Your communication channels aren’t just for marketing.
We’ve talked before about how online education needs to adopt a broad mindset when it comes to creating and distributing content. Online learners can hear about and access your course by many means—email, social media, search engines—which in the marketing world are often called “channels.”
Many of us, when we’re just getting started, focus on a single channel as a way to grow interest in our program. We focus on building an email newsletter, or engaging learners on social media, or building our SEO for search engines. But marketing channels are much more than a means to market your course. They’re also a way to teach your learners wherever they happen to be.
Here’s how to use all the marketing channels at your disposal to reach more learners with course content.
1. Use your LMS as the information hub for your course.
Your Learning Management System is obviously the tool you use to present your learners with the course material they signed up for. It’s number one on our list for a reason: this is the heart and soul of your course. That said, even educators who have course material on their LMS aren’t always using it to its fullest capabilities.
Take a hard look at your LMS and all the capabilities it has to offer. Are you using them all fully? In particular, think about ways your LMS can help you gamify aspects of your course, or how you can be building a community through your forum.
2. Organize your website to help your learners find the information they need.
Even before your learners sign in to the LMS, they should be able to learn a lot through your website. Your site isn’t just a marketing tool to get learners to sign up to your course—it should also be a place where they can find information about further resources, discover upcoming conferences and events, and learn about how your course matches their learning goals.
If you have a PDF archive, consider sharing some of those resources on your website, as a way to encourage prospective learners to sign up. And if you have a YouTube channel, you can use your website to organize those videos in a series that visitors view more easily.
3. Create blog content for ongoing learning.
We come back to blogging a lot, but it really is one of your best tools both for marketing your course and as an ongoing teaching opportunity. Running a regular blog with thoughtful, relevant, well-researched content is necessarily a learning experience. As an educator, you can’t help but stay top of your game if you challenge yourself to write something new every week.
This will have great benefits for your learners as well. When you’re learning—and passing on what you’re learning—you motivate your learners to keep pace with you. If there’s always more for you to learn, there’s always more for them to learn, too. After a while, you may even notice that your blogs begin to fall into a theme, and if that theme generates interest among your readers, it can be a clue that you have another course opportunity on hand. And with all the writing you’ve done on your blog, you’ll probably have a fair amount of the material already organized and developed.
Finally, blogs are a visible way to demonstrate your expertise before your students. If they’re doing their research and they want to make an informed decision about where to take a course, they’ll probably compare your blogs to the blogs of other people in your field. And if they are impressed by what they read, they’re more likely to share that information around with others.
4. Update your learners with new research, announcements, and learning challenges through your email newsletter.
Email newsletters are a great way to cultivate a more personal connection with anyone interested in what you have to say—whether they’ve signed up for your course or are simply considering it. However, if you want to avoid having your email go straight in the trash every time you send it, you need to make sure it’s interesting and valuable to those on the receiving end.
Take this as a teaching opportunity. Share your blog posts, or include a roundup of interesting articles you’ve read on the subject around the Internet. Give actionable tips that your learners can put to use right away, or set a challenge that can inspire a beginner to learn more about your subject. The prompt can be enough for many learners to start thinking more seriously about your course.
5. Share tips, ideas, and articles of interest on social media.
Of course, email isn’t everyone’s favorite medium. Social media is often a more reliable way to catch someone’s interest, and it has the benefit of being where most of us go when we’re taking a break. If a learner is at work, they may not open your email if they’re still in business mode. But if a video or interesting news article pops up in their social meed while they’re having a moment of down time, they will have more leisure time to look at it.
Social media is also a great way to attract learners to your course who may not otherwise have heard about you. As an open platform where users can share among friends, you have a better chance of generating a following there than elsewhere. And if you blog regularly, you can share your content on social and have it link back to your website.
Always Be Teaching.
Anyone who’s ever done sales has heard the ABCs: Always Be Closing. Well, in online education, teaching is your best sales strategy. The more you teach, the more you establish your credibility, the more your learners gain from your instruction, and the more ready they will be to sign up for classes.
And it’s great for your own morale, too. If you start to feel down about marketing your course, bring it back to the subject you love best. In this industry, your ability to teach is the best marketing tool you can have.