Swedish schools use social media to lure students

Swedish schools use social media to lure students
Students at a school in Stockholm. Photo: Erik Nylander/TT
Tech-savvy Sweden is known for its cutting-edge use of technology, and that spirit of innovation has now spread to the country’s upper secondary school market, as more and more high schools ditch costly advertising campaigns in favour of social media in an effort to attract new students.

In the Swedish educational system, year 10 students choose a three-year upper secondary school (Gymnasium) based on their preferred field of educational focus. If a student wants to specialize in social sciences, for example, they would pick a Gymnasium which has a focus on that field.

For the schools, attracting students is a competitive business, with millions of kronor spent on advertising each year in an effort to stand out from the crowd.

But the amount is now decreasing thanks to an increased focus on social media.

Research by pollsters Sifo carried out for Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) shows that between September 2015 and August 2016, the 300 schools surveyed spent 27.9 million kronor ($3.22 million) on advertising.

That is a significant decrease from the 34 million kronor ($3.9 million) they spent in the area the year before. One explanation is that educational institutions are now focusing on online platforms, including spreading their message through their own Facebook page.

The school that spent the most money on advertising in the past year was De la Gardie in Lidköping, with over half a million kronor laid out on ads.

But that is only about half of what the school forked out during its peak period of spending on advertising, the year 2013-14, when it paid 975,000 kronor ($112,500).

It has now opted to try and reach young people through more focused methods like social media instead.

“We spend too much on advertising. We’ve slowed down and are now trying to work in a more personal way,” the school’s director Magnus Thilén told SvD.

The school added that it had seen no drop in the number of applications from students after it ditched costly forms of advertising like frequent television ads, which it used to run three times a year.