A Guide To Using Social Media In Boarding Schools
Why is social media a critical part of any boarding school's marketing program? The simple answer is that you need to expose your fine school to as many potential new clients as you possibly can. You know what your school offers and you are very proud of it. Unfortunately, families with boarding school-age children living a few hours away downstate or in another part of the country will never even hear about your school unless you make sure it is very visible. Not just visible. Very visible. While the following video is entitled 13 Proven Social Media Marketing Tips for Small Businesses & Entrepreneurs, Brian's information is relevant to administrators of boarding schools. After all, your boarding school is a business. Even if you have non-profit status, your school is still a business.
Thirty or forty years ago all a boarding school had to do to get the word out about its programs and desirability was to procure a listing in a boarding school directory and correspond with a group of educational consultants you knew could send potential clients your way. The boarding school directories are now all online. This site is a good example of the sort of online resources which 21st-century parents have. And those educational consultants? Well, bless them. They operate at warp speed with text and Skype communications.
So, what more does a boarding school possibly need to get the word out? Social media. Well-organized and beautifully executed social media! Why? Because that's what parents under the age of 50 expect. They do everything online. They research whatever they are thinking about buying or investing in thoroughly. And that includes sending a child to boarding school where they are looking at an annual investment of $50,000 or more. Social media informs parents. As a result, you must make sure that your social media presence gives parents the answers for which they are looking.
Social media as part of your marketing program
Marketing drives your future intake of students. For many private schools, even five or ten empty seats can have a huge impact on their finances. Yes, I get the fact that the well-established schools have their future applicant pipelines full. In many cases, their pipelines are full for several years out. The small schools on the other hand sometimes seem to have to live from hand to mouth in terms of their future applicant pools. Those schools can be buffeted by the winds of change in local demographics. Consider what happens when real estate values rise. The young families who are your usual applicant pool move out of the area because they have been priced out of the market. Or businesses close and move to other areas. Once again one of your sources of potential applicants shrinks. This is the main reason why integrating social media into your marketing program is essential.
Using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest to Promote Your School
I know what you are thinking. "Can't I simply use Facebook as my only social media tool?" You could, but then you would be missing out on all the parents and students who prefer YouTube, Twitter or Pinterest. This article touches on the main points of using each type of social media.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Essentially you need to post pictures to grab your readers' interest. Facebook followers scan posts. A great photo draws them in to read your copy and hopefully 'like' it and share it. Remember that absorbing information from the Internet is like drinking from a fire hydrant. There's just so much of it. That's why we scan pages. We only read in-depth when something catches our eye. So put a great picture in your Facebook posts. Then link to the in-depth content preferably elsewhere on your Web site.
Put your best foot forward and showcase everything that is wonderful about your school. Clips of sporting events, musicals, and school events will benefit from a less formal production. These clips will create a more newsy, spontaneous, real-time viewing experience.
Twitter works best for short posts. Sports scores, awards, the date and time of a performance or game, are all things Twitter does really well. Add a photo and a hashtag and you will receive lots of impressions, which is what Twitter calls views of your tweet.
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.
Making Social Media Work for Your School
Social media is all about marketing. It requires the planning and execution of that marketing plan to work. It cannot be a hit or miss approach. Neither can you leave your marketing in the hands of well-intentioned amateurs. Each social media component needs to be used effectively to help you achieve your marketing campaign goals.
SEO for Private Schools - Part I: Basics
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a mystery to the uninitiated. It is one of those arcane sciences that webmasters everywhere have to be aware of. Unfortunately, the mention of SEO for the rest of us prompts most of us to start reading emails and texting friends. It's all so technical. The truth is that good SEO can enhance your marketing efforts. It can make your school more visible to the audience which you are trying to reach. Poor or non-existent SEO will bury your site so that it is practically invisible. So, ignore SEO at your own peril. At the least get your arms around the basics so that you can supervise your web management and design team authoritatively. The following video is the first of three videos that explain SEO basics for you. If the concept of SEO is unfamiliar, I suggest that you listen to the three videos first. Then circle back and review the material.
SEO for Private Schools - Part 2: Content
Content on your website and various social media platforms contains your school's message. What is your message? If you don't have a message, then how can your readers determine whether your school is a good fit for them and their requirements? I can hear you saying "Parents have to visit our school in order to truly understand what it is we do." That's true, but in this age of instant answers, parents make snap decisions based on their perceptions and first impressions.
So, right there on your first page or Splash Page as it is called, you need to make sure your message appears. Let me give you an example: One of the things a reader will see first is the Title Bar at the top left of his browser. That's one place where what you do behind the curtain with meta tags is actually visible to your reader. Take a look at Andover's website to see how this works. As soon as the page comes up the title in the top left corner identifies Andover as an independent boarding school. If that's not the kind of school you are looking for, you will know at a glance.
The next thing which puts your message front and center is a well-written menu, strategically placed so readers can't miss it. The first item on that menu ideally should be an About entry. That in turn ties in with your message. Literally, with three things your reader's eye is drawn to that all-important understanding of what your school is all about. The old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" applies here as well. So make sure your pictures on the splash page also tie in with that all-important message of what your school is.
SEO for Private Schools - Part 3: Using Social Media
The social media platforms work the same as any professional, well-crafted publicity materials, but with one important difference. When your Facebook post or Tweet attracts a lot of attention, it could go viral. In any case, folks will share your posts with their friends and family. And it all happens instantly.
Develop an editorial calendar so that your postings are organized and have some consistency and purpose. Your school year has its own unique rhythm to it. Anchor your postings around those milestone events and happenings. For example, if Grandparents' Day is the 3rd Wednesday in October, you would start a few weeks before with some posts about previous years' Grandparents' Days. Then build the excitement as the day gets closer. That's why you need professionals handling social media. It takes time, planning and flawless execution. Leaving social media to a staff member who already has dozens of other responsibilities on her plate is probably not a good idea.
Finally, implementing a social media marketing program effectively takes time, skills, creativity, imagination, and large amounts of patience. This is a task which you need to assign to a professional member of your team. There are many moving parts to the job of social media director. Do your due diligence carefully and hire the right person for the job. The future of your school will be in those capable hands.
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