The secret 7 of safe social media for school leaders
How you talk about your school matters, especially on social media!
School leaders and teachers often take this for granted. Their primary focus is learning.
The classes are full, there’s a waiting list, and parents talk about how to get my child into ‘that school’! The cycle is simple. A positive community perception = increasing student enrolments = number of teaching jobs! This cycle creates a false sense of security in schools.
Creating and maintaining a positive community perception is always a challenge for schools. In the eyes of your community, you are only as good as your last good news story! Stories need to be of high quality, consistent, honest and authentically share diverse perspectives. This effort builds community spirit and parents who are lifetime advocates.
Social media is the most influential communication tool for a school because it has the most significant leverage. On its side, it has an audience, speed and reach!
School stories of fact or fiction, positive and negative fly across private groups, messaging apps, public forums and official school accounts. All influence parent perceptions. They can bring enormous joy and tragic heartbreak to school leaders, students, teachers and parents.
So how does a school stay on the positive side of social media without running foul of a reputational disaster?
To limit risk and maximise the positive use of social media schools must continually address the following:
A current social media policy and guidelines for students, staff and parents.
Everybody needs to know the rules of the game. Current, explicit and reinforced social media policies and procedures set clear boundaries and support crisis management. When inappropriate behaviour occurs, these are critical documents. Keep them handy!
Think beyond cybersafety, cyberbullying, and esafety.
Cybersafety, cyberbullying, and esafety are all essential elements of a whole-school approach to social media. However, if this is the sole focus of a school, it is missing a significant opportunity for a parent, student and teacher engagement.
Build and maintain a social media team
Storytelling on social media becomes stagnant if the content is left to the school marketing department or an individual. Social media channels only push administrative and marketing messages that are mind-numbing for an audience. A strong team of teachers, marketers, leaders and office staff make for a high performing team producing diverse content from across the school.
Upskill your social media team
Continuously build your social media team’s knowledge. They should have a clear set of standards for photography, videography, language, layout, timing and content. Without standards, school social media accounts look messy, unprofessional and fail to engage a captive audience of parents waiting to see their achievements. Bring new members into the team each year to limit burnout and provide some planning time for the team.
Great content always influences community perceptions
Be creative with your content. Schools have ready-made content with their whole-school calendar. Look at it and consider how to capture and tell the story of what is happening in your school. Humanise the content as much as possible with people in action. Great content makes for an even better face-to-face conversation! ‘Did you see that story on Facebook?’ becomes the conversation starter putting people in a positive mindset. It’s a brilliant bridge builder to focus people on the positives.
Use the full functionality of social media tools
Social media tools are continually improving their functionality with messaging, artificial intelligence, calendars, reviews, sales, integration with other tools, content features, and so much more. Look closely at the features and use those which are appropriate and integrate with your other communication tools.
Students as content creators
Schools are not effectively using students as content creators. There are cross-curricular learning opportunities for students with photography, videography, writing, cybersafety, digital citizenship, technology and student-voice. They love telling their own story and get enormous feedback!
The strategic, effective use of social media in schools is a powerful myth breaker. It is just as powerful as a story maker. Some hard work, goodwill and a focus on what schools do well every day will bring joy, celebration and new highs of community engagement.
Peter Sutton is a speaker, author and award-winning international educator delivering services to schools ensuring safe secure social media, developing positive parents, engaging communities and thriving schools.