In today’s digital world, research continues to demonstrate that Facebook is the preferred word-of-mouth marketing tool for parents, teachers, students and businesses alike - this makes it the perfect place to market your charter school to prospective families. But are you employing the right tactics, or are your methods falling flat?
The 4-1-1 Rule
In marketing, we follow a short and simple rule to ensure we get a great return on investment for our content. In short, the 4-1-1 Rule is a strategy for balancing the type of content you share on your social media channels, especially on Facebook. For every four pieces of informative, engaging, fun or interesting piece of content, you are allowed one “hard sell” and one “soft sell” to promote your organization. By sticking to this rule, your Facebook page will be the most relevant to the most amount of people.
But what does that look like? Let’s break it down.
In this equation, the “4,” or the bulk of the content you post, should be highly engaging, fun, timely, interesting and/or informative. For schools, this means tons of photos and videos of smiling students, live Facebook streams of school assemblies, a photo and caption of an interactive science lesson, a classroom photo celebrating a national holiday, etc.
You may not think of these posts as “marketing” tactics, but they can be some of the most powerful messaging strategies in your toolkit. That being said, it’s critical these posts work together to tell a singular message about your school - namely that same message you tell through traditional marketing. If your marketing message is “Enroll in Heart Academy and get the best hands-on science program in the state,” then your posts should demonstrate the best hands-on science program in the state.
The “1 & 1”
The 4-1-1 rule allows your school one “hard sell” and one “soft sell” for every four non-marketing posts. A “hard sell” is defined as a marketing message that directly asks your audience to take action - “enroll now, donate to this cause, attend our open house event,” etc. A “soft sell” is content that you post simply to promote your school, without asking the audience to take action; posting a promotional video of students in your school that highlights your main message, posting a quote tile of a parent testimonial, etc.
While it’s important to use these tactics once in awhile, we all know that as digital consumers, we are constantly bombarded with these messages. The thing that can set your school apart won’t be a flashy advertisement; it will be the demonstrated value that your school brings to students and families every day.
Why it works - the Starbucks analogy
So what makes this formula so effective? Consider this scenario. You’re an avid Starbucks coffee-goer. You have trusted them to perfectly craft your double-shot, nonfat caramel macchiato for decades. Then a new local coffee shop moves in right down the street. You hear a few ads on the radio, and see some marketing on social media, but you still trust in Starbucks. Then, your friends start to share some interesting posts on Facebook. The new coffee spot is 100% dog friendly - and it’s crawling with them! They have in-house composting of all their disposable cups - and they put it on display. Now you’re hooked, and you at least want to check it out.
The local shop can’t compete with the Starbucks brand, or the trust its consumers have come to love, but they can get those people in the door by showcasing the quirky and unique elements that set them apart. For many families, the traditional public schools in their communities are simply what they know, and in some cases, trust. You can’t encourage people to try your amazing school if you’re just yelling “look at this school, it’s so awesome!” Instead, get your current parents, teachers and advocates excited about your curriculum, teachers, campus and extracurriculars, then let those things rope prospective families in.
The 4-1-1 rule is simple - don’t stop at simply saying you have an amazing school, demonstrate it with engaging and informative content that speaks for itself.