Social Media

The Right Social Networks for Your School

May 28, 2019

A note from Digistorm: This post was originally published in January 2017. We've updated it to include more valuable, relevant content.

Social media is intertwined with our daily lives, and especially those of marketing professionals. We use it for an array of different things, including to drive engagement, act as a portfolio for our business and to communicate with others. For school marketers in particular, social media is an incredibly powerful and persuasive tool that should be an integral part of your overall strategy.

Of course, there are quite a few different platforms or networks out there, and choosing the right ones to market your school can be tricky. Do you use all of them? How about just one, or a few? Each social media platform has a different use and target audience, so it’s important to go into things with as much knowledge as possible to help you make an informed choice.

Keep reading while we break down the most popular social media channels, what they’re good for and who uses them the most.

Facebook

Facebook is perhaps the most popular social network, not only amongst schools but in the wider community. Everyone from Gen Zers to Baby Boomers seem to be on Facebook. It’s been around quite a while, which gives it credibility, plus it has a lot of useful functionality for businesses and business owners.

The pros

  • Facebook offers a wide range of postable content types, meaning you’re not limited in any way. These include images, videos, GIFs, web links, slideshows, events, polls and more.
  • Facebook has a super broad reach -- it’s in almost every country around the world, and is used by people of all ages and demographics. This lets you target your content more effectively (more on that later!).
  • It has flexible security and privacy options for individual users.
  • Facebook has great functionality for groups. Users can create closed groups that require members to request permission for entry, keeping your content as private as possible.
  • Facebook also has great functionality for businesses. Facebook Business Manager allows schools to streamline the management of their professional accounts.
  • It also has fantastic advertising capabilities with insightful analytics. Businesses can create Facebook ads, even segmenting a new or existing database to deliver targeted results.

The cons

  • Facebook has become quite a competitive space for marketers, especially when it comes to advertising. As a result, uptake may come a lot slower than with other platforms.
  • Organic reach is continually dropping on Facebook as pages compete for space on users’ timelines. This means resorting to paid ads, which we’ve already established can be just as futile. Overall, because of the number of users on Facebook, the platform is losing its overall efficacy.
  • School marketers and admissions staff report that parents contact them on their personal profiles, blurring the lines between home and work.

As most schools are on Facebook, we at least recommend having a page with as much detail as possible filled in. It’s a go-to source if someone can’t find your info from a quick Google search, so ensure your school’s contact number, website and address are visible. It’s also a good place to share large volumes of images (using the Album feature) and to link out to various pieces of content, including notices and your enrolment forms.

Instagram

Instagram is an image and video sharing network that’s absolutely boomed since its inception in 2010. The popularity of Instagram doesn’t seem like it’ll wane any time soon, so it’s an important platform for school marketers to understand. It focuses heavily on visual aesthetics rather than information sharing, as there’s no functionality for long-form text other than in the caption of an image.

The pros

  • Instagram is currently a very popular network, especially amongst the under-40 set. As time goes on, this demographic are likely to grow with the platform rather than abandon it, like has occurred with Facebook.
  • Instagram is a great way to share photographic content for schools that regularly capture images.
  • It has functionality that makes producing quality images easy with just a phone and the app -- no expensive equipment or tricky software required.
  • Instagram Stories is a great marketing tool that can be used to encourage interaction in real-time.
  • Instagram also has fantastic sorting abilities via hashtag and location searches, which in turn can easily contribute to the virality of a post if used correctly.  

The cons

  • It’s a mobile-only app. Although this may not matter too much to your consumers, not all potential creators within your school will be comfortable working on their phones.
  • On Instagram, information and captions can easily become lost with visual content as the focus.

Instagram will be the most popular platform amongst your students, so if your plan is to get them engaged, then it’s a must-use. It’s also a great network to use for competitions, and now has the exciting Instagram Stories function, which makes sharing authentic content easier and more prone to quality engagement. If your school can maintain a relatively regular posting schedule, and has unique ideas, then we’d definitely recommend using Instagram.

Twitter

Twitter is an interesting, almost enigmatic social media network. Some people absolutely love it, whereas others are perpetually confused by it. It was designed as a space for quick, real-time conversations of 140 characters or less, but has developed over time to accommodate longer content and to let more time elapse between interactions. It’s also a very popular platform for interacting with celebrities or people of note.

The pros

  • Twitter allows for direct communication with industry leaders, and lets schools insert themselves into important discussions in the education space.
  • Twitter is very no muss, no fuss -- that is, the originally short-form nature of the content encouraged people to get to the point, and this still stands despite a larger character limit.
  • It can be used easily on mobile or desktop.
  • Twitter is also more common amongst Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, who are more likely to belong to a school’s target audience, rather than the typical Gen Y and Z domination of platforms like Instagram.

The cons

  • Twitter’s character limits (now 280 words per Tweet) prevent detailed information from being shared.
  • Sharing photos and videos is possible, but seems to have less of an effect on Twitter.
  • Twitter encourages a much slower take-up than Facebook or Instagram. The platform simply doesn’t appeal to everyone, and so, may not be worth implementing if you know your user base won’t be interested.

Depending on the demographics of your school, it may or may not be a good idea to use Twitter. At the very least, we recommend having an account so your school can interact with important industry conversations. However, focusing your efforts on growing this platform may be futile if you have a disengaged user base. The text-based nature of the content is less appealing, and so, is less likely to be popular amongst those with minimal time to spend on social media.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a professional network predominantly used for connecting with other professionals, whether that be for sharing industry information, establishing a business profile or finding new employment opportunities.

The pros

  • LinkedIn is an excellent source of news within the education industry.
  • It permits education professionals to connect with their colleagues and peers in a simple yet effective manner.
  • LinkedIn has been found to establish good traction for longform content posts.
  • LinkedIn is a key place to establish your school’s profile, specifically catering to professionals either looking to send their children to a new institution, or teachers and other businesspeople trying to find new employment.

The cons

  • LinkedIn caters to a very niche demographic -- generally older, highly-educated people who are intently focused on business growth. This may or may not overlap with your school’s demographic, but it definitely doesn’t represent the majority.
  • LinkedIn business pages are incredibly limited. You aren’t able to connect with individuals as a business page, which reduces the site’s functionality tenfold.
  • On LinkedIn, promotional material is less likely to receive solid engagement. The platform really focuses on professional development posts, and so, is engineered to give these precedence.

LinkedIn is a tricky one for businesses, as the functionality is so limited. We’d definitely suggest all of your staff, especially those in marketing and administrative roles, have their own personal pages, but whether you need one for your school is less clear. Overall, we’d once again recommend you have a profile at the very least, as it’s another opportunity for users to search and find you. However, putting lots of effort into this platform will likely not reap many benefits.

In summary

Most schools will thrive using a combination of the above four social networks as part of their overall content strategy. To get you started, we recommend creating all four accounts, but giving precedence to Facebook and maybe one other -- Instagram or Twitter, depending on your target audience. Keep the information across all of your networks updated regularly, and focus on creating fun, engaging and unique content that sets your school apart. Remember, if at any point you encounter issues with a particular platform, you can always disable or hide the account while you reevaluate your strategy.

Want to learn more about social media use and the right marketing channels for your school? Check out our guide to inbound marketing for schools.

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