Created in collaboration with our marketing expert.
It’s not surprising that many schools are wary of using social media, with issues of e-safety and inappropriate online behaviour, by parents as much as pupils, to contend with; however, as an inexpensive and effective means of communication, social media is hard to beat.
The question is not whether schools should use social media, but how schools can make the best use of it as a communication, promotional and learning tool.
This guidance outlines three ways schools can utilise social media for their benefit.
1. Building awareness
For schools that are oversubscribed, or that have an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating, protecting their reputation may be less of an issue. But for schools in more challenging circumstances, or that are in competition for pupils, raising their profile with prospective parents, prospective staff and the wider community is something that needs to be actively managed.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are great channels for showcasing achievements and activities happening on a day-to-day basis. One tip is to include pictures or videos whenever possible; research shows that posts with images are much more likely to be noticed and shared.
Before embarking on an awareness raising campaign via social media, it’s helpful to spend some time thinking strategically about what you want to achieve and the best way to make it happen. Decide what the story is that you want to tell about your school; is it one of academic success, or of your school’s place at the heart of the community? While social media posts, in reality, will feature a range of activities and accomplishments, the overall thread should present a narrative that supports your story and school’s ethos.
Consistency is key to success; regular posts will keep your community engaged. Having one person, or a very small team of people, responsible for updates will help to ensure a consistent tone of voice and a good balance of content.
People love to read stories about people, especially pupils. For every one post about the uniform policy or upcoming parents’ evening, include three to four posts that bring the school community to life.
Of course, the time and effort spent on social media will only have impact if your target audience sees your posts; therefore, your social media strategy needs to include an engagement strategy.
2. Engaging parents
Long gone are the days when the best means of communicating with parents was a printed newsletter sent home in schoolbags – text messaging, web-based parent portals and school apps are all viable alternatives. All of these have advantages, but social media brings unique benefits, e.g. with social media there is no subscription or development cost.
The ability to share photos and videos of pupils’ work can help to engage hard-to-reach parents and bring children’s learning to life. In addition, the majority of parents are likely to be using platforms like Facebook and Twitter already. As the saying goes, to catch fish, you must go where the fish are.
Closed Facebook groups can be useful for specific activities, for instance a school trip abroad, where parents may want reassurance that their children are well and enjoying new experiences. Parents can also use the group to share information with each other before and during the trip, potentially reducing the burden on staff answering questions.
3. Enhancing learning
Increasing numbers of schools are using social media as a way to share learning resources and increase engagement with pupils. One of the most straightforward methods is for a department or teacher to set up a school account, unconnected to any personal account, to share relevant content. For instance, a geography department might set up a Twitter account to post news articles on extreme weather, climate change, migration and population growth, as well as revision resources.
Some schools are also experimenting with Facebook groups for pupils for information sharing and collaboration. Closed Facebook groups do not require members to be friends with each other and the moderator/teacher controls who joins the group. All members can post and comment on information very quickly, and respond to polls. Anytime someone contributes the group, all members will receive a notification. The admin of the group can amend the settings so that they have to approve posts before they are posted to the Facebook page – this prevents any inappropriate posts being posted.
Of course, schools that go down this route will want to make sure that clear guidelines are in place and shared with staff and pupils. It can be helpful to provide guidance for staff about how to protect themselves and to make sure that pupil/teacher boundaries are clear.
It’s understandable that many school leaders see social media as a headache and a potential source of trouble; however, the reality is that the vast majority of adults, not to mention young people, are already using social media as a communication tool. If you can’t beat them, the best thing you can do is join them.
TheSchoolBus has a variety of resources to ensure social media is managed effectively in your school. Our Whole-School Social Media Accounts Policy relates specifically to social media accounts created on behalf of a school and sets out principles that are expected to be followed. Additionally, our template Social Media Agreement can be used by schools to ensure members of the school community understand and formally agree to the proper and appropriate use of social media.