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Why should your school use social media?

A school’s social media presence can be engaging, informative and also fun - but only with some careful work happening behind the scenes.

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The world is consumed by social media. There are over 2.8 billion people around the world with a Facebook account, sharing 3.3 million posts every minute. In that same minute, 450,000 tweets are being posted and 66,000 pictures are being uploaded to Instagram. Using the appropriate social platforms in the right way will raise your school profile and help you meet your SMT goals.

Almost all large companies, charities, celebrities and politicians use social media to engage with their communities. Schools are no different. People rely on social platforms for their main source of news and advice, and it plays a big part in many major marketing strategies. Given this background, it’s vital that your school considers the benefits of social media for staff and pupil acquisition, as well as how to make it safe for pupils. Sharing informative and educational social content positions your school as a forward-thinking, modern institution. So, what steps do you need to follow to appoint a social media manager?

First things first, do your research

The first thing to do before appointing someone to set up your school’s social media accounts is to carry out research among your current and future parents/guardians. What social media platforms do they use and how do they use them? Surveys, parent councils and searching for your school on major social media platforms are the best ways of finding this out.

Most primary schools will find a number of parents on Facebook, and increasingly Twitter and Instagram to share opinions, ask questions and find people with similar interests. This presents real opportunities for your school. This audience, meanwhile, will also use those services to raise complaints and concerns. This is a potential threat that your staff will need to manage carefully or your school could end up with a negative online reputation.

Once you have decided which platforms your school should use, there are several questions to ask:

Who will look after your social media?

There are 3 skills needed for this position. Your social media manager needs the technical ability to manage the platforms, the communication skills to properly engage with your audience and community, and the ability to constantly monitor what’s happening online. With teachers pressured for time, the last of these makes it difficult for them to take on the role. In most primary schools it’s best to find and train someone in your admin team. Multi Academy Trusts have been known to hire social media managers to run several school accounts. If that applies to your school, it’s important to keep the individuals concerned updated with accurate  information.

How do they set up your school’s accounts?

The process is different for each social media platform, but usually very simple. They’ll typically be asked to supply an email address or mobile phone number as a main contact, and then to create a profile page populated with pictures and your other contact details. Make sure that your social media manager always uses your school’s contact details at every stage so your staff can maintain control if the social manager leaves, and easily monitor comments.

Registering on Facebook involves a further step of creating a specific school page. Your social manager will need to click the triangle at the far right of the homepage, select ‘create page’ and then set up a ‘company, organisation or institute.’ This allows them to set controls for moderating comments. It’s advisable for them to set up a ‘message button’, so that people can ask questions privately and directly. These days, parents don’t want the hassle of typing out an email; they would rather ask the question on social media.

When and how often should your school post updates?

Different social media platforms lend themselves to different update patterns. Facebook should be updated by your social media manager between once a day or once a week, depending on the size of your school and the amount of time and information you have to share. Twitter needs daily updates, or your school’s posts will be lost among the large volume of tweets published every day. Tools such as Buffer or Hootsuite will let your social manager schedule social media updates in advance, so they can post them at the best time for people to read. Saturday is good, for example, when most parents are off work and but there’s nobody is in the office to post. The times around parents’ daily drop-offs and pick-ups also work well.

What information should your school share?

Your social media manager should aim to post a mix of useful information; perhaps reminders for parents about upcoming inset days, school holidays, school events and school trips. They could share good news about your school such as exam results, new equipment, and fun class activities. Social platforms have become increasingly photo and video friendly, and can be updated from anywhere; it might be worth investing in a school smartphone or tablet that can be taken out and about. Consider training other members of staff on taking pictures or videos, and uploading images. Live-streaming events is becoming easier through additions to existing platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram Live. Imagine sharing your assemblies and school celebrations with all the parents in real time.

How will you monitor what’s being said about your school online?

Social media sites need monitoring daily so that your school can help with enquiries, and identify any potential areas of unhappiness. There are some excellent online tools at a range of price points that will allow you to do this, including Hootsuite, SocialMention and Tweetdeck, or your social media manager can simply log into your accounts and look for mentions.

How should your school respond to comments online?

Comments can generally be classified as positive, negative and neutral (the latter are usually questions). Ensure your social media manager thanks people for positive comments and records them for potential use in your school’s marketing messages. Neutral questions should be answered as accurately as possible; tell your staff that, if they’re not sure what to say, ask around internally.

If negative comments are posted, they’ll need to address the issue quickly. If the post is abusive, ensure they remove it from your page and report it to the social media platform straight away. If it’s a genuine complaint, they should engage with this person by replying to their comment and then face-to-face as soon as possible. As part of the discussion, tell your staff to ask the aggrieved poster to remove their negative comment or post a subsequent positive comment saying the issue was resolved.

How will your school safeguard everyone involved?

You need to ensure that your staff and pupils are protected at all times. That means setting school policies on identifying students, and reminding parents not to tag pictures with real student names, or use abusive language. Your staff need to be aware of the requirements around contacting students on social media, and ensure that all posts be reviewed by other SMTs on a regular basis.

Want to give your social media manager some inspiration or provide relevant content ideas to post whilst they are getting your school’s pages setup? Edtech companies like Promethean, supplying schools with interactive, front of class technology, regularly post valuable and informative content for educators on their social channels. Check out Promethean’s social media accounts for current trends and insights on technology in education – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Advice from Simon Hepburn – Founder of Marketing Advice for Schools

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