What are all digital marketing tools trying to tell you? They are measuring how much attention your organization is getting. Attention comes in the form of likes, clicks, watches, follows, etc. People are giving time and mental focus willingly and enthusiastically.
Why are people paying attention?
Because organizations – like businesses, schools, churches and even individuals – are creating valuable content, audiences are paying attention. Organizations are finding out what their audiences need and giving away knowledge and expertise in those areas. They’re writing articles, posting on social media, and creating video that answer questions and enrich experiences.
The biggest shock isn’t that people want great content, it’s that organizations are giving away free work. A reader may have to forfeit an email address or answer a brief survey, but there isn’t a monetary exchange happening. Companies aren’t directly making money from the content they create.
So why are organizations doing it?
The internet has shifted the way marketing works. The traditional method was built on showing how your product or organization was better than others, then people would make a purchase decision in your favor. Now, the emphasis is on distinguishing yourself by creating value for potential customers and building relationships with them.
The way to become known, liked, and trusted in your community is to become a resource for it. Take the focus off how great your school is, how low your tuition is, how fantastic your sports teams are, and reframe the conversation around the audience. Engage them and show them how your expertise can add value to their lives, even if they don’t (and won’t) attend your school.
Now, the emphasis is on distinguishing yourself by creating value for potential customers and building relationships with them.
Two tasks stand before you: serving families practically and building relationships. Hosting events, teaching classes, and creating digital content are all ways that your school can win over the community that it’s in, and so the first objective is met. The second is more intangible – how do you create relationships as an organization?
The benefit here is that the first objective begins the process; families have to see that the values of the school match what’s important to them personally, and that the can help them be more faithful to those values. Once values are aligned, the families start to see themselves as part of the school’s community. This helps the school expand its reach and influence. The mission to partner with families is leading the way the whole time.
Though these activities are not explicitly self-referential, the school is still becoming known in the community. It is actually better coverage and more engaging interaction than traditional advertising. The goal shifts from people seeing how wonderful you are to the immediate benefit you’re creating for families, at no cost to them. A physical example is Discount Tire. They provide free tire rotations, fix flat tires for free, check tire pressure for free, and warranty any tire you purchase from them. The immediate benefit they offer – for free – is a large reason why many trust and like Discount Tire.
The content you produce can educate and prepare families who would have never considered any alternative to public school or even to homeschooling. Your content can become central to how couples in your community parent, to how parents educate, and to how families spend their time. You just have to create it.
This may sound like marketing snake oil. It may seem like a big investment with no guaranteed return on investment, but that’s far from the truth. Content marketing has been shown in multiple studies to produce between three and six times the number of leads as compared to traditional methods. On top of that, small businesses with blogs develop over 120% more leads than those without a blog.1
Content marketing has been shown in multiple studies to produce between three and six times the number of leads as compared to traditional methods.
One of the most significant digital marketing indicators is SEO, search engine optimization. This essentially refers to the likeliness that your page will rank on the first page of a search for specific keywords. That likeliness is effected by word choice, length, frequency of posts, and several other factors, but site traffic is a major indicator. When families are reading articles, watching videos, and registering for events, they are helping your site achieve a higher rank.
The web pages that garner more traffic more frequently perform better. It’s a snowball effect: the more you have, the more you have. Static sites, those that don’t change or have new posts, tend to perform poorly because of this reality. Content marketing, however, can increase traffic to your website, designate it for certain keywords, and will show search engines that your page is living and active.
Content and Social Media
Content marketing works from both relational and technical standpoints, and though social media is one of the ways those relationships form, it’s worth addressing it here. The assumption that underlies the above section is that your content lives on your website, but that’s not the only place content can live.
Most organizations feel like they need to be on social media, either Facebook, Instragram, or Youtube, but have no idea how to feed their profiles and get followers. There are some technical aspects that need to be harnessed (promotions, hashtags, giveaways, etc.), but the driving force behind successful social media pages is content.
Your content strategy is the river, and social media platforms are the smaller streams coming off of it. Stepping into social networks without something to share is like coming to a potluck empty handed – no one will sing your praises. Likewise, bringing your favorite dish, shoving it in people’s faces, and patting yourself on the back for the greatest dish there won’t make any friends – even if it is the best.
Your content strategy is the river, and social media platforms are the smaller streams coming off of it.
One of the reasons content marketing works is because it is not self-referential. It’s completely different than traditional marketing in that way. If your favorite thing to talk about is you, then your social media accounts won’t be as effective as one that focuses on the audience.
How to Market Content-ly
Content marketing works because it is marketing that seeks first to give, not take and not praise itself. This is why we as a culture love it; we’ve become keenly aware when we’re being marketed to in commercials and are tired of trusting companies, then finding out they have shady business practices.
Here’s another perspective: audiences are more prone to trusting and liking organizations that create content, because (1) the content itself is valuable and beneficial to their lives, and (2) it shows the organization is willing to sacrifice to get their attention.
We said this is FREE attention because it doesn’t cost money to write articles, create a publishing calendar, or make graphics on a site like Canva, but it will take time and the most important resource, effort.
Here are a few directions to apply that vigor:
- Create evergreen content – Don’t focus exclusively on events happening right now or in the next two weeks. Write for the different stages of exposure. If your school is dedicated to the Great Conversation and to truth, goodness, and beauty, focus on those things as philosophical topics, then hone in on practical aspects of family life, like date ideas, group activities, and difficult parenting issues.
- Identify your audience – Who are you writing for, and what problems do they have? Knowing who your ideal audience is, typically parents committed to Christian education, who live in a certain place, with a certain number of kids, will help you brainstorm content specifically for them. This is especially helpful when you begin to think about why they would want to not attend your school; content marketing directed at objections can be powerful.
- Share on social media – Which will get more traffic, a restaurant by itself in the middle of nowhere, with no direct roads to it, or a restaurant inside a mall? If you only publish to your website, then a select few will see it; but if you post to your website and share it on social media, then your followers will see it and have the opportunity to share it with their followers.
Think about your community; identify common struggles that families are dealing with, and ask yourself how your school’s resources and speak to those issues. Ask how your faculty and staff can help students overcome their hurdles. What would it look life if your team wrote an article a week to address those problems and hosted an event once a month for the community? How would your school and community be different if you did that for the next six months?
What would it look like if you didn’t?