Is your school ready for the omnichannel challenge?
By Michael Stolz
Since cute cats conquered our screens and generated up to 150 million views on social media platforms, a magic formula for online success has emerged: popular content connects with users on an emotional and personal level and provides value, be it educational or entertainment. While the deeper meaning of cat videos may be debatable, for most businesses content creation and sharing has become an indispensable marketing tool. So how can schools benefit from the trend?
From content user to content producer
In our knowledge-based age, the appetite for content, data and storytelling is huge. The emergence of digital platforms has led to an explosion of online content consumption, and schools have the unique chance to exploit this. Content marketing is booming as it allows companies to engage with customers all year round. In contrast, traditional ad campaigns used to follow fast sales cycles and produced attention peaks and lows. Schools – more marathon runners than marketing sprinters – service their stakeholders for up to 13 school years and beyond. Content marketing is therefore a perfect tool for promoting schools over an extended period of time.
Schools are trusted brands and they not only offer a must-have product, but also have a fairly loyal audience in place. Content marketing is all about creating long-term, long-lasting, personal relationships with target groups. To stand out, schools have to become producers of their own stories. Consumers trust authentic stories more than commercial messages, and with word-of-mouth still being one of the most powerful school marketing instruments, producing your own stories and content will enable you to steer the conversation in the right direction.
The content trap
Authentic content is king and generates traffic. It helps your search engine ranking and motivates social sharing. This is when the magic happens. Popular content creates views and likes, but shares drive engagement and create organic reach, without spending a single cent. So what type of content reflects your school’s uniqueness and targets students, parents and staff best? It is easy to get confused.
Most schools use newsletters, blogs, text posts and pictures in their communication. But publishing research data, infographics, GIFs, testimonials, podcasts and videos has become increasingly popular. Video is the most memorable and powerful audience driver, generating far more shares than text and images together, and can be utilised to communicate inwards and outwards. Video helps you raise brand awareness, creates trust, and can highlight unique school initiatives and talent. Considering the costs, manpower and time of video production, it is smart to get professionals involved.
A common challenge for international schools today is attracting and retaining staff. Video can help with that too. Investing in employer branding videos lets you promote your core values, your workplace and your talent in a meaningful way as this Faces of Berlin Brandenburg International School video demonstrates.
Let’s not forget that over half of all video content is consumed via mobile. Unless you are IKEA and want to teach people how to assemble a Billy bookcase shelf, it is not advisable to publish 5-minute videos. Shorter, shareable content designed for mobile users guarantees better viewing experiences and lower bounce rates.
The omnichannel challenge
Do schools really need to be so active on social media? Yes, because your customers and your competition are! For schools, marketing has never been easier. At the same time, it has never been harder to decide on which platform to push out brand messages and content. So where, when and how often do you need to post, tweet and upload?
Larger companies employ whole teams to publish content successfully round the clock. Schools usually have fewer resources, but they are under less pressure as their product doesn’t change constantly. Utilizing the talent within a school, and creating a culture of posting and sharing, is one way to make up for the lack of resources. Your school’s website, the most important information and marketing hub, is the place for professional high-end content. Your social media channels, typically Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or YouTube, are the 24/7 communication lines connecting you to both existing and new customers on a more personal level. Although content can be reused and reformatted, all these channels need original and tailor-made content, and require monitoring the output constantly. That is usually the biggest omnichannel challenge.
With the undeniable rise of video as the key communication and sales tool, schools - like most businesses - will need to think and act more like media operations. While the 150 million views that cat videos generate might be out of reach, schools have something far more powerful to offer: they are able to share fascinating insights and brilliant moments of learning, as well as achievements, meaning, discovery, personality and community throughout the year. It is your best chance to build positive relationships and to engage with your customers outside working hours and open days.
The best content marketing for schools
Use content to build relationships, brand awareness and trust, and communicate internally and externally
Make content marketing part of your marketing and communication strategy
Create a culture of posting and sharing at your school
Identify your brand ambassadors, promote your workplace and the talent amongst yourselves
Use less corporate messaging and more authentic behind-the-scenes storytelling
Have a social media and video strategy, and monitor your output
Michael Stolz is the Director of Edukomm, a digital marketing and communications consultancy for education brands. Edukomm advises schools on media, marketing and content strategies. Connect with Michael on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-stolz-324b2363 or on www.edukomm.com