When developing their social media strategies, public school districts should consider the integral role students and teachers can play in branding and marketing on that front, Baruch College marketing instructor Trish Rubin writes for District Administration.
When developing their brand, schools and districts should observe what top companies are doing and tweak it for their own purposes — and many, like Apple and Disney, engage their audiences by having those on the inside demonstrate what they're doing and how much they enjoy it.
- Students have an advantage in leading this charge, since they're social media natives and the target audience, and teachers and administrators can guide them in the process of developing brand voice and messaging, providing another layer of learning opportunities.
In the past, schools didn’t have to advertise. Students just moved into a district, registered and showed up on the first day. Times have changed, however, and public schools are recognizing that. In an era of school choice, where traditional public schools compete with competition from charters and private school vouchers, students are being siphoned away. In North Carolina, for example, Durham Public Schools has lost 1,000 students in four years, while enrollment in area charter schools grew by 1,700.
Today, more than ever, schools need to create a brand that draws in students and their families. Social media use is key. Florida’s Collier County Schools uses social media to reach out to families and the community at large. It was a tough transition at first, mostly because both teachers and administrators didn’t want to embrace it.
Avoiding social media means losing a major communication platform. At Collier, social media allows the district to show the community both its big and little wins. Now, thanks to that branding on Facebook and Twitter, the district is making a name for itself nationally.
When creating this content, however, it's key to make sure all parties are following an agreed-upon strategy. Ending each email, call alert and social media post, for example, with a school's spirit motto (such as Go Cougs!) can also breed a sense of pride.
The community benefits from these efforts, as well. Families looking to relocate seek out information about a school district before they start looking for a house. By being proactive about presenting what's going on in classrooms, districts can make neighborhoods more attractive. Strong branding can also help schools and districts line up partnerships with businesses and organizations in the community to fund programming and events, provide additional learning opportunities and more.