Digital marketing proves effective and cost-effective for UNA

by News Editor Anna Beahm

Have you noticed more purple and gold popping up on your phone? The Department of University Communications and Marketing has turned their attention to digital, social media and mobile marketing to draw students to campus.

While the profit from digital marketing can be difficult to measure, the department’s efforts are working, said Director of University Communications and Marketing Bryan Rachal.

“We had record enrollment last semester,” he said. “There are a lot of factors that go into that, but I certainly think that one of those factors was the fact that we were advertising.”

The department revamped the university Facebook account and added an Instagram account and Snapchat filter to their arsenal of advertising techniques this school year, Rachal said.

“We’re real big on social media,” he said. “We feel like social media is kind of our avenue to hit this newer generation of students. These are students that have grown up with a phone in their hand and knew how to swipe and touch a screen before they really knew how to click a mouse.

“My daughter picked up my office phone one time and didn’t know what it was because it looks like a normal phone.”

The department hired several students to help generate content for the university’s social media accounts, he said.

“We want them to help us understand it,” Rachal said. “We look at it like, ‘Why not use people that we’re trying to reach to help you reach those people?’ They know better than most about what students want to know about it.”

He said he thinks having junior Jackson Townsend and senior Sam Satterfield running the accounts and creating content will help the university better engage with them on social media.

Townsend, who primarily runs the Instagram account, said he thinks student-run social media will help the university reach more perspective and current students.

“It’s a great job,” Townsend said. “It’s awesome to help the university grow in that way since social media is becoming the most popular way for us to communicate. It’s also cool to put content out there that I know other students love.”

More than just sharing information, Rachal said he wants to see people engaging with the posts, not just scrolling past.

“It’s one thing to post, but it’s another to have engagement,” he said. “We want people to retweet, to comment and to like these things.”

Aside from social media, which is free, the department is working on a geo-fencing campaign that sends advertisements directly to mobile devices, he said.

This method allows them to pinpoint a certain audience rather than sending one message to a mixed group.

“Every app that runs on your cellphone, when you sign into it, you basically sign an agreement that people can track that app,” he said. “We’re going to target high schools in northern Alabama and basically draw a square around them and say, ‘Of every phone that goes in, what are these students looking at?’ We see what apps they’re going to, then we direct target those apps.”

The university is also working on a rebranding campaign, Rachal said. No details about the project are complete at this time, he said.

“Something that we think is important is to develop a cohesive brand across all the university and all it’s colleges,” he said. “We need to find what it is that’s going to really put us over the top. When we start working on branding, it’s really all going to come together in this one great combination.”