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How to be the Smartest School Marketer in 2024
Kristen Doverspike

What does your school’s digital footprint look like this year? A lot has changed — Google’s algorithm, what’s “in” on social media, the rapid growth of AI tools…you name it. So, as families search for and start comparing schools this year, it’s more important than ever to know the strategies behind getting found when and where it matters most.

Whether your 2024 goal is to increase enrollment, rebrand as a school, or build a long-term and sustainable PR plan for your district, an effective marketing strategy can be a game-changer. 

This year, getting ahead of the curve will require working smarter, not harder. Let’s cover the smart marketing strategies you can implement to deliver the best online presence.

Smart move #1. Leverage AI in your efforts

Ah, artificial intelligence. Whether you love or hate the rise of potentially the hottest topic of 2023, there’s no denying that AI has made a lasting impact. Leveraging AI for content creation in school marketing can help build efficiency and increase engagement across your website, emails, social media, and more.

So, before you write off AI, let's explore some easy ways you can leverage its benefits in your marketing efforts in 2024.

Website Content 

1. AI-Generated Drafts: If you ever feel stuck when it comes to a new webpage or updating an existing page, tools like ChatGPT can assist in generating initial drafts for website content. By providing a basic outline or topic, AI can produce coherent and structured ideas that your team can then refine to match the voice of your school.

2. SEO Optimization: AI can analyze search engine trends and suggest keywords or topics that can help optimize the pages you care about most. And suppose you’re unsure of what pages to focus on. In that case, you can also use AI to analyze your website data and gather insights into what it all means — Rather than scouring engagement data, you can find out in seconds what pages are performing better than others.

3. Readability Enhancements: Need to know if your content is hitting the mark? AI tools can assess your website's content for readability, suggesting improvements to make it easily understandable and engaging for your community.


1. Message Drafts: It can take hours to draft the emails and communications that you want to put together for your campaigns. Instead, you can turn to AI as your personal assistant! Draft the prompts that state exactly what you need, and get tailored content in mere seconds. This can give you more time to strategize and be smart about your efforts throughout the year.

2. Automated Email Strategies: You may have big dreams for your email campaigns (and we hope you do! See Smart Move #5 later in this blog) — but you might struggle to find the time to craft multiple workflows. Enter AI; simply input your ideas and goals, and tools like ChatGPT can help get your strategy in place.

chatgpt workflow prompt

3. Subject Line and Content Optimization: If you’re ever in a creative slump, AI can suggest effective subject lines and email body content that are more likely to engage recipients.

Social Media 

1. Content Scheduling and Posting: Many scheduling tools are developing AI-enabled features that can determine optimal times for posting and then automate the scheduling process. This ensures consistent engagement without requiring constant manual input.

2. Trend Analysis and Content Ideas: By analyzing social media trends, AI can suggest content themes, hashtags, and topics that are likely to resonate with your community, keeping your content relevant and engaging. 

Smart move #2. Optimize your website

Amongst all of the changes to the digital landscape in the last year, one thing remains true time after time: Your website needs to shine! It's not just a digital billboard but the storytelling hub of your school. If it’s been more than two years since you last took a critical look at your website design and performance, it may be time to consider a redesign.

Your ads, organic search results, and social media channels all lead back to your website — and the best digital marketing in the world won’t matter if your website doesn’t deliver a great experience. One bad session can lead to high bounce rates, decreased engagement, and a spoiled online reputation.

How do I know if my website is due for a redesign?

If your site isn’t telling your school’s story effectively, it’s time to start thinking about the message you’re sending to families. The bottom line is that if your site is difficult to navigate, is not optimized for search, is not mobile-friendly, or lacks content that resonates, then it's time.

A website redesign is a commitment, to say the least. But rest assured that for any timeline and budget, there’s a solution for any school size!

Website Redesign Playbook

Partnering with a dedicated team to develop your school marketing strategy can help place your school in the best position to achieve success. The Finalsite Advantage team can help support your school by providing hands-on, tailored marketing and communications advice, especially with a large project like a website redesign. 

Smart move #3. Rethink your social media strategy

Social media algorithms and trends are moving faster than we’ve ever seen. No matter if you’re using TikTok, hashtags, or doing everything “right” based on best practices of years past, the organic content you post is likely only reaching your existing community.

If you want to reach prospective families or build awareness for your school outside of your existing followers, it requires a smarter strategy than posting a fun video occasionally. Let’s tackle it together.

Develop a new plan for your social media ads

Successfully using social media ads requires you to have a separate paid strategy and know what social ads can do for you. The smart move is to reserve your social budget for awareness and re-targeting. 

Think of social ads as dumbbells — they're effective at the opposite ends of the interest spectrum. 

When you're showing your ads to an audience of people who may still need to learn who you are, it's a matter of building awareness through demographic-, location-, and interest-based targeting. These ads are great for top-of-the-funnel content like blogs, e-brochures, and general landing pages. 

At the other end of the dumbbell is the hyper-focused, remarketing type of advertising that only reaches a particular audience that has identified itself to you, either by visiting a certain part of your website (after you’ve added a tracking pixel) or by giving you their email information through content offer or an inquiry form.

This audience is more middle-to-bottom-of-the-funnel in their search, and you can more strategically reach them with content targeted to their indicated interests like athletics, tuition, specific academic programs, and more. Hebron Academy does a great job of reaching these hyper-specific audiences:

Hebron Academy social ad

Create a consistent organic strategy and redefine your KPIs

A single social post is not going to bring in a new wave of students. Instead, you should be prepared to develop a long-term strategy that will continually engage users over a long period.

Keep an eye on audio, hashtag, and video trends, and build recurring posts into your social calendar that celebrate your school and help entertain your audience. La Salle College High School does a great job of finding this balance, regularly celebrating accepted students and leveraging popular topics like athletics — you can’t ignore those results!

La Salle student acceptance on Instagram

The next step in building your 2024 strategy is to redefine your KPIs. 

Have you noticed that your comments and likes have dropped off in recent months? You’re not alone — younger generations are becoming less and less likely to interact directly with the content seen on social media. 

We can thank TikTok for this change, but social media is generally beginning to lean toward entertainment rather than "social" media. The social aspect of social media is increasingly becoming private, as many turn toward DMs and features like Close Friends lists (in Instagram) for their friend-to-friend interactions. As such, more behind-the-scenes metrics like shares, views, and saves will better indicate how your content is performing in the coming months. 

Smart move #4. Start your school blog

Another smart marketing strategy you should consider is starting or improving your school blog. Unfortunately, for many schools, blogging is last on their to-do list.

Still, blogs are a great way to increase your site’s organic website traffic, authority, and visibility by positioning your website as a relevant answer to their questions and allowing for more opportunities to use important keywords.

How do you write a school blog?

Blog writing involves researching keywords and writing high-quality content that matches the user intent, but there are just a few tips to keep in mind: 

  • Have a clear understanding of your target audience and write about what you know
  • Find a topic you and your team are confident about
  • Determine where you can display your knowledge
  • Build trust with the reader 
  • Don’t forget to include your teachers, coaches, and school leadership, too!

Blogs are also a great opportunity to include desired keywords to make your website more visible to people who are using search engines to find your school or district.
Don’t forget to utilize internal links. This allows users to engage with different parts of your website and will help improve the duration and engagement of the user experience. But make sure you connect it back to your school.
Write evergreen content about topics that will remain relevant and valuable over time. This way, you'll continue to generate traffic leads and relevancy over time. For example, “The Top Five Reasons to Attend a Private School.”

Your school is an expert in something equally important to parents — teaching children. That expertise is something you should share with the world.

Remember smart move #1 - AI tools can significantly help kick your blog off the ground by building outlines, drafts, keyword ideas, and more. AI might be the reason you’re able to start a blog in 2024! 

Smart move #5. Set up automated email workflows

If you know anything about email marketing and their platforms, it’s that they have established themselves in the broader world of business and mass communications. Many of these platforms have gone beyond just managing lists of recipients and decent-looking templates for emails.

Even if you're still doing it manually, you flow through a decision tree with each contact. The more you can automate that process and the more you can personalize the messaging, you’ll have a much higher rate of success.

workflows example

With Finalsite Workflows, you can track how your messages are performing, which can inform decisions about language, content, timing, etc. This year, look into using it to save time and brainpower and reduce manual tasks.

Smart move #6: Double down on video content

Video continues to make this list each year, as it is consistently one of the most engaging forms of media. 

There's always an opportunity to showcase how vibrant and committed your school is to students and families. Video is a powerful way to do that, as we all take in visual information quickly. Whether you have the budget for breathtaking drone footage or you’re simply working with an iPhone, there are endless options. 

You certainly have parents who will testify to the impact your school has had on their child's life. Or, you can take videos of the classroom interactions between the students and faculty who care and work so hard to change students’ lives. 

Start small, and don't worry if your video hasn’t been produced by a professional video company. Video can be candid, so enlist your community and ask them to share their authentic, user-generated video content from the classroom with you.

Social media has helped us change our mindset about that — Remember when we covered the entertainment aspect of social media earlier? 60% of consumers think user-generated video content is more authentic and trustworthy than branded content, so going in the candid direction is more likely to entertain your followers while saving you time! 

Atlanta YouTube Screenshot

Entertainment aside, video is also important in the eyes of search engines and can help increase your digital footprint. Google owns YouTube, so it’s common to see a YouTube video as a featured element of Google’s Page One search results.

BONUS Smart move: Connect the dots

With all the increased competition and school choice, marketing has become a reality for all schools.

The question we’re all asking is: how do we connect the dots between our marketing plan and our enrollment? Whether it's a billboard on the highway, a magazine ad, a digital ad campaign, or postcards — how is this impacting your admission and enrollment goals? 

Our friends at InspirED surveyed school marketers and found that about half of them felt they were doing a good job tracking their marketing efforts and how that translates to enrollment.

But that means 50 percent don’t feel like they’re doing a good job at tracking these results. 

That’s a huge obstacle to overcome this year because, ideally, this percentage should be nearly 100 percent. School boards, heads, superintendents, and principals need to feel like they're getting value out of the budget they're putting into the marketing and communications office.

Internally, the admissions department is marketing’s number one customer, but they’ve never had a close enough connection. Figuring out how to make that work starts at the top through conversations with leadership about roles, responsibilities, and how to work more collaboratively. Egos aside, both teams are working toward the same goal — a healthy enrollment.

Screenshot of a lead report in Finalsite Enrollment

How do we move parents and students along to where we have evidence that they have learned about you and shown legitimate interest? That's been difficult because typically, the initial research happens on a platform other than the website, like a search engine or social media. This means your ability to track them is severed at some point.

Consider what it costs to get X many prospective parents to express interest in your school — you’ve gone from being completely off their radar to getting them on your inquiry list. That can be tricky, but compare those numbers to what you see within your enrollment management system, where you can measure everything from the inquiry to the actual enrolled student.

Key takeaway

Making smart marketing decisions requires going beyond knowing what marketing and communication tools to use. Discovering why and how to use them most effectively is key to unlocking the smartest digital marketing strategies for schools' websites, social media, and enrollment efforts.

Digital marketing and consulting services for schools. Click here to request a consultation!


Kristen Doverspike headshot

In her position as Director of Marketing Operations, Kristen provides the strategy and creation of content across email, website and social media communications at Finalsite. With over five years of experience in content strategy and digital marketing, Kristen has worked with clients around the country to develop their branding, SEM, SEO, social media, and inbound efforts. She holds and maintains a number of certifications from Google, Hubspot, and Hootsuite.

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