I remember when many schools raised their collective eyebrows at social media a few years ago. You could almost hearing them saying under their breath "Over my dead body!" That was probably because few people understood social media and what to do with it.
Decades ago your beautiful school brochures and catalogs were the way you got the word out. They were expensive and time-consuming to produce. But that's all we had. Then along came the Internet. Schools built Web sites. Pretty basic ones at first. But as the technology advanced and professional graphic designers got their hands on those school Web sites, the result was a product just as elegant and compelling as those brochures and catalogs we used to have lithographed. In truth most schools still produce brochures and catalogs but now do them in house in most cases.
It seemed that you had barely got your Web site tweaked to dazzling perfection, replete with online applications, inquiries, video tours and all the bells and whistles 21st century Web designers could cram into them, when along came Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. Social media was suddenly socially acceptable.
Let's look at social media and see how best to use it to promote your school and its mission.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Essentially you need to post pictures to grab your readers' interest. Remember: absorbing information from the Internet is like drinking from a fire hydrant these days. There's just so much of it. We scan. We only read in depth when something catches our eye. So put a great picture in your Facebook posts. Then link to the content preferably elsewhere on your Web site.
I curate Private School Review and Boarding School Review's Facebook sites. I have learned that posting regularly and at the same time every day is another effective way to build readership. I also follow, or 'like' in Facebook terms, hundreds of private schools. Sharing their posts enhances the relationship. But more than that it allows me to see what the schools are posting and how they promote themselves. Honestly I get the impression that most school postings are random, hit or miss affairs. That approach to Facebook posts is not as effective as targeted posts scheduled to appear in an organized manner.
A member of the school's marketing or public affairs staff should handle Facebook posts to ensure that they are on message, properly written and effective. A systematic approach to Facebook posts doesn't mean that you can't post an exciting, newsy item spontaneously. Far from it. Post those newsy items in real time. They will stand out like the true headlines they are.
Establish a channel on YouTube for your school. Assign the job of curating your YouTube channel to one of your professionals. The content can be a mix of professional and semi-professional video clips produced in house. Your admissions materials such as tours of the school and student testimonials need to be professionally produced. That's because they are designed to attract potential applicants. You need to put your best foot forward and showcase all that is wonderful about your school. Clips of sporting events, musicals and school events will benefit from a semi-professional production. You want to create a more newsy, spontaneous, real-time experience with these clips.
Break up potentially long videos into smaller clips. 5 x 5 minute clips are better than one long 25 minute video which will lose your audience after 5 minutes anyway. Cater to short attention spans.
Within your channel develop secondary channels devoted to the activities which occur every day. For example, develop channels for sports, arts, academic and clubs. The possibilities are endless. Just make sure a professional establishes a structure so that your content is easy to find and view.
My rule of thumb is to use Twitter for real-time, newsy bursts of text. Facebook is ideal for an in depth exploration of your school and its community. YouTube offers a window into all the exciting activities your school offers. Pinterest allows you to create a photo album about your school. Once again make sure that a professional organizes your content on Pinterest. You can create collections of beautiful photographs and group them in any way you choose. Pinterest offers a very sophisticated way of showcasing your school and community.