Indiana University taps into students’ individual stories

Client: Indiana University

Firm: Compendium

Objective: To enhance and increase the effectiveness of prospective student outreach

The marketing team at Indiana University sought to enhance its outreach to prospective students. Reviewing internal research, as well as market studies from Pew Research Center and other outlets, the team began to notice a pattern. “Prospective students want to hear from current students,” says Jay Steele, data manager in the office of enrollment management at the Bloomington, Ind.–based college.

While a campus visit continues to be one of the most effective ways IU connects current and potential students, Steele and his group wanted to figure out “how we can allow them to hear the voice of students through digital media.”

STRATEGY: IU worked with digital marketing firm Compendium to develop a content management and marketing hub designed to showcase the voices of current students. Called “We Are IU,” the hub had its own URL, and students were invited to post videos, blog entries or photos about anything related to their experiences on campus. Instead of professional marketing photos, the montage of photos at the top of the site came from student-submitted images.

RESULTS: The site launched on Feb. 15, and strong engagement continued over the next three months, during which 120 regular contributors produced around 600 posts.

Nonprofit colleges and universities develop for-profit marketing tactics

As universities and community colleges face stiffer competition from each other, as well as new channels like online learning, higher education institutions are embracing digital tools and technologies to target students with more personalized campaigns.

If appropriate, the submissions are published on the IU blog and pushed out through Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets. Entries range from tips on doing laundry in the dorms to how to make a “mud pudding” with Nutella and a microwave.

“This really enables you to get to that one-to-one credibility,” says Frank Dale, president of Compendium. “If I post this to Facebook, my friends are reading this story and it’s highly credible, and they’ll then share it as well.” receives several hundred visitors a day, with about 35% coming in from organic search engine results, 30% from Compendium’s own promotional tool, and 15% from other sources including Twitter and Facebook. Not only have page views gone up, but the number of pages viewed per visit have increased as well. The university’s marketing team is in the process of creating a WeAreIU newsletter to send out once a month, with a variety of messages targeted to different demographics and different times of the year, such as orientation or holiday break.

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