Social media is a great way to promote your school, reach prospective parents and attract new students. Most independent schools use social media networks, but many are not fully maximizing the potential of social media for marketing their schools.
Social media marketing can be overwhelming and time-consuming. But what if you could use social media for recruitment and engagement without having it take over your to-do list? Keep reading this post to better understand how schools use social media to reach more people and how your school can improve your social media strategy.
Why Schools Use Social Media for Marketing
There are many ways social media is beneficial to your marketing strategy; if you’re not on board, you’re missing out!
Social media is an integral part of many people’s lives in today’s online world. In a study conducted by Statista, over 223 million Americans use social media. It is predicted the number of social media users is expected to increase to 243 million by 2025.
Increase brand awareness
Schools use social media for creating brand awareness. Not only can you nurture relationships, but social media offers the opportunity for new people to find you or for people to share your profile with their friends.
Help parents recognize your unique selling proposition (USP)
Perhaps the main objective of marketing is to help your target audience(s) recognize your school’s unique selling proposition. There are many schools – independent and public – in your area. You need to be able to clearly articulate to potential families what makes your school special and unique, as well as why their family is a good fit. Social media is one avenue you can use to accomplish this objective.
Grow an engaged community
In the past, social media was primarily seen as a way to promote your school. Today, schools use social media to build an engaged community. The ability to connect and communicate directly with families allows schools to build a solid group of followers online and easily grow an active community.
Leverage social proof
In marketing, people look at other families and how well they like your school. Often, this comes in the form of testimonials, reviews, and recommendations, but it also can come from existing families’ comments, alumni and ways others have engaged with your school.
Read more: How to Leverage Social Proof for Your School
Increase inquiries and enrollment
At the end of the day, school marketers are working to increase the number of inquiries that come in through various channels. A certain percentage of the families submitting these inquiries will enroll their student. The number of enrollments indicates the return on investment your school is seeing in terms of the amount invested into your social media marketing. This makes social media marketing an extremely beneficial marketing strategy, as long as your social media activities are successful. Measuring the success of your social media marketing campaigns can be challenging.
There are several steps you need to take before you start publishing social media on your social media platforms to ensure long-term success and enjoy a positive return on investment (ROI) for your efforts.
Start by Setting Your Goals
I know, your eyes are glazing over when you read one more blog post that includes a discussion about setting goals. However, goals are crucial because you need to know what you’re trying to achieve. Common goals for how schools use social media marketing include:
- Increase the number of inquiries from parents
- Drive traffic to our website or a landing page
- Improve our online brand and reputation
Determine 3 or 4 measurable goals related to your social media strategy and keep them in mind as your continue your process by conducting research.
The Next Step is to Conduct Research
Research your target audience
Consistent with all marketing strategies, you want to do your homework! When it comes to how schools use social media, an important starting point is to revisit your personas. You really want to understand who you are marketing to on your social media channels. When it comes to prospective parents, what types of concerns do they have related to enrolling their child in your school? What types of goals do they have for their child? What types of activities do they enjoy and what type of content are they interested in? What are their values? What are they hoping their child will receive by enrolling them in your school? What social media channels are they active on?
These and other questions can help you develop your social media strategy based on the needs and wants of your target audience(s).
Research your competitors
Yes, your school has competitors. So often independent schools tend to think they don’t have any competitors because what they offer is unique and special (and that’s wonderful, by the way!) but that is your unique selling proposition (USP); it doesn’t exempt you from competition.
When you think about competition, think about it from the parent perspective. What other schools are prospective parents considering instead of your school? What other schools meet the family’s primary goals, needs and values? Once you’ve determined who your competitors are, take note of the social media networks they’re on and what content they are publishing on them.
As a matter of fact, I like to conduct a simple social media audit by comparing different competitor social media accounts. Think about factors like frequency of posts, how often they are posting and types of posts. Look at how many followers they have and how engaged their audience is with them on each social media channel.
Research your differentiators
Take the time to think through and list out what makes you different from your competitor schools. What makes your school desirable to your target families? Is it your academics, programs, ancillary services, distinguished faculty, location, campus, etc.? At least one of your differentiators should be included in your weekly publishing schedule. Also, you should consider allocating budget toward social media advertising that highlights your differentiators.
Research your existing social media presence
Before you execute your social media plan, you will want to assess your existing social media presence. A social media audit will help you identify what’s working and what adjustments you need to make to improve the performance of your social media campaigns.
Research your social media platforms
If you are starting a new social media strategy, you will want to determine which social media channels your school will be active on. When it comes to choosing your social media platforms, think about which platforms are popular with your target audience. For example, if your target audience is millennials you may want to focus the majority of your social media efforts on Instagram.
Here are the most commonly used social media networks by schools and how you can use them to promote your school.
Facebook is the most widely used social network. For this reason it is worthwhile to include this network in your list of social media platforms.
Read more: Is Facebook Organic Reach Really Dead?
Instagram is another very popular network. One of the big draws of Instagram is the aesthetic nature of the platform’s visual layout.
Check out my series of posts on Instagram aesthetic trends. This post lists all of the articles in this series. #13 Instagram Aesthetic Trends for School Marketers – Using AR Filter Effects
Twitter is a short-form microblogging social media network, making it great for sending out short messages to parents, students and even teachers. Focus on sending out updates and connecting with other educational institutions as well as your faculty, staff and families.
YouTube is a very popular video network. Over 1 billion hours of content is watched every day. Every school should have a YouTube account to host your video content.
Read more: How to Create a YouTube Channel
LinkedIn is a social network that focuses on professionals looking for networking or job opportunities. Your school will need a LinkedIn profile that your employees and alumni can link to.
Another opportunity for schools on LinkedIn is to create a LinkedIn Group because many parents, faculty and alumni are active there.
Read more here: How to Create a LinkedIn Group
Pinterest is a very popular social network, especially with women (who tend to be the primary decisionmakers when it comes to selecting a school for their child). Pinterest is a great opportunity for marketing because you can highlight your curriculum, programs, activities, etc.
Google Business Profile
Formerly known as Google My Business (GMB), your Google Business Profile (GBP) is a significant channel for publishing content. GBP posts are so crucial because Google prioritizes quality content in search results and uses fresh content as a ranking factor in its algorithm.
Snapchat is popular with students and the younger crowd. Young people love its casual and fun approach.
Click here to learn more about how schools can use Snapchat to stay in touch with the younger demographic.
Read more: How to Use Snapchat for Schools
Since the COVID-19 breakout, TikTok has proven to be a viable tool to connect with students and parents. If your school has the ability to create short videos, TikTok can be a great new social media platform to spread positivity and build a strong community mindset among current and potential families.
Research changes in the social media industry
The social media industry is always changing. It’s important to understand the latest algorithm updates and best practices in order to make the most of your social media efforts.
Research your content strategy
A content audit will help you identify existing content you can use on social media as well as identify gaps in your content. You will want to look at your blog posts, videos, news articles, testimonials, photos, etc.
Research your hashtags
Hashtags are a vital part of social media captions. They help people find your social profile and understand your content. Basically, hashtags can be categorized into four groups: content-related, local, event and branded hashtags (unique to your school).
Research social media tools
Social media tools can save time, lower costs and help you safeguard your school’s online reputation. In general, social media tools fall into one of four categories:
- Social media listening tools
- All-In-One marketing software
- Social media scheduling dashboards
- Miscellaneous social media tools
Read more: 26 Social Media Tools for 2021 and Beyond
Plan Your Content Publishing Schedule
Once you’ve completed the research phase, you’re ready to start planning your content distribution. This is the part many schools panic about because it seems so intimidating and time-consuming.
The tool that will make it easier for you to manage your social media plan is an editorial calendar to plan your social posts.
Your content distribution plan is a major aspect of your social media strategy. Here’s how to put it together:
- Determine the frequency and timing of publishing your posts. In general, you will want to publish content once a day on most channels, although you can post more often on Twitter if needed.
- Make sure you have integrated your academic, event and admission calendars in your editorial calendar. Determine which events you want to promote or run an ad campaign for. This will help you lay an initial framework. From there, you can fill it out by following the next step.
- Fill in the gaps with additional content that promotes your goals, school mission and the differentiators you have identified. Incorporate the content library you created when you conducted your content audit.
Want more content ideas for what to post on your social media networks?
Check out this article: 10 Creative Ways to Boost Your School’s Social Media Presence
- Be sure to leave room for spontaneous posts. You can use Facebook and Instagram Stories for these, or plan on a few posts that aren’t scheduled on the comprehensive editorial calendar.
- Assign tasks and set due dates. All of the research and planning doesn’t do any good if the plan isn’t actually executed. Determine who will be responsible for each task and set a due date to ensure the work will be done in a timely manner.
Determine Your Social Media Metrics
Your social media metrics are connected to the goals you set at the outset of your process. For each goal, you will want to set one or more related metrics. For each goal, you will be able to determine the outcome of the activity.
Social media metrics are important because they help you determine how effective your social media marketing efforts are and give you valuable insights into how you can make changes to improve the performance of your social media campaign.
Social media marketing may seem like a lot of work when you get started, but over time you (and your team if you have one) will find a regular rhythm and you will see results from your efforts. Social media is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. There most likely will be many more social media platforms that will come and go in the years to come. Take the time to do the research, plan your content and analyze your results and you will surely reap the benefits of a vibrant social media strategy for your school.
Is your school using social media for marketing? What do you think needs to be added to this list? Please share your thoughts in the comments below…