What Is Content Marketing?

We define content marketing as any material, including videos, blogs, or social media posts, that stimulates interest in a brand’s products or services even if the material isn’t explicitly advertising the brand itself. For example, a social media post featuring students playing frisbee on the Quad doesn’t have to go into detail on all of the benefits of attending UIUC; the picture of students enjoying themselves with an attractive campus in the background can be enough to pique someone’s interest in the university.

Why Is Content Marketing Useful?

Our primary goal when recruiting students at the top of the recruitment funnel is to garner interest in UIUC. That’s what content marketing is designed to do. At the top of the funnel, we don’t want to dive too deep into UIUC or push big calls to action like applying or visiting; that’s similar to asking someone to marry you on the first date. Content marketing is a useful way to ease a prospective student into considering UIUC as an option—especially considering that content marketing can pull students into the UIUC web ecosystem through organic search.

The Admissions Blog: An Example of Content Marketing

Content marketing allows you to lean into your area of expertise. For example, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions uses its blog for content marketing. The posts aren’t always explicitly promoting UIUC; in fact, sometimes they don’t focus on UIUC at all. The goal is to provide useful content about college search and application processes, pulling in students through organic search. If the blog helps students realize that UIUC is a valuable resource, we’ve succeeded in making a positive brand connection and students are more likely to explore UIUC further.

Here are some example content marketing articles from the Admissions blog:

Other OUA Examples

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions produces other types of content marketing. Additional examples include videos (for example, What is College Life Really Like?) and student stories (for example, our Journeys microsite).

Tips for Content Marketing

Here are some things to consider when thinking about integrating content marketing into your R&Y strategy:

  1. Think about stimulating interest, not promotion. Showcase things that are interesting about your unit: your faculty, your students, your programs, etc. This isn’t hard to do at UIUC!
  2. Do some keyword research. If you’re hoping to pull students in through organic search, find some keywords that relate to your unit. Once you have a list of keywords, you can focus on generating content around those topics.
  3. Tell stories. The easiest way to create material for content marketing is to simply tell stories. Stories often generate interest without explicitly promoting.
  4. Lean into your thought leaders. You most likely have students and faculty who have great material for content marketing. Students can talk about their experiences within a program, class, or team, while faculty are often thought leaders generating interesting theories, experiments, methods, etc.