Welcome to part two of my two-part blog on tips and ideas for using social media in schools. (Part one can be found here)
I’ve recently been doing a lot of work in the education sector, providing advice to schools and speaking on social media marketing for schools at conferences such as the 2012 AMDIS Conference – the annual conference of The Association for Marketing and Development in Independent Schools.
More information here:
2012 AMDIS Annual Conference: Social Media in Schools
Using Social Media in Schools: Risks, Opportunities & Benefits
After sharing 20 Ideas for Social Media Activities and having such positive feedback, I wanted to provide those who work in schools with even more practical tips and ideas for schools on using social media for profile raising, recruitment, and improving communications with parents and students.
The second part of this blog covers tips and ideas on how schools can use Facebook and Twitter to promote themselves better.
I hope you find this list useful – please do share your comments at the end!
Facebook is a really important social media platform for both prospective and existing parents. The majority of prospective students and their parents are likely to already be communicating on Facebook, so it makes sense to go to them. Here are some practical tips on how to do this:
(8) Set up a School Organisation Page on Facebook
People will search for your school on Facebook; I can guarantee it. If you don’t set up an official page, you might find someone else may do so instead (unofficially). Setting up a Facebook page for your school not only avoids copycat pages appearing with messages that are “off-brand”, it also gives a massive boost to your SEO and allows parents, teachers and students to share positive content about the school.
(9) Set up a Group for Prospective Parents on Facebook
As many parents are already linking up and chatting on Facebook, setting up a group for prospective parents to discuss school options and ask questions about the school is a great idea. It will show prospective parents that you really value their input and are a forward-thinking, digitally-savvy educational establishment.
(10) Set up a Staff/Student Committee to Manage Content
Putting key members of staff and some responsible students in charge of uploading photos and videos to show what life is like at the school will engage students and help promote the school to prospective parents. Photos and video don’t need to be top class content like on the website, here you can show real (natural and not posed!) photos and videos.
(11) Post Public Events on Facebook
Use Facebook to create events for school diary dates. This will help to remind staff, students and parents about key dates in the school calendar. It will help to promote the events, and discussions about the events. The people involved or invited can then also then share photos and video content.
(11) Link with School Alumni on Facebook
You could quite easily engage with your alumni (probably the second most important target group for future intake) through Facebook. If they blog or run their on business pages, you can share links as examples of success for the school, whilst also showing you support students even after they leave the school.
(12) Advertise Alumni Events & Blogs on Facebook (or LinkedIn)
Offer alumni the opportunity to be a guest speaker or guest blogger for the school blog or a careers event, and link to it via Facebook. They could then use Facebook or LinkedIn to answer questions or help children seeking careers advice. There are many very bright and motivated young people who would want to ask questions of previous students, and Facebook or LinkedIn provide an excellent platform to do so, especially if it ties into an actual event.
(13) Set Up a School Twitter Account
Don’t worry if you’re not sure about how to use this yet or what to say. The great thing about Twitter is that you can set up an account and just watch what others are doing first, before beginning to post messages from your school.
(14) Follow Others: Schools, Teachers, Local MPs, Key Education Organisations etc
Search on Twitter for all the individuals and organisations that may be talking about education issues, events or news. See how others are using Twitter first, and begin interacting with them: this is where prep schools can interact with secondary schools and Secondary schools can interact with prep. You can see who is following you so it is quite easy to interact, for example with parents. (Check out my 5 Tweeting tips for MP’s!)
(15) Shares Ideas and Offer Help
Use Twitter to offer help and support to other local schools in their activities. If this is already in your marketing plan, then using Twitter is a great way to do this. It helps you to spot opportunities, share ideas and engage with other schools (and youth groups) further.
(16) Use Twitter Newsfeed
Twitter is now recognised by journalists as the place where you are most likely to find out breaking news first. We can use twitter as a key place for “latest” whether it be news, closures, as it happens. You can “re-tweet” or re-post key news from others, and can post latest news yourself, which is great customer service for parents.
(17) Show Leadership and Authority by Adopting Early
Not all schools are on Twitter right now, so it is a great platform from which to begin showing leadership and innovation. The sooner you begin using Twitter, the more followers and the bigger platform you will have when others begin to join in. This will give you increased authority and perceived leadership. It will mean you can test the water and establish yourself before it gets busy. When others catch up and join, if you are already on Twitter and established as the best school for news and updates, yours will be the school that people think about, remember and end up engaging with.
(18) Don’t Expect Instant Results
With social media, you need to have been there for a while to know what you are doing before you begin to see an impact, for example, on your intake figures. Don’t expect obvious results for a year or two, as you need to gain confidence in what you are doing and to understand how to have conversations in the market that will result in business. You might need to start investing now in activities that you may not see a return on investment for 2-3 years, as it takes a while to build a community online, gain trust and establish yourself. The sooner you start, the better.
(19) Seek Out New Opportunities
Here is a great example of Twitter bringing new opportunities: My target audience is small to medium size local businesses, so I decided to use Twitter to engage with some of them. I simply followed and said hello with a tweet to a local hotel, and with the one tweet I got a reply saying: “We are looking for someone to do our SEO; can you come and see us?”
A great example for schools is: A social media guy called John Buskell in Sweden, manages an account for a senior high. They have been on Twitter and Facebook for around 4 years now, but when he first started their Twitter account, he set up some alerts and noticed a tweet saying “Fuck, I hate Engelska Skolan junior high” he replied to the tweet on behalf of the high school with a “Hang in there.” The girl in question from the primary school tweeted back, “Shit, you’re on Twitter?” and she started checking out the school.
She came along to Open House and he talked to her, as part of the marketing he was doing for the school. She ended up choosing the school for her 3 year A level program. Each student brings from the local government around £9000 per year. Effectively, she paid for the school’s marketing budget that year. It all started with a Tweet!
(20) Set Some Goals
Once you’ve got started and established yourself on your chosen platform(s), you need to set some goals to focus your activities.
- Get involved in lobbying
- Increase income generation with conference venues
- Position the Music department with the Royal College of Music
Then for each goal, select the appropriate social media channels and begin the process of building reputation and engagement to support and achieve your goals. For example:
Engage with local prep schools to increase intake:
- Start talking to them on Twitter
- Retweet their events and offer help
- Arrange for a couple of your students to give a talk at one of their events and answer questions on Twitter afterwards using an event #hashtag
Establish the Head of PE as a thought leader in school sports
- Ask them to set them up an individual Twitter account linked to the school one, and begin tweeting about key issues and current debates
- Start a blog where they give expert opinion and commentary on current events
- Link to and promote the blog through the school Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and website
3) Help parents to network and give them business support
- Link to members of the PTA through LinkedIn
- Ask them to set up a parents networking group on LinkedIn and invite people they already know
- Use the group and their personal contacts to invite other parents into the school for business events
I hope these blogs on how schools can use social media have been useful, and provided some practical advice and tips. Please do share your experiences and comments below.