Social Media When You Least Expect It!
When I joined my current school there was no social media strategy. Social media existed only as a rather inconspicuous Facebook page that was used for fundraising events and which was updated a few times a month by someone on a voluntary basis.
We are not your average independent school with clearly defined competitor schools and with the ability to clearly define our audience by demographics such as income or lifestyle.
We have a different target audience to all other independent schools and the reasons that parents choose our school are vastly different to those ‘typical’ parents considering a ‘typical’ independent school.
Or are they?
Our parents want the best for their child; they have aspirations and they want their child to reach full potential and to have the best possible start for University or the world of work.
Our parents have a deaf child.
Their aspirations are the same. Demographically they could live anywhere in the country, earn vastly different incomes and come from vastly different backgrounds.
So how do we reach them given the constraints of social media segmenting?
And would or could social media be used in our marketing strategy in a similar way to that of an independent school?
Yes and No.
Yes, because we have clear messages to voice, we know our strengths, we know what sets us apart from other independent schools for the deaf. We want to drive traffic to our website and engage with prospective families.
No because our audience is harder to segment. We don’t have a ‘profile’ to work to for the families we want to target.
We currently use Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is used to reach prospective families, and some existing families. It has also been very effective when reaching out to professionals working in deaf education who do at times, refer families to the school. Twitter is used for quick, sharp bits of news, immediate interactions and updates to events and for referrals from our existing audience. The majority of followers on twitter are current parents.
For the last 12 months I have been testing the theories. I started with Facebook, not just for the regular posts but also for some advertising campaigns. I used it to post on a current topic in our specific sector and to link to our website and to boost articles that related to our sector and current trends.
Facebook has been used for advertising campaigns and the last 12 months has been used to test the efficacy of different types of ads using images, film and different calls to action.
It goes without saying that Facebook posts with content mentioning someone well known certainly perform best. We used Facebook to support a fundraising event at which our Ambassador Pippa Middleton was present and to which singer David Gray had donated a piece of his artwork. Cross collaboration with their social media accounts also helped engagement.
Posts in which our Principal comments on a ‘hot topic’ in our sector also drove high rates of engagement. It is time consuming to follow trends and industry discussions but well worth it when creating posts that you hope will reach a wider audience. After all, independent schools are more and more focussing on being centres of excellence as well as reaching out to the wider community.
We have also tested the use of hashtags on Facebook which, although not widely used, did feature in our top posts with the greatest engagement. We will continue to test this theory over the coming year.
In summary, social media has done what we wanted it to do over the last year, bringing admissions enquiries from families and professionals and engaging with alumni and the wider community. It has also been very successful in fundraising for our current £6m appeal.
We will continue to use Facebook and Twitter over the coming year but will segment messaging more between the two platforms, using Twitter more for live updates at events and Facebook for more targeted advertising and posts.
We all want to stand out on social media, and it is becoming increasingly more difficult as users become flooded with information. Know your audience, know your messaging, use great images and film clips where possible and keep tweaking what you do. Don’t be afraid to give something a go if not to rule it in as well as out.
A good social media strategy grows over time and is tried and tested. Don’t’ expect quick results and don’t just focus on followers and likes. The more heavily an audience is engaged with your social media, the more likely you are to achieve your call to actions.
Get in touch – [email protected]
Debbie Jacobs, Marketing & Admissions Manager,
Mary Hare School, Berkshire and AMCIS Board Member