Instagram Aesthetic Trend for School Marketers - Focus on Authenticity

This is the fourth installment of a series on Instagram aesthetic trends for 2020. Here are the links to the previous posts in this series:

Consumers’ trust in brands is at an all-time low and that includes parents seeking an independent school experience for their kids. Social media channels offer school marketers endless opportunities to reach new and existing families but often parents are concerned you’re publishing sponsored content, fake followers, fake news and fake likes.

It’s hardly surprising parents are losing faith and switching off.

Parents are increasingly looking for content from sources they can trust. So how do we go about gaining the trust and loyalty of today’s savvy and cynical parents?

One solution is to demonstrate authenticity with your social media presence, including your Instagram account.

Keep reading to discover why authenticity is such an important part of marketing today, as well as some ways school marketers can implement this trend.

What is Authenticity on Social Media?

Demonstrating authenticity on social media is pretty simple in theory – it’s all about showing the real side of your school to your followers.

While “authenticity” may seem like just another buzz word, in reality it represents the rejection of misleading content which has been all to prevalent in the past. According to marketing trend forecasts, the days of perfectly curated content are over.

Now, it’s all about capturing and embracing genuine, everyday moments in the form of photos and stories your followers can quickly react to – think Instagram Stories.

Read more: 13 Instagram Hacks for Better Instagram Stories

The shift towards authentic marketing also represents the desire of parents to select a school that shares their moral, social and political beliefs.

Projecting a sense of authenticity and transparency is a key marketing component today – 86% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding what brands they like and trust.

Schools today need a recognizable voice, face and opinion on social media, particularly to appeal to millennial parents without ruffling too many feathers.

Why is Authenticity on Social Media So Important?

The better the connection independent schools can foster with prospective parents, the more likely they are to engage with their content and submit inquiries. Additionally, displaying authenticity on social media, especially Instagram, is important because social media feeds provide a great place to build up a unique perspective about your school. Often, feeds can help potential parents get a first impression of your school, so the more authentic your content, to more likely they are to take interest and engage.

Maintaining a consistent presence across your channels helps your school build reliability, and any posts which display your school’s interactions with students, teachers, parents or other stakeholders act as a testimonial for your school. So it’s important potential parents get a true picture of what it’s like to be a part of your school community.

In general, if your goal is to succeed with social media marketing, you’ll need to keep up with current trends, channel authenticity and include storytelling as a marketing strategy.

How To Encourage Authenticity on Social Media

Authenticity should be part of your school’s marketing manifesto. It’s a principle you should strive to honor every day. Here’s a few ways you can utilize content on your social media feeds to emphasize authenticity.

  1. Show the faces of teachers, staff and administrators as much as possible

Try to engage your school’s stakeholders as much as possible, including:

  • Teachers, assistants and interns
  • Staff
  • Administrators
  • Board members
  • Sponsors
  • Any other stakeholders you can think of

Try to use original images and videos as much as possible. That means sharing plenty of classroom shots and other day-to-day activities.

Introduce stakeholders to your audience, telling followers about their job and background. And, include something personal about them such as something they love doing, their pet or something about their family.

This is a great tactic because it acquaints prospective families with the school community, building a sense of familiarity and rapport. Interestingly, according to research, photos that feature faces are 38 percent more likely to receive likes and 32 percent more likely to receive comments on Instagram, so it’s certainly worth testing to see how it works for your school.

  1. Be open to share successes and failures

Transparency should be a core value at every school; keep this in mind when publishing to social media. Update your followers on things that are going right, of course, but also things that haven’t gone so well.

Displaying this level of vulnerability can feel like a gamble, but these types of post achieve some of the highest engagement on social media. They work because they encourage your followers to give input or just be supportive of your school.

For example, right now there is an opportunity to discuss your school’s coronavirus policies and response plans, as well as a guide for parents and students related to online or virtual school. These are real issues parents and students are dealing with; addressing them will help people understand the phenomenal efforts and adaptations your school is making in response to this crisis.

  1. Feature students, parents and alumni as much as possible

Whether it’s sharing classroom updates, field trips or extracurricular events, people love seeing what’s going on at your school. And, parents love behind the scenes photos and videos.

User-generated content is hot these days and is great for telling stories with a focus on the student and parent perspective.

Alumni testimonials are a perennial favorite with prospective parents because they showcase the impact your school has had on students and the future success they achieved. They can be a powerful and authentic recruitment tool.

  1. Avoid a “hard sell” for enrollment and focus on how you help students achieve their goals

Focus on creating and sharing content that parents – current and prospective – will find useful and interesting. That means avoiding aggressive “sales” posts. Instead, share resources and knowledge that will empower parents and compel them to keep checking in on your social media channels.

One saying I’ve heard related to this concept is:

“Avoid interrupting what people are interested in; instead, be the what they are interested in.”

Want school marketing content ideas? Check out these resources:

36 Video Topics That Will Generate More Views and Engagement for Your School

304 Appealing Pinterest Board Topics for School Marketers

50 Captivating Blog Topics for Schools

How to Find Blog Topics Using Google Analytics

19 Actual Blog Topics for Your School

How to Think About Blog Topics for Your School

15 More Blog Topics for Your School

15 Blog Topics for Your School

27 Video Marketing Ideas for Schools

  1. Live and breathe your school’s mission and values

Most independent schools reading this post will have determined their mission and values, but if your school is still working on this, there are many resources available on the web for your perusal.

Make sure everything you publish adheres to your mission and values framework. Your content creation process should involve reviewing your values and including posts related to them in your content editorial calendar. It’s always useful to have your school’s mission and values in mind when creating content so parents understand what you’re all about and what you stand for.

As the internet continues to be saturated with content, schools need to work harder than ever to break through the clutter and connect with families online. In order to have the best impact possible on your audience make sure your content is authentic and transparent. Parents – and students – can spot inauthenticity a mile away but will connect with content that is real and genuine. Even though we curate our feeds, write our best captions and share our best moments, we are still sharing the amazing stories that occur in our schools. And believe me, parents will recognize and appreciate your authenticity.

How is your school demonstrating authenticity to your followers? Please share in the comments below…

About the author 

Brendan Schneider

Hey, I’m Brendan, and this is my blog. After 28 years working in private, independent schools in mostly admissions, enrollment, marketing, communications, and fundraising roles, I decided to make SchneiderB Media my full-time job, where I help schools get more inquiries through my Fractional Digital Marketer program. I also started the MarCom Society, a membership created expressly to help, support, and train marketing and communications professionals at schools.

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