You’ve got social media accounts for your school, have set up the profiles, but now what? Exactly what information should you be sharing and in which media? Events? News stories? School closings? Photos from last night’s volleyball game?
Should we be posting this on that channel, or that on this channel? Should we be Tweeting this, or liking that? Who should we follow? Who do we want following us? Knowing when to use the right social media for your school will improve your parent and entire school community engagement.
While just about every organization these days is using social media to stay in front of their audiences, many schools are still finding their way when it comes to how to best use social media. More specifically, school communicators are learning that each social media channel has its unique advantages and limitations.
If you understand how to use each social media channel, you will better your chances to gain traction for your communications.
I’ve listed the major social media channels your school should be using, and outlined the kinds of content best suited for each. For a more comprehensive look at school digital channel best practices, check out this webinar on improving school engagement using digital channels.
Post to Facebook, but realize the limitations
To best understand Facebook’s utility, think of how you, yourself, may use it. While it’s still growing fast in popularity among the 35-50 crowd, it has its limitations because of a complicated algorithm that determines what content gets seen by whom. Facebook uses something called Edgerank to determine what shows up in your newsfeed. Ever notice how it’s not necessarily the most recent stuff that shows up first?
Other social media channels pretty much just show the content in the sequence it’s posted. Without getting into too much geek-speak here, essentially what Edgerank does is take into account every FB action (likes, updates, comments, photo tags, joining a fans page, etc.) and mathematically predicts how interesting it will be to you.
How your school can use Facebook:
- Sharing photos of events
- Using the event calendar for key events
- Sharing news and stories
- Sharing other community stories
You can ask people to subscribe to your school page, which will automatically notify subscribers of events, but you cannot depend on Facebook for sharing time-critical information about your school because of the algorithm. Sorry, school car washes and honor society awards can’t compete with adorable pets doing goofy things caught on camera.
Now if you want to pay for it, Facebook gives the the opportunity to pay for what is called "boosts." You might see this option every now and then if you're an active poster. This improves the chance your post will be seen by larger audiences.
With boosting, which really isn't too costly, the more you want to pay, the more people you'll reach. You can also pinpoint who you're reaching by people who like your page, their friends, by location and other demographics.
For a deeper understanding of how to tweak your personal FB account settings to clean up your newsfeed some, and to understand some of the whys and wherefores of Facebook’s limitations, check Jay Baer’s article on Facebook and Edgerank.
Twitter – your school’s personal newsfeed
Twitter is a much more versatile and ‘active’ social media than Facebook, with far-reaching application for schools. It’s a great medium for sharing news about your school and sharing streams that relate to your school’s mission.
One of the big advantages of Twitter is that students, media, and an increasing number of younger parents and staff depend on it. Whether it’s for news, entertainment, or general info gathering, it’s a very popular medium suited for real-time updates and other sharing from your school.
With a concerted effort, you can build your following using hashtags to find, organize and share your content among certain groups your school is trying to reach. Twitter also lets you create and subscribe to lists to help build your following. With an organized schedule of frequent Tweets, you can get your messages in front of your followers on an ongoing basis.
Twitter school list suggestions:
- Faculty and staff
- Other teachers, schools, schools athletic conference
- Community leaders (politicians, faith-based organizations)
- Create learning networks with schools and organizations
The Campus Suite Academy recently held a webinar on how to use Twitter to improve school communications. You can view an archived version of it here. We’ve also published a Guide for Using Twitter for Schools you might want to check out.
Schools can Tweet to stay connected:
- Sharing news and stories
- Sharing knowledge for parents and staff
- Targeting staff for professional development
- Emergency information
- Scores and updates
- Connecting with media and thought leaders
Instagram: tell your school story in pictures
Instagram is all about sharing your school’s story simply through images. One of the beauties of Instagram is the simplicity of it. The primary reason it’s the fastest-growing social media network is that it’s got that point-and-click, uncomplicated design that enables users to quickly share photos and short (15-sec. max) videos.
A mobile app only, Instagram is perhaps the best way among all the social media to personalize your school. It’s easy to share many aspects of the your school’s culture by capturing the countless ‘up-close-and-personal’ moments that comprise a school day.
Not many schools have official Instagram accounts yet, but those who do are connecting with their students and school community in very personal ways. Images foster engagement. Think not so much of posed pictures, but trying to capture authentic glimpses into school life. Some of the best Instagram posts are not even in focus.
Some ideas for school Instagram posts:
- Photos of athletic teams practicing
- Photos and videos of new teachers and staff
- Video clips of pep rallies
- School cancellations and any emergency notification
- Behind-the-scenes of dress rehearsal for a school play
- Upcoming events reminders
- Video greetings from staff members
Like Twitter and Facebook, hashtags can be used to group your Instagram content by creating ‘content hubs’ around targeted content or targeted audiences. Hashtags help get the sharing going.
There is also a desktop version of Instagram available for monitoring Instagram accounts, but the actual posting of images and photos is restricted to mobile devices. So put your school’s social media ambassadors to work by capturing some cool happenings and start posting.
Check out this article for a deeper dive on how to use Instagram for schools. For some examples of super Instagram posts, and a how-to on setting up Instagram at your school, check out the Instagram Guide for Schools published by the Campus Suite Academy.
Pinterest: a school bulletin board of pictures
Like Instagram, Pinterest is not only a photo-centric social media channel, but one of the fastest-growing ones. Once you create your school's own Pinterest account, you can begin loading it with the kinds of pictures that capture the many facets of the school experience.
It's best to think in terms of content hubs that you feel would be of interest to your school community. Believe me, there are a lot of them. First think in terms of who you want to reach: students, faculty, non-faculty-staff, parents, community members, friends of the school. Then, begin thinking of all the achievements and accomplishments of your students, teachers, teams, groups, staff, board members and anyone associated with the school.
Tips to enhance learning at home are excellent ideas, as are any parent resource you can think of.
Pinterest enables you to group photos by content matter – called boards – then link the photo to more content.
And as is the case with any social media, the way to make Pinterest work for you is to share, like and follow whenever possible. Create the boards, put up the pins, and start liking and following to build your school's own following.
Linkedin: professional development for your entire school
The last of the major social media I want to touch on is LinkedIn. Viewed largely as resource for businesses, LinkedIn is being used by many universities now to help graduates and alumni find jobs through its powerful networking capabilities. School districts too, can take advantage of this popular channel by creating networking opportunities that can be beneficial for students, alumni, staff and prospective staff.
For both your college-bound and non-college bound graduates, LinkedIn is a valuable resource to learn about organizations, fields of study or universities. But beyond being a student resource, LinkedIn can be a valuable asset to your school.
Most major teaching and school administrator associations have LinkedIn pages to foster professional development and exchange of ideas. It's ideally suited for networking and researching.
Schools can use LinkedIn to:
- Recruit. Promote your school or district to potential employees.
- Link to professional education organizations.
- Start dialogue with other schools on shared topics.
- Tell your ‘school story’ to various networked communities (business, educators, etc.).
Begin by setting up a page for your school district, make sure you optimize it, and begin building your school network by building connections and promoting your LinkedIn across other school communications. Read what Joyce Valenza @joycevalenza writes in her look at LinkedIn for K-12.
When planning and creating the content for your school’s social media channels, remember that one size does not fit all. It’s important you understand the value and limitations of each, so that your school messaging is not incongruent with respective media.
Don’t expect immediate responses from Facebook posts. Remember that Twitter content has a very short shelf life, so keep pumping Tweets – think of it as your school’s news feed. When using Instagram, think outside the box to try to capture the essence of the many facets of your school. The more photos and short video clips the better. And don’t forget LinkedIn as yet another way to get your school ‘wired’ in the right circles that will do the most good for your students, your staff and your school.
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 or follow him @jay4schools.