

  3. It boosts your content strategy.

    Continually creating fresh and engaging content to keep up with the average social post's shelf life is hard work. So why not suggest co-creating content with an influencer to help fill the gaps in your content strategy. For more ideas on a successful content strategy see our ULTIMATE education marketing content checklist.

  4. It's suitable for an institution of any size, with almost any budget

    Just like the A list and Z list ranking of celebrities, there is a hierarchy of influencers. The higher you go, the more you will pay, but many brands now look to 'Micro' influencers (influencers who have a following of 30k – 100K) for hyper-targeted campaigns at a reasonable price.

  5. Engage with international students on their native platform.

    Although Instagram is the leader in influencer campaigns globally, there is a lot to be said about using native social platforms for international students. WeChat is one of the leading platforms in China and has around 1 billion users.

So, you think influencer marketing might be for you, but with over 100,000 influencers in the UK and over 20+ million across the globe, where do you start?

Tribal tip

For a student influencer strategy to really hit the mark, mobile should not be an add-on - it’s the way you need to interact with your students. It needs to be high quality and effortless for your students; after all – it’s what they want!

Discover more about Tribal Engage and creating your own intergrated mobile app strategy


How? - Finding your ideal influencer and launching your campaign


Be authentic.
Although many followers are on board with the new transparency regulations, they still want to see authenticity from the people they follow. Both influencers and brands have come under fire when an audience has felt a partnership is disingenuous. With hundreds of thousands of influencers out there, mathematically, you are bound to have some Micro or even Macro influencers within your alumni or currently enrolled students. Advertise that you want to work with these individuals directly or make this essential to your influencer criteria.

Make contact.
How you find/reach out to influencers will depend on your resources and where they sit in the influencer hierarchy. Macro influencers (with over 100k followers) will likely be a full-time influencer, so they might insist upon going via an agency. Micro influencers are usually more part-time and, therefore, more casual about how they are approached for work. If time and resource is a factor, then there are plenty of influencer agencies to help you find your perfect match. Agencies like Find your influencer and Flourish Management are some of the top influencer agencies in the UK. At the same time, Engage Hub labels itself as a nano influencer agency, specialising in Micro influencers.

Set your brief and expectations.
Agencies will likely come back with a list of influencers who best match your audience, content and budget needs. When assessing this list or discussing them with your agency, be mindful of the following.

  • Does the influencer allow the co-creation of content?
    Relinquishing control of your brand to a third party can be daunting, and many brands choose co-creation as a way of utilising influencers whilst maintaining brand integrity. Whilst this is an excellent way to partner with an influencer, be sure to go into content creation discussions with an open mind. Influencers are influential with your audience for a reason so let them help direct the content.
  • Who owns the content?
    Content ownership can be easily overlooked based on assumption, so make sure you and the influencer are both clear here. On the whole, an influencer's content within a paid contract will belong to the brand for whom the content was made. Still, it's good to lay out exactly how the content may be reused or edited in the future or how the influencer would like to be credited with reused content.
  • Who have they worked with in the past?
    For institutions using influential alumni or students, this isn't so much about seeing if they have worked with a competitor but a way to foresee any red flags. Influencers audiences can change over time, and therefore so can their content and the brands they attract. You don't want your brand aligned with anything your institution doesn't support.

Are you involved in creating or shaping your institution's student recruitment strategies? Find out more about the platform that does it all and has been created, especially for education. Create, execute and monitor effective recruitment campaigns across platforms including email, text, social media and web with our Student Marketing & Recruitment Solution.

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