Influencer Marketing for Independent Schools

What if Kim Kardashian West posted the following to Instagram:

Would you jump for joy that virtually the whole world saw a post you were mentioned in or would you hit the ceiling because she is not the type of representative you want for your school’s brand?

Kim Kardashian West is the ultimate market influencer. She has more than 134 million Instagram followers and averages well over 4 million engagements/interactions per post. This is why companies are lining up to pay her millions for just one post, tweet, share, and even like.

Not many schools have millions to spend on Kim, but there are powerful influencers in your market if you know where to look.

Influencer marketing is a relatively new method in the modern sense. For a quick lesson on the essence, harken back to your days in school. If the cool kid came in wearing a new Body Glove t-shirt and Jams shorts on Monday (I’m dating myself), chances are half the boys would be wearing the same brands by Friday. Now give this kid a digital megaphone, and you get the idea.

Most national and mega-regional brands can align themselves with influencers. The brands then pay the influencers to mention or endorse a product. This model can be tough for independent schools for a few reasons. 1.) The sphere of influence is usually smaller than a mega-region. 2.) Schools are service-based, so there’s no product to hock. 3.) Independent schools are traditionally very conservative when it comes to marketing.

However, that does not mean it cannot be done.

Here are 6 steps to dip your toe in the influencer marketing pool.

1. Learn. Find out from current parents whom they read, follow, and view online regionally. They could be people from different walks of life: mom bloggers, adolescent psychologists, or education kings of Instagram.Remember to do your research to ensure he/she/they are appropriate to partner with.

2. Plan. Decide what your objective will be if you choose to engage with the influencer. My suggestion is to start with something direct, like an admission event. For them to endorse your school, it would take some time to learn about it. Fake endorsements are pretty easy to spot and can damage your brand.

3. Engage. Just like in dating, we are resistant to someone who comes on too strong; even if they are interested and available. Before writing a long love letter asking for their help, engage them on social media by following their various feeds, relevantly commenting on their posts, and linking them in your content. You will build familiarity as you engage them more and more.

4. Formulate. As you study and engage influencers, you will learn about their passions and interests. When it comes time for the ask, it should align with something that they like and would be useful to their audience. This is when you start to formulate what the engagement will be. Do you want them to merely post an invite to your open house or can you provide them with a guest post on, Signs it’s Time to Move from Daycare to Preschool? The first is a one-way street, so don’t expect a freebie. You’ll likely have to pay like the rest of us. However, if you provide the influencer with meaningful content, the influencer will likely provide you with top-notch coverage when the direct ask comes their way. Plus, if they publish your piece, it demonstrates your expertise in the field of early childhood education.

5. Ask. You know your relationship with the influencer better than anyone at this point, so it’s up to you to feel out the best way to ask them to help you. When you do, be very direct, so there’s no misunderstanding as to what you want. They are influencers; it’s no their first rodeo. However, the more value you can give them in return, the better. Also, don’t be upset if their response is, ‘sure thing, here’s my media guide.’

6. Ghost. Once you’ve had a successful transaction with the influencer, don’t ghost them by ceasing to engage with their content as you did leading up to the ask. They’ll know you were only in it for the publicity and will be less receptive in the future. Plus, influencers tend to flock together, so the word may spread you are just in it for yourself.

At the end of the day, you can, of course, forgo all of the above steps and swoop in with an ask and a check. But where’s the fun in that? Learning how influencer marketing works as you traverse through the six steps can help you or colleagues at your school become influencers of their own – ultimately assisting the school to market to parents and students in your sphere of influence.

Identify your school’s next digital marketing move.