Brands can be built — and destroyed — quicker than at any other time in history. Anyone with wi-fi, including your parents, can broadcast the latest ‘news’. Never before has there been such a range of media that can be used to communicate about your school so getting the right marcom mix is trickier than ever.
Gone are the days when prospective parents came directly to you as their first source of credible information. Today they go online. By the time you are aware of a prospective parent, they have already researched and formed their own opinion of your school.
While you no longer have control of all your marketing messages, you do have control over how you monitor and influence them.
Social media – better the devil you know
The world of online communications is an uncontrolled arena which continues to propagate. People can post reviews and complaints online as they happen.
A high school student in the US, Jeff Bliss, became an internet hero overnight when footage of his outburst to a teacher (filmed by a classmate on his phone) went viral within hours of it occurring. It was seen by thousands of people around the world on social, online and broadcast media.
This potentially brand-lethal incident highlights the need to constantly monitor how your school is being represented online. Fortunately, the School recognised this as an opportunity to promote their commitment to transforming education to speak to today’s generation and responded promptly and effectively.
Like it or not, social media is here to stay. It’s time to be prepared, understand the nature of the beast and be on the front foot in order to guard and build your brand.
Social media – the virtual word of mouth
Research shows that only 10 percent of people trust advertising. This pales in comparison to the 46 percent trusting consumer reviews (think tripadvisor.com) and 70 percent trusting brand recommendations from friends.
Did you know that people spend one out of every six minutes online, on social media? So it’s not surprising that one in two Australians have a Facebook account. 66 percent are between the ages of 18 and 44. So you can count on 50 percent of your target audience being social media savvy. Combined with the fact that people check Facebook an average of 14 times a day – yes every day – to see the latest posts of their (on average) 130 Facebook friends (who also have an average of 130 friends each) you can see the potential for social media as a communication tool is huge.
While it has its downsides, there are many benefits of communicating through social media. Its ability to create relationships, build communities and personify a brand is unprecedented. Social media enables you to create dialogue and be part of the conversation.
So how do you ensure the impressions of your school, made through online and social media, are working to benefit your brand? Through a proactive and focused digital communications strategy.
7 tips for effective social media communications
- Calculate – identify which social media platforms to incorporate into your communications plan, informed by your parents’ preferences. The current top players are Facebook (51.45 percent of Australians), YouTube (47.11 percent), LinkedIn (17.13 percent), Twitter (12.77 percent). Be deliberate – what is the purpose of communicating via social media? Use the right medium for the right message. As another tool in your communications tool kit, how does it serve to fulfil your broader marcom strategy?
- Facilitate – actively build an online community by recruiting likes and followers with incentives. If you don’t ‘like’ people’s comments they won’t ‘like’ you.
- Communicate – engage and interact with your audience constantly. Give people a reason to comment or share posts and, in doing so, advocate for your school's products and services. Be interesting and alive with fresh content. Social media isn’t the place for self-promotion and sales pitches. Post comments that draw people into a conversation. Images also work well.
- Emulate – build your brand through consistency of message and brand personality. Everything your school says and does sends a message, so use your social media communications to provide an authentic expression of ‘who’ your school is.
- Integrate – sync your social media communications with your other online communications such as newsletters, website and blog.
- Regulate – effective social media communications need to be adequately resourced. The social media space must be monitored and administered vigilantly to effectively manage associated risks and protect your brand’s reputation. Being prepared with a social media communication policy and guidelines is also critical.
- Evaluate – continue to assess the effectiveness of communicating with social media and the return on your investment. While social media provides largely intangible profiling returns, there are a range of social media metrics and tools available to measure engagement.
Here are some resources to help you master the digital word of mouth:
- Where to start with Instagram for your school?
- 4 social media monitoring tools to monitor your social accounts for you
- 4 simple steps to guide your school’s social media strategy
- Read all of our social media blog posts
Listen to our podcast
Speak to an expert:
- Find out from one of our consultants how best to approach social media in your school - book a free call now
- Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier.
This blog was written by Brad Entwistle
Brad Entwistle is founder and Managing Director of imageseven. For more than 25 years he has led the imageseven team on a crusade to lift schools’ brands and reveal the true value they deliver to students and their families. When he is not working with schools on their marketing strategy, Brad sits on the boards of two national not-for-profits and enjoys looking at antique maps.