Branding – from logo to font, from colors to catch phrase — it’s how people perceive you and it frames every aspect of what you do and the education you provide. Marketing and branding may be far removed from your mind and seem unimportant to your day-to-day mission but reputations sell your school almost as much as educational accolades.
Assuming you’ve already established colors, mascot, logo, etc., we’re going to focus on how you can present a unified brand (representative of your school) on social media.
Five ways to push your branding in social media:
1. Create your own private, online community. The only way you can be assured that your students (prospective, current and former) are viewing and connecting in an online community surrounded by your brand is to establish a private community that you control. The multimedia is yours; the membership data can be mined by you, for you, at any time you’d like; the system is secure; your logo/branding is in place; ad revenue is yours alone. Don’t surrender your online reputation to a company you have no partnership with who can shut down your site at any time with little recourse on your end; not to mention the little control you have over rivals creating faux fan (or fail pages) in your name. How will your constituents know the difference between you and someone who sounds/looks similar to you?
2. Use hashtags on Twitter. Claim them early. Whether you are a recent entrant to this micro-blogging trend or you’ve been doing it longer than Ashton Kutcher, take some time and research available hashtags. Choose one and use it consistently. Encourage your constituents to use it and maybe you’ll be in the trending topics. But more importantly, you want people to associate that hashtag(s) with you. Make it part of your branding. (You can even use hashtags for events, seminars and/or reunions.)
3. Give your school a voice. As important as your mission statement or motto is, your blog will give words and lend a voice to all the good you are accomplishing. Use it to showcase members of your faculty, student body, awards, even challenges. Explain to potential students, parents, donors and volunteers why you need their help. Blogging allows you to be personable and transparent. It also allows for call to arms requests in a more “informal” tone than that of your usual fundraising letters.
4. Maximize the power of email signatures. Adding information to your email signature is a great way to spread news and information. Looking to hire teachers, spread the word about your latest education award or just let people know what your school stands for – add it to your signature. Consider placing a line of text after your name and before your contact information. It can be anything from your motto to a call to action to your new web address. You should also include your full contact information/address, phone numbers, your website address, blog address and/or twitter name. Feel free to include an IM user name. Plus keep them on the bottom of all of your email correspondence even if you are replying to a reply. Not every email system keeps history so instead of making your constituent scroll down a long history of emails, give them your contact info front and center on each email.
5. Take part in user groups. You are not alone in your mission. There are many people who can help you. Joining a technology (or social media) group that understands the needs of the educational community is a great way to learn, connect and establish relationships within the industry. Social media is about connecting and while you’re out there doing that, your brand is becoming even more established.
The advent of social media has forced (or allowed) us all to become marketers trumpeting our cause. You no longer have to rely on a PR person to get your school’s name out there. On one hand that is a great savings, on the other it places the burden back on you. Choose technology that makes managing your own brand easy. Engage your constituents in a community that is yours, surrounded by your branding. Don’t leave something as important as your online reputation to chance or gamble it on a site that isn’t within your control.