Every year has its challenges for school marketing professionals, and 2023 certainly had its fair share of opportunities, challenges, and curveballs.
From the arrival of AI and GA4 to the continued drama of Twitter (or “X”) it felt as though as soon as you had a grip on a new platform or trend, there would inevitably be an update or algorithm shift.
Taking a moment to reflect on school marketing trends allows us to learn from the past, understand what was popular and why, and stay connected with our audience. Ultimately, change lets us improve school marketing strategies so we’re ready for anything that comes up in the year ahead.
By taking the time to look back, you set your school up for a more successful and effective year ahead, whether it's a change to your social media marketing, an extra marketing campaign, or a new approach to your word-of-mouth strategy, everything and anything is on the table this year.
A lot happened in just 365 days, but let's take a look at some of the biggest trends in private school marketing, and how you can adjust the marketing strategy for your school or district in 2024.
Threads vs. X
Threads is, or was, the new social media platform that everyone was talking about. Created by Meta and quickly called the “Twitter Killer,” Threads was supposed to be a viable option to go up against X (formerly Twitter).
Threads launched in early July and quickly became the fastest-growing social media platform, with 40 million installs on their launch day. Many digital marketers spent a portion of the past year researching the app, trying to figure out if it was worth adding another social media platform to their school or district’s social media strategy or if sticking with X was good enough.
Pros & Cons of Threads
- Posts can be up to 500 characters long and include links, photos, and videos up to five minutes in length.
- Threads links to your Instagram account, allowing for the transfer of your Instagram followers.
- You can reach the younger generations.
- Once you make a Threads account you can’t delete it without also deleting your Instagram account.
- There are no tools to track analytics yet.
- Engagement has dropped by 70% since their big debut.
Pros & Cons of X
- X has an established user base with a wide age range.
- You can easily switch between your personal and business accounts.
- You can find hundreds of trending topics on the explore page (and they're consistently updating).
- Web traffic is down 17.4% in the United States and 14.8% globally
- Posts can only be 280 characters, and videos must be under two minutes and twenty seconds.
- Many new features are exclusive to premium subscribers.
Should Your School Be on Threads?
Embracing a new platform sooner rather than later empowers your school or district to establish its brand recognition and get ahead of competitors.
Though Threads isn’t flawless, it's evident that Meta is actively improving this platform. If your team has the bandwidth, consider adding Threads to your school’s social media strategy!
Getting started doesn’t have to be time-consuming; test the waters with content you're sharing on other platforms and see how it performs.
School Choice is Expanding
School choice has expanded significantly as support grows for families choosing where their students receive their education. This year, 20 states expanded their school choice options.
According to the National School Choice Awareness Foundation, over the past year, 32% of parents explored public charter schools, while 29% looked into private or parochial schools. Additionally, 23% considered homeschooling, 21% explored online schools, and 4% considered micro schools or pod learning.
“In the last three years, the pace and scope of change has gone from slow-and-steady and incremental to bold and comprehensive,” said Shelby Doyle, vice president of public awareness at the NSCAF. "It’s thrilling to see the doors of opportunity opened wide for the next generation of students whose families will be able to truly choose the best educational fit for them as individuals, no matter the location or circumstances of their household.”
Schools now face an even steeper challenge of presenting their offerings, educational philosophies, and extracurricular opportunities in compelling ways to differentiate themselves and increase enrollment.
This variety of options for prospective families has created a competitive environment where schools, even districts, must truly stand out to engage their target audience. Birmingham Public Schools created a beautiful enrollment services page that highlights important information, including an interactive boundaries map, details on lottery admissions, and enrollment options for both in and out-of-district residents.
Short-Form Video Content is as Important as Ever
Short-form videos continue to reign supreme across social media platforms, capturing attention spans and fostering engagement like never before.
With platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts, this form continues to gain popularity. For example, Reels have double the engagement rate compared to other forms of content marketing on Instagram.
For your school, integrating short-form videos into your social media strategy is a smart way to increase engagement and reach because these videos offer an ideal medium for quick, impactful storytelling, and making complex concepts easily digestible.
Helping students, parents, and faculty connect is key, whether it's showing off campus life or spotlighting fun things happening around your school.
You'll want to consider creating a short-form video strategy to effectively communicate and engage with your school community in 2024. Garrison Forest has been utilizing Reels in their Instagram strategy and they are consistently some of their top-performing posts.
It’s crazy to think that ChatGPT only launched a little over a year ago. Within five days of their launch, they had over one million users and it's anticipated that AI will have as much impact on the world as the dawn of the Internet.
In 2023, most of us spent time trying to figure out the best ways to utilize AI in the workplace. It revolutionized the way marketers approach their work, and with easier access to AI-powered analytics and data processing school marketers can deliver content faster than ever.
The relevance and personalization of that content are extremely important to effectively engage prospective families. And as much as we would love to be able to predict what AI will look like in a year, we can’t even predict what new updates will launch tomorrow. The best advice is to always be ready to adapt to change.
Take time each month to learn more about AI. This could be through webinars such as the “Generative AI in K12 Education” three-part webinar series Finalsite created in partnership with NSPRA. You could also visit AI News to learn more about various AI updates daily.
The Big Switch to GA4
There have been many discussions (and memes) about the challenges and complexities of transitioning from Google Universal Analytics to GA4. Many users were frustrated by the steep learning curve last summer, especially when adapting to the new event-based tracking system and the different interfaces.
While it was challenging, we need to be able to learn from these updates and understand the benefits of GA4, like user-centric data, cross-platform tracking, and customized reports, just to name a few. Moving forward, schools need to allocate sufficient resources and training around GA4 to those who will use the software frequently.
What should you be looking at in GA4 to inform your marketing decisions in 2024?
Keep an eye on the average time users spend on each page to understand their interest level and to gauge your content’s relevance. GA4’s behavior flow reports let you see how users navigate through your website.
You can easily spot drop-off points in the user journey and identify pages where visitors often exit. Through event tracking in GA4, you can get a comprehensive view of user interactions, and monitor actions such as button clicks, video views, form submissions, and downloads.
While many of us are still trying to navigate the new tech and trends of this year, remember that change is the only constant — so stay on your toes. How quickly you adapt and your willingness to learn new things will give you the best chance for success in 2024.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As the Social Media and Content Specialist, Hailey oversees Finalsite's social media accounts and helps grow its online community. Following her time at the University of Kansas, where she took up rowing, Hailey is a fitness enthusiast who enjoys playing soccer and running.