Get Ahead of These Trends in 2016

Connectivity, social media advertising, and virtual reality are three trends that higher ed marketers should be tracking this year.

January 19, 2016

Industry leaders published many posts in Forbes, Adweek, and other leading publications about their predictions of the top trends and technology that will impact 2016. Let’s review three of most important themes. With vision, a strategy, and some resources, you may be able to use these to get a leg up on your competition by the time we see the 2017 trends coming out.

Virtual reality is not coming -- it is here

It takes a lot for technology to knock my socks off. This fall, The New York Times succeeded when it distributed Google cardboard virtual reality viewers with a Sunday edition. When I tried them out I felt like I was actually on a boat riding down a river in the Sudan. And at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education this fall, at least one firm was showing off its work in this area.

A few schools have already tried virtual reality already and it won’t take long for everyone to be doing it: this campus flyover by Regis University is just the tip of the iceberg.

Get ahead of the curve in 2016 and develop a plan to use virtual reality to best advance your marketing goals. Send a virtual tour to high school counselors or a snapshot of a class to prospective students who are located in distant markets. Donors to a building project can get a first hand look inside construction or what it will be like when completed. The possibilities are endless.

Everything and everyone is connected 

This is not necessarily new but it is truer than ever before. In my house alone we have five people (three under the age of 10) and 10 devices that connect to the wireless Internet. 

My nine-year old is annoyed when Netflix is a tad bit slow on the iPad. What will his expectations be when we do a college search for a college website? Or when he arrives on campus to check out his new dorm room, classroom, and dining hall?  

Are the experiences your students, alumni, parents, and visitors having when they interact with your campus built to meet expectations in a digitally connected world? Or are they from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away? 

In 2016 you can update your own internal business processes, identify and fix areas where the web experience is difficult for your audience, or provide some thoughtful suggestions to the academic or student life areas about how you can help them move a traditional paper process online. 

Social dollars count

According to emarketer, expenditures on U.S. mobile ads will be above $42 billion in 2016. Facebook and Twitter will account for one third of the entire U.S. digital display market by 2017. So if your institution is on Facebook and you don’t have a paid strategy in place, you are wasting your time Your posts will only reach the majority of your audience if your content is so good that they consistently share it at levels you’ll see only if you have a paid ad strategy in place. 

In 2016 CMOs need to dedicate at least a few dollars to try something new in the social advertising world. Promote a key Facebook post, run a targeted ad on Instagram, or try boosting something on LinkedIn for your alums. 


No matter what you do as we kick off the New Year, marketing professionals need to be aware of the technology landscape. Connectivity, social media advertising, and virtual reality are just a few of the most important trends I'm tracking. 

What do you think will make an impact during the next 365 days?


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