Dedicate resources to social media. My first bit of advice is simple but really quite necessary: devote some resources to your social media program. Your school's web site used to be the only front door your school had. It was the first thing people saw. Now it is the first thing parents or anybody over the age of 40 will see. Facebook is your new front door for folks under the age of 30.
You wouldn't be casual about creating your catalog, would you? (Did anybody ask about catalogs?) Your catalog and other printed materials which you send to prospective families are always professionally produced, aren't they? Same thing with social media. Allocate staff time and money to social media for the best results.
Social media principles are the same as with any professional, well-crafted publicity materials.
Develop an editorial calendar so that your postings have some consistency. Your school year has its own unique rhythm to it. Anchor your postings around those milestone events and happenings. For example, if Grandparents' Day is the 3rd Wednesday in October, you would start a few weeks before with some posts about previous years' Grandparents' Days. Then build the excitement as the day gets closer. That's why you need professionals handling social media. It takes time, planning and flawless execution.
Solicit stories with photographs from your community. While it is important for you to retain control of the editorial side of things, ideally your content should come from the community. Use your house meetings, faculty and staff meetings to explain what is needed and the mechanics of how to submit materials. Build a pipeline of materials so that you always have something to post.
Post regularly. We follow just about every school which has a Facebook page here at Private School Review and Boarding School Review. As a result I see their postings every day. Probably only 5% of the schools we follow post on Facebook regularly. In my opinion the schools which don't post regularly are missing out on valuable publicity. Free publicity too. Set up a schedule which works for your school and its resources. Perhaps posts on Friday are all you can afford. But start with that then work up to daily postings.
Create value with your postings. Like allocating resources to social media, creating value is very important in social media. What do I mean by value? The best example I can think of is the person you know who rambles when he talks. He wanders all over the conversational map and rarely says anything of any importance or substance. Contrast him with the person you know who brings focus and insight to his conversations. Same thing with social media. Be strategic - again, that's why you need an editorial calendar - and have focus. Make your point or tell your story without rambling. If 6 photos will tell the story and you have 26 photos, then go with 6 photos.
Encourage your every member of your school community as well as your alumni/alumnae to 'Like' and 'Follow' the school. This one takes time. Especially with the older folks. But even older folks are discovering what fun it is to open their Facebook page and see a beautiful album of photos of their beloved school. And they can 'share' it with their friends and acquaintances so easily.
This is how you develop something called 'Reach'. In social media jargon 'reach' is all the folks who 'like' your page plus all their 'likes'. In other words you have one fan as well as all her fans. You just never know who might end up seeing your Facebook postings.
Use Twitter for news flashes. Twitter is terrific for instant stuff like a weather announcement or sports scores. I love following tweets from schools on Wednesday and Saturdays when most athletic activity seems to take place. You get a real sense of the excitement. It's almost like being there as the tweets pop up one after the other.
Use Facebook for substantial, expanded news. Facebook is very effective for telling a story in a compelling manner. Use some great photos to tell your story.
Use Pinterest for things the school likes and stands for. Pinterest? It's one of the newer social media sites. I rather like the way you can group things you like. For a school I can see it being used for groups of schools your graduates have matriculated to or perhaps a list of successful alums. You are limited only by your imagination in how you use Pinterest or any social media for that matter.
To recap: allocate some resources to social media in order to maintain control and get the best results. Results? How about tens of thousands of people learning about your school? Without spending a fortune. Those are pretty good results and they can be achieved in fairly short order - 3-6 months.
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