How can Schools use Digital Advertising

10th May 2019

written by Lissie Archer

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.

The best thing about commissioning video for your independent school is that you probably already have a great story to tell and a lot of amazing assets to film. That’s the hardest part over. Now it’s just about creating videos that tell your unique story in the best way, connect with your audience and help you drive admissions. Coming up with those film ideas can sometimes be a tricky task, especially when you have specific objectives like changing the perception of your school, reaching a wider audience, or letting people know about a unique aspect of what your school offers. To help you get started, here are 5 types of video that can be used to tell the story of your school.

1. Website Video

The first place to start is with a video that sits on your website and tells the story of your school in a nutshell (2 – 3 minutes). It is the first thing that prospective parents will engage with when they search for your school, so it has to be broad and cover all the relevant information. It can be a lovely mix of interviews with teachers and pupils, footage of the grounds and the facilities, footage of the students and teachers in action and everything that the school has to offer like extra-curricular activities, boarding and your school’s achievements. It’s an extremely effective way of building a personal connection to your prospective parents and can be empowering, heartfelt and even humorous.

Here is a website video we made for St Margarets.

2. Departmental films

These are videos that can be about the schools different departments such as the arts, sports and science, or particular aspects of the school like boarding, prep-curriculum or extra-curricular activities. It’s great to highlight particular aspects of your school that you really want to shout about, or to let people know about a side of your school that they didn’t know about. If you want your customers to know of your fantastic theatre facilities then create a video interviewing the teachers and students, then combine that with footage of the theatre rehearsals and plays. If sport is your forté, then create a short film looking at all the different sports you offer. Or, if you’ve traditionally been seen as a sporty school but have made huge headway in academic league tables, then create a short video about academia and teaching to show a different side to your school. Departmental videos are also extremely good at giving your customers a more detailed and personal look at your school. These videos can be hosted on your website, your Youtube channel and can also be turned into great online advertisements for Facebook and Instagram.

3. Pupil Stories

Another effective way of telling your school story is from the perspective of the pupils themselves. A video of your pupils (with their parents consent) put up onto your Facebook or Youtube channel can be a great way to build an instant connection with prospective students. These videos can be highly creative and can also be a really good way at getting your existing pupils involved with some media, filming and acting activities. It can also be a great way to show the pastoral side of school life. Themes for these videos could include “A day in the life of a student”, “Boarder’s Story” or “Leaver’s Story”. Your pupils are perhaps the best ambassadors you have for the school so make sure to feature them in your videos.

Here’s a video we made for Moulsford Boy School to sit on their website which followed a pupil throughout his day.

4. Message from the Head

Many schools have a “Head’s Welcome” message on their website so why not turn this into a video? Parents will always be keen to know who the Head of the school is and to get a feeling for what outlook they have. This would be an interview with the Head giving their personal story and connection with the school, outlining their experience, capabilities and everything they hope to achieve for your child. It’s a personal way for the Head teacher to tell their story and connect with parents directly.

We made this video for The Oratory Prep school to house on their website which has an interview from the headmaster. We filmed the interview and created a separate, longer film for other marketing activity.

5. Short form stories

These are videos that tell a story of your school in under 20 seconds that can be very easily marketed across the internet through your social media channels. They are a great way of regularly getting your school message out there to your potential audience. These videos could feature quick vignettes of school life like boarding, extra-curricular activities or after-school clubs. They could also focus on individual aspects of the school and its facilities like the sports hall, theatre or grounds. Or they could highlight a different side to learning at the school like using smart boards in classes, school trips and outdoor learning. The great thing about short story videos is that you can easily create a large volume of videos from a single shoot and each video can tell a different story about your school.

We made this video for Priory Academy LSST for their digital advertising campaign to increase boarding admissions and international student intake. We made short form videos that looked into each international students life boarding at LSST.

These are just 5 ideas for videos to tell the story of your school but this really is just the tip of the iceberg. When you start to get creative with your videos, there’s no end to what you can create from mini-documentaries filmed by the students themselves to ex-alumni films and even 360 videos of the school grounds and facilities.

The world of independent schools has changed and the academic landscape is now a highly competitive industry. Independent schools can no longer rely solely on the prestige of their institution, league tables or word of mouth to secure a constant flow of admissions. Today your prospective students and parents live in a digital age and you will need to embrace technology if you want to keep your admissions high and stay in the minds of the right people. After ensuring you have a well presented and smooth working website, video is the next marketing tool you should set your sights on. Here are 5 ways that video can be used to increase admissions to your school. 

 

1. Video on your websites homepage

A video on your homepage can be incredibly powerful for independent schools where your website acts as your shop window. In fact, a survey by Unbounce found that video on your landing page can increase conversion rates by 80%. This video holds all the information and knowledge that a prospective parent or pupil will need. It eliminates the time your prospect has to spend searching for information and engages them instantly with creative and meaningful content. In a matter of minutes, not only do they know everything they need to know about your school but they also form an emotional connection. They have begun to imagine what it will be like to be a pupil at your school or as a parent what it will be like to send their child there. This connection is hard to achieve through just text and pictures. It’s an instant way to stand out from other schools and demonstrate your unique selling point. When creating this video you should ensure it is concise, polished and easy to digest.

2. Facebook Video Marketing

If you haven’t already been using social media for your school then it’s a good time to start! After watching the brand film on your website, visitors will want to do further research online. This is where social media channels play an important role. The more interaction they can achieve with your school, the better they will feel about you and the easier it will be for them to build a relationship. Facebook has 1.18 billion daily active users (Facebook) and the average user spends 50 minutes per day on Facebook. Incorporating a Facebook page for your school will amplify the amount of people you can connect with and it is another platform where your brand film can be presented. Not only that but via your Facebook page you can begin to include “vignettes” of school life via both professional videos and “self-shot” videos. This could be films featuring different parts of the school like sporting life, 6th form, arts and drama, or calendar events like school trips and sports day. It’s a great way to add depth and character to your school. Facebook has options now to prioritise video viewing and your page cover photo can be replaced with a video. Consumers engage with branded videos the most on Facebook (49%), followed by YouTube (32%), then Instagram (24%) (Tubular Insights).

3.  Youtube channel

YouTube is the second most visited site after Google (Alexa). Regular video posts onto a Youtube channel can achieve huge traffic and engagement from your prospects. The average mobile-viewing session on YouTube lasts more than 40 minutes (Kissmetrics). Where Youtube excels over Facebook is that you can create your own “channel” for the school with lots and lots of videos. It can be an exciting way for pupils and teachers at the school to create their own videos to contribute to the channel.  You can be a lot more creative with the types of videos you make and really show off the school’s character. Youtube can act like an extension of your website video where parents and students will be willing to spend more time watching a video about specific aspects of your school like sport, maths, or teachers and facilities.

4. Social media advertising

Video advertisements can be hugely effective online as you can target very specific demographics whether that’s pupils, parents or teachers. Different social media platforms will work more effectively depending on the target audience. For example, Twitter and Facebook adverts will work best on parents whereas Instagram, Snapchat and Youtube ads will work best on prospective pupils. These adverts can be either brand new content or can be created using your own existing videos. The optimal length for these is between 5 and 15 seconds. Social media advertising as a whole can be an extremely effective way of getting your school in front of a new audience, but you can also use it to keep your school constantly in the mind of your current audience. Using a simple feature of Facebook called “pixel” you can “re-market” to people who have already visited your website. This means that when they visit your website they will be tracked by Facebook or Instagram and shown an unobtrusive advert to remind them that they were interested in your school. This form of advertising is highly effective. 

5. Video mail

The truth is not everyone is on social media, so how do you reach parents that are not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Youtube? One fantastic solution is through email marketing. It is a tried and tested approach that works time and time again. Whether you send out a newsletter or a personal email you can include video within that email. That can be your school video, a message from the head or a video about some other aspect of school life. Another way to get parent’s attention is to send out a hard copy of your video via Royal Mail. Rather than being old fashioned (i.e. a VHS sent in a big package) this is actually a very sophisticated form of marketing called a “video book” — it’s a school prospectus that when opened, contains a small screen that plays your video automatically. If you have an open day coming up and you want to target parents with something special then this could be the perfect solution.

There are so many great ways for independent schools to increase their admissions using video and it represents one of the best ways to get high user engagement and a solid return on investment. There has never been a better time for schools to spread awareness, share their story and connect with new audiences. Video is one of the fastest ways for you to get your school out there in front of the right people and make your story heard by those that matter.

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