In an article by The Guardian, Ralf Lucas the founder of Good Schools Guide said that he was noticing a clear shift when meeting parents in their opinion towards State schools, saying that “Independent schools really need to show us more, not just tell us, as we’re really taking State schools seriously”. Parents today are spoilt for choice. Not only do independent schools need to prove their value over State schools but they also need to work harder to stand out from their competitor schools. This is why a well executed digital strategy should be a top priority for any marketing team in the independent school sector, and digital advertising can play a massive role in that.
So, what is digital advertising? Digital advertising is when you run adverts online across social media, Google, Youtube, and various other websites. Last year digital advertising spend outstripped television for the first time in history (SEOworks). It’s highly effective and the good news is it’s affordable for everybody, regardless of the size of your school marketing budget.
What are the best ways to use digital advertising for your school?
1. To drive more people to your school website
A video on your school website is an extremely effective way of engaging prospective parents. But how do you get them to visit your website in the first place, especially if they’ve never heard of your school? By running adverts online across Facebook and Instagram you can reach people beyond your immediate sphere of influence. For example, if you are a boarding school based in Surrey but you want to attract more international students from South Korea, you could run a Facebook advert that only targets affluent, well educated, English speaking adults in the Seoul area. Or, if you are a school in Buckinghamshire running a bursary scheme for inner city children, you could run an Instagram advert explaining the advantages of the scheme targeting London postcode children under the age of 16 who attend a specific selection of State schools. Even if you just want to attract more pupils from the next county, social media advertising is a great way to do this.
2. To highlight the best aspects of your school
Parent’s can often get into “analysis paralysis” when comparing different schools. This is because many will have a good website, a compelling video and lots of information that positions them in a favourable light. To stand out from the competition, you need to think outside the box and that’s where digital advertising can help. You can provide parents with many more layers of information about your school to help them in the decision making process and also keep yourself in the front of their mind. By creating a series of films highlighting different aspects of your school, whether that’s art, sport or academia, you can run them as promotional videos online across social media channels, Google and Youtube.
3. Keeping you at the front of prospect minds
One of the best things you can do for your school with digital advertising is to set up “re-marketing”. You might not have heard of re-marketing before but you will no doubt be familiar with it. We’ve all been there; you look at a bit of furniture or some clothing online and then an advert for that same item starts following you around the internet. You might find this slightly annoying, but the truth is it really works! All you need to do is ask your website designer to install Google and Facebook Pixel. Once that’s done you can set up your own re-marketing campaign via Google ads or Facebook ads. The reason this is so good is because it will keep your school in front of prospect parents as they deliberate over which school to visit, or which school to choose for their child.
Digital advertising can offer you some great solutions. Instagram and Facebook are both platforms that allow you to be very strategic in your approach to reach target audiences. By allowing you the selection of certain factors like location, age, gender, demographics, interests, behaviours, connections or language, you have the potential of reaching parents and students worldwide. As well as specific people around the UK. Your main focus when advertising on these platforms is to have a very distinguished idea of who your target audiences are and how you are best going to reach them with compelling content.
You can be even more specific in your approach by targeting your prospect parents and students on the channels that you know they are most active. For example, if you want to be targeting parents with digital adverts the best options will be Facebook, Google and Youtube. As an older generation and not so immersed in the world of social media, you’ll mainly want to target them during everyday internet activity, for example, at work or online shopping through Google, watching recipe videos on Youtube, or, staying in contact with friends on Facebook.
If you want to be targeting students with your digital adverts the best platforms for you will be Instagram and Snapchat. The younger generation is much more tech savvy – providing them with direct access to your school’s information through a well displayed advert on Instagram will add a lot of credibility (maybe they’ll even share the ad). If you want to be reaching Feeder schools with your adverts then the best place to reach them is through Twitter as it’s more of a platform for brands, businesses and organisations. Perfect for spreading a more sophisticated message about your school to other people in the same field.
Digital advertising can seem like a daunting task but once you get started it soon becomes second nature. Just be specific in your approaches and make sure to have a very clear idea of who you want to be targeting. Use the right platforms in relation to your target audience, be knowledgeable about them so that you can be precise in your targeting and, be specific in the content you produce so that it resonates and connects with the target audience.