Just what do people think about your school anyway? One way to find out is simply to Google your school name and see what pops up. Whether you know it or not, people are posting reviews, so I want to take this space to help you build positive online reviews for your school.
When you think of online reviews, you probably think of searching for a restaurant when out of town on vacation, or that next big kitchen appliance purchase. More and more people turn to review sites like Amazon, Yelp and TripAdvisor to learn of customer experiences with products and services.
But ‘buyer beware’ also holds true for parents and other influencers in your school community seeking information and satisfaction ratings about your school. Parents are joining savvy consumers who want to know what others are saying as they weigh, in this case, their school selection decision.
Ratings and reviews – digital word of mouth with clout
Time was when parents had much less leeway in school choice for their children. Now, open enrollment, voucher programs, the proliferation of private, charter and alternative schools, and other factors have created more options than ever.
Word of mouth – that ringing endorsement from a person whom parents trust – is a very powerful influence in selecting a school. “If it’s good enough for their kid, that’s good by me.”
Absent word of mouth, self-guided research a la examining school websites and online reviews is how parents are learning and deciding about schools.
A school’s website design also factors into how parents are choosing schools. A bad experience with a visit to a school website – poor navigation, unprofessional design, stale content, etc. – can sour anyone’s impression with your school. The link between school website design, parent engagement and school selection is examined in this article by Steve Williams.
And rating schools is nothing new. What’s new, however, is the additional ways schools are being rated. U.S. Dept. of Education Blue Ribbon Schools, state education departments, and U.S.News ratings ...are now giving ground to a more dynamic and targeted array of data that includes user/parent-generated reviews.
Popular school review sites
If you’ve Googled your school name by now, (...Go ahead, I’ll wait…) the results typically yield a map, directions, brief description, and basic information. You’ll also notice a “Reviews from the web” section that in some cases may be blank, or contain reviews that have appeared on Google, Facebook, or other review sites. Depending on how many people have submitted reviews, there could even be a rating (e.g., 4.3 out of 5) that serves as your overall score.
1. Google reviews
Google has its own built-in review system. Anyone logged into a Google account (mail, maps, drive, etc.) can post a review.
RATE NOW: Site visitors simply click the “Write a Review” link or button and you can rate on a scale of 1-5 and write comments.
2. Facebook reviews
Facebook recently changed the name of its rating/review system to ‘recommendations’ but it still delivers an overall score based on a 5-point scale. Ratings are based on if a person recommends the page or not, and any past ratings and reviews.
RATE NOW: You can influence your Facebook rating by having supporters leave a recommendation on your page and by having them recommend it to their friends on Facebook.
3. Great Schools reviews
You may have heard of this one. GreatSchools.org has developed a 10-point rating scale that includes reviews and school-quality information. Widely used throughout the U.S., it pulls data from state and national education agencies and is a popular resource for helping parents choose the right school. In addition to ratings, GreatSchools includes articles, tips and other information.
RATE NOW: GreatSchools rate and review process is simple. Find your school by state, zip code or school name, click review, then score and comment.
4. Niche reviews
NIche is another school rankings and rating site that pops up in school searches. It’s a 5-star rating scale that included reviews and factors in test scores, teacher quality, graduation rates and other key data. Niche includes such criteria as facilities, clubs and activities, cultural diversity, and sports.
RATE NOW: Writing a review in Niche is as simple as going to the Niche.com website and selecting your state, school, then click “Write a Review” from the top menu.
Start building positive online reviews now
There are other rating/review sites (Schooldigger, NeighborhoodScout, WalletHub, Zillow) but the few listed above rise to the top. These however, are only as useful as the data received. If your school is nowhere to be found on these sites, or there is a lack of rating, reviews and otherwise positive content being shared, you’re missing a huge opportunity.
To start building positive online reviews for your school:
Start by going to Google, Facebook, GreatSchools, Niche, and rate and comment about your own school. You’ll see how easy it is to do.
Do the same with select staff.
Survey your parents. For help in putting together a parent survey, refer to this article: The Secret to Building an Effective Parent Survey. Include a question asking them to submit a review via Google, Facebook, GreatSchools, Niche – or all four for that matter.
Oh, and don’t be afraid of the occasional potentially negative review. Who knows, you might even learn a few things from the not-so-favorable feedback. It’s authentic and useful.
Online reviews are here to stay, and the sooner your school community – parents, students, staff and others – begins rating and commenting how great your school is, the faster you can strengthen your school’s positive digital footprint and overall reputation.
So just what do people think about your school? Here’s a good way to find out.
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @jay4schools.