Last December, our CEO Jon Moser shared some of his predictions for school marketing in 2017. He anticipated more schools would be incorporating more authentic content, and he couldn't have been more accurate. Authentic content engages your audiences online, helps tell your school's story through different perspectives, and will always offer something new to your website, social media, and other content sources. It just so happens, the millennials still in school today are known as content creators and users - 46% of millennials post original photos or video online that they themselves have created. There are now various avenues schools can take to showcase this kind of content from their students, faculty, staff, parents, and community, including:
Mike Lengel, Digital Media Specialist at Lakeside School, recently shared how the communications team has been striving "to increase engagement, keep content new and fresh, and provide the right information for each audience" and will continue to do so for the upcoming school year.
They found success in these three authentic content campaigns:
Starting out as an experiment, #OneMinuteLessons grew into a successful authentic content campaign shared on Lakeside School's Twitter profile. The campaign came after the communications team brainstormed a new way to promote the Upper School's 2017 spring play. The idea was to feature one of Lakeside School's history teachers giving a very brief lesson about the event on which the play was based. Since Mike was aware that social media followers tend to have a short span when it comes to video - 56% of all videos published in the last year are less than 2 minutes long - these videos had to be around one minute.
"First, I'd been toying with ways to create social content that encouraged our audience to get involved in things at the school, but didn't punish them if they chose not to – I still wanted anyone who took in or engaged with the content to feel like they got something out of it," said Mike. "Second, our office is always trying to do find new ways to highlight the people at Lakeside. And third, video production and filmmaking is a passion of mine, so I'm always trying to find new ways to use video to communicate."
The campaign grew to be more than just a promotion for the spring play. The communications team had now found figured out a fresh way to incorporate the school's teachers on social media through these short video lessons, giving both prospective and current families a glimpse into classroom life on campus. Mike was impressed by how quickly the videos started to come together, and just how well they highlighted each faculty's teaching style and personality. This is a great example of how to involve your own faculty and staff through authentic content by allowing them to share their own story.
How are other schools using video? Find out in our free eBook, The Use of Video Among Independent Schools.
"I was actually surprised at how well the first video did. Within a few minutes of posting, it started generating likes and retweets and comments, with a few people even asking when we'd be posting the next installment, and teachers here asking if they could do one," said Mike. "We did another one a few weeks later that promoted a musical performance, and it did just as well. As of today, they've both been watched about 4,000 times each, and I can't wait to get started on the next one!"
Student Involvement and Alumni Takeovers on Instagram
59% of U.S. millennials are active users on Instagram, so many schools have now turned to the platform as another way of sharing authentic content. Lakeside School actually leaves their Instagram profile in the hands of their students during the school year.
"For a few years, I was the administrator and manager of it – I'd find new students to run the account every week, with their sole purpose being to show Lakeside the way they see it. That led to tons of amazing photos, hilarious videos, and great quotes and reflections by students about our school," Mike said. "This last year, I was approached by two students who started the Student Spirit Club, and wanted to use the account to promote on- and off-campus events, as well as continue the student-run piece of the account. It was an awesome approach, and they did a great job promoting the account and getting word out about events at Lakeside."
Along with student takeovers, Lakeside School recently started offering alumni takeovers this summer through the hashtag #lifeafterlakeside. Lakeside School may have not been the first school to start offering alumni takeovers on their Instagram, but it was an idea Mike heard of that he couldn't refuse. "People that graduate from Lakeside go off and do myriad things, and create different kinds of lives, and I think the alumni takeover idea helps with combating the idea that it's the opposite – that all Lakeside grads leave here and go to the same kinds of schools do the same things with their lives," said Mike. "We call it "redefining success," and it's a message that comes from all over the school."
This is another successful way to pull in authentic content because your alumni will always be your alumni - whether they just graduated this year or decades ago. Alumni tend to be more willing than not to share their current life happenings like new career moves, accomplishments, and personal news. Not to mention, these alums are saving Lakeside time and effort with posting their own content. It's not only a great opportunity to celebrate your alumni success, but it also helps your school's story and mission live on into day to day life.
On Our Minds Blog
Lakeside School has successfully grown its On Our Minds Blog, featuring what's on the minds of their faculty and administrators. The blog is completely constituent-driven, and is a perfect example of how to start a school blog on your own website that can easily involve your school community.
One of the regular features in the blog that Mike started for faculty/staff is known as "In My Own Words." Mike said, "It's a Q&A-type blog that appears on our site that helps our audience get to know people on campus. The catch: the answers are handwritten!"
An example here displays how one of the administrators can respond to a series of questions in their own handwriting and then even share a self-portrait drawing of themselves. Mike shared how these posts are helping people get to know the members of Lakeside School "in a way they're not used to seeing, especially on school websites, where sometimes the only information is a phone number and an email address." When it comes to using this as authentic content, it again is a great opportunity to share the stories of the amazing individuals who make your school what it is. Everyone has a story to tell and encouraging contributions on a school blog is a great start.
Mike hopes to continue the success of using this kind of authentic content into next school year. "At the very least, if someone visits our Facebook or Twitter or Instagram and learns something new about the school, then we're happy," said Mike.
"Next year specifically, I want to keep #OneMinuteLessons and other regular features going strong, engage more with our followers on Twitter and Instagram, and experiment more with content that puts our students and employees in the spotlight in unique ways."
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie brings a fresh new marketing perspective with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and is passionate about helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments. She is also a practicing singer/songwriter and loves to expand her creativity in DIY projects.