Modern Problems in a digital landscape
Amongst the many challenges that schools face, one which has evolved significantly since digital advancements is the way in which prospective parents and employees engage with your school.
Before we were able to swing open our laptops and ‘Google’ any organisation at the press of a button, parents and future employees found you from either word of mouth, seeing an advertisement or simply walking past the grounds and being impressed with how your school looked. If any of these things went well, they’d then be inclined to visit your school.
Unfortunately, getting those same people through the door isn’t quite as simple anymore, as there are many more variables at play. The main variable being your digital presence. The challenge is that some of this presence is out of our control, for example, Google Reviews. However, the good news is that there is plenty that we can control, it’s just knowing how to effectively make the most of this digital potential.
How does a prospective parent or employee find you in this digital age?
With information at our fingertips, we now take three steps to inform whether we want to contact an organisation. We will first Google, then check a social media platform and finally visit the website.
This means that most people will have decided whether to visit you or contact you online, without ever speaking to you.
When a parent Google’s ‘nearby schools’, the likelihood of them seeing your school website first is determined by two main factors; Search Engaging Optimisation and paid for promotions. Both influence how highly your website is going to be ranked on a Google search.
Paying for a Google ranking is almost impossible for schools with the current financial restraints. Whilst we recommend you use keywords to improve your ranking, it’s impossible to compete if someone is paying to rank higher. Therefore it’s important to be proactive in a number of different ways to combat this.
“Google Reviews are often the first opinions that people will see of your school”.
During a typical Google Search, you will see below the Address and telephone number the Google Reviews. This means Google Reviews are often the first opinions that people will see of your school.
Unless we encourage stakeholders to leave a review, typically it will be the strongest opinions that are cause someone to post, even if their experience happened many years ago. We can’t remove these negative reviews, but we can interact with them in a positive manner.
Reviews that aren’t responded to only give the impression that you don’t care or aren’t active enough to notice. Interact, but take the issue offline, for example, respond by asking that person to come into the school to discuss their concerns.
If people see that you’re open enough to engage with negative reviews, they’re more likely to see that your school is open to working through problems, rather than hiding from them. Nobody expects perfection, because at the end of the day, we’re only human
Remember to encourage current parents/students/staff to review the school - It’s one of the digital versions of word of mouth - the next being Social Media.
Is social media really that important?
It needs addressing that Social Media is used by an overwhelmingly huge proportion of the population. Out of the 67 million people in the UK, 47 million use social media. Further to this, around 98% of people aged between 18-34 use social media on a daily basis.
This means that almost every parent, prospective employee (and sometimes even pupils), will almost certainly own a social media account.
This surely means that every education institution should already be on Social Media! Right? ...Wrong! Whilst Facebook was originally designed by University Students for University purposes, it is Education that is lagging behind in its use.
You may be thinking: ‘We know but we simply don’t have the time!’ This is understandable, but social media doesn’t have to take much time to be effective. The smallest engagement will go a long way. So here are a few quick and effective tips that you can get started with right now.
The first tip is to Be Yourself. Behind the screen is another human being, so give your social media presence a human touch! Humour, personality and opinion go a long way into driving engagement.
The second tip is to Use Imagery. Social Media posts with Images drive more than double the engagement compared to posts without. If you don’t have an image, you can use Royalty Free publishers, such as Pixabay and find a closely relatable image.
The final tip is to be consistent. Familiarity is your friend. It has been proven that people are significantly more likely to remember your brand if you place your logo in the same position of each post/advert/campaign.
In branding, familiarity breeds trust, not contempt. Would you engage with a brand that you don’t trust?
But In order to fully earn trust, it’s not enough to tell people how great you are, you need to show them, and there is no better platform to do this than your kingdom, your website.
Does your website tell the whole story?
We see more often than not schools filling their homepage with functional content and uploading content which makes them compliant. This is great, but this space also has the potential to showcase your brand. As most school visions are very similar, your vision is not enough to make you stand out.
Showing how you fulfil your vision is what will set you apart. Unlike Google and Social Media, with your website you can control the narrative.
“Showing how you fulfil your vision is what will set you apart.”
Your website should tell your school's story, as you would to a potential parent face to face.
There is no magical miracle cure to increase pupil numbers and attract the best teachers, however effectively using your social media, web and brand goes a long way to encouraging them to walk through the doors of your school.
Then it’s up to you.