Connecting with schools through effective social media practices
Andy Homden, Founder, Consilium Education
Our people at Consilium Education are teachers, ex-teachers, principals, ex-principals, and consultants who over the years have worked for a number of leading international schools around the world.
We formed the company in 2014 as an educational consultancy supporting international school start-ups, expansion and improvement. It’s a competitive sector and when we launched International Teacher Magazine a few months later in 2015 it was with a view to raising the on line profile of the company. We also wanted to write about education and hoped that it would generate revenue through on-line advertising.
Learning the hard way
We knew a lot about teaching and learning, but in the early days of the magazine, very little about digital marketing. We just assumed it would not be difficult to find our readers. We cracked one thing quite quickly:from the word go we were able to generate good content. However, reaching an audience of international teachers was another matter. We’d heard about Google Ads and Facebook advertising and quickly started to use these channels. However, we soon discovered that we couldn’t reach the people we wanted to using these paid options. Connecting directly with international teachers and Heads is difficult because the advertising reach is not specific enough, especially when your main targets are embedded in a host nation. Facebook was better than Google Ads – and we found we were reaching an audience. However, it was the wrong audience. We needed to think about this more.
Developing an understanding of social media opportunities
One of the most important steps was to get on a good digital marketing course. The training provided by the Digital Marketing Institute in a regional 10-week course of 3 hours training per week was invaluable and gave us the confidence to start experimenting. We took the advice of these experts and decided to focus on two channels: Facebook to reach teachers, and LinkedIn to reach senior leaders and education businesses.
We played with social media, looked at what others were doing, and tried to systematise some approaches. In the end, we found that the best way to reach our audience was by the organic sharing of our content with Facebook Groups. This started to develop the magazine’s following, as did sharing content through LinkedIn, where we set about building our connections and group membership. Building on our success with Facebook and then LinkedIn, we also flirted with Twitter.
For our purposes, Facebook and LinkedIn demographics searches don’t identify the audience: the groups do. There are educational groups everywhere. Some are very specific, like the Vietnam foreign teachers group, Physics teachers’ groups, and so on. Some are quite general – and as broad as a name such as “International Teachers” suggests. The number of different groups relevant to education run to the hundreds if not thousands, and it is important that what you share with them is relevant to that specific group.
Content, interest and relevance
We already had the advantage of generating good content, and so we were able to share articles that group members found interesting and wanted to read. When joining the group, you do so an individual, and one who respects the nature and objectives of the group. Any kind of hard sell is not appreciated. Influence and quietly creating brand awareness are far more important.
As time went on, we continued to be accepted. Once accepted, we play by the house rules and shared valuable content and opinions in a careful and targeted way as equals. We found out a little about each group and we didn’t overuse the medium. We contributed once or twice each month within our key groups and experimented with different times of day, week, and term. We found out we were almost always universally wrong about when we thought people would be reading their social media! The most popular time for teachers and leaders seems to be early on a Saturday morning!
The importance of content
We were able to post valuable and relevant content within the groups. As people “liked” our posts, these fed through to these individual’s feeds who were connected with other like-minded people. We discovered that we were building a following. Followers followed ‘likes’. We posted on our feed and waited for people to come to us. If we posted at the right time with valuable content, just on our feed we could reach about 1,500 people, before we even started to share with groups.
A different way of sharing
Because of the way we share, we are sure our audience is related to education. Teachers, especially international school teachers talk with teachers. We were finding that if a group of teachers were talking with each other, we could join in, if we did it in the right way.
We analysed our readership by country. The UK is our biggest readership and we are confident that we are being read by English speaking teachers around the world in the USA, Australia, India, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, UAE, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, South Africa.
Depending upon the groups we are communicating with, we now time our most important feeds on Friday evening at 11pm ready for pick-up first thing on Saturday morning.
We thought we would be writing all our content for International Teacher Magazine but that’s not proved to be the case. Teachers want to share, especially international teachers so they can be excellent providers of valuable content for your newsletter or blog.
How do you find and engage with your content creators? Watch your LinkedIn and Facebook feeds. If there’s an interesting story, write to that person and invite them to contribute for you as they might want to expand their own reach. If they agree, provide editorial guidelines. 750 words is a good length; keep it short and, if necessary, provide an expanded version to download.
And how about your own content? Share it from your own website, be a guest blogger on popular educational platforms such as the PIE, Edutopia and International Teacher Magazine. Then promote and share this with your educational groups through your social media and also through your regular e-shots.
Think about the stories that resonate with teachers or with leaders. Within the international schools market interesting stories about the IB are very popular (the IB groups are among the most active education groups on Facebook and LinkedIn).
Advice for effective social media practices
Using social media effectively requires being active. That means two or three posts per week. Don’t ease off. Take time to follow and like other good content. Read and listen. Join in. Look for writers as well as readers; people who can help you deliver good relevant content (they bring their Facebook groups with them). Try to be useful and relevant. Make any content, such as videos or uploads, mobile relevant as most social media is read on mobiles.
Follow our TOMMEL anacronym:
- Target your content
- Observe your audience behaviour
- Monitor and Measure
- Experiment. We thought it wasn’t worth posting feeds over the Christmas holidays. How wrong we were!
Andy Homden and Consilium Education can be contacted at http://consiliumeducation.com/
Social media is important for us in many ways. Our readership is growing because of it, we are kept up to date with a wide range of developments in international education because of it, we’ve generated leads for our own company and we’ve found ways to reach our audience because of it. We know we are now reaching educators and specific groups of educators, but this takes time; nothing happens overnight with social media.