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GDST on how it used social content to boost school registrations


By The Drum, Editorial

November 30, 2023 | 7 min read

Girls Day School Trust looked to Little Dot Studios to devise a social content campaign to boost registrations and it also scooped the Digital Industries Award for Media Strategy. Here is the award-winning case study.

Example of the award-winning digital work

Girls Day School Trust (GDST), a group of 25 independent girls’ schools across England and Wales, commissioned Little Dot Studios (LDS) to build a digital campaign that would create and distribute a content series that showcased the spirit and ambitions of GDST girls from across its school network. This campaign was designed to support student recruitment through lead generation - with parents registering interest in sending their daughters to a GDST school; deliver significant revenue ROI increases through lead conversion; generate corporate partnerships and bursary donation opportunities; and solidify GDST’s position at the forefront of girls’ education and reaching as many girls as possible.

Strategy: The heart of GDST’s digital campaign was focused on driving parents to action their interest in GDST by registering with specific GDST schools. This critical step in the enrollment journey was LDS’s primary goal and the linchpin for achieving a substantial ROI increase for GDST by converting these leads into paying students. LDS’s strategy was to produce a series of “Spotlight Films” and build a full content marketing funnel approach across YouTube, Google (Paid Search) and Meta that increased awareness of GDST by serving these films to parents, using bespoke creative that matched audiences’ locations, encouraged engagement by registering their interest in sending their daughters to a GDST school through the GDST website, Meta Lead Generation form or Google Hosted Lead form, and ultimately converting the children into students of GDST schools.

To initiate the campaign, LDS developed and produced a series of premium interview-docs as Spotlight Films profiling some of GDST’s most gifted students. Each film championed a GDST girl with a unique passion or expertise from one of the 25 schools. These digital-first films showcased the remarkable journeys of GDST students, both bursary and fee paying, highlighting the unique aspects and benefits of GDST education in parents’ local areas, and not only raise awareness and drive leads, but also foster emotional connections between parents and the GDST brand.

The campaign began by driving focused awareness within specific regions where the GDST schools were located across England and Wales. Utilising location targeting across YouTube, Google and Meta, LDS served the corresponding school’s spotlight film to parents who fell within a 30KM radius. At this stage, any schools that didn’t yet have a corresponding Spotlight Film produced, were grouped together with the top schools chosen by GDST into a ‘National campaign’ rotation.

Targeting consisted of parents of children aged between schools years 1 - 11 with custom interests/search term segments built to capture those who were showing an active interest in or searching for terms such as “Private School”, “Girls Schools” and “Schools Near Me” across Google and YouTube. This was accompanied with Affinities, Topic, Keyword and Placement targeting, focused on capturing those who showed an interest in education-based content as well as key activities that GDST schools offer such as swimming, sport and dancing. Across Meta LDS adopted a similar targeting strategy utilising interest-based targeting around key school subjects and activities within GDST schools and furthermore using a lookalike strategy based on the shared characteristics of existing GDST parents to promote to potential prospective parents.

When serving the spotlight films to our target audience, LDS A/B tested click-through links to the GDST social channels where the spotlight films were hosted and to, a custom homepage developed by GDST that allowed parents to discover more about the GDST schools and search for schools in their area by postcode.

LDS quickly spotted a common trend that parents targeted by location who enquired about sending their child to a GDST school, were also interested in sending their child to schools in other locations, as well as schools they were targeted with specifically. Additionally, when looking at performance between LDS’s campaign targeting a 30KM radius vs the national campaign lines, there was only a slight difference between CPM and CPC for either group.

LDS fed this critical analysis back to GDST, this helped GDST revise their wider marketing strategy and adapt LDS’s digital campaign targeting strategy. LDS improved the efficiency of the campaign by grouping the schools into two categories - a London group, and a national major cities group. This included grouping together four Spotlight Films focused on four different girls, running them in rotation for four months periods and making use of the machine learning capabilities of Google Ads & Meta Ads Manager. Alongside the digital campaign, GDST were also marketing four Spotlight Films above the line, turning LDS’s broadcast-quality digital-first content into a TV commercial.

As a result, LDS focused budget in Paid Search on widening the campaigns from only London to a dedicated PPC campaign for 14 locations across England and Wales. Budget for YouTube was reduced, removing Google In Feed and focusing only on In-Stream with our main KPI set to clicks and not views.

The critical journey from awareness and engagement, to converting parents to enrol their girls into a GDST school began with the second phase of the campaign. This phase focused on retargeting those who had engaged with any of the Spotlight Films delivered across YouTube and Meta. LDS served this retargeted audience with a cut down version of the Spotlight content (15 to 30 seconds) that included a clear call to action, encouraging parents to register their enquiries with GDST or visit the website to learn more. Across YouTube LDS included a click through link to the enquiry form page without-limits/#enquire where parents could register interest in a particular school. A pixel was embedded on the final landing page after an enquiry had been submitted in order to track how many conversions were being delivered. Across Meta, LDS created an inplatform Lead Generation form attached to each of the cut down spotlight ads in which parents could register their interest. This created a more seamless journey and avoided customer drop off.

With the large number of schools, LDS identified a solution for granularly tracking which schools saw uplifts in sign ups due to the digital campaign. To do so, LDS attached custom UTM links to all landing pages associated with the campaign. This enabled LDS to track which campaigns generated leads for each school, and GDST were then able to correlate responses with each LDS tagged completed form.

Results: Working alongside GDST to track the conversion from lead form submission to confirmed pupil, with a clear understanding of the average number of attendance years per registered pupil and taking account of the average annual fees for attendance, the digital campaign has delivered 93x ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) and 74x ROI (Return on Investment)

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