Facebook has become integrated deeply into the fabric of everyday society and communication. Many schools are starting to realize Facebook as a powerful way to reach the audience. However, as commonplace as Facebook is in everyday life, many schools are still lagging behind in using it as an official communication channel.
Since communication with parents is such an important issue, any school should consider ways to leverage the opportunity Facebook presents as a quick and easy way to engage parents, broadcast news and information, and build an audience around the school itself.
We’re first going to look at why you should use Facebook pages for schools. Then we'll review some of the challenges and potential pitfalls of social media and education. That way, you'll be able to avoid these. Finally, you'll see some examples of how schools and school districts are using Facebook pages to their best effect. For a quick look at how to create an engaging Facebook page, check out this article.
Colleges, private schools, and public school districts are all using Facebook pages effectively. As long as you follow a few straightforward guidelines, you can take advantage of the communications clout this social media platform has to offer your organization.
Your Facebook page is about a lot more than “Likes” and sharing when the holidays are. It can be a strong marketing tool that gets your message directly to your most interested audience.
The first thing you as a communicator should understand is what you're doing with Facebook and why.
The purpose of Facebook pages for schools is to market to and communicate with potential and attending students, their parents, and the community. It's your opportunity as a communicator to get the message you want out in front of the most interested audience around.
More than seven in ten parents are on Facebook today. Facebook is where the audience is, so it makes sense to broadcast your messages where they’re already looking.
Avoid pitfalls of social media for schools
Schools and school districts have overall been slow to adopt Facebook despite its power as a communication and marketing tool. Why?
One of the biggest concerns is over legal issues and overall governance of information and communication. When a teacher or administrator makes an unwise statement on social media, it can quickly lead to disciplinary action or firing. These employees represent the organization they work for.
Therefore, to protect students and the organization, it's best to consider the content you will be sharing before you begin. Check with your school board or college governance, as they may already have policies in place clarifying what content is acceptable and what is not.
Concerns of legal matters and student protection can be completely avoided by deciding what kind of content you will be sharing before you begin. Make sure you're in line with any existing governance policies.
Examples of engaging content for school Facebook pages
As a quick example, let’s look at Indianapolis Public Schools. You can see how they’ve broadcasted an alert about an event being postponed due to inclement weather.
Anyone who likes and follows the Indianapolis Public Schools page may see this alert appear in their timeline. Since Facebook is used so heavily, there’s a good chance this alert will be seen by someone using Facebook on their computer or via the Facebook mobile app.
Having a Facebook page also gives a great opportunity for you to share branding, as Cincinnati Public Schools has done here:
The next question school staff members typically have is “what content should I share?” The best advice I can give is to think like a student or parent. What information would you want to discover if you attended the school or had a child attending the school?
The school calendar and photos of those events are easy answers. With a little more introspection, you can think of ways that stimulate engagement between the viewers and your page.
Cincinnati Public Schools uses video clips on their Facebook page to share a student success story on a platform they know students and parents are watching.
Success with Facebook pages for schools means engagement with the audience: visitors are responding to your posts, asking meaningful questions, and increasing the interest level of other students and parents who see it.
This engagement is far more powerful than mere “Likes,” as they indicate a level of emotional involvement with your school to anyone reading.
With social media, engagement tends to create further engagement, which means a little goes a long way. Prospective students seeing strong post engagement will be much more impressed than by a high “Like” total but a dry and unengaged page.
Kinds of school content to share on Facebook
When it comes to the actual content, think like a visitor. As a parent or student, what would you want to see? What would interest you the most?
Plan a calendar for steady release of information on your Facebook page, and the work will not only be much easier for you—it'll begin to have an underlying theme. Instead of leaving it to chance, plan your content. Planning out your content with a release calendar will also help your branding and keep the content from becoming a mishmash of disconnected posts.
Facebook pages for schools allow you to reach an existing, highly interested audience and communicate with them. They are straightforward to set up and maintain. Check out Andrea Gribble’s article on Top 10 Best-Performing Facebook Posts for Schools for not only some great ideas but a breakdown of why they’re high-performing and engaging.
You've seen why you should use Facebook pages for schools: that's where your audience is. This is a powerful opportunity to market to prospective and existing students and parents, as well as the community.
Michael is the founder and Chief Disruption Officer of Intellig8, a marketing technology consulting company. He is a lifelong student of business, financial models, marketing, communication, and behavioral science. He loves solving business problems, and helping techies and non-techies alike use technology to their advantage.