School marketing is increasingly competitive what with schools increasingly embracing marketing automation, social media and content marketing alongside more traditional approaches such as brochures and direct mail to get their message out.
One of the most difficult places to be seen and to be effective is Twitter. With an average of 317 million monthly active users by the third quarter of 2016, Twitter might not have the reach of Facebook, but it can be an important platform to reach prospective families looking for great schools.
Be Seen Now
Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of any social media marketing is that it's not easy to be seen. It used to be the case that people who liked your school Facebook page would see your posts on their stream of updates, along with photos of dogs, cats and internet memes! Nowadays, however, it's almost impossible to reach a sizeable proportion of your audience on Facebook unless you pay to boost your posts.
Twitter doesn't try and twist your arm to pay in order to get you seen by your followers; trouble is, the very ephemeral nature of the platform means that you only have a fleeting chance to stand out in the stream. This particularly applies to people who are following hundreds (or thousands!) of users.
At Moondog, we like to use Hootsuite to follow what's happen on Twitter. You'll see from the screen grab just how much noise can be going on:
It's not rocket science to see just how much visual posts stand out. They literally pop out of the screen.
As a school marketer looking to get more ROI from your social media, you need to find ways in which your school can stand out.
Post a GIF to help tell your school's story on social media
GIFs are simply compressed static or moving images that are shared on the web. You've probably seen at least a couple today already including the one at the top of this post !
One of the great ways to use them is to illustrate blog posts with a quirky clip but they also play nicely in Twitter, standing out in the stream. GIFs are full of personality!!
So let's imagine you're tasked with maintaining the school website and social media accounts. It's late November and you want to remind people of something positive from your school. You want to grab a bit of attention amidst the noise of updates.
And you want to encourage your existing friends and followers to share the social media update with their own networks.
So let's make a GIF!
Create something that stands out
I always think that graduation is a wonderful time: there's a lot of tears of joy and celebration and quite often the weather is pretty good! Well, at least more so than November in Sweden.
I've got lots of photographs from covering a school graduation in May, so as a school marketer I decide to make a GIF to remind people of graduation.
As I'm using a Mac, I'm going to use a really simple app called PicGif, which is available in the App Store.
Yes, you can use Photoshop, which is fantastic for lots of things, but it's more complicated than necessary when it comes to creating a GIF and I'm sure that as a busy school marketer, you want to get your GIF out there as quickly as possibly.
PicGif will enable you to do it in minutes.
Create a GIF with PicGIF
Open up PicGIF and decide to create a GIF from either a video clip or photographs. In this instance, I am going to use some photos as I've got a stack of them on my hard drive.
I open up PicGif and drag my first photo onto the app screen, which opens up a timeline.
I can then continue adding as many photos as I like. Personally, I find that about 5 or 6 will do the job.
I can reorder the pictures by dragging and dropping to get the photos in exactly the order I want.
As I am using photographs, I set the frame delay to 310 ms. This will allow for a bit more time between each frame. To increase the speed at which the GIF cycles through each frame, reduce the ms to 100.
You can add effects such as “vintage” if you want to, but I find that unnecessary.
It can, however, be good to add a bit of text. In this instance it will be used to put the pictures into context but you could use it to make a point, say something funny, etc.
In the example, I've just added the date and name of the school for a bit of brand awareness. Never a bad thing when you are marketing your school!
Once I've hit Play to check the speed of the GIF, I select “Create GIF” from the top right-hand corner and save it to my desktop.
I can then upload it to Twitter just like any other photograph.
After I post it, it will appear as a static picture if you're using Hootsuite; however, it will play automatically on Twitter itself, really jumping out of the page.
Additional School Marketing Twitter Tips
Make sure your company identity and voice are branded well. An ideal way to do this is to make sure that your school's Twitter bio tells people who you are and includes a link to your school website or landing page.
After all, a natural reaction for anyone who comes across your GIF and hasn't followed you would be to check your Twitter bio.
Get colleagues involved! One of the best ways to increase the reach of a tweet is to get it retweeted and even shared across other platforms. Your colleagues are vital here as they can help you really widen your audience. Many people use social media nowadays, and although you can't insist staff Like and Retweet your updates, fostering a spirit of collegiality, investing a bit of time encouraging staff to get involved, can really help the impact of your brand.
Use hashtags and follow trends. Yes, by using hashtags that your target audience might be following, or using hashtags of trending topics, you can again increase your reach. By putting your school among the trending topics, you stand a much better chance of being seen. A word of caution, however; don't stuff your tweets with hashtags as they may be regarded as “Twitter spam”. One or two is enough.
Finally, you might also want to consider promoting your tweet if you think your GIF really has the potential to capture interest and help build your school brand online.
Twitter advertising isn't too expensive at the moment and you do, of course, set your own budget. The secret to a successful paid campaign is to make sure that your tweet grabs attention but also adds credibility and establishes trust.
Image credits: All school photographs by Moondog Marketing