Four Gifts of Digital Marketing Knowledge from Internet Summit 2019

Posted: December 6, 2019

Sarah Filipovich


Cue the silver bells: the season of giving has arrived. As students of the marketing craft, we believe that the gift that keeps on giving is knowledge itself. Our digital marketing team recently embarked on a holiday getaway to Internet Summit 2019 — a national industry conference held in our hometown of Raleigh, NC — to learn about the latest trends in digital media consumption, audience targeting strategy, A.I.’s role in search and other relevant topics that impact the work we do for our higher education clients year-round.  

In the spirit of the season, here are four stocking stuffer takeaways from our trip that you can apply to your institution’s digital marketing strategy:

Begin with Gen Z

It’s no secret that higher education is in the midst of a seismic demographic shift. And this trend is not isolated. Over 51% of the world’s population is under 25 — meaning your school’s brand messaging is tasked with earning the attention of the most device-dependent and content-inundated audience cohort to date. As 98% of teens own a smartphone and spend hours scrolling through social media feeds, they process information at an unprecedented rate. They use snap judgements to drive their decisions. Make this audience a top priority in your marketing strategy so that your messaging wins them over quickly in ways that motivate action against your goals. 

Take Control of Your Ad Placements

Make a list of where your ads should (and should not) be appearing. Check it twice. Then, check each of the places where your ads are being shown at least once a week to ensure they are running exactly where, when and how you want. The worst thing that can happen is your audience spotting your school’s name on a controversial website. And the halo effect is real. Studies show that 63% of users hold brands accountable for content adjacencies, with 62% of those respondents reporting that they would stop using or considering a brand in the future due to unforeseen brand safety breaches. So as soon as you catch something, check the Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) and use the adchoices logo to determine the media source and pause the media. The rule of thumb with ad placements is quality over quantity, and the safety of your brand comes first.

Content is King, Optimization is Queen

There is no set-it-and-forget-it approach to marketing in the digital age. Studies show that marketers (should) spend 80% of their time adjusting and optimizing their ads based on real-time data trends to ensure campaign goals are met. This may include adjusting keywords and rewriting text ads to changing the images on social media ads to better appeal to target audiences. As the quality of your creative content accounts for 75% of its impact, it is crucial to keep each ad in your campaign in top shape. And with the rise of A.I.’s role in search engine marketing, Google’s algorithms are changing daily — meaning that you must optimize your copy to increasingly mirror natural language search queries. Based on our experience working with higher education clients on a daily basis, we recommend that you touch your campaign every week. That is, cycle through which portions of your campaign are in need of optimization and testing based on trends in your data. Then, make improvements based on what you find. 

Don’t Get Stuck on What Worked Last Year

There is an old Samurai saying: defeat who you were yesterday. As platforms and technologies continue to evolve, your approach will never be set in stone. Be ready to throw rulebooks out of the window and adapt to new ground on the fly. If you keep your digital marketing strategy alive and ever-growing — from your channel mix and targeting strategies to your editorial calendar and organic content — your results will grow in turn. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help and invest in outside partners who focus purely in higher ed (ahem). They are usually the ones setting the trends, pioneering new approaches and challenging the status quo. And if that doesn’t sound like your current agency, pencil it in to attend the Internet Summit with us next year and add a new page in your rulebook.

There you have it: four gifts to make your marketing merry and bright. Happy holidays from VisionPoint!

VisionPoint’s digital marketing team at Internet Summit 2019

*Note: All statistics cited are derived from the keynote presentations held at Internet Summit 2019 in Raleigh, NC.

VisionPoint Marketing is a full-service marketing agency with nearly two decades of experience helping higher education institutions achieve their goals. If you have questions or want to start a conversation about how we can help, please visit our website or reach out to our team.