The Use of Social Media to Attract New Parents and Engage Existing Ones
Hello, my name’s Oli, I’m 40, and I’m addicted to my phone. I use it to find my way around, listen to music in my car and home, check the weather, book trains, taxis, flights and holidays, do my banking, pay for petrol, control my tv and lights, pay for a car park, spy on my dog, scan and pay for shopping, and view my social media feeds, not to mention all the things a phone is meant to do like text, email, oh and (very rarely) actually call and speak to people. Why am I telling you this? Because, at 40, I’m about the same age as many of your prospective parents. My children are 8 and 5. I don’t consider myself all that different or unusual from most people, so if I’m spending this much time on my phone all day and night, you can bet that they are too. I don’t have time to read newspapers, especially not local ones. I used to hear the BBC News theme tune when I woke up, but now I hear Fireman Sam and Paw Patrol (that’s been put on for me). So I learn about what’s happening in the world from phone alerts, and what Google and Facebook decide to tell me. So, given that your parents are on their phones even a fraction of the time that I am, why not try and target them through this means? Read on for more about how we do this at Brentwood School.
I mentioned the word target, and I do mean target. You can segment people through almost anything nowadays – how much they earn, what industry they’re in, where they live, how many children they’ve got, how old they are, you name it. How do companies get this information? They buy it from other companies, most notably survey companies like BMG, but also whenever you fill in a guarantee for that new lawnmower or washing machine, search for a holiday, buy your weekly shop online, book a flight, whatever. If you’re logged into Google or Facebook at the time on whatever device, that information is being recorded and shared elsewhere. You know when you look at that item of clothing on M&S online and then it pops up later when you’re looking at train times or checking your email? Or read an article on an online newspaper and then you see a message giving you an offer for a subscription? That’s cookies. And that space can be booked and paid for. You can actually draw a virtual line round a Google map nowadays so that whenever anyone’s location is turned on on their phone, a digital media company records that they’ve been there and so can target them with an advert for a restaurant or event near that place.
Organically, our Facebook page has about 2,500 followers, and Instagram 1500, mostly made up of Old Brentwoods and current parents. It’s unlikely that you’re going to have prospective parents on there, but prospective parents might very well be friends with Old Brentwoods and current parents, and because of the way these media work, as soon as one of our followers likes or comments on something, their friends see it too, so the net widens very quickly.
Photos, videos and stories get more interaction. Good and easy to share photos of sports days/nativity plays, concerts, dinners etc. (Much easier than creating a photo gallery on the website!) Old Brentwood posts get most interaction. We shared some photos of the tiles of a 100 year old swimming pool which has since been tarmacked over and there were about 60 comments from former pupils with stories of how they used to have to swim in it whatever the weather. Building the community, but also spreading the message, because when they like or comment, all their friends see that they’ve liked or commented, and more people will follow us. I’m always surprised that a wave of 150 current parents don’t unfollow us once their child has left, but each year our followers keep going up.
Again you can target people with Facebook & Instagram accounts in the same way using the same segmentation. I use a digital media company for this, and it’s cheaper than you might think. When this digital push is combined with posters around car parks, on buses, at train stations, or in magazines, the recognition and association is increased isn’t it. It gives the brand of the School more gravitas because they’ve seen it more than they’ve seen a competitor.
Twitter – first thing to do when you set up a Twitter account is to follow as many like-minded accounts as yours, that you think might be interested in your posts or give you fodder to retweet. E.g all local Senior Schools and Prep Schools, education press, journalists, organisations like IAPS and AMCIS, education influencers who do talks, etc. Then encourage parents to follow you – giving them the benefit (it’s just another way to stay in touch along with the newsletter and the parent portal.)
Use hashtags to group posts together (e.g different year groups, a trip, or also to get your tweet noticed by people just searching for that hashtag. We use #MusicMonday, #ThrowbackThursday, #proud, #shapinglives, #openday, #worldbookday, #childreninneed etc. Include influential people in your tweets so that they retweet to their followers – resulting in the same networking effect and getting your word out there. Encourage your Headmasters to Tweet as they walk around the School – just a daily photo of everyday school life is very valuable. The one thing parents say they’re not getting is an idea of what’s going on during the day – if they’re anything like my kids when I ask them how their day was it’s a one word answer! Use Hootsuite to schedule Tweets e.g each day or through the holidays.
Important things to remember:
- Read and adhere to the social media policy
- Remain professional when representing the school
- Keep to your school’s tone of voice
- Don’t be scared! The social media world is very forgiving, and your parents are your best advocates and will usually defend any criticism themselves!
Get in touch – [email protected]
Oli Adams, Director of Communications, Admissions & Development,
Brentwood School, Essex and AMCIS Vice Chair