Is your school late to the Facebook party? Facebook was founded in 2006, and in the nearly decade since then, it has exploded in popularity. As of July 2015, Facebook had nearly 1.5 billion active monthly users. Nearly 70 percent of all U.S. internet users are also active Facebook users. Quite simply, Facebook has completely transformed the way many of us communicate.
That revolution has also translated to the non-profit and education space. Many organizations are using Facebook as a primary means to distribute important messages, connect with followers, organize events, and even fundraise. It’s a powerful communication tool that has the potential to reach people who you can’t reach via email or snail mail.
For schools, Facebook is a critical piece in the school communications puzzle. Chances are good that many of your school’s parents are on Facebook. It’s also likely that many of your students ages 13 and older have accounts. A school Facebook page can give you a powerful tool to push out messages to those parents and students, as well as to prospective students and other interested community members.
You can use your Facebook for a wide range of communications. Like many of the social media at a school communicator's disposal these days, Facebook is suited to make administrative announcements, like important dates, school closures, lunch menus, and more. Drum up support for an exciting school event or activity. Rally the troops for your next big fundraiser. Highlight the achievements of your teachers and students. There’s really no end to what you and your school can do on Facebook.
If you’re not familiar with Facebook, the process of getting started may feel a little overwhelming. Don’t worry. It’s simple. It’s even easier if you already have a Facebook account. Just follow this simple guide and you can probably have your school website up and running in less than 30 minutes.
Step 1: Create your school Facebook page.
This first step is simply to create your page. If you have a Facebook account and you’ll be one of the administrators for the school Facebook page, you can simply log into your account as you usually do. In the upper right hand corner, you’ll see a drop down arrow, which will bring up a menu. One of the selections is “Create a Page.”
That will bring up the first step which is to choose the type of page you want. There are six choices, but there’s only one that should matter to you. It’s the “Company, Organization, or Institution” selection.
When you click on that selection, you’ll be asked to narrow down the category from a list of options. You can choose from: education, elementary school, middle school, or school. Facebook regularly changes these options, so they may be different when you create your page. Just choose the option that best fits your school.
At this point, you’ll also be asked to choose your page name. Simply enter your school name and you’re set to go. At this point, your Facebook page will be live, but there are still a few steps you’ll want to take before you promote it to your students, teachers, and parents.
Step 2: Add pictures.
Facebook allows you to add your own images to customize your school page. It’s highly recommended that you take advantage of this. Many schools leave both or one of these photo opps blank. Add pictures to make your page look professional and polished. On Facebook, there can often be a perception that pages without pictures are “unfinished” or even “dead.” You don’t want to create that image for your page.
The first picture is the profile picture. This is a thumbnail image that will show up in every post or comment you make on Facebook. It’s your avatar on Facebook and should be something that is easily identified with your school. A logo or picture of the school mascot make good choices.
The second picture is the cover image. This is the large image that goes across the top of your school page. If you don’t use a cover image, you’ll have an unsightly blank spot there. Use a picture that looks good in landscape format. Think of using a picture of your school building or perhaps a group of students and teachers at an event. However, if you do use students, be sure you have their parents’ permission first.
Step 3: Add a description.
Facebook gives you space to write a 255-word description of your school. You don’t want to leave this empty because most of your page visitors will glance at this the first time they land on your page. This description doesn’t have to be long or overly complex, but it should clearly describe your school and the purpose of the page.
This description will help your followers confirm that this page is in fact for your school. And it will also let your followers know what kinds of posts and content they can expect from the page.
Step 4: Manage your administrators.
Most schools have a few people who are responsible for updating the Facebook page. It usually includes the school’s marketing or community relations director, a principal or other school administrator, and even a teacher or two.
When you’re logged into your page, you’ll see an option that says “Edit page.” When you click on this, you’ll see an option that allows you to manage administrator settings. Here you can add users and set their permissions so they can have specific access to the page. You’ll likely want at least one or two other people to be administrators so they can post content to the Facebook page if you’re out of the office.
Step 5: Attract followers.
Once your page is setup and has images and a description, it’s time to start getting followers. There are a few very easy ways to do this. One of the great things about Facebook is that content and news can make its way through a community very quickly. You’ll likely be surprised how fast your page accumulates followers, especially if your school already has a tight community.
A few Facebook tips to help you get started:
- Like the page from your personal account. When you like the page, your friends will see it. Many of your friends may be teachers, parents, or others in the school community, so they’ll be likely to like the page too.
- Share the page with your friends. The best way to get your first few followers is to share the page and ask your friends to like it. Ask your teachers and administrators to do the same. That will expand your reach and help you connect with people outside your network.
- Post content. Once parents and students see that your Facebook page is a source of valuable news and content, they’ll be more likely to follow the page. Even if you only have a few followers, make sure you post regularly to increase the page’s value.
- Get a custom URL. Once you have 25 followers, you can get a custom URL that looks something like this: www.facebook.com/ABCelementaryschool. You can then use that URL on all your letters, emails, and notes back to parents. That will make it easier for them to find you on Facebook.
There are lots of tips you can use to strengthen the impact of your school Facebook page. This article by school social media expert Andrea Gribble outlines her seven keys to creating the perfect Facebook page.
Facebook is too important to not be in your communications strategy. It’s also incredibly simple to setup and manage. You might be late to the Facebook party, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss it altogether. Get started on your school Facebook page today.
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.