When you hear the term “branding” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? That amazing Super Bowl ad where the horse kicks a winning field goal? When we talk about branding we talk about the kind of marketing that takes a product and associates it with a specific emotion and feeling- like Apple and hip, sleek, efficient design. That kind of broad, instantly-memorable branding seems a little out of reach for just about any school, right? How in the world does a school leader conduct branding campaigns with little to no resources or budget?
As luck would have it, thanks to a mother lode of online social networks and nearly ubiquitous, 24/7 connectivity, there are hundreds of completely free methods for branding your school. On top of that, you can access life-hacking tools to help you manage your branding efforts, significantly reducing your time in front of the screen and freeing you to spend more face time with students, parents and teachers.
The old red schoolhouse is great, but your school needs to embrace social media to get students in the door and keep the community happy and active.
Looking for easy, effective ways to start your social-media branding campaign? Here are 10 ways to use online marketing tools to get started:
Make your brand more human on Facebook
Look, this won’t be the first or last time someone tells you how easy it is to reach your community through Facebook. I get it. But what you should actually be doing on Facebook is worth talking about. Facebook is nothing more than an online TV channel, meant to entertain. So make it fun. Be inspirational. Make people laugh. Try showing some vulnerability. If you have a great sense of humor, do something like a fun sock Friday. Wear your most colorful socks, snap a picture and add it to your school Facebook page. Not your style? Try being inspirational. Add inspiring quotes that encourages creativity and lets your community know what you care about. Your Facebook page is all about letting your community know how human your brand is.
The sound of worthwhile news? “Tweet”
If Facebook is your entertainment channel, Twitter is for real-time news. Now is the time to be informative. Have some impressive test results or major announcements? Tweet them.
This is also a great opportunity to educate your community on the methodologies your school will use for teaching students. Link to articles, studies or info-graphics that help back up your approach. By giving parents access to the information you’re basing your approach on, they’ll be a lot less intimidated and it’ll be easier for them to buy into your system.
Instagram is probably the most popular social media tool of the moment. Harnessing its power can improve your school’s brand. Image from dotherightthinginc.org
This is the network your students use (for now). It’s your best shot at getting your student body engaged in conversation. Did I say “conversation”? Yep, that’s really the sole focus of social networks. You want your community to respond and comment on your activity. One of the greatest ways to spark engagement on Instagram is by creating a hashtag campaign. A hashtag is simply a way to create a bond between different photos that connect to the same topic. A great campaign could be used for promoting school spirit. Think of a hashtag that you can share with parents and students, like #washingtonhighspirit. Ask your community to capture great photos depicting acts of school spirit and tag them using your hashtag. Everyone has a camera on them nowadays, and it is easy to take natural, candid photographs. It’s important to use your other channels to advertise the campaign and get your school involved, so spread the word by posting to your Facebook page and school website. Once your community starts sharing great photos you can display a feed on your website. Here’s how:
- Use the following format: http://instagram.com/tags/HASHTAG/feed/recent.rss
- Replace “HASHTAG” with the hashtag you asked your community to use. Make sure to leave the #symbol out of your url.
A magazine designed for a tablet
Flipboard is a more visual way of gathering and sharing news and information. You can easily create online magazines incorporating your Twitter and Instagram feeds along with your favorite news sources. And Flipboard magazines look gorgeous on a tablet!
Hang a sign on your store
Your website’s homepage is essentially your school’s “storefront” and provides an amazing centralized location for your most important information. If you have a mission statement, or one short phrase that best describes how you want people to perceive your school, you should put it here. You should include things like a calendar of events, that Instagram hashtag feed we talked about earlier, or a rotating photo panel highlighting recent memorable moments from around your school. Make sure you include links to your social media channels!
You could try emailing it
People have been saying email is dead for years. Really? Given people spend 2.5 hours a week checking their personal email, I’d say that’s far from the truth. Email is still a critical channel to use in your school branding efforts. Email is a great tool to get people to respond to a call to action, or to update them with time-sensitive information. Just make sure that your emails include an engaging subject line and that they’re brief and to the point. People check their email, but they also get a lot of it, so you have to stand out and not waste their time.
Let’s Meet more often
We shouldn’t be surprised with how much people love video. We’ve been watching television for years, haven’t we? Now we get to star in it. A great way to communicate with your school is by scheduling Meets, Google’s version of video conferencing. One of the coolest things about Meet is that you can save them to your YouTube page for later viewing for those that missed the live event. Try conducting a town hall style meeting with parents and students, or conduct interviews with other members of your faculty. Now post a link to the YouTube video on your website homepage, or tweet it out to your followers. That kind of innovative content can improve your brand across multiple platforms.
Slides in the cloud
Slideshare is Powerpoint in the cloud. It’s an easy way to present a clear and concise message to your audience. Try making your slides more visually oriented with as little text as possible. This method will keep your readers more engaged. Once again, distribute this content by using your social media channels, email, and website.
Life hacking tip #1
Now that you’ve got several social media channels going, how do you schedule new content posts? Buffer is a great tool that allows you to schedule your tweets and Facebook posts in advance. By linking your social media accounts to Buffer and creating a schedule, you’ll be able to add interesting news articles and content as you discover it. Buffer will trickle out the posts for you.
Life hacking tip #2
Want a more advanced method for hacking your school branding efforts? Use IFTTT, which stands for “If This Then That”, a coding system consisting of triggers and actions. Basically, IFTTT is coding for us non-coders. By using one of their thousands of predesigned formulas you can automate online activities. And it’s all plug and play. Imagine you’d like to automatically create a post on Facebook whenever you add a new video to YouTube, or you would like to generate a new Facebook page album from those Instagram hashtagged images. IFTTT has formulas for you.
Improving your branding efforts at your school doesn’t require much money or time. Just try a few of these channels and tools, be consistent and strive to keep your community engaged. After all, an engaged community is the most important metric for success.