Social media is increasingly becoming the dominant advertising platform. Though is still trails TV watching, in a recent article from Nielsen, they found that Generation X (35-49) spends 7 hours a week on social media and the Millennial (18-34) generation spends 6 hours per week on social media. If you are a school trying to attract more parents, it is not a question of should you be on social media, it is how do you maximize the use of your school’s social media to market your school.
Engaging in a good social media strategy does take time and effort. The number one reason that I hear from my schools on why they haven’t fully leveraged this channel is time. Having a strong social media presence does take some time, but there are a few easy steps that you can take to automate this function and increase the volume and the quantity of your posts. Having a strong social media presence will not only inform a wider audience about your school but can deepen engagement with your existing parent base.
The first thing is to do is to identify the content that you are going to be posting regularly to your social media. For schools that I work with in social media consulting, I tend to use the following categories:
- Daily pictures and events around the school
- Core information about the school
- Content that is not about the school specifically, but is about your brand
- Content that helps to position your school as a resource and a thought leader
Most schools only post photos and events about the school, but with a little bit of extra effort, you can increase your volume of postings and utilize social media more as a marketing channel for prospective parents by including posts from the other three categories.
Next, use a tool that can automate this as much as possible. Having an active social media presence can take some work, but there are tools out there that allow you to automate a lot of the work. And the best thing? Many of them are free or very low cost. For my clients, I use a program called Hootsuite which allows you to archive and schedule content postings. However, there are other ones like Meetedgar or Buffer that do pretty much the same thing. If you are not familiar with these tools, I covered these and some other free tools in this article.
Finally, you want to try to create as much “evergreen” or reusable content as possible. Let’s talk about the different types of content:
Daily pictures and events around the school
Post about the latest football game, the award that your robotics team has won or some of the fun and silly things that you are doing at your school. Keep this up. This is the sort of content that makes your existing parents go to your Facebook page on a regular basis. You should really strive to have content posted daily. Also be sure, as part of your admissions packet, to have a release form to use all student images in marketing and social media.
Core information about the school
This is one of the biggest opportunities in messaging that not a lot of schools are using. And to let you in on a little secret, once you have created these posts, you can easily repeat them to your audience. Repetition builds awareness and is important for people to begin to remember information about your school. Don’t post the same thing every day, but the post about your academic programs can and should be repeated.
So, what are some core information posts? One simple series could be about your staff. You should have a post created about every staff member with a picture. Many parents only know their child’s teacher, and most only know his/her name. At the beginning of the year, have each staff member write a couple of paragraphs about themselves and submit an appropriate picture –things like where they went to school, what do they love about teaching, etc.
If you have done this right – this will also be on your web page, but if not, you have just created content that you can use in both your social media and your website. A fun thing I saw a client do was to place side by side the picture of the teacher as an adult with a picture taken of them when they were a child. Once you have your information, cut and paste it into a post and then schedule them throughout the year. Do a staff post every week. By just doing this simple thing, you have informed all your parents and prospective parents about your awesome staff and you have created a bunch of “evergreen” content that you can use next year.
Do the same thing about each of your sports or clubs. Have the faculty advisor write up a blurb about it, find an awesome picture and you have more content created.
Do the same thing for your academics. Too many schools are not bragging or explaining about the different ways that they approach core academics. You need to constantly talk about what makes your school unique and/or better in this context.
Ideally, your school should have a specific brand or something that differentiates itself from the competition. For religiously oriented schools, this could be your faith component, others may have a strong athletic program, or some might employ a different approach to teaching like project based learning. You want to establish your “brand” or your point of differentiation in the minds of your customers. To create or reinforce a perception about your school, you need to say it constantly.
So how does this work in practice? Recently, I worked with a school that was focused on STEM education. They had their middle school students do profiles on different inventors. They then took this content, added a picture of the inventor from Google images and then scheduled the content on that person’s birthday. They created 50 posts that not only demonstrated the type of education that these kids were receiving, but also created fun content that reinforced their core brand.
Another school that I consulted with is a military-oriented charter school. They are creating posts that profile important days in military history. A Catholic school did the same thing with saints. Again, the students are creating the content for you. All you are doing is loading it up and scheduling it for distribution. It is a create way to reinforce your brand, plus, parents are going to be watching for this and will be sharing it when it is their kiddo’s piece.
Thought leader positioning
This is a bit more strategic, but really is helpful in setting your school apart. This is also the type of content that will be shared the most. Have your teachers create content that is specific to their area of expertise that can be used in social media. For example:
- Your technology teacher can write a quick guide on how to install parental filters on common software
- Your 4th grade teacher can write a list of great authors and book series that are age appropriate
- Your gym teacher can write his/her opinion on specialization vs. playing multiple sports for kids
- Your kindergarten teacher can write about the skills that tell her/him that a child is ready for kindergarten
Once you start the brainstorming process – more will come to you. But this is a great way to get your staff involved in the process and have them create the content. It also serves as a nice set of content that can be used in the following year and is really good content that prospective parents would enjoy seeing.
Social media does take some work. But if you leverage all the resources around you to create content and schedule it through the year, a lot of it just goes on autopilot. If you would like more guidance on social media or would prefer to just outsource this to somebody else, give me a call at Bright Minds Marketing. Happy to help!
Nick LeRoy is the president of Bright Minds Marketing and former Executive Director of the Indiana Charter School Board. Bright Minds Marketing provides marketing and recruitment consulting to private, Catholic and charter schools. For information about how Bright Minds Marketing can help your school improve your marketing, visit us at www.brightmindsmarketing.com, send an email to email@example.com or call us at 317-361-5255.