For many small, private schools, having a presence on social media seems like a luxury. Administrators are busy wading through personnel issues, making curriculum decisions, planning the next school event, and putting out the fire “du jour”. Having a social media strategy must be something for larger institutions with appropriate staff and time to dabble, right?
If that’s your thinking, snap out of it. It’s almost 2018 for crying out loud! Your school’s online presence is sorely lacking if you aren’t using social media platforms to connect with parents.
Too often, private schools have a panicked response when they feel the squeeze to start posting on social media platforms. They ask a zealous parent for help. She creates accounts on a multitude of social media channels and starts a “fire at will” approach to publishing content. This strategy is maintained for about 3 weeks, the mom gets busy and the next thing you know, tumbleweeds are blowing across the newly formed channels. Things have grown cold.
Don’t let this happen to you.
It’s important to recognize that using social media is a form of marketing. Therefore, you must have a planned, thought out approach.
Know Your Parents
It all starts with Parent Personas. Before diving in, take time to research your current parents and those parents you want to attract to your school. Here are some ways to get to know them:
Use a survey. Ask parents what social media platforms they use regularly. Ask what time of day they use those accounts.
Interview. Invite a few parents to a focus group. Talk to them to see where they prefer to hang out while they are online. What types of content do they find helpful? What types of content are they likely to share with others?
Now that you have an understanding of who your audience is, you can create Social Media strategies for two purposes:
- Lead Generation
Using Social Media to Generate New Leads
Attract mission-appropriate families to your school by establishing yourself as a trusted thought leader in your community.
One of the main ways to do this is by publishing blog content on social media platforms that provides solutions for the pains and frustrations of prospective parents. This is called organic Social Media marketing. It’s free (which is great) yet there are no guarantees about who will see it in their news feed (not so great).
The idea is that prospects will read your school’s blog and get needed tips and advice about their challenges and frustrations. They also will learn more about your school community and become attracted to it. They will be driven to your school website where they can explore your programs and offerings. They may become an applicant after visiting your campus.
The other main way to generate new leads for your private school is by purchasing Social Media advertisements. Facebook ads have proven to be especially effective but it’s possible to run ads on other platforms as well. Since you’ll want to be a good steward of your investment in social media ads, we suggest hiring an agency or specialist to do the work. Social media platforms are renowned for changing and updating their algorithms on a regular basis. Choose someone who is dedicated to knowing the ins and outs of social media advertising.
Using Social Media to Retain Current Families
Plan your school’s retention strategy to include Social Media. Retention focused marketing is actually the sweet spot for your Social Media efforts as parents of your students will likely be the ones who are fans of your school’s social platforms.
Whether you’re posting photos to Instagram or Facebook, videos to YouTube, or team stats and scores to Twitter, take the opportunity to continue sharing the impact of your school in the lives of students. Connect with parents, tell them stories, “woo” them, show them the value of tuition, and impart a vision of where your school is headed.
A common complaint you may hear from parents concerns the lack of communication from school to home. Parents who are Millennials are checking in on Social Media platforms throughout the day looking for valuable content. Why not connect with them using their preferred method?
If your school is just getting started with a social media strategy, we suggest that you get established on one or two channels rather than spreading yourself too thin.
Facebook is probably the best place to start. After all, the platform has over a billion users. Chances are your parents (and prospects) spend time every day on Facebook.
If maintaining a high student retention rate is your goal, plan to publish daily on Facebook. Images are particularly important on the Facebook platform. Increasingly, Facebook users are looking for video, as well.
Want to send your Facebook page organic reach through the roof? Start using Facebook Live.
Capture your headmaster welcoming students as they enter the building, interview a favorite teacher, peer over the shoulders of students engrossed in a science experiment or catch the last few minutes of a volleyball game. Facebook Live is all about inviting others into your school’s story.
Checklist to Get Started
Before your school goes social, here is a pre-launch checklist to help you plan your strategy:
- Research your Buyer Personas. Become acquainted with each persona’s motivations, questions, preferences, and challenges.
- Create accounts on desired Social Media channels using a generic school email account (not your personal email account). Make a note of login credentials.
- Apply your school brand to the accounts. Use your school logo, colors, and pictures of your students. Make sure the contact information is correct and offer the school website address when appropriate.
- Assign someone to manage the Social Media accounts. Remember, this is a form of marketing. You’ll want to ensure that the Social Media manager is familiar with the school’s mission, vision, brand standards, privacy policies, and is able to maintain the voice of your school.
- Determine a publishing schedule and start posting!
In future blog posts on social media marketing for schools, we’ll take a look at specific qualifications of a Social Media manager and dive into details about what to post and when to post it.