Okay, it’s finally time. Whether through peer pressure (“Gee, every other school is on Facebook.”) or through your own decision-making, you’ve decided to test the social media waters as you market your independent school. It seems so overwhelming. Where do you start when time is ticking and committees/heads are hovering? Here’s one approach that may help you quickly and confidently move into the social media sphere:
1. Sign Yourself Up for the Social Media Trifecta.
You’ve got to know how the game is played before you can win, right? So, right now, if you have not done so, sign up for accounts (free!) at Facebook , Twitter and LinkedIn . Give yourself one month to play with each of these. If you’re starting with very limited knowledge of these sites, click here for an easy-to-understand overview by Common Craft. Next, ask friends and family to friend, follow or connect with you. Start or end your day at these three sites. Watch what others post and what types of posts get the most interest from others (folks retweet that twitter or comment/like that photo, etc.). The important thing is NOT to become a highly active user yourself but to understand the basic terms, the ebb and flow of content and, most importantly, what content gets the most attention from users.
2. Stake Your Claim for Your School.
As soon as you feel comfortable, go on and sign up for school accounts at each of these three sites. Don’t worry about committee approval: you’re not committing to ever using any or all of these. What you’re doing is called “parking”: reserving an account with your school’s name on it for future use OR simply to prevent unauthorized folks from using your school’s official name. (Note: More on staking your claim, including tips on choosing the best profile name, see the Message Matters blog).
3. Determine Your Digital Vision.
Larry Weber, author of Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business, suggests that while most organizations have a strategic marketing plan, few have integrated social media into that plan, creating what Weber terms digital vision. Many of us, myself included, are guilty of creating Facebook pages just because each local competitor has one. We know better than that when it comes to traditional marketing. Buy a billboard advertisement just to keep up with the Jones’ and you may have wasted thousands of dollars targeting the wrong audience at the wrong time with the wrong message. Don’t waste time and resources making the same mistake in cyberspace. Instead, review your existing strategic marketing plan and look for areas where social media can assist you in achieving your current goals. Examples might include: A Facebook page attracting high school transfers to address upper grade attrition or a Twitter account by your mascot to focus on a growing athletic program.
4. Get in the Game.
You understand how these three sites work, you’ve reserved the necessary profile names and you’ve determined if/how using social media will help you accomplish your long-term marketing goals. Now is the time to jump in and get started! Pick one site for one month for one goal and give it your time and attention. Create a LinkedIn page for alumni, a Facebook group for students who have enrolled but will not attend for months or a Twitter account to connect current parents with the daily life of your campus. Keep it simple and limited at first and grow as your time and growing skill set permits.
By following these simple steps, in a matter of weeks you can have a robust social media presence that is integral, not an add-on, to your marketing plan. Have fun, play around and push content. See you in the social media-sphere!
Follow Lorrie on Twitter @lorriej.