May 24, 2020 Chiara

The Importance of a Strong Online Presence for Schools

Any school environment is a complex organism, constantly in motion: parents dropping off kids, teachers darting between classes, administrators typing, maintenance staff at work in the halls, athletes tearing off across the sports fields at practice… The list goes on.  

Given the amount of work that goes into maintaining the facilities and schedule, websites and social media might not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of a school. 

Nevertheless, a digital marketing strategy has become essential in our current environment. With Covid-19 temporarily moving all schools online, now is the perfect time to review the importance of an online presence for schools. 

A Beautifully Designed Website Optimised for SEO

Put simply, prospective families won’t consider you if they can’t find you easily in the top search results for schools in their city. When they find your school, the website is likely to be the first thing they’ll see, so it’s important to make a good impression. Top schools achieve this in similar ways. As soon as you open their website, there will be images of the school’s grounds, classrooms and students. Visitors are instantly given the opportunity to picture themselves in a clean and welcoming environment. 

Scrolling down, the content should vary, showcasing top reasons to choose the school, quotes from attendees, exciting updates or accolades, and even virtual tours. Within mere seconds, parents should be given enough information to make the school a contender in their minds. This is more effective than forcing them to contact an admissions officer or tour the school in person just to obtain that first impression. Once they’ve been wowed by the site, they can click over to an admissions page which will tell them how to get in touch, as well as where to find testimonials or speak directly with current families. 

Unfortunately, just having a website isn’t enough. Your potential and existing customers need to find you online, and if you do not monitor your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), many parents will already have a few top choices by the time they find you after 5–10 sites. Worse, some may not see you at all if you rank past the top 5–10 Google Search results. This is a costly mistake, given that it’s quite easy to rank high and only takes 2–4 months. The purpose of SEO for schools is to make you visible in Google search results, other search engines and online directories. That’s where our team of Mammas comes in.

For example, if you’re a school in Dublin, and a potential customer browsing on Google types “school in Dublin,” you’d ideally like to be in the first spot (or top 3-5), right? That’s what SEO is all about. 

How do you do that? SEO is quite complex, and we’ve tried our best to summarise it in simple terms here. Mamma Marketing has begun helping schools take advantage of a strong online presence by relieving them of tasks like SEO, which can be reserved for professionals. It’s a big job at the start, but then becomes a matter of posting blogs optimised with keywords on your website, consistently.

Showcase Your Ethos

A mission statement is at the heart of a school’s self-presentation; however, for a parent who has spent hours reading promotional material in hopes of finding the best school for their child, promises of a strong educational philosophy can start to lose their impact. 

A good social media strategy for schools would be to demonstrate your ethos rather than just telling people about it. If collaborative learning is a cornerstone of your mission, you can reflect this by sharing photos of group science projects, posting videos from sports day, or tweeting about the activities of your robotics team as they compete together in a regional tournament. All your students are on social media so they’ll be engaging with these posts of them or their friends! 

Similarly, if you list creativity and independence as top tenets of your curriculum, it would be wise to feature your final-year students’ creative projects on your Instagram. Content like this gives prospective families a glimpse of how your educational theory translates into practice before they decide to join your school. 

Strengthen Your School Community

Social media is not just a means of reeling in potential students; it’s also a way of bringing your existing school community together (and, honestly, that might be the best advertising a school can do). Logistically, it can help you get the word out to parents and alumni about different events, as well as share important announcements. Tracking engagement with your events and initiatives on social media can then become an indicator of what your community appreciates and might like to see in the future. There are plenty of different ways to engage with followers on social media!

Thinking more broadly, using platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok to share opportunities in your local area—cultural exhibitions, 5K fundraisers, writing and art competitions, etc.—helps embed your school in the wider community, as your students can serve as ambassadors simply by participating in these outside events. 

Finally, spread some good vibes within your student body by celebrating their accomplishments! Posting about awards, sports game results or simply cool things they have done around campus shows your students that you appreciate them and gives the whole group something to aspire to. 

Create Space for User-Generated Content

An online presence for schools is not just about planned posts and promotions. Eager as you may be to constantly share your school’s accolades on your social media, to do so would be to miss out on one of the greatest assets of these platforms: content created by your own students, parents, and alumni.

It’s easy to understand why those thinking of attending your school would place greater faith in peer recommendations than promotional material. Fortunately, there are many ways to use your social media proactively to give the people what they want.

Creating a public Facebook group for parents, for instance, would give them a space to connect and share information while offering a window into the culture of your school. A more structured approach would be to hold a student Instagram or Twitter takeover, something schools have been doing lately to let students share their experiences of remote learning. Lastly, allowing teachers to post their own content on your main page—songs, live readings, clips of them doing an activity at home with their kids, such as cooking, gardening or recycling—showcases the character of your faculty far better than a soundbite in a brochure. 

Recruit in the Time of Covid-19

To say that the pandemic has resulted in an upheaval of the education system would be an understatement. Attracting new students is now a digital effort, and existing families want reassurance that their child will continue to receive the same high-quality education they originally came for. Now that the only way to connect with your school community is online, it’s critical to demonstrate that you’re taking the transition seriously. Considering how out of touch it would seem to have no mention of distance learning on a website, many schools are including links to their new learning plan, schedule and extracurricular resources that appear the moment you access the site. 

On the social media front, others are going beyond issuing affirmations of their commitment to e-learning and posting short clips of their new online classes, enabling them to showcase their creative use of digital tools. Some examples: Dwight School has taken to sharing an “Online Learning Tip of the Week,” while AIS Vienna has posted about their increased engagement stats on Seesaw to show the success of their distance learning. Content like this both encourages their existing students and parents to persevere and sends a general message that they are purposefully adapting their curriculum. 

We hope you now have a better understanding of how private school marketing strategies are shifting online. Undertaking projects like the ones we’ve outlined here and maintaining multiple social media platforms might seem like a daunting task, but it’s essential to confront, especially in 2020. Recognising this, our social media team has been helping schools create the right posts, graphics and videos to confront the challenges of connection in the time of Covid-19. If you’re interested in seeing how our team helps schools succeed online, check out our recommended services for schools or our other blogs with helpful information. We encourage you to contact us with any questions (about the importance of an online presence for schools or anything else) and we’ll do our best to help. 

 

Have a great day and thanks for reading!

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