Ah, summer. The campus is quiet, the students are gone, and you finally have a chance to catch your breath. After one of the wildest school years (ever?), there’s never been a more deserved time to unwind from the chaos. The summer months give us the one thing we really crave: downtime.
But in just a few short months, you’ll be opening your doors for another year and you'll be jumping right back into the organized chaos that we know and love. For now, take advantage of the quieter months by focusing on these six summer projects to enhance your school’s marketing strategies:
- Prepare your fall social media calendar
- Analyze, purge, and refresh website content
- Optimize your website for search
- Plan your event calendar and how you’ll promote it
- Gather new testimonials
- Create or refresh email workflows
These projects will save you time and spare the headaches at the start of the academic year—you’ll thank yourself later!
If you find yourself always scrambling last-minute for social content, the summer months are the perfect time to put together a plan for consistent posts that are creative and engaging.
While it’s important to have candid, spur-of-the-moment tweets and posts, certain content is easy to plan—such as promoting big athletic games, campus events, open houses, and other fun calendar dates throughout the year. Weekly, branded posts are easy to prepare and schedule, and looking ahead to the calendar is a smart way to invest your time. For example:
- Gather a list of national and international “fun/off-beat” holidays. This will cover a lot of great content for your calendar. From National Hot Dog Day on July 22 to International Puppy Day on March 23 and even International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19, the list is endless and it provides absolute gold for engaging with your community! Check the list of national and international days here. 🐶
- Designate thematic “days” to follow each week. Whether it’s Motivational Monday, Throwback Thursday, or Fabulous Friday, setting easy-to-remember themes will help you and your team fill your calendar on days when it feels like there’s nothing to share. 🗓️
- Track your posting strategy. Posting at least once per day on Facebook and Instagram, 3+ times per day on Twitter, and 1-2 times per week on LinkedIn is considered best practice to have a solid social presence. ⏱️
St. Anne's-Belfield School in Charlottesville Virginia has always had a strong social game, and their approach is spot-on. Their content is the perfect mix of the 70-20-10 rule, and ensures their strategy is focused on engagement. This rule refers to using 70% of your calendar for posts that are meant to engage and entertain your community (think trivia questions, student highlights, etc.) while another 20% can be reserved for sharing content from other community members or thought leaders. The last 10% can be used for promotions (like admissions events and athletic home games).
There are so many social media tools out there that will help you save time, plan better, and improve your presence. Set up these accounts and get familiar with them before the school year starts so that you have them all in your toolkit.
For graphics: Canva
Canva is becoming a must-have app for social media managers—and it’s easy enough to use that you don’t need to have a graphic design background to make your posts look professional! They offer many channel-specific templates, and you can add your school’s colors and take an image from drab to fab.
For scheduling: Later and Hootsuite
If you haven’t utilized a scheduling tool in the past, make this your year! Scheduling your posts ahead of time enables you to put more time into strategic marketing; most tools give you additional insights to help you adjust and improve. Later and Hootsuite are two trusted scheduling platforms with robust features. Later.com offers the added benefit of an integrated “Link in Bio” option for Instagram.
Need help managing your school's social media? We can help! Our team of social media experts can manage your accounts, run ads, or simply do an audit to see how you're stacking up against your competitors.
It's time for a little spring (or summer) cleaning! The summer months are the perfect opportunity to conduct a website content overhaul to give your site a fresh look for the new school year. Your homepage likely includes visuals like a large hero image or video content. Even if you’re using photos from a previous school year, make sure the images match the summer/fall season and reflect an energetic, back-to-school vibe. That means getting rid of any photos that were clearly taken in the winter or fall and ensuring your images don’t speak to a specific event, like a graduation or the Halloween parade.
If your site’s content is more than a couple of years old, you should take an in-depth look at how it’s performing. Take a look through your Google Analytics and dive into “Behavior.” This can help you understand what your audience is doing on your site. Use that data to re-evaluate your images, headers, navigation, content, and structure, and if something doesn’t provide value or it’s not converting your visitors, remove it. For prospective parents returning to your site, fresh content will be your ticket to re-engage families.
Then, check out your “Landing Pages” data, which breaks down where everyone is spending their time on your site, no matter how the audience got there.
Looking for some more tips? Check out this helpful blog on Google Analytics 101 For School Marketers.
Ask any school marketer, and they’ll tell you: they have a love-hate relationship with search engine optimization—AKA SEO. When done well, it makes our jobs easier for no extra cost. But without enough attention, it can ruin all our hard work by sending us to page 2 or 3 of someone’s Google search results (Psst...hardly anyone looks past page one.)
This summer, put the time and attention into your SEO strategy. With the majority of education searches starting with a generic Google search (like "best schools in California"), if your site isn't optimized for popular keywords, you'll be out-ranked by the competition—ultimately impacting your inquiries and enrollment.
Your summer optimization checklist includes:
Confirming you’re using your headings properly
Take some time and make sure you're using your page titles and subheadings correctly. Your pages should lead with an H1 heading as your title, then proceed using H2, H3, etc. With Finalsite’s Composer, this can be styled automatically with a single click, and this approach will allow your pages to be more visually consistent (and make them easier to read). Plus, Google will reward you in its search rankings as it crawls your pages and deciphers what content is most relevant to its users.
Checking that you have alt text for all your images and resources
Alt text serves a number of functions, such as displaying the text in place of an image file that can’t be loaded on your site or providing better context to help Google index an image properly.
More importantly, adding alt text to your photos is a cornerstone of web accessibility—screen readers will read an alt attribute to better interpret an image and assist visually impaired users. So take a moment to make sure all your images and resources have some alt text description of what they entail.
Kudos to Northshore School District in Bothell, WA for properly using alt text for their images!
Luckily, if you're using Finalsite’s Composer, you can filter your Resources by those without alt text, so you can always circle back and make sure you’re staying within compliance.
Building up your link profile
Outbound and inbound links give Google a sense of your website’s topic, thereby indexing it properly. Linking within your site improves your overall SEO, improves your site’s navigation, and drives traffic to your other pages. Links coming to your site help rank your page as an authority on certain subjects or search terms.
Take a moment and brainstorm how you can enhance links within your site by reading through your content and linking related phrases and topics. Additionally, find ways to link back to your site by posting on relevant message boards, online directories, local listings, news sites, or writing guest posts for other blogs.
Creating title tags and meta-descriptions for every page
Brainstorm the search terms a prospective family would use when they're looking for your school. Are you a boarding school in Boston? Are you a top district in Texas? Use this term in conjunction with your school's name for the perfect page title tag. Google displays the first 50-60 characters of a page title in a search engine results page (SERP), so position the most important keywords at the beginning of your title tag.
In addition to your title tag, a website page's meta description is also critically important. A meta description is an HTML and XHTML element that describes your page to search engines and plays a huge role in SEO rankings. You have the opportunity to define who you are in 155 characters or less, so you have a bit more room for detail. It can be simple, or it can be compelling, but use meta-description to drive qualified site traffic to your pages.
It may seem like a lot, but the earlier you start, the better chances you’ll have at a page 1 search presence—it can take weeks to see content changes reflected in SEO.
Take a moment this summer to plan your event strategy for the fall—chances are it looks much different than last year. The pandemic had schools rethinking their events from the ground-up, and for some communities, virtual and hybrid events are here to stay. A crucial part of planning your calendar will be knowing when the “what, how, and where” of your school’s fall events. Are your open houses monthly or quarterly? Would parents expect a curriculum night the first month back? When is your homecoming? Could you live stream an event and welcome a larger audience?
Consider how families’ expectations have changed over the last year, and try incorporating those changes into your event strategy.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Eanes ISD partnered with Finalsite to build a microsite strictly to house athletics information, including a recently-launched live streaming integration with Finalsite and LocalLive. When venue capacity restrictions were put in place, the district found a way to adapt its event planning, continue to foster a sense of community, and highlight the district’s athletics program.
Offer virtual, in-person, and hybrid options
Make sure you can offer all families an engaging and meaningful experience, regardless of your event’s format. If families aren’t able (or comfortable) with coming to campus, offer them virtual tours or Zoom chats with staff through your digital campus. If a conversation could easily take place over Zoom, offer that as an alternative to meeting face-to-face. Consider adding multiple session dates with flexible times so families can easily add them to their calendars and join virtually with a click.
Keep your calendar updated
Add your events, important dates, and vacation schedules to your calendar well in advance so families can plan. Think about using an automated email system, like Finalsite’s Workflows, for regular reminders or important deadlines for your biggest events. Families will not only appreciate knowing these essential dates before the start of the year, but such organization will also help your team set your marketing and communication plans in motion.
Minnetonka Public Schools (MN) has multiple calendar elements with options to filter content by school. At-a-Glance versions can help families plan, while a menu above their main calendar grid offers extra information for each school, downloadable calendars, and even a helpful tutorial on how to subscribe. If your school’s vacation and holiday dates are confirmed, share them as soon as they’re ready.
If your events aren’t yet confirmed, consider hosting resources for families to browse while you set your schedule. For example, Suffield Academy highlights its admission event information, both past and present, in a way that puts a wide range of content at visitors’ fingertips during the quieter summer months. Even if a family missed a recent open house, Suffield provides resources and recordings that cover their programming, parent panels, as well as a virtual visit day.
Now that everyone’s calendars are a little more flexible, summer is the perfect time to collect updated testimonials from your community. Use this opportunity to send a survey, collect comments over social media, or invite parents, alumni, and students back to campus to share their stories, experiences, and how they perceive the value of your school’s education. Aim for gathering video testimonials (a quiet campus is an ideal time for clean audio recordings and offers more choices for filming locations), but written, Zoom, or phone interviews are also valuable.
The few weeks after a reunion or championship game are great times to capitalize on the parent or alumni experience. Connect with happy parents shortly after commencement and get them talking. It’s a great time to reflect on graduation and what it’s meant to their family as they ride the positive vibes from your community.
NorthWest Catholic High School in Connecticut showcases testimonials from alumni directly on their homepage, paired with captivating professional imagery. Consider going on location with alumni and create portraits of your constituents where they work and live. It will help differentiate your imagery across the site and your photos will pop!
The British School Jakarta has a wide variety of video testimonials within their site’s community page, ranging from parents of students, alumni, and recent grads. And because they’re videos, they can be repurposed as written testimonials to fuel content for the fall, such as admission emails, website elements, viewbook material, or digital ads and social posts. The British School Jakarta has also posted brief Q&As with their community members, which gives great insight into their specific programs and campus experiences.
Your marketing and communication strategy never gets a vacation, and every interaction with families has the possibility to “wow” a prospect.
Enter parents into an email workflow—a series of personalized emails that contain content related specifically to their grade level and/or interests while sharing more resources from your school. Create or refresh your campaigns to include emails with updated fast facts, new video greetings from faculty and division heads, and additional highlights about what makes your school or district unique. Let families know about upcoming admissions events or send them links to your recent virtual open house recording.
Whether it’s information about the athletics department, your STEM program, or financial aid and matriculation details, make sure your communications are offering the right content at the right moment in the admission’s funnel.
Baylor School in Chattanooga, TN engages their inquiries and sends content using Finalsite’s Workflows. With information about their programs and their campus, including “10 Things You Should Know to #LeadLikeBaylor,” they’re sure to generate interest from families. (Sidebar— ❤️ that call to action!)
Pro Tip: Ensure all of your emails are mobile-friendly with a template that meets the following guidelines:
- Design content vertically—not horizontally. Most phone screens are between two and six inches wide (500 to 650 pixels). Send it to your own email first and check it on your phone. How does it look? If you were the recipient, would you understand the email’s purpose?
- Use at least size 16pt font for paragraph text to make the content readable. No one should have to squint or use their fingers to zoom in on your emails!
- Limit the number of words. Less is more, especially on a phone.
- Use calls to action to drive traffic back to your website. Rather than give every detail in the email, provide enough to peak their interests—and let them find out more on your website.
- Don’t use too many graphics that have text. Not only are photos more difficult to read, but they also don’t always load on every device. If you must use graphics, don’t forget alt text!
Looking for some more inspiration? Check out these Email Automation Best Practices: 8 Tips For Getting Started.
We get it—the summer months were made for trips to the beach and sleeping in. After the uncertainty of this year, no one deserves a vacation more than you. But if we’ve learned anything from the recent past, it’s that preparation is crucial—you never know what curveball might be headed your way. By planning ahead with these summertime school marketing projects, you'll be ready to bring excited students back to school and welcome more families to your community.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Web and Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, story-telling, coffee, and creating content that connects.