3 Ways to Make Your School’s Online Marketing Shine
August 16, 2016
In the Era of Choice, Schools Work Harder to Meet Student Enrollment Targets
Schools are always looking for smart ways to attract students. Whereas in years past schools would have been likely to rely heavily on newspaper advertisements and radio ads to generate awareness — if they were doing any outreach at all — online marketing is becoming an increasingly popular way to reach parents and ensure healthy enrollment. This is more important than ever in today’s competitive environment, in which an increasing number of parents have a choice of where to send their children to get a quality education. Although not all school administrators will intuitively think to focus on marketing and its importance, naturally gravitating toward their mission of providing a quality education, there is much value to be gained in reflecting on how the school markets itself to parents and the surrounding community.
Schools Need to Start Thinking Like Marketers
Taking a close look at a school’s most compelling strengths is key to getting started with a marketing strategy. A school needs to consider what makes it unique and what its values are. It will also be important to look at the school’s areas of emphasis, such as arts, sports, science, or language programs. Investigating these questions will begin to tell the story of the school and why it is special, attracting students who might be a great fit. This will enable both teachers and school staff to speak more clearly and compellingly about the school, and it will also ensure that future marketing messages and materials highlight the best of what the school has to offer. Parents will also be able to readily identify, upon viewing the school website or social media presences, whether or not it is a good match for their child. Sharing this information about the school might also aid in recruiting staff, as potential candidates will be able to see what makes the school stand out and consider whether or not they might be interested in working there.
As the school refines and hones its marketing themes, educators who never considered themselves marketers might find that they have plenty to say about their school and why they are proud of it! Some schools find it effective to have a student recruitment and marketing strategy that guides their overall approach for outreach and marketing. A school’s marketing strategy may, for example, outline key themes and messaging points about the school that should be communicated in any marketing materials that are produced. It should also showcase the school’s areas of emphasis, such as arts, sports, etc. Here are three powerful ways to share your school’s story, make your school stand out from others in the area, and appeal to prospective families using online marketing.
1) Share Your School’s Stories and News on Social Media
Just as parents visit a school’s website first to determine whether or not it is a fit for their child, they now often look up the school’s social media profiles to get a sense of what the school is like and stay up to date on what’s happening there. Parents are heavy Facebook users — a recent study found that parents spend 1.3 times more time on Facebook than non-parents — so it’s an ideal venue for schools to reach parents. A school’s Facebook page serves as a great community space where family members can post pictures of events and other special occasions involving the school, and staff can also share snapshots and updates from school activities. Testimonials from proud parents and staff can be particularly effective marketing for prospective students and their families.
Other channels such as Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn may also be worth exploring. While parents are active on Facebook, educators are particularly active on Twitter and administrators are beginning to participate in online conversations there as well. Many of the institutions SchoolMint has worked with use Twitter not only to engage with the community, but also for outreach to funders and nonprofit organizations. Twitter hashtags can also be effective for creating engagement around educational conferences and special events. YouTube is a great resource for schools to share video clips and updates on what’s going on with the school, while LinkedIn is helpful for making professional connections and sharing thought leadership in the educational community. Note that it’s not necessary to be on all social media channels at once, however. It’s best to start by mastering the channels parents and staff frequent most often and then expand from there to other sites or apps that are relevant for the school or its unique community.
2) Create an Intuitive, Informative Website as Part of Your School’s Marketing Plan
When researching a potential school for their children, parents often visit the school website first to glean as much information as they can about the school environment and culture, educational offerings, and any activities that might spark their children’s interest. According to a study from GreatSchools, 52% of parents go online to research schools — in particular their academic standing and reputation — prior to making a decision about where to apply. Offering an easy-to-use website that can be intuitively navigated on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices alike is key to connecting with these parents and providing them with the information they seek, whether it’s a calendar of upcoming events, contact directories, or the main phone number for the school.
3) Build a Robust, Compelling Blog to Provide an Insider’s View of Your School
To create a website that attracts students, it’s important to keep a freshly updated, publicly accessible blog that shares an inside look at the life of the school and what makes it special. Ideally, the blog should be regularly updated so that parents know to come back often to see the latest news. Blog posts should feature engaging stories of life at the school as well as photos and video clips, which tend to attract more interest and inspire people to share the posts with their personal networks on social media. Providing social media sharing buttons for blog posts is another excellent way to let parents and teachers share the school’s story with potential applicants and their families.
Schools that are just beginning to develop their content strategy may want to start with a simple plan by outlining the upcoming blog posts you plan to write, and a schedule for publishing them to the blog. Getting in the habit of sharing regular school updates to the blog can have many benefits. Blogging consistently drives traffic to the school’s website and helps with search engine rankings, for starters.
Blog posts are ideal for featuring in a school email newsletter, which is a great way to proactively communicate with parents and keep them updated on school and community news, as well as important upcoming events and deadlines. Establishing a regular calendar for sending out newsletters helps ensure that parents are kept in the loop on a regular basis as well. By frequently sharing school news and inviting parents to share their comments and feedback, schools can build a closer, more meaningful relationship with parents and the community.
Crafting a marketing message that illuminates what makes your school unique, including special areas of focus like sports or science, can help you stand out and attract students that are the best match.
Social media channels are enormously popular with parents. Sharing updates about the school via social media is an excellent way to reach out to parents of prospective students.
Parents still frequently visit websites first when researching schools for their children. Help them understand what makes your school great by sharing news of school activities and events on the school’s blog.
Building a robust content strategy allows a school to plan effectively for upcoming blog posts and share them with other channels such as in an email newsletter.
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