What I Wish I Knew Before Partnering With an Influencer for My School’s Marketing

marketing, social media

Considering using an influencer for your school's marketing campaign?

Everyone is getting in on the game of influencer marketing–big box stores, car manufacturers, apparel, even bars and restaurants. Although some academic institutions are still defining their social media strategy, we’re hearing from other intrepid communications teams that they’re ready to get in on the influencer game.

And for good reason! Instagrammers or YouTubers cultivate their audience through trust and (perceived) authenticity. Their followers see them as thought leaders, and who better to get the word out about your school? Additionally, this type of advertising yields more data analytics than, say, a light pole banner or bus stop ad, making the success of the campaign very easy to measure. But only if you’re setting yourself up for success!

We heard from a private, religious elementary school in a saturated market that partnered with mommy bloggers to market to new mothers during the 2020/21 school year. In each instance, they found mommy influencers within their religious sect to position the school as a resource to prospective parents by answering their audience of young mothers’ most burning questions:

How do I choose a kindergarten?

Should I choose a secular or a religious school?

Is the cost of private school worth it?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these were almost identical to the questions posed to admissions directors. 

The results were, by some standards, incredible; an evergreen Youtube “Everything You Need to Know” video with over 2k views, hundreds of likes and comments on Instagram. But unfortunately, the school’s audience remained pretty much the same and there was no data on whether any views, likes or comments converted any prospective parents. 

Similarly, a prestigious boarding school was looking to attract more student-athletes to one of its programs. They identified a college athlete in that sport with a large following online and agreed that the athlete would do a few sponsored posts talking about how they wished they had a school like this earlier in their career. 

At both schools, their influencer campaigns succeeded in reaching broader audiences, but what we’re really looking for is data. What were the goals of these campaigns? What was the call to action? 

The first missed opportunity? To drive traffic to a content offer on a dedicated landing page with lead magnets tailored to the target audience’s interests, such as, “Learn more about the secondary schools and colleges our students matriculate to,” “Affording Our School” or “Athletics Are Just the Beginning.”

Prospective students and parents would then be prompted to provide their email to receive the content offer, then the number of visits to the landing page and form submissions could then be compared to the influencer’s data to measure the success of the campaign. See our article on inbound marketing for more information.

The second missed opportunity was for A/B testing. At the boarding school, they easily found an athlete with a large following to partner with. Great! But instead of purchasing four spots with one person, why not divide that budget in half and compare the engagement of a male athlete to a female athlete? Or in two different sports? What if the soccer player’s ads return a higher engagement and produced more prospective students than the swimmer? This data is crucial to build upon and improve the campaign for the following year.

Tips for Influencer Marketing

  1. First, look within your community of educators, parents and alumni. Does anyone with an existing relationship with your school have a large following as a parenting influencer or education expert?
  2. Once you’ve narrowed down a few options (remember, this is a great opportunity for A/B testing), double-check accounts on a tool like Hype Auditor or Mighty Scout to determine audience authenticity and engagement rates. Follower numbers can be deceiving because unfortunately, followers can be bought. Look for accounts with engagement rates between 2 and 4%. 
  3. Before securing a deal with the influencer, make sure your school’s accounts are ready with posts planned, links in bio updated; have your landing pages and content offers approved and live well in advance, in fact, this should be the number one priority when considering influencer marketing. 
  4. Have a plan to recap with your team both immediately after and when planning your strategy for the following year. What worked? Were our goals achieved? What can we improve upon?

Your Turn

We’d love to hear from you: have you worked with an influencer at your school? If so, were you happy with the results? What tips do you have? Leave us a comment below and share your experiences with others.

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