Five years ago, I read an article that stated within the next five years, businesses will be shifting advertising dollars from traditional media (newspapers, magazines, radio, billboards, TV and phone books) to mobile platforms. Why? It’s not so much that everyone is using social media more than these other media, it’s that social media advertising can be personalized based on a member of a target market’s preferences. Oh, the other forms will still be there, but they’ll need to be used differently. And if you read the first sentence again, you’ll realize that “five years ago” and “within the next five years” is exactly where we are at this point in history.
What does this mean for your school’s Internet presence?
1) You school needs a Web site (not a page!) that’s full of compelling content. It’s where everything about your school resides. It’s your “information packet” about your school. It’ll save you on printing costs, too. It parents want a copy of something, they can print it.
2) Today, compelling content must be created DAILY. Compelling content is emotionally engaging. If you don’t update your Web site for months, it gives the impression that your school no longer exists. Get in the habit of writing something about your school every day. If there’s “nothing new” about your school, then it’s not vibrant. And, when schools tell me there’s “so much going on that we can’t meet with you,” that means there’s lots of stuff happening that you should be conveying to parents of prospective students. Perhaps you need a marketing person to help you with this. THIS is where someone part-time can be helpful (rather than hiring a development director part-time, since there is no such thing as a part-time development director).
3) Your schools’ Web site needs to be “responsive.” There are some schools that have a separate mobile Web site in addition to its “computer” Web site, and that’s good too. But, if your time is limited, and you don’t want to administer 2 sites, then open your school’s Web site on your computer, and click the “restore” box or circle in the upper left (for Apple) or right (for PC) corners of your browser (that’s the one in the middle), and then “shrink” your Web browser from the side. If you see that material is being cut off, then your site is not responsive; if, however, the material repositions so that all the content is viewable, but you need to scroll to see it, then the site automatically adjusts itself to respond to whatever type of device that it’s being viewed on. That’s a “responsive” site. A great article that describes what this means can be found at https://medium.com/@Vincentxia77/what-is-mobile-first-design-why-its-important-how-to-make-it-7d3cf2e29d00
Why do you need to do this now? At a recent presentation, a high school principal shared that his school was having difficulty engaging parents of 7th and 8th graders to come to their high school. I said that’s because high school decisions are now being contemplated when students are in the 5th and 6th grade. That’s four years before they enter high school. Why? Tuition would effectively double for the family when the child leaves the elementary school and enters high school. For elementary schools, if students are entering kindergarten when they’re 5 years old, guess when parents are starting to look at educational options for their children? When their children can walk. The sooner your school becomes relevant to these Millennials who are seeking educational environments for their children, the better your chances of capturing them.
What about those parents that don’t have access to the Internet, or need to have everything on paper? While it’s true that some families don’t have computer access, many have mobile phone access. Make no mistake – today’s mobile phone is a handheld computer. In recent years, the majority of your parents may not have had computers and Internet access, but that’s not the way it is today in many schools. As for your school’s particular circumstance, see what the majority of your school’s parents prefer – paper or tech? How can you do this without asking them any questions on a survey? Simply look at what they bring to school with them for a meeting – a mobile device or a paper notebook. If, during the course of the meeting they check their phone, then you know what’s their preferred method of communication.