Kicking off the new decade, Google released its annual list of digital marketing predictions for 2020 last month, focussing on changing consumer behaviours, the latest technologies and industry trends that are set to shake up digital marketing this year.

Interestingly, there were a number of trends that are relevant to the independent schools market. Here are our top 3 key takeaways that we believe can make a real difference to your marketing efforts this year.

1. Bite-sized Video Content

We all know just how important video content is. According to HubSpot, 78% of people watch online videos every week, and 55% view online videos every day. Stats also show that platforms such as YouTube are rapidly replacing traditional TV, with 6 out of 10 people preferring to watch online videos rather than television. It’s no surprise that 2020 will be all about creating quick, snackable content.

After all, your current and prospective students are probably all over TikTok and Snapchat – both of which have max video lengths of seconds as opposed to minutes.

What does this mean for schools?

We definitely do not recommend setting up a Snapchat or TikTok account – it’s better to focus on improving your school’s presence on other key platforms i.e. Instagram and Facebook.

Facebook: If you upload regularly to a YouTube channel or Vimeo, why not post these to Facebook too? Rather than linking them in a post, which won’t allow the videos to autoplay, try posting natively through Facebook itself (or by scheduling your videos through our specialist software!). Facebook’s algorithm also favours native video, so it’s a must if you want your content to perform well organically. But remember, keep videos short and add subtitles to increase viewing time.

Instagram: Half a billion people use Instagram Stories every day – so this is a feature you should definitely be utilising. Schools can utilise these by uploading short clips of sports games, drama performances or musical showcases. It’s all about storytelling content.

Twitter: This platform was made for easy-to-skim content, not feature-length documentaries. So keep your videos short!

LinkedIn: For the most professional of the social platforms, stick to videos that are well-edited and add value to your brand.

2. Visualising Search

A collection of related photos appear in the knowledge panel on Google, and if often the first thing people see when searching for your school. This core SERP (search engine results page) component will become more important this year, so ensuring your images are high-quality is vital.

Surprisingly, a lot of people go directly to the images tab when making a search inquiry, with Think with Google stating that from 2016 to 2018 ‘image searches’ grew by over 60%.

What does this mean for schools?

It’s not just video content that is taking the social media world by storm, powerful, emotive photography is becoming an increasingly important asset for schools, who are wanting to stand out from the rest.

Invest in professional photography. It has the power to transform a basic website into an engaging and visual resource. You can repurpose these on social media, include them in your prospectus, so they really are a worthwhile investment.
Ask staff for pictures. Departments typically manage their own social channels, which means they are constantly snapping pictures of projects, activities and trips. These are untapped assets within your school that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Use alt text to help your images appear in Google search results. Google uses alt text to identify the content in an image. Using keywords here such as your school’s name can help ensure that these images are appearing at the top of a Google search.

3. Transparency and Inclusiveness

Generation Z is becoming increasingly choosy about the brands they engage with. We’ve seen a rise in young people’s interest in ethical brands, cruelty-free products and companies that contribute to society. In short, consumers of today expect to learn about a brand beyond product information. This also applies to schools and should be directly reflected in marketing materials.

What does this mean for schools?

When deciding which school to send their children too, families base their decisions on more than just the curriculum and exam success. They want to be satisfied with the schools’ views on diversity, inclusion, bullying, mental health and even sustainability.

  • Be transparent about these topics on your website, and post regularly about your processes and practises on social media.
  • Include a diverse range of testimonials from students who enjoy different aspects of the school.
    Promote your differences, not your similarities. Many schools, especially independent schools, have similar mission statements, visions and values, so don’t base your branding only on these. Your assets will help your school to stand out. Be sure to highlight the authentic and unique aspects of your school.

Global brands are quick to adopt digital marketing trends, and many of these 2020 predictions are just as relevant to independent schools. This year, focus on creating content that’s snackable, inclusive, visually appealing and personalised.