• General Best Practices
Video Strategies for Engaging Families While Distance Learning
Kristen Doverspike

It’s no secret that our lives have been disrupted. 

In addition to the serious health and safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, schools around the world are adjusting to an unprecedented shift in education. You’ve likely had to implement serious changes within a matter of days, move hundreds or even thousands of students to distance learning, deal with crisis communications, and more. But what I’ve found inspiring — despite the challenges — is how this crisis has had the power to form an overwhelmingly positive, strong sense of community online.

Here at Finalsite, we’re looking at what schools are doing every day to stay connected amidst this outbreak. Teachers are coming together for virtual yoga sessions in the morning, heads of schools are going live to share updates, students are showing off their at-home workspaces — the list goes on. But one thing that they all have in common is the way they’re sharing their experiences: through video.

It’s not surprising, as video is one of the closest things we have to being in-person while being separated. Not only does it offer a sense of community, but it also aids strongly in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) — because reaching new families still matters. So, let’s explore the many ways you can use a video marketing strategy to connect with your communities now, and even in the future.

Click here to download the webinar: how to provide an engaging virtual admissions experience

Using Video on Social Media

This one is a no-brainer. Video tends to out-perform any other content type across all social media channels, in-part due to algorithms placing precedence on video, but also because it is objectively a more engaging format for telling stories. And don’t forget: it’s OK to be lighthearted for the sake of keeping spirits up!

Now, you may be wondering, “How do I generate video content while everyone is in their homes?” It’s a fair question. And if you’re trying to fill your content calendar, video may seem like the most time-consuming option. 

A common misconception is that video creation must take a lot of time and be professionally done — and while these videos certainly have a place in your marketing strategy, the videos you put out now (and even throughout the normal school year) don’t have to be. Filming and editing videos can be done all on your phone – and they come out pretty awesome!

Even if you feel like you don’t have the time for this, candid videos of community members simply talking can garner a lot of engagement on social media — and we’re seeing more and more of these pop up from the home offices of school staff around the world. 

Here are five ideas to incorporate video into your social strategy while promoting a sense of community:

1. Collect clips and piece together a video montage of your students and faculty.
Here, Sterne School created their own sit-com-style video!

 

2. Start a challenge. In this unique example, International School of Beijing put together a workout challenge video to promote physical education while practicing distance learning.

WABulous Week-long Workout Challenge from the western academy of beijing

WATCH VIDEO

3. Go live. This is a quick, in-the-moment option to easily get in touch with your school. You can start a regular series where you interview a teacher or even go live each morning with announcements. Instagram allows two people to go live at the same time in an aesthetically-pleasing interface. Videos can then be saved to your archive and added to IGTV.

4. Transform photos into a video. If you’re unsure about collecting video footage, you can still use photos in a video format! De Smet Jesuit High School in Missouri recently shared a heartfelt message to the class of 2020, featuring a collection of senior photos.

5. Ask students for their ideas. Students still want to be creatively challenged, and Gen Z is particularly savvy with video. St. John’s Prep recently shared a video from a student who showed how he still shares lunch with his classmates while staying home.

Using Video on Your Website & in Emails

Your school is likely using its website and emails as the primary means of communication — especially for delivering important information. You want to be as informative and helpful as you can be during this time, and we’ve seen many schools begin to use video to help communicate with their families. Here’s what you can do:

Create a Dedicated COVID-19 Webpage

If you don’t already, it may be time to think about creating a webpage that’s dedicated to your COVID-19 communications. This can be a one-stop hub to share regular updates and resources with your families — and video is a simple way to create quick content.

For example, Dare County Schools’ superintendent Dr. Farrelly addresses the virus, the district’s stance on the situation, and next steps for moving forward. The district embedded the video on its COVID-19 hub page. 

example from dare county school district of a video on the covid-19 hub

WATCH VIDEO

This is what we refer to as a “talking head” video: one person standing in front of a camera, speaking directly to the viewer. It’s a format that works well for situations like this, when important information needs to get out.

In addition to a message from your superintendent or head of school, you can also consider featuring a message from the school nurse (sharing a professional perspective and health care tips) or from teachers (allowing families to hear first-hand what their students can expect in their virtual classrooms).

If you use the Finalsite Platform, you can use the Resources module to create a gallery of all informational videos created during this time, and display them on your website.

Video will likely extend beyond your COVID-19 webpage during this time, as well. De Smet Jesuit High School created this adorable video for their new “virtual admissions” hub. It’s touching and personal.

Share Videos in Your Email Communications

Parents will likely already be eager to open email communications during this time, but video can be an even more effective way to get your message out there. Keep in mind that emails with the word “video” in the subject line can significantly improve open rates, and over 50% of users prefer video over any other form of content.

While you can’t directly embed a video in your email, you can link a screenshot of the video to your COVID-19 page. This will encourage families to head over to your hub and watch the video, in addition to exploring other resources once they land there.

In addition to sending families to your COVID-19 page, you can use free video creation tools such as Vidyard GoVideo and Soapbox to create “talking head” videos directly from your laptop.

Don’t Forget About Your YouTube Account

While you’re working on your video content, this is the perfect time to optimize and fill your YouTube channel. YouTube is all too often neglected, even though it has some serious potential for organic reach.

Not only is YouTube the second-largest search engine next to Google, which can mean reaching more prospective families in the consideration stage, but it is also one additional space where your school can communicate with your community. Think of it as a mini-website, featuring only video content.

Here are three simple things you can do:

  1. Take 10 minutes to make sure your profile picture, cover photo, and school information are all up-to-date. Link to your website and COVID-19 page in the About section.
     
  2. Make sure all of your videos are optimized for SEO. If they don’t already, make sure your videos include a description (with a link to your website) and make use of YouTube’s tagging feature, where you can tag terms that relate to your video like “school in [state]”, “[name of school],” etc.
     
  3. Create playlists to bundle together similar videos. This not only cleans up your channel’s user experience, but it will also encourage viewers to continue watching more videos, as playlists auto-play to the next. In light of COVID-19, playlists can be a great place to collect your student-created videos, virtual tours, video announcements, and more.

Misericordia University is already beginning to create an engaging admissions experience through their YouTube channel, offering video walk-throughs of its campus — providing prospective students an alternative option while they are unable to physically visit.

Video Communication Tools

If your school or district has transitioned to distance learning, you likely have already tested and chosen a video platform to connect with each other, such as Zoom or Google Hangouts. However, there are many video communication and hosting tools you can use to aid in admissions, marketing, communication, and development efforts.

Zoom

Host virtual interviews, connect families, and more: Zoom is a powerful tool for connecting people all around the world — so use it to your advantage for admissions. Create zoom meetings to connect prospective families with current families, host virtual interviews and parents and students, host “virtual days,” or do a Q&A. 

Go live with multiple people: Not only is Zoom a popular video chatting option, but you can also use Zoom to go live on Facebook. While Facebook doesn’t have an option to add multiple people to your livestream, you can go live on Facebook directly from a Zoom meeting. Here is some information to get you started.

Vimeo

Share a live video to multiple accounts at once: If you’d like to live stream to, say, both Facebook and LinkedIn, Vimeo gives you the power to do it! Options vary based on your subscription type, but it is a great option if you want to maximize your reach. Here is some information on this feature.

Vidyard & Soapbox

Free option to easily record “talking head” videos: If you’re looking for a free tool to record yourself talking directly to the viewer, Vidyard and Soapbox are easy-to-use and have great quality to embed the videos into your website. Keep in mind that Vidyard only allows you to embed or download five videos in the paid version, and Soapbox doesn’t allow any — it can only be added to emails. 

Key Takeaway

In this time of uncertainty, it’s vital stay connected with your school community. Your students and faculty are now remote, your prospective families need a way to get to know you virtually, and so much more. Video is one of the closest things we have to in-person interaction during COVID-19-related isolation, and it’s important to use it creatively to stay positive on social media, share important information on your website, and stay top-of-mind during the admissions season. Take inspiration from other schools, share ideas, and remember that we’re all in this together.


click here to visit the covid-19 communication strategies hub for schools and districts
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
kristen doverspike headshot

In her position as Inbound Marketing Manager, 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

  • COVID-19
  • Digital Campus
  • Social Media
  • Videography
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