5 mins

The research

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the digital behaviours of Gen Z, with Instagram and YouTube seeing the greatest increases in traffic and engagement, circa +40%. 1 in 3 undergraduate applicants states the pandemic has stimulated them to make their final university choice sooner.

As restrictions begin to ease and the UK takes tentative steps towards coming out of lockdown, the landscape for Higher and Further Education Institutions (HEIs and FEIs) is still uncertain and ever-changing. Between 14th March and 31st May 2020, Arke’s data analysts have been busy compiling data from our campaigns, clients, media and technology partners, think tanks and students to help HEIs and FEIs understand what normal looks like in this current climate and moving forward.

The whitepaper contains up to date education marketing insights, digital media trends audience research, content and messaging recommendations, and more.

If you haven’t already, download your free copy here: https://hello.arkeagency.com/clearing-2020-undergraduate-digital-trends-in-a-covid-19-world

The following sections highlight some of the top-line insights revealed in the report.

Organic insights

Although the education sector has seen a 5% drop in traffic, we’ve seen HE and FE clients maintain and even exceed previous UK traffic levels by an average of 15%. This has been largely achieved by COVID-19 content and engagement strategies, alongside conventional digital advertising. However, international traffic has decreased by 30%. This underpins our expectations of a greater focus and pressure on UK recruitment, with international recruitment taking a yet unknown hit.

Students are using online communities and forum sites to ask questions and seek answers about how the coronavirus epidemic affects them and their future. In addition to using WhatsApp, Messenger, email, and social media to reach students, it’s vital that HEIs and FEIs control the message and drive reliable information where conversations are happening.

Advertising insights

We have witnessed phenomenal increases in engagement and decreases in CPCs and CPMs on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, and these platforms should form the core part of your digital media advertising strategy as we approach Clearing.

Whilst we recommend focusing on paid social, with the right strategy, it is possible to gain success with Google Search and Google Display Network over the coming months. Demand from users for “university clearing” terms is increasing, and with media spend being halted across industries, there will be far less search competition overall and costs are likely to decrease.

Social media insights

Research from VICE revealed that 47% of Gen Z have increased their social media use since lockdowns began, and all social media platforms have reported a significant increase in usage – Facebook reported that “total messaging…increased more than 50%” in April, and Instagram reported that “usage [of Instagram Live] is up over 70% in the US, with similar trends across the rest of the world.”

Since lockdown began, Instagram has been the most used social media platform amongst prospective and existing students, followed by YouTube, Snapchat (18%) and Facebook (14%). 41% of students surveyed have used Instagram the most, in comparison to 13% for TikTok. Although our research reveals that TikTok has been the fifth most used social media platform since lockdown began, it scored just 1% less than Facebook, reflecting industry facts and figures which point to its continued rise in popularity. According to research from Sensor Tower, TikTok was the most downloaded non-gaming app worldwide in February 2020, beating the likes of WhatsApp and Facebook. Downloaded 315 million times in the last quarter alone, TikTok has recently passed the 2 billion downloads mark.

Applicant needs

53% of applicants surveyed believe that their school/college/university has done enough to guide and support them since lockdown began. Whilst the majority of students share positive sentiments towards their education provider, it’s essential to consider that cohort of 19% who believe that their school/college/university hasn’t done enough, and what their needs and wants are so that you can meet them.

69% of applicants surveyed would like to see more study support from their school/college/university. This is logical and understandable, as the academic year has been severely disrupted, with learning now taking place virtually. It’s vital to ensure that your messaging and content addresses this need and paints a picture of what to expect for the next academic year.

Messaging and content

To support the sector, using the learnings from this research we have provided top-line actionable recommendations, allowing you to plan your messaging, content, and media strategies for the upcoming Clearing 2020 period.

The landscape for education institutions is ever-changing, but several key trends have emerged that should form the basis of any content and media strategy over the coming months:

  • The shift from face-to-face learning to virtual learning and what impact this will have on the education experience.
  • What you are doing to make campus safe and what students can do to prepare for this.
  • What steps you are taking to provide accommodation options for students, especially those coming from overseas and may need to quarantine.
  • What role the Students Union can play in a virtual world to maintain the student experience.

Need some help with your summer campaigns?

Arke provides expert digital marketing services to the education sector. Our mission is to make marketing transparent and uncover the truth in your data. We turn this data into stories and share them with people who’ll love your brand.

In 2019, we provided research, analytics, data-science, creative and media services to a quarter of the UK education sector. As a result of this work, we carry out research and create benchmarking reports, to help marketing teams understand their performance within their marketplace. Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner sourced and data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the issues that matter most.

Get in touch with one of our experts today.


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