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How to Increase Downloads of Your School’s Mobile App
Janet Civitelli

Nowadays, well over half of web traffic is accessed via mobile devices, and with most of the traffic coming from apps, your school’s families are likely spending three to six hours per day on their phones. Parent expectations are high; for them, it is the norm for a school to offer a mobile app experience. 

So once your public school district launches a mobile app (or plans to do so soon), one of the most important things you'll need to do is successfully communicate the benefits of using your school’s app. However, boosting user adoption and getting more families to use the app on a daily basis requires a whole other strategy. 

To help you increase downloads of your school’s mobile app, let’s look at some strategies you can implement today, which include:

  1. Knowing your audience
  2. Making a great impression
  3. Sending the information that matters most
  4. Promoting your mobile app
  5. Involving your students
  6. Recruiting brand ambassadors 

1. Knowing your audience

Knowing how your families access your school’s information is a critical step toward understanding their expectations and will increase the likelihood of a higher adoption rate of your mobile app. 

Mobile apps are already where your audience goes to get the personalized information they want and need to know. With your school’s mobile app, families can personalize and filter their content on a school-by-school basis — No more sifting through varsity sports information for families with younger children, no lower school updates for families of high school seniors … show only what's relevant to them based on which schools their children attend.

screenshot of Northbrook 27's mobile app in the Google Play store

Tarah O’Connell, Director of Communications at Northbrook School District 27 and early adopter of the Finalsite mobile app shared, “People have an app for everything. They bank with apps, order groceries with apps, and purchase clothing on apps. Apps have come very far in terms of awareness, and since the pandemic, people have turned to apps even more. We really needed to get parents' information literally at their fingertips.”

Hearing and responding to the needs of your district will resonate with families who are expecting streamlined school-to-home communications. Providing them with an experience they’d expect with a mobile app for iOS and Android will be a big step in getting more downloads. 


2. Making a great impression

First impressions matter, and since the design of your app is user-friendly and attractive, you’re off to a great start. The Finalsite mobile app has an intuitive and easy-to-navigate user interface that’s designed, built, and tested to offer the best user experience. And since you’ll be able to use your school’s colors, logos, and hand-picked content, families will feel right at home.

As O’Connell knew, boosting Northbrook School District 27’s downloads of the app would depend on the relevancy of the information being sent.

“The last thing I wanted to do was implement an app that was going to frustrate our parents,” O’Connell said. “I wanted to be sure we didn’t buy a glitchy product. I downloaded several school district apps developed by Finalsite on my phone. After using them for a while, I found them easy to use, easy to navigate, and did not stumble across any technical issues.”

And with secure log-ins, app users can log in to their Portal account using any existing Finalsite-supported authentication methods — no additional configuration is required to provide access to private content you don't want available on your public-facing app. 

3. Sending the information that matters most

Mobile users today are sophisticated in their expectations about the functionality of the technology they use. They’re quick to abandon a product that doesn’t work well.

Since more than 80% of mobile users have push notifications enabled on their smartphones — today’s families expect up-to-the-minute updates. With Finalsite’s mobile app, you can send push notifications to instantly notify users with important messages, and even update your subscribers whenever news posts or blog articles are published. Finalsite's mobile app is integrated with Composer, our content management system, so any edit you make to the content on your website will also automatically sync over to your mobile app.

We know users appreciate personalization, so the Finalsite mobile app allows users to turn sections on or off depending on their needs, on a school-by-school basis. Families can display only the content that matters to them for each school their children attend. When users interact with the app regularly, they’ll know both critical information and the latest information without having to check the school’s website to find dates, times, and additional details about upcoming school activities.

a man holding a phone with a mobile app

Colleen Adams, director of communications for Fairfield Preparatory School in CT, put her school’s most up-to-date information right in her family’s hands, adding that the school community has had a positive response to the school’s mobile app. Adams explains, “We have been using the Finalsite mobile app for years, which streamlines our communications, such as athletic schedules in real-time so our players, parents, and coaches get the latest info, on their phone app.” 

4. Promoting your mobile app

To gain maximum exposure, advertise your school’s mobile app on all available marketing channels used by your school. The first and obvious choice is the school’s website and parent portal. Your school’s blog is an excellent opportunity to promote the benefits of using your mobile app, and don’t forget to include regular reminders about your school’s mobile app via both email and the school newsletter—especially to families new to your school. 

Reminders are key, so post on your school’s social media platforms, too. It takes an average of seven repetitions before the average person acts on a marketing message, so by posting similar communications across multiple channels, you’ll reinforce the benefits of families downloading and using the app. 

In Northbrook School District 27’s case, O’Connell and the communications team created a video tutorial, linked download instructions into e-newsletters and on the district website, and shared mobile app information on social media. These efforts were extremely successful, with a 73% adoption rate among parents after only 30 days!

Tippecanoe mobile app_promo

For the Tippecanoe School Corporation, the district created a helpful guide and news brief for families downloading and setting up its app, TSC2Go. “The launch of the mobile app is an important addition to our communication strategy,” said TSC Director of Technology Dr. Devin Arms. “With the popularity of smartphones, we felt it was necessary to offer an app for our patrons.” 

5. Involving your students and teachers

Your greatest marketing ally could be your student population since the most common way people learn about a new mobile app is through friends and family. Adding a bit of external motivation for students could be worth it.

Teachers are sure to have some creative ideas about what rewards are appealing to their students, so ask them what incentives to offer to entice students and parents to download your school’s mobile app. Think of prizes for the grades with the highest participation rates. If every student persuades their family to use your mobile app, your marketing efforts for community adoption are sure to be a success! 

6. Recruiting brand ambassadors

Everyone knows there are beloved teachers and parent representatives who are at the center of your school community. In marketing, these types of people are “spheres of influence.” Identify two or three teachers and two or three parents who are exceptionally good at getting the word out about anything new. When they recommend something, people listen.

Ask them to be brand ambassadors and encourage others to download your app. Brand ambassadors can influence people who are more receptive to word-of-mouth instead of written recommendations.

Key Takeaway

To make your school district’s mobile app a success, community adoption is key. You need to know who your audience is, make a great impression, and offer the right content to the right families. Using multiple channels to promote your mobile app with the help of your community is sure to help your school district’s mobile app be a hit!

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Janet Civitelli headshot

Janet Civitelli is a communications consultant and copywriter with extensive experience working with educators and school systems. Trained as a psychologist, Janet uses her understanding of human behavior and persuasion to help organizations with strategy, storytelling, and marketing. Janet lives with her husband and two children in Austin, Texas.

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