This month, we speak with Brendan Schneider, national thought-leader for all things marketing for independent schools through his online blog, SchneiderB Media, and as the director of advancement at Sewickley Academy, a preschool-12th coed day school in Pittsburgh.
Kalix: Facebook is still king for independent school marketing. What’s the most important strategy schools need to be doing right now on Facebook?
Brendan: The most important strategy is to have one! Are you posting for recruitment or retention? For the latter, you may be posting a photo to reinforce the decision why a parent chose your school in the first place.
Schools don’t do a great job at posting for recruitment, though. [For recruitment posts], you need to drive people off Facebook to a web asset like a landing page to convert them and get an email address. Send them to a landing page, not your homepage. That’s a wide ocean. People can get lost and are gone.
The landing page is an integral part of inbound marketing. Does it include an inquiry form? The form should only have fields that are actionable today. Once they get to the application point, you can ask for everything.
People treat Facebook as a photo album, but it’s so much more. The Holy Grail of social media is that it’s a two-way street for communication. Schools ask for comments and people interact, but many schools don’t react to comments. That should be part of your strategy, too.
Kalix: What’s your biggest marketing challenge and how do you tackle it?
Brendan: Just keeping up with it all, from advancement and changes in technology to internal demands, coupled with [marketing] budgets that aren’t growing! Unfortunately, it does take money. We still struggle [to juggle everything] at Sewickley, and we don’t have it all figured out. That’s an okay place for schools to be in. We’re fortunate that we have a team. We try to be even more efficient and get more done. We get together every week and talk through things.
Kalix: Any advice on how schools can make the most of social media marketing?
Have a plan and take time to measure the effectiveness of your plan. I am the poster child for getting things done, and I love checking boxes off my to-do list, but I am not great at taking a breath and seeing what is working. I now schedule time to look at analytics.
Another challenge is keeping up with content. You try to get updated information and photos [from faculty for school news], and you’ll get late calls or just-in-time calls. At Sewickley, we’re in year two of a brand ambassador program with our faculty. My team recruited faculty who want to help supply photos, share information, etc. It takes constant care and feeding, but it allows us to be in a few places at once.
School marketers also need to understand that Facebook is pay-to-play. If you want to be seen, you need to put money behind it. I am not a huge fan of boosting posts; instead, I use ads and targeting.
Kalix: Let’s talk trends. Two big ones for 2019-20 are the continued need for video and a growing interest in school podcasts. What wisdom do you have for schools in these areas?
Brendan: For video, make sure it tells a story. Don’t just put up beautiful pictures of campus. Any video needs to convey a message. Experiment with the kinds of video you post. If you have a professional video, don’t be afraid of raw, unedited videos from an iPhone. This gives a behind-the-curtain look at your school. Try shorter video, funny videos, more produced videos, etc. Then go back and see what your audience is relating to. You need to know your audience and who you are creating video for.
I’ve talked about podcasting at Sewickley to help with alumni engagement, but we don’t podcast yet. It’s the shiny new toy [of marketing]. Understand that podcasting is a long game. It’s not an immediate thing.
The technical piece isn’t hard, but podcasting takes a lot of time and effort. It’s a lot of fun but if you’re doing it because it’s the shiny new toy, push the pause button and work from there. If you are going to deliver every week – and you should be if you are podcasting – it takes time. Schools are historic about adding things to their plates without taking anything off. If you are going to podcast, what comes off your plate? You might consider batching podcasts. Record three or four in a day.
About Brendan Schneider
Brendan Schneider, Director of Advancement at Sewickley Academy, is one of the leaders in the field for teaching on and knowledge about inbound marketing for schools. Brendan presents and consults on inbound marketing, social media and marketing technology at the regional and national levels. With his workshops, the SchneiderB Media blog, his schneiderb.fm podcast, his SchneiderB VirCon Virtual Conferences, he continues to advance the abilities of the independent school admission, communication and marketing professional.
Missed our previous interview with Cami Colorrasi, Director of Communications for Notre Dame Preparatory School? Read it here.
First-Rate Advice from a First-Rate Independent School Expert