Mar 20, 2019 / in Higher Edinfluencer marketing / by Sarah Parker

5 Questions to ask about Influencer Marketing in Higher Ed

Influencer marketing isn’t just for beauty and style brands on Instagram; any industry can tap into the audience-boosting powers of the right people and colleges and universities are no exception to this. 

It’s a smart, strategic way to help reach bigger goals your school might have, like recruiting the best possible prospective students, fundraising to improve the programs available for current, future and past students, or even to attract accomplished faculty that are a perfect fit. 

If your higher education institution is thinking of testing the influencer marketing waters, here are the five questions you need to ask before you begin: 

  1. What are your goals with influencer marketing? 
  2. How will you surface these influencers? 
  3. How will you build relationships with these influencers? 
  4. Do you have clear expectations between you and your influencers? 
  5. How will you measure success? 

Let’s break them down. 

What are your goals with influencer marketing? 

Knowing your goals before you get started will give you a lot more clarity on everything else, including how you’re going to surface your influencers. 

Do you want to tap into prominent alumni and share their accomplishments to strengthen your alumni community and also entice prospective students? Do you want to tap into prominent students on campus to strengthen that community, and show prospective students what being part of your college or university means? 

You can also consider prominent faculty and the work they are doing, or all of these angles. If you’re just getting started you want to choose one angle to narrow your focus on and if it’s successful you can always expand out from there.

How will you surface these influencers? 

It’s possible to just hang out on social networks, follow as many relevant accounts as possible and figure out who the most influential ones are, but that takes a lot of time and energy that most teams don’t have. 

You can check out lists of higher ed influencers like this one or this one, but they may not be exactly what you’re looking for depending on your specific goals and they could also be out of date. 

With a comprehensive social monitoring and listening strategy in place (sound familiar?) it will be much easier to see who the influential contributors are to the overall conversation that you’re tracking, not only around your brand but anything else relevant to it. 

Who keeps coming up in conversations? Who gets tagged into conversations because others want to know what their opinions are? Who has cultivated an engaged following that’s related to your college or university, either as a student, faculty or alumni? 

Engagement is much more important than follower count; just having a big audience doesn’t mean that someone has a lot of influence over that audience. You can also decide if you want to pursue partnerships or campaigns that include multiple influencers or just one at a time. 

How will you build relationships with these influencers? 

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just be human! Follow relevant accounts and engage with them as appropriate. The cardinal rule here is Don’t Be Creepy

If you spend time genuinely interacting with these people over a period of time, they’ll be much more likely to enthusiastically respond to an offer of a partnership or campaign with them. Some might even approach you first. 

Either way, answering the next question is critical. 

Do you have clear expectations between you and your influencers? 

Before you launch any influencer campaign or partnership you need to be absolutely sure both parties are on the same page around what is expected of each. Are you providing specific materials and a timeline for this endeavor? How much creative freedom will the influencer have? 

We recommend allowing them as much creative freedom as possible, providing guidelines for tone and style around your brand. Influencers are influential with their audiences for a reason: Their followers love to see how they present their view of the world in the places they choose to present it. If they’re forced to repeat still branded language it’s unlikely to be successful with their audience. 

Other important points here include being sure you’ve discussed compensation and that both parties are adhering to any disclosure laws. Follow-up with the influencer if they’re not, and consider making any compensation contingent on clear disclosure.

How will you measure success? 

Decide which metrics will mean success for this campaign or partnership, depending on what your specific goals for it are. 

Any professional influencer should be willing to share their metrics to prove that their reach- and especially engagement- are genuine (trust, but verify) before you launch a campaign, but they should especially be willing to share their side of the metrics after one. (The rules around using third-party analytics require an influencer to validate their credentials before they can tap into the data, which means you may be relying on them to self-report.) 

If you have that comprehensive social listening strategy in place, you’ll be able to track this campaign or partnership in real time and make any adjustments accordingly. 

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About Sarah Parker

Sarah A. Parker is the Content Marketing Manager for Cision, planning, producing and curating content across channels. She previously managed content and social media for several different brands, in addition to working as a freelance writer. Find her on Twitter @SparkerWorks where she is happy to talk all things social media strategy, the dynamic world of PR, and mastiffs.