Schools out: it’s social media homework time for teachers!
Schools are out for half term, so there is no better time to brush up on social media for schools and improve communications with students and parents alike.
Since I wrote my original social advice blog series for schools (links), the use and importance of social media by schools and colleges remains a hot topic. While it can be a fast and effective free channel for communication, as with all professional profiles there is a fine line between being formal and being approachable. I’m here to advise you on the best practices and approaches to maintain your institution’s reputation while promoting your school’s vision and goals.
(1) Senior level support
Support from senior leadership is key. Heads, Deputies and Governors should all work together and set standards and guidelines, creating an internal social media strategy. When your guidelines are in place, share them with parents to ensure that your community is aware of your social media strategy plan.
(2) Decide which social media platforms to use
Homework isn’t just for students! Look online at resources available before you set up your account. Blogs such as this one from “Gill’s Thoughts and Reflections” gathers responses from Twitter users already set up and tweeting. Likewise there are a plethora of articles available readily explaining which platforms to use for different types of communication. This Guardian article for instance gives a guide to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest and their uses by schools. Not only will these articles give you a background on successful social media accounts, they’ll guide you in the right direction when making choices for yours.
(3) Find your voice
Accounts should read as one voice to remain credible, even if they are managed by multiple users. An alternative is to have different staff manage accounts for a week each to cover different topics. Decide on roles and subjects for each user to post and keep the team small to start with. As the success of your account grows, so can your team. But keeping it small in the first stages will enable you to find a professional voice and guide future users by example. Remember that plain, straight forward language is best. While you may wish to promote academia, a friendly, simple tone will engage the community better.
(4) Let the community build itself
Parents, students, family and staff are all likely to connect to your social media accounts. While you may use this forum to promote your school’s achievements, make important announcements and promote good practice; social media should be a two-way channel. You will likely get daily requests on a variety of subjects, and will need to invest time in answering them. But over time, by building a strong community (eg on Facebook), many will answer themselves with parents adding their own responses.
(5) Time management and answering queries
Keeping an eye on responses (especially for urgent queries) is of course important, and in these cases best practice is to answer as soon as you are able. But no one will be expecting every query to be answered within minutes. To manage your time, set maybe quarter of an hour in the morning, at lunchtime and late afternoon to go in and deal with enquiries on the account. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge more complex queries and say we’ll get back to you later or direct with a full response.
(6) Be aware of the risks but focus on the positives
There may be a minor amount of negativity, no matter where you post. The old adage of you can’t please everyone should be firmly implanted into your head before you begin on the social media journey. Don’t let a small minority of negativity outweigh the successes of your school accounts. I covered negativity on school social media in a previous post, it’s here to read if you’d like a refresher. The schools I’ve worked with before have generally been very concerned about negative comments at the outset, then have found that they haven’t been a problem at all. As long as your school maintains good, positive and regular communication with parents and students offline, people don’t have reason to go online to vent frustrations.
If an adverse event has occurred at your School you can guarantee all eyes will be on your social media accounts. Plan for all possible outcomes and have a prepared statement in place, even if it’s an interim announcement. Being prepared for all eventualities is practiced in all Schools, just ensure this feeds into your social media plans.
(7) Remember: it’s a learning process!
There is no magic formula to a successful social media account. Remember that you’re learning as you go along and try not to draw comparisons between your account and others, because what works for them might not work for you. Your individuality and diversity is what makes you successful as a school and it will be what makes your accounts a success too!
Have you recently set up a new social media account at your school? How is it working for you? Any best practice advice you can share? I’d love to hear from you! I do regular social media speaker talks at schools and conferences so am always on the look out for great case studies!
If you’d like further social media information, a consultation or bespoke social media training please contact me for tailor made advice specific to your school’s ethos and values.
Other articles you may be interested in:
- 20 social media marketing tips for schools: part 1
- 20 social media marketing tips for schools: part 2 – Facebook and Twitter
- 6 simple digital marketing ideas for schools over the summer
- 2012 AMDIS annual conference: social media in schools
- Using social media in schools: risks, opportunities and benefits