I was an early adopter of social media so I can tell you that the growth of the genre which I have witnessed has been remarkable. The instant communications and universal accessibility of social media have powered revolutions around the world as you and I both know. Sadly, social media has been manipulated and abused by governments and political movements that seek to undermine and destroy institutions.
For the purposes of this article, we shall set aside those negative aspects of social media and look at ways in which your small to medium-sized private school can use social media to make families past, present, and future aware of your school. If your school has the budget for professional social media curators and a fully-integrated marketing program, you are all set. However, if you have limited resources for marketing your school and are not certain how to proceed, I have written this article with your school in mind.
Before we look at some suggestions for using social media, I want you to set aside any misconceptions which you might have about social media. I run into people all the time who say "I don't use Facebook." "I can't be bothered with Twitter." "YouTube is a waste of time." Interestingly enough, they never seem to mention Instagram or LinkedIn which are popular with millennials and the business community respectively. Social media is essentially an electronic form of socializing. Years ago we sent postcards to our friends and family when we traveled. We even popped a snapshot or two of our trip to Yellowstone in an envelope and mailed it off to our parents and grandparents. Sharing what we were doing and the places we visited is something we human beings have done forever. After all, didn't the ancients leave drawings on cave walls to record their exploits? So, think of social media for what it really is, i.e., a messaging tool. The difference in the 21st-century is that social media comes in several different flavors. Using one or all of them can help you make people aware of your school.
1. Keep your brand consistent.
There are several moving parts with this tip. Importance of Brand Consistency: 7 Key Approaches for Keeping Aligned by Stacey Jackson offers an idea of what's involved. Your visual and spoken materials all need to convey the same message.
To get there ask yourself these questions:
1. What kind of school are we?
2. What programs do we offer?
3. Who are our teachers?
4. What makes us different from other similar schools?
5. Why should parents send their children to your school?
Your website will answer all those questions. Websites are for reference. Social media reminds people of who you are. It nudges them to find out more about your programs which is what they are looking for. The announcement about your Spanish teacher presenting at a regional conference reinforces the high quality of your faculty. The video of your first grade learning how to do math illustrates how you teach. The photos of field day confirm what a vibrant community you have.
Keep your message in all its many forms consistent. That will make parents think "That's the school for us."
This video offers 5 tips for branding consistency.
2. Create a sub-brand.
You are probably thinking that your school is not a huge corporation like Coca Cola or General Motors where sub-branding covers a wide range of products under the corporate umbrella. That's true. But the principle is the same. Your sub-brand could be a concert series or a field hockey camp. Select an activity that you probably already are mounting anyway. Start talking about it more frequently on your social media channels. People will soon get the idea that your school is the one where YoYo Ma did a workshop with your string players and then played a concert to benefit your scholarship program. Your sub-brand doesn't have to splashy and expensive. It just needs to get talked about consistently. Develop some buzz and you will see results. Sub-randing can provide yet another reason why parents should send their children to your school. Creating A Sub-brand For Your Business offers an overview of sub-branding.
This video offers a strategy for developing a sub-brand.
3. Comment and share other posts.
Everybody loves a compliment. Your recommendation and stamp of approval are an essential part of your social media program. I follow dozens of schools and education-related organizations on my personal Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feed. When I see something I want to pass on, I share it on our feeds for @privateschoolreview and @boardingschoolreview I am careful not to overdo it. I personally don't like to receive 15 posts from the same person or school within a couple of hours. Position your comments and shares as ones that become must-reads for your followers.
4. Provide news and information
Providing news and information in our chosen field of education is actually an extension of what we do in the classroom all the time. The differences are the presentation and the audience. As you scan dozens of stories in your news feeds, one or two will leap out at you as something worth telling your community about. The old adage "A picture is worth a thousand words" applies. As you review your school calendar, plan posts about upcoming events to remind your community about the school play next weekend. You have had the play on the school calendar for months, but people will forget unless you remind them.
This video offers tips on posting on social media to grow your business.
5. Make it fun.
Education is a serious business. But it also can be a lot of fun. Communicate the enjoyment of learning and positive atmosphere which is a hallmark of your school. People gossip on social media all the time about things that go wrong. Make your social media channels safe, online destinations where people know that they can go to be inspired and uplifted.
Obviously, in a short article like this one, we are merely scratching the surface of the topic. Start following other private schools. Observe what they do and what they don't do. You will quickly develop a voice for your school on social media which will help you attract new families.
Questions? Contact us on Facebook. @privateschoolreview