The way we use social media in the private K-12 school setting is a bit different from the way social media is used by businesses. Businesses are looking to develop a client list from their social media efforts. They need clients in order to sell them their products and services. Private schools, on the other hand, seek to promote their community with a view to attracting new families and students. Let's look at some more differences and also some strategies and techniques which will help make your school's social media program successful.
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 and YouTube are your new front doors for folks under the age of 30. This video gives you a comprehensive overview of social media and what it can do for your school.
You have never been casual about creating your catalog, have you? Remember catalogs? Your catalog and other printed materials which you give to prospective families are always professionally produced, aren't they? They also cost a fortune, don't they? Your social media deserves the same professional approach. Therefore be sure to allocate staff time and money in your operating budget for social media. That way you will get the best results.
Social media works the same as any professional, well-crafted publicity materials.
Develop an editorial calendar so that your postings are organized and have some consistency and purpose. 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. Leaving social media to a staff member who already has dozens of other responsibilities on her plate is probably not a good idea. This short video will help you understand what is involved with developing a social media marketing plan.
Furthermore, depending on what you and your board are trying to accomplish, you might be able to hire a part-time person with experience in social media. 20-25 hours per week devoted to social media might just work for your school. I know that this can be done part-time in certain situations because I currently curate the Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest accounts for our local classical music radio station. I devote about 10-15 hours a week to that work. Our objective is somewhat similar to yours in that we seek to expose the station to as wide an audience of listeners as possible. Ultimately we want to convert those listeners into sustaining members.
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 your school 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.
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 ongoing 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. This video explains how drive engagement with your Facebook posts.
Encourage every member of your school community as well as your alumni/alumnae to 'Like' and 'Follow' the school.
This one takes time. This is especially true with the older folks. I put anybody over the age of 45 into the older folks category. 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. Memories are very powerful tools when you are reaching out to alumni. Being able to share those memories on Facebook and through that medium with their old classmates will keep your school in front of them more consistently and perhaps more frequently. Your development staff will appreciate that.
Sharing is also 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. Suggested topics include academics, extracurriculars, and sports. In each case, your Facebook sections devoted to each topic should be complete and detailed. Parents will drill down through these sections as part of their due diligence. Highlight successes. Spotlight methods which are unique to your school. Share traditions. Let Facebook tell your school's story.
Use Pinterest for things the school likes and stands for.
Pinterest? It is 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.
Do you have questions? Want to discuss your social media program? COntact us on FAcebook. @privateschoolreview