Social media is increasingly becoming the dominant advertising platform. Though it 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.
An effective social media plan for schools 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. School social media management 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 number of your posts. In the end, creating a prominent 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 to do is to identify the content that you are going to be posting regularly to your social media. Whenever I’m asked how to promote a school on social media, I always cite the following types of social media posts that schools should be creating:
Most school social media campaigns only to post photos and events about the school, but with a little bit of extra effort, everyone can increase their presence by using social media to promote schools by including posts from the other three categories.
Next, to make school social media management easier, use a tool that can automate it as much as possible. School social media campaigns can take some work, but there are tools out there that allow you to automate a lot of it. 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. Engaging your school community through social media is not always about what just happened in the last day, or hour, or minute. Using social media to promote schools means posting not just for your current followers, but for prospective families who will be checking out your social media feeds when they research your school in the future. Part of social media best practices for schools is posting content that will engage these prospective families in the future, as well as the families viewing your content today. Having a library of evergreen content is critical because you are going to want to be posting to social media at least 2 times a day. I know that a 2x a day schedule sounds scary, but with a bit of work on the front end - you should be able to accomplish this fairly easily.
In order to take a deep dive into how to promote a school on social media, let’s talk about the different types of content you should be sharing.
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 is the lifeblood of all school social media campaigns. Keep this up. This is the sort of content that makes your existing parents go to your Facebook page on a regular basis. An effective social media plan for schools calls for content to be 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. Make people opt out - not opt in. You will thank me later when you are not dealing with an administrative nightmare of knowing who is allowed in social media posts and who is not.
Using social media to promote schools doesn’t mean only posting timely photos. Sharing information about your staff, sports, and clubs is important, too. In fact, 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 (evergreen content). 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 posts 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. Title this #teachertuesday and suddenly, you have at least one piece of content for every Tuesday of the school 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.
All effective social media campaign ideas for schools center on strengthening the school’s brand. 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.
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 creative 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.
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:
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.
Using social media to promote schools 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 to talk more about how to promote a school on social media, Bright Minds Marketing is happy to help!
Nick LeRoy, MBA, is the president of Bright Minds Marketing and former Executive Director of the Indiana Charter School Board. Bright Minds Marketing provides enrollment and recruitment consulting to private, Catholic and charter schools. For information about how Bright Minds Marketing can help your school improve its’ student enrollment, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 317-361-5255.
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