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3 Best Digital Marketing Channels for Informal Ed Programs

Nic Lyons

October 26, 2022

When it comes to marketing your informal ed programs you have lots of options. From classic solutions like email to up-and-coming social media sites like TikTok, the opportunities seem endless. Unfortunately, your time and energy are limited. You don’t want to spend hours a day marketing on every channel, you want to focus on the one that works. So now you’re wondering, what are the best digital marketing channels for informal ed programs?

Great question, and the answer is more straightforward than you might think. As part of our State of Informal Learning Report 2022 (SOIL), we dug into the marketing channels that moved traffic to sites using CourseStorm as their registration platform. With nearly 1 million registrations under our belt, we had plenty of data to explore. Our research revealed the three best digital marketing channels that informal ed programs can use to promote their classes. 

Read on to learn what they are and how you can put them to work for your programs. 

The best digital marketing channels for informal ed programs are: 

  1. Email
  2. Social Media (especially Facebook)
  3. Organic marketing

You may be thinking, “Okay, we already use those.” But, let’s talk about how you’re using each channel, and whether you’re getting the most from your efforts. 

1. Email Marketing Deepens Relationships

Email marketing is the number one marketing channel for getting people to a website where they can register for classes. Most programs use some form of email marketing, but some (maybe yours?) aren’t making the most of this powerful tool. 

The goal of any email isn’t just to tell students what you have to offer. Email should also deepen the relationship with the student. You do this the same way you deepen any relationship, by paying attention and engaging in a conversation.

The most effective emails are personalized and relevant. With the right tools, personalizing emails is easy. Most email platforms will let you address an email to the student by name and group students using tags or categories so you can send emails that interest them. 

Easy but powerful ways to engage students through email: 

Each of these types of email helps you show students that you care about their individual interests and invites them to engage more deeply with your programs. But, before you can start emailing a student you need their permission to do so. That means you’ll need other marketing channels to snag the attention of prospective students and build your brand.

2. Facebook Ads Snag Attention

When we compare performance across various social media channels, Facebook is the clear winner. About 96% of traffic to registration sites from social media platforms came from Facebook in 2022. This is true, despite the fact that organic reach is shrinking on pretty much all social media platforms. That tells us that Facebook Ads are responsible for this traffic. 

If you’re new to Facebook ads, the platform can feel overwhelming. Even if you’ve been working with ads for a while, Facebook is notorious for making massive changes without much warning. Getting familiar with the platform will take some effort. 

Here are some best practices to get you started: 

  • Keep text short and focused. Your ad is not the place to share all of the course details. You just want to get them interested.
  • Make it visual. A striking visual will help your ad stand out. Pick a visual with a single clear focal point. 
  • Link to a landing page for the specific class or category you’re advertising, not to your home page. You want to bring people directly to a place where they can register.
  • Choose your call to action wisely. Every ad should have a call to action, pick the one likely to resonate with your audience. You might have to experiment with this a bit.

In fact, expect to experiment with pretty much every aspect of Facebook ads. Targeting can be tricky. Too narrow, and you’re likely to spend your whole budget without reaching many people, too wide, and you’ll end up showing your ad to people who aren’t interested. Test and see what works best for your audience and your program. 

3. Organic Marketing Builds Your Brand

The third most effective marketing channel for informal ed programs is organic marketing. No, we’re not talking about avoiding pesticides. Organic marketing is anything you do to bring audiences to your website without paid ads. 

In most cases, the key to organic marketing is creating and sharing content that offers value to your prospective student. Here’s how it works: 

  1. You think about common questions potential students have, or information you have that they might be interested in. 
  2. You write a blog post or web page sharing that information. When doing so, you try to use the words and phrases students might type into a search engine when they have this question. 
  3. A potential student thinks, “Hmm, I wonder if there are any art classes for adults near me?” and they type those words into a search engine. 
  4. The search engine serves up your website in answer to the student’s question. 
  5. The student clicks, reads, and then registers. 

We’ve made it sound simple, but the part that’s missing here is competition. Your website probably isn’t the only one targeting those keywords. To stand out you need clear content that answers the specific question the student is hoping to answer.

You can optimize your website for organic search by: 

The Best Digital Marketing Channels Work Together

You can see how these three channels work together to help you register more students. Facebook marketing catches the attention of new students or people who are interested but have yet to register. Organic marketing widens your reach even further, to introduce new people to your programs. Email deepens relationships with students who have already enrolled or at least expressed serious interest in your classes 

With all three of these solutions in place, you have a functional way to introduce students to your classes and encourage them to register. Once you have these three well-established, you can start experimenting with other channels. 

Once you get someone to your website, they need to be able to quickly and easily register for your courses. That’s where CourseStorm comes in. With integrated email marketing, attractive course catalogs, and the tools you need to build an efficient registration process, CourseStorm helps you register more students. Contact us to learn more or start your free trial today.

Nic Lyons

Nic is skilled in scaling start-up edtech and education organizations to growth-stage success through innovative marketing. A former journalist and copywriter, Nic holds a postgraduate certificate in digital and print publishing from Columbia University School of Journalism's publishing course.

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