Social media is a buzzword in schools everywhere, but how does your school’s social media fit into your overall digital marketing strategy? In Episode Six of The Admissions Club, our experts go through some tips and tricks that work to get your school more likes, follows, and engagement. We also share how you can incorporate your social media presence into your wider digital marketing strategy.
Social media is a great conveyor of stories and can bring your school’s classroom and stories to life. You can think of social media as a great compliment to your website, as it provides timely glimpses into your school and community. With informal photos and videos, you can really connect people with your values and show your authenticity.
Now, I really think that schools and even other agencies overemphasize and put too much ad spend behind social ads. And that’s because it’s visual and very interactive. But the fact is, no one ever goes to Instagram, crosses their fingers, and says ‘I really hope I see an ad for a private school because I’m going to send my child there. - Trevor
There’s generally little to no intent when parents go on social media to look for a school. Intent happens when they go to Google and type in, ‘best private school Austin, Texas,’ for example. Data shows that social media is best used to re-target and re-market those that have already expressed interest in independent school education. While social media can also be used to generate great brand awareness and as an introductory tactic, especially if you introduce content that can be helpful to parents or a family, it’s best used as a retargeting tool.
Social media alone will not solve all your enrolment challenges, I’ve learned that from experience. What I’ve also learned though is that social media that’s part of an inbound marketing strategy can be very successful. - Brendan Schneider
Ultimately, social media has to play a part in any marketing strategy that your school’s involved in. From your organic posting, which should play a big role in showing the life of your school community and the culture, to social advertising, which can be highly effective geo and demographic targeting ads.
Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram are some of the most popular digital touchpoints new families can have with your school, so it’s important to make a good first impression (but also to focus on driving them to your school website).
Your social media content should be tied into any campaigns you’re running and drive your audience to take an action. Let’s say your school’s social media accounts are popular, and a large number of people see your posts every day. Make sure it’s easy for them to take an action straight from your posts. This could be by doing an Instagram story where you feature new branded shirts with a link straight to your spirit or uniform store or a post about an upcoming fundraiser. Make sure there’s a link that takes the viewer straight to the donation page. Make it easy for them! Remember, nothing drops conversions like a broken link.
When I’m reviewing schools’ social media feeds, especially smaller schools with limited staff and resources, I often see a pattern. It’s what I call the ‘throw spaghetti in your face and hide posting’. A school will post sixteen posts one week and then they’ll be silent for ten days. It’s sporadic, with no strategy. - Aubrey Bursch
A common perception held by schools about social media is if you don’t post every day you might as well not do it. It can be overwhelming for schools that don’t have the bandwidth to post twice a day, seven days a week. However, the key isn’t about how much you post every day or week, but about being consistent and strategic with your posting. Instead of ‘throwing spaghetti and hiding’, figure out the minimal amount of posts you can send each week. This may mean you’re only posting two times per week. But the key is that you’re doing it consistently.
It might not seem like it, but each social media channel is a little bit different and has a different audience. Think about Instagram, that’s really visual and video driven. And Facebook, which is more group and community-based. There’s also TikTok, which is better for connecting with Gen Z. Social media is a cornerstone of some schools’ strategies but can be a lot of hard work if you have a small team. Look at which channels will:
I often ask schools, ‘what social media platforms do your parents and students use?’ They’ll look unsure and say, ‘we think they use this platform, that platform.’ But really, guessing is not enough. - Aubrey Bursch
Data can help make better decisions, and if you don’t have data on where your parents and students hang out online, then it’s a bit like throwing darts in the dark. Surveying parents and students about their social media preferences is key, and the data you gain from it will help you better focus your energies on the platforms your community actually uses. It’s also important to keep in mind that parent and student communities change every year, so surveying this data annually will help you stay on top of social media trends.
Have you ever stumbled on a business's Instagram feed and just seen ‘sale, sale, sale?’ For example, there’s this yoga studio that I used to go to and their feed was all about ‘buy ten classes for seventy dollars,’ or, ‘attend this yoga class or event.’ There was nothing about the owner or the yoga students; there was nothing highlighting their core values! It was just what I would call the ‘ask, sell,’ model. We’re asking too much and not providing enough value or warmth to our social feed. If you’re wondering how to solve this problem, I suggest the ‘4/1’ rule. Feature four value-adding posts before you make an ask for an open day, or before you ask to give to the annual fund. Build the value, showcase the community, and then make the ask. - Aubrey Bursch
One other way we think about the role of social media is by building social proof. A parent might start evaluating your school on your website, but they often head over to your social pages as well to gain some more insight. They look at your posts and how many people are engaging with them or not, which helps them to build social proof that other parents like your school and that they want to be a part of it too.
Some easy ways to showcase your school’s social proof include parent testimonials, sharing student case studies, and highlighting staff members and why they love your school. Having social proof in your social media rotation will go a long way towards reaffirming your value towards current parents and convincing prospective parents you’re worth the investment.
Social media can be time-consuming, and you may not have a clear idea of what you want to post or even if you can find the time to post. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Tracking and measuring your social media efforts can look different depending on your school’s marketing goals. For example, if you’re opening a new social media channel for the first time, your main aim would likely be to grow your following first. Or, if your school has been on social media for a while it might be more about driving quality engagement, with metrics like re-share, likes, and the number of people joining your Facebook live sessions.
If you have a corporate or school account set up, you’ll notice that each channel has its own dashboard. Dashboards vary, but they all generally measure reach with the number of people who see your posts, and they also measure engagement.
It’s also important to remember not to get too deep into the actual metrics, but to make sure you use them to get an idea of how engaging your content is. If you have good content followers are interested in, each will naturally increase as more people share your stories or posts.
You should now have a better understanding of how to use social media to tell your school’s story, provide value in your posts, give social proof to prospective families, and put a system in place that’ll keep you consistent and on track.