Creating the Online Infrastructure for Successful Digital Word of Mouth
According to a Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising report, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. If word-of-mouth advertising is the unpaid spread of a positive marketing message from person to person, social media is the modern day, technological equivalent. Are you more likely to go to a new restaurant because the restaurant claims it is worth it or because a trusted friend says she had a great experience? When our constituents share positive opinions, news and experiences on social networks, it increases our credibility among prospective families in a way we as the institution cannot. To this end, Golda Och Academy has established a digital infrastructure to make it easy for our constituents to share their testimonials and experiences so they become an integral part of a prospective family’s decision.
Our website is our hub. We like to direct prospective families to our website because right on the homepage, in addition to learning about the school via videos, calendar of events and our Facebook feed, someone can view and register for an open house and other admissions events, complete and submit an inquiry form, schedule a private tour, contact our admissions directors, and also apply. Our website is our digital front door. To get people to our website, we have worked across digital platforms, including our social-media channels, school ranking websites, community websites and news outlets, to integrate a message highlighting our mission, vision, core values and value proposition.
The website should manifest the brand strategy in its architecture, writing, design and photography, conveying a sense of professionalism and polish. In addition, the use of analytics should be determinative to measuring your social-media success. If your strategy is working, you should see an increase in traffic and leads to your website from your social networks.
The testimony of a parent, alumni parent, student or alumni is one of the most powerful tools we can use to market a Jewish day school education.
It’s important to continually track your social-media marketing metrics in order to gauge which tactics and types of posts work and which don’t. Some social platforms offer their own metrics. Facebook, for instance, gives page administrators access to page insights data for free. These tell you how many people are interacting with your posts. You can use the data to better plan future posts and decide on the most effective ways to connect with your fans and followers.
It is important to remember that social-media audiences can be fickle and difficult to please. People generally don’t appreciate hard sales pitches, and they like to be engaged but not oversaturated with content. It’s a fine line to walk, and finding the right balance is essential to success. Social media is built around engagement, requiring continuous input from your social marketing manager or team. Part of your success includes analyzing what works, what doesn’t and making changes. What you do today might not work next month, so it is important to stay flexible.
We currently maintain social-media accounts and profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Flickr, with an active focus on Facebook, which is versatile and very effective for telling a story in a compelling manner. We are active in boosting posts to predetermined, carefully culled audiences. Through much trial and error, we have concluded that a single, eye-catching photo or strong video gets better organic results than text-heavy posts, and touting the services we provide to the community gets more reach than other posts.
Our parent ambassadors are asked to share testimonials that clearly demonstrate their or their child’s experience that highlight one of our school’s core values (Love of Learning; Community; Respect; Love of Israel; Tikkun Olam; and Jewish Life and Learning) or value propositions (nurturing environment, outstanding faculty, opportunities for students to pursue their passion, meaningful relationships, Israel trips, state-of-the-art facilities, college opportunities, etc.). We also ask people to write a review of our school directly on our Facebook page. Value is often overlooked when it comes to marketing. Regardless of how many people you reach, nobody will make a purchase if they don’t see the value in the product or service.
In addition, we routinely ask our engaged community to like and comment on our posts, share our posts and tag people. (Once a Facebook user is tagged, all of their friends can see the post.) These actions are the best way to build awareness of your brand. In a competitive market, how you differentiate is hugely important. Building awareness will help expand your prospective base. Your school develops its “reach” by developing a viral momentum of “likes.” Social media operates along a one-to-many trajectory, where a single user’s content has the opportunity to reach many. Once you have one fan, you have all their fans. You never know who might end up seeing your social-media postings. According to the research firm eMarketer, brands view social sharing as the most effective use of social media: 68% of US social-media users ages 18-34 and 53% of those ages 35-54 say they are at least somewhat likely to make a purchase based on a friend’s social media updates.
Google Analytics allows you to see how effective your social-media campaigns are at driving traffic to your main website. If you see your active social platforms listed as top referrers to your site, your social-media efforts are working.
You can create Google Adwords campaigns to keep your school atop prospective families’ search results. And although Google keeps its algorithm a closely guarded secret, Google includes a “Reviews from the Web” section in its search results box. This could pull from one of your social-media sites, such as Facebook, or from an independent ranking website, and could be one of the first “reviews” a prospective parent sees of your school.
School Ranking Websites
More and more people are turning to sites such as Niche, Private School Review and GreatSchools for quick and easy-to-find information when researching day schools. Since Google often pulls the school’s rating onto its search results box, it is essential for day school marketing and admissions professionals to be proactive in maintaining good scores and having good, honest reviews written.
Your school is most likely already listed on one or more of these sites. Many give you the option to upgrade to a premium version that allows you to include photos, videos and other information. Still, the most important part of these sites are the third-party, word-of-mouth testimonials. It is imperative to encourage anyone from your community willing to write a review to do so.
There are undoubtedly multiple local websites in your community where you can post events happening at your school, get articles and press releases posted, and place advertising. One avenue these sites often offer is sponsored content. This is a great way to get the word out about your school.
We asked a parent with professional writing experience to come up with a sponsored content story titled “Top 5 Reasons to Choose Golda Och Academy.” Though the article was clearly labeled “sponsored content,” the byline emphasized that the story was written by a “current school parent,” which leant weight and import to what was in essence a word-of-mouth testimonial of this parent’s own experience. The story featured a link directly to our website in addition to the email address of our admissions director. Once posted, we were able to share the article on all of our social media channels.
Be active in public relations. Send press releases about all the positive developments happening in your school as broadly as possible. Invite local reporters to your school events and pitch them story ideas. Share the articles and news items on social media, and encourage your followers to do the same.
When Jewish day school constituents share positive opinions, news and experiences on digital platforms, it increases our credibility among prospective families in a way the school cannot. Online word of mouth creates impressions that lead to awareness. The more people that become aware of our school, the more people are likely to inquire directly about our education, and that is the ultimate goal of any marketing and admissions department.