If you are not much of a social media user yourself, and many company leaders are not, then every time someone asks you, “What’s your strategy for social?” a little part of you dies inside. That unpleasant feeling arises because you have either completely avoided making social a part of your marketing mix or you barely keep Facebook and Twitter alive with some automation that has an inadequate combination of inspirational education quotes and blunt pleas to check out your product or service.
Why bother with Social?
Marketing at its best is a conversation. Great emails hook with engaging content that brings clients deeper into your context. Good sales reps on the trade show floor are just as interested in the stories of the people walking by them as they are in separating those people from their K12 budget allocations. Social media is an excellent platform for conversations that both start and maintain these relationships into and through the sale. It’s cheap, convenient, and the conversation can happen either directly or asynchronously.
Are K12 Professionals Really There?
Yes. Just look at the Twitter following of some of the more renowned K12 startups of the last five years. Remind has more than 35k followers. ClassDojo has more than 68k. With a year or two’s worth of effort, it is not inconceivable that you might earn a following of ten thousand. I did a quick back of the envelope analysis of one of the K12 giants, Edutopia. As of this writing, Edutopia has 922k followers. Of the 132 followers I took the time to evaluate, 50 had a profile that I could judge, 27 were teachers, and 8 were K12 decision makers or influencers. If 8 out of 132 is the ratio of decision makers to total followers, then Edutopia may have more than 50k decision makers who follow them. That’s no joke.
Which Network is Best?
Fortunately for you, it doesn’t really matter. With a social aggregator like Hootsuite or Buffer, you can generate content in one place and share it to as many networks as you wish. If you sell directly to teachers, you will have good luck on Facebook. Go there. If you sell exclusively to Superintendents, you might want to engage more on LinkedIn. Edtech conversations are happening on Twitter. Don’t take my word for it, though, let the data help you decide where to engage more deeply than just sharing content.
What To Say?
Nobody likes to be sold to. Yet, people have to buy things. Many factors influence what drives a person to investigate a product. One of those is trust. Social media is a great place to show you are trustworthy. There are many ways to do this, and all of them involve great content. I joked above about inspirational quotes, but the truth is that such quotes get engagement. Everybody needs a little pick me up now and then. Quotes alone, a following of ten thousand or more are not likely to generate.
Mix It Up
It is okay to point directly back to your website with your favorite tag lines. If that’s all you do, then you will have a lonely social media experience. Strike a balance of pointing to news that the people you wish to attract should find interesting, share the content of people you want to get closer to, those inspirational quotes I mentioned above, a sprinkling of shameless plugs for your product or service, and – if you are really savvy – content you generate and host that is both a genuine service to the field and a way to build relationships that grow into sales.
Become a Social Media Maven with Engagement
If you make a commitment to social and it begins to pay off, then the final crux on your path to becoming a social media marketing guru is engagement. You can go a long way with content. If you want social to truly be a place where you are at the nexus of serving the community that feeds you, then you must interact with your audience. This can start with directed questions and answers, evolve into hosted discussions or chats, and maybe even lead to live streams and virtual events. Engagement turns your street corner artist into a headliner at Coachella.
There are definitely some rules of the road that you should learn before plastering the internet with baby memes that subtly mention your company. For example, do not @mention influencers in your field every time you plug your product because you are looking to maximize your reach. Ouch. There is no better way to win a race to the bottom of Death Valley. But you knew that, so find yourself a good college intern and set them loose. Just kidding. Just because someone is glued to their smartphone all day long and sends you the latest viral videos does not mean they will help your company grow with social media. Social is powerful and dynamic and it requires creativity, consistency, and integrity. Go there, and approach it as you would any healthy relationship; start slowly, understand your partner’s interests and boundaries, then show them your favorite cat videos.