The big questions about using school social media in 2017-18

During a recent Campus Suite Academy webinar, Make the Most of School Social Media to Boost Engagement (see video here),we had many questions from registered attendees and didn’t have time to answer them all. We have the answers below to the many of these shared, big questions about using school social media in 2017-18.

Thanks to all who participated, and let us know if you have any questions about how social media fits into your school’s total digital communications mix.

Q: When someone posts a negative comment do you recommend responding publicly or taking it offline?  Lorri H., Connecticut

A: You should definitely respond, but how you respond depends on the severity of the negative comment. Certainly anything personal, offensive, vulgar, should be removed and addressed offline. If it persists or is in any way dangerous, you will want to contact the authorities. Most ‘negative’ comments that may crop up on your social media feeds will not be so severe. In those cases, take the opportunity to engage to let everyone know you’re listening, and take this opportunity to clarify, inform and put a good spin on the topic. Such negative concerns could be shared by others, and these are good opportunities to turn it into a positive reflection on your school or district.

Q: Are social media sites required to meet Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 for ADA compliance? Tom H., Montana

A: When these two important laws addressing accessibility for individuals with disabilities were enacted, social media was not even around. Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels have since sprung up and become viable means of communications that unfortunately create some barriers for individuals with disabilities. As schools join the many government agencies that are using social media to engage, they have a responsibility to do everything they can to make these channels accessible to everyone.

Some tips for social media accessibility:

  1. Make sure you have contact information on your social media profile pages or a link to your web accessibility policy on your school website.
  2. Write in simple, succinct language. Keep it simple.
  3. Provide links to Facebook accessibility support, Twitter accessibility support and other respective support and accessibility teams.
  4. Test your social media content with a screen reader or other assistive technology. Section 508 Standards and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 are standards with which every school digital communicator should become familiar.

Note: Schools aren’t alone in learning how to make their social media more accessible. Many commmercial enterprises are also wrestling with reaching their audiences with disabilities.


Infographic on school website accessibility and ADA compliance


Q: Do you recommend posting articles related to parenting or education from news websites or blogs (not just the school website) to build engagement? Matt H., Illinois

A: Yes, yes, and one more big yes. Your social media content should not just be a litany of news and events about your school. I recommend schools have a good mix of ‘kinds’ of content, and such third-party content that you curate is excellent. Try to incorporate what I call the “Rule of Thirds” when it comes to the types of content. Divide your content into: 1. News and events pertaining to your school; 2. Curated ‘knowledge’ content that can serve as resources or even inspiration to your audience; and 3. Human Interest, or what I call the warm and fuzzy stuff – the softer side of school content like photos, short videos, quips and comments that help personalize your school and reflect the people, spirit and brand of the school.

Q: Are you familiar working with Facebook Workplace? I am considering using it for our school. Chris M.

A: Other than what I’ve read online, I’ve no great insights. It appears to be a viable connectivity tool for many organizations, but I’m not sure of any school district applications. It appears Facebook is taking advantage of its network to offer a collaboration space. Things like voice and video, live video streaming, chatting, file storage, system integration – much of the same functionality that Google Apps for Education or Microsoft 365 for Education offers educators. I’d be curious to know if any schools are using it effectively and how much it costs.

Q: What are some publishing guidelines for Instagram for schools? Lori M.

A: Instagram is an absolutely great, but underutilized unfortunately, social media channel for schools. Select a good profile username that’s consistent with the rest of your social media naming structure. Use a profile photo that works well in a small size (e.g., logo or clear, simple photo) It should be 180 x 180 pixels.

From a scheduling standpoint, think morning, noon and night. Many people routinley check their social media accounts at the end of the workday. Matt Smith, founder of Latergramme, an app for scheduling Instagram posts, suggests early in the morning yes, 2-3 a.m.) and then again at 5pm. I like postings around the lunch hour. Remember, your followers don’t need to be ‘online’ to view your school photos. They’ll get caught up when they log back in, if they already don’t have notifications on.

For content standpoint, the sky’s the limit. The content ‘Rule of Thirds’ will assure you’ll keep your photos from becoming too repetitive. However, you can’t have too many human interest kinds of pictures from your school.

For a deeper dive, check out this Ultimate Guide for Instagram for Schools.

Q: Can you explain why the frequency of Twitter is higher than Facebook? You mentioned that the life span on Twitter is shorter. Please elaborate. Lori B.

A: Think of Twitter as more a newsfeed where a continuous stream of content is coming through at a fast pace. Tweets tend to include links to other content and often a school (or any organization or person) is curating info; that is, sharing and relating to other’s content. Facebook is better intended for content that has a longer shelf life. IT consultant Mike Deon says 18 minutes is the lifespan of a Tweet. He calls it high-volume, low-traffic. Diane Wells of MaxInfluence says Wisemetrics has determined Facebook posts reaches 75 percent of maximum impressions in 2 hours and 30 minutes, and most engagement occurs within 5 hours.

Q: Any thoughts on high school districts adding Snapchat to their social media lineup? Mary T., Illinois

A: Yes. Steer clear of any of these ‘vanishing-message’ channels that could leave a school, organization or individual open to hiding or covering up. Don’t get me wrong: Snapchat or other like media can be used ethically, but I’d focus on the big channels. If it’s any indication, Facebook recently shut down its short-lived version Lifestage, its version of Snapchat.

Now, here’s the big question: What questions do you have about using social media to improve engagement in your school community?




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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 jay@campussuite.com or follow him @jay4schools.

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