Users' knowledge, expectations and technology change, which is why web design does, too.
First our focus was responsive design when we noticed a steady increase in mobile site traffic on our schools' websites. However, it wasn't just about having a mobile-friendly website. It was about creating a mobile-friendly experience — which is why soon after, we shifted our web design focus to parallax scrolling and panel design. And then, of course, with the growing importance of video, we encouraged schools to implement homepage hero videos on their websites.
So what's next in web design? What kind of content are your prospective and current families still craving?
They want something real, authentic, and digestible. Something quick to feed their fleeting attention span, but wholesome enough to create a connection.
They want you to be more social, which is why we see social media as the next biggest trend in school web design.
What exactly does this mean? Well, in short, it means trading in a bulk of the content written from the perspective of your marketing and admission team for live feeds from your social media accounts or hashtags.
If you're reading this blog thinking, "There's no WAY I'm giving up marketing control to social media," listen up: here are five reasons why social media is about to be huge for web design.
Free Report: The State of Social Media Marketing Among Schools
1. It's already where most of your families go for their news and updates
Perhaps the most compelling evidence that social media is the next big thing is its prominence in our everyday lives.
Nearly 2/3 of all adults get their news updates from social media — whether they go searching for it, or just happen to stumble upon it. In addition, social media already drives nearly 1/3 of all website referral traffic for most companies.
To summarize, your target audiences are already fully immersed in social media, for news, conversations, and content. And at the end of the day, you want to drive website traffic, not social media traffic. By bringing social media to your website, you bring the content and conversations prospective and families go searching for to one place — and then your website becomes the place they go.
This is a theory that fueled the redesign of Ellington Public School's website. The school's homepage was driven by the idea that parents want to see what's going on at school every day. And what better way to share those bite-sized stories than social media?
So, the school aggregated their main social media accounts, as well as the Twitter accounts for each of their teachers into an infinite scrolling stream on their homepage — and that's it. (Aside from a header and main navigation, of course.)
You can view Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Blog posts individually, or view them all together. In addition, each school in the district has a similar live-feed on their individual homepages.
2. You have constant, up-to-date content without additional effort, which will drive more website traffic.
Fresh content is critical to your website performance. Yet, it's pretty difficult to produce new, engaging content on a regular basis.
Whether you work as a one-person-team, or have multiple people helping you with marketing, at the end of the day, the workload always feels pretty overwhelming. There's just not enough time to blog, run around campus and snap photos, write the next news story, and get the ad approved. A matter of fact — you literally cannot be there for every single thing happening on campus. And therefore, you need to lean on something, or someone, else, to provide you with those authentic stories.
When you depend on social media, you're taking a bulk of the responsibility off your marketing team because you depend on the stories shared by your students and faculty through particular accounts or a hashtag.
This is something that Choate Rosemary Hall does particularly well. Encouraging constituents to share their photos, tweets, videos, and posts through a variety of hashtags — including #GoChoate and #ChoateMoment — homepage content and student life content is fueled by first-hand student accounts of life on campus. This provides Choate with new content, daily, that is being shared with current and prospective families on their website when they visit, so that there is always something new to see.
3. It provides an authentic, social proof you can't replicate in marketing.
Social proof is the cornerstone of an effective marketing strategy. Today, consumers won't make a purchase or decision without the input of someone they trust or believe. It is essential, because as Aaron Schorn from Hawai'i Preparatory says, "students can see right through clichés." And most of the time, marketing is just a whole bunch of clichés, and un-original words and phrases.
Social media isn't a platform for clichés or repeat content.
It's a place for stories and conversations — and it's something your prospective and current families want to be a part of.
A picture posted by a student at an after school event that your team couldn't make it to is going to have a far bigger impact than a few sentences about your after school programs on your "Student Life" page.
In short — social media on your website means constant, new, social proof that your school is worth the investment.
Get Ahead of the Curve
The new mash-ups featured in this blog post are created and monitored using our new social media tool, Finalsite Feeds. With Feeds, you can aggregate and monitor posts and hashtags from more than 15 social networks. This means you can pull in as many stories as you want, while also filtering what content goes on your website, so you can always put your best foot forward.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.