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How Get Schooled Is Rethinking the Way Nonprofits Do Social and Digital

Get Schooled–which was just made part of the FastCompany Most Innovative Companies list for gamifying the college admissions process–has ditched old-school, siloed social marketing and made social an integrated, yet unique, component of the brand’s digital landscape.

Get SchooledTheir mission? Elevate student voices and help as many students as they can with high school attendance, graduation, college preparation, and financial aid. 

David Nguyen

David Nguyen, Director of Digital Engagement and Communications for the Get Schooled Foundation, sat down with Simply Measured to share the nonprofit’s digital game plan.

1. Social Serves Its Own Purpose

Get Schooled’s website features educational resources, articles, activities, and tools. While social certainly plays a role in directing traffic to the site, it also serves a unique purpose for Get Schooled:

We use social to layer in a personality and connection to what our students are going through. The mix of content on social is relatable, driven by education, substance, and humor.  Students can interact with us and feel like they have a direct connection to the Get Schooled brand. Sometimes it may only be on that channel.

When students do come to our site, Get Schooled focuses on offering educational content that captures their attention, like the Scholarship Search Tool and DJ Khaled’s Keys to Success.

By using social to build a community, form a distinct personality, and interact with their audience, Get Schooled has carved out another important and distinct marketing channel for their brand.

2. Target Differently (and Don’t Repurpose)

Get Schooled reaches many graduating high school seniors on Twitter. This is where Get Schooled launched their #FAFSA awareness campaign. People thinking about this topic are more likely to be on Twitter than younger kids, who are on Snapchat or Instagram.

Using Twitter also creates a wider conversation among high school seniors, schools, and education experts on the importance of completing the FAFSA. 

The senior class is on Twitter. We know that they’re looking for scholarships and ways to pay for college, so when the FAFSA hit last February, we did a solely Twitter-focused scholarship sweepstakes. It’s the easiest scholarship you can apply for. All you have to do is tweet @GetSchooled with the #FAFSA hashtag to enter. We received about 25,000 Tweets from interested students.

Get Schooled’s social following also consists of educators from organizations like Reach Higher, school districts in Baltimore and Miami, superintendents, and the ACT. Looping in the educator side on Facebook, where these educators are typically active, is very important for Get Schooled.

When we asked Nguyen if he repurposed content for their different active social channels — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat — he shook his head:

That is the old model. We are trying to create different content experiences for each social channel. Otherwise, content gets stale and doesn’t perform well. We are trying to do what we can to further the experience and get the most engagement out of each channel — and also make it more compelling to follow us on all active social channels.

3. Shareable Content Is Everything

For Get Schooled, forging real connections and spreading awareness of their organization with relevant social users is everything — which means that shareable social content is everything.

How does Get Schooled do this? 

We talk about what motivates students, and the struggles they’ve been through in a relatable, humorous way, sometimes with trending memes and slicing it various different ways. It is a combination of paying attention to metrics like reach and users engaged, and also making sure we have content that resonates with some type of emotion.

4. Let Measurement Tell You Your Next Move

One of Get Schooled’s most important campaigns is File That FAFSA campaign.

This campaign rolls out every February. Because of the deadlines for state grants and scholarship applications, most college advisors consider February the month when FAFSAs must be completed. Get Schooled hopes to create awareness about the importance of the FAFSA and this deadline. Their message to students? 

There is money out there to help you pay for college, and it’s easier to get than you think. On Twitter, we hold our FAFSA scholarship sweepstakes to ignite that large conversation with our audience and beyond. Each Tweet gives a student a chance to win a scholarship. Last February, we yielded about 25,000 Tweets from students sharing #FAFSA with @getschooled. Every student that enters shares the importance of #FAFSA with their own audience.  

Get Schooled uses several measurement and analysis techniques to help them decide what to do next:

    • Channel Segmentation: Get Schooled uses text and email to build relationships, and does a lot of segmenting. They try to hammer in on the profile of the audience, and deliver what they think will resonate. 
    • Simply Measured: Simply Measured is critical in helping Get Schooled gather metrics and assess campaign performance.

The hashtag report is the most important tool in this campaign. It allows us to capture all Tweets from the #FAFSA sweepstakes, assess the campaign collectively for its impact and reach, and then see who specifically participated in the campaign.

At the beginning of the campaign, Get Schooled uses Simply Measured’s Twitter Audience Analysis to identify followers (educators, schools, and college readiness programs) to share their FAFSA Digital Media kit with. 

  • Google Analytics: The performance of FAFSA articles on Get Schooled’s site are key indicators to overall campaign success. If an article performs worse than expected, Get Schooled looks into it. Why didn’t it do well? Is it because it isn’t on the front page? SEO? Real estate on the site? Not enough social promotion?

5. Invest in Both Celebrities and Smaller Influencers

Get Schooled partners with celebrities like DJ Khaled, who have big reputations and big hearts, too.

But the nonprofit is also attempting a new push to go after “smaller” influencers. At first, Get Schooled started targeting people on social with 100k followers or more, who wanted to be Twitter famous or Instagram famous.

We’d reach out to them, offer a social media kit to see what kind of partnership we could form without paying–we are a nonprofit and can’t afford it. We included exclusive stickers, a T-shirt, and a pin. The first hurdle was, will they even respond? One kid did respond, and retweeted our content, but then un-retweeted it. So we recalibrated our followers and what we define as an influencer. 

After this experiment, Get Schooled decided to reach out to folks with 1K-5K followers: people who aren’t just trying to get more followers and are looking for genuine experiences. People who just love to be on the internet for the internet’s culture: talking about what’s funny, what’s trending, and themselves. Get Schooled used their own follower list, sent each follower a sticker, and asked for a Retweet.

They were openly willing to share content, including the sticker, because they are already following us. Maybe our Twitter profile was in the same DNA as what they are already following and already share. Look at what the influencer himself is organically sharing, and see if you would be a good fit with that. That larger influencer might not be our sweet-spot influencer. The trade-off is, you are not getting the high exposure to their audience and engagement, but you’re getting more genuine engagement.

6. Experiment with Emerging Networks

Get Schooled is active on Snapchat, and doesn’t relegate content creation for the app to its social team: people who work on the content side also snap if they’re personable and like to have fun. On Snapchat, Get Schooled has observed that people react well to content that is “real.” They follow celebrities, but sometimes all the fancy stuff isn’t for them. Get Schooled is trying to build a relatable experience for its followers on Snapchat. The kind of content that people have responded to best is:

    • UGC: “We did this thing called Prom Snaps where we just featured prom pictures of all our students. Anyone can be in our prom snaps, but they need to send us a picture. We had over 300 photos all snapped to us. Using that element of Snapchat to gain user content has worked. The Instagram tag enticement is getting kind of old and it feels forced. We use Snapchat to do that instead.”
    • College Tours: “We have used Snapchat for college tours in collaboration with BET. Over 25 students in the Get Schooled alum network took over our Snapchat and showed off their school for our College Application Month campaign. We’ve had schools all across the U.S., big universities, HBCUs, private colleges, Ivy, and more. It was amazing to see our alum network connect with our audience in high school to advocate the importance of college.”

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Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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