Students, parents, and teachers alike use social media every day, though they’re not always using it with a specific purpose.
While social media can be a great outlet for personal expression, there are times when it interferes and impacts your school more than you’d like.
But using social media is all about public relations – you can either let your students, parents, and teachers tell the story for you, or you can jump ahead of them and create your own narrative.
Award-winning principal Eric Sheninger explains it like this:
“If you don’t tell your story, someone else will. In education we do not brag enough and as a result we pay the price dearly. By becoming the storyteller-in-chief you can turn this tide and take control of public relations – for good. There is so much power in stories and we must do a better job of sharing them.”
But how exactly do you become a storyteller for your school using social media?
It first comes down to the choosing the right channel, and then experimenting with different stories to see what captures the right attention.
Here’s what you need to know.
Facebook is the largest and most dynamic social platform out there to date.
There are over 1.71 billion monthly active Facebook users worldwide, which means that it’s a site that is too big to ignore. Every school should have a Facebook page, no question.
However, Facebook’s age demographic tends to skew older than your average student, which means that how you use it will differ from other channels.
Statistics show that the most common age range is 25 to 34, at 29.7% of users. This means that you will probably be less likely to engage with students than their parents (or older alumni).
So what types of content should you be generating on this channel? Post anything that keeps people informed and connected.
Create Facebook Pages and Groups for different clubs to share ideas and news.
Make announcements and keep parents up-to-date on news, changes, weather-related cancellations, or other emergencies.
Create events and alerts.
Share photos and video from events and clubs.
Share songs, chants, or cheers.
Highlight teachers, students, and staff that serve your community.
Live stream sporting events and other activities.
Anne O’Brien from Edutopia has more ideas here.
With 1.3 billion registered users and over 120 million unique visits every month, Twitter is another powerhouse social media channel that you should be using.
The biggest difference between Facebook and Twitter is that Twitter limits what you’re able to post to 140 characters. This means no sharing of stories and galleries of photos like you can on Facebook (though you can link to those things in a tweet).
While this may seem limiting, Twitter is actually perfect for schools, especially those wanting to reach a younger population. Over 26% of teens consider Twitter to be their favorite social channel, and 29% check their tweets multiple times per day.
Dimitri Salini, Principal at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, says that the thing he “loves about using Twitter is that it allows us to share the excitement of learning through the sharing of class experiences and our vast extra-curricular activities, as well as other notable educational related topics with our community and beyond.”
Start a hashtag encouraging students to share about their #schoolpride.
Send announcements to students and faculty.
Highlight events happening in your community.
Ask questions, create polls, and get feedback from students.
Use Periscope, Twitter’s live streaming sister app, to share events.
While maybe not the first choice for school, Instagram can be a great platform for engaging and recruiting students if used properly.
Over 30% of internet users are now on Instagram and 90% of them are under the age of 35, so it may be worthwhile to create an account. However, keep in mind that Instagram is a visual social channel, and your followers will probably not be on it to check on the latest news or find out if the school is closing for a snow day.
They will most likely engage you on this channel if you post creative and highly impactful images and videos, as that’s what this social channel is known for.
Turn your Instagram account over to photography students for some creative shots.
Host a photo contest for school spirit days or other events.
Post and share photos from prom or other social events.
Share images and video from students giving back to the community.
Use Instagram Stories to share lessons or tips for engaging with your school.
Steve Williams from Campus Suite recommends posting photos before your events – instead of after – to increase attendance. Check out more of his suggestions here.
Over 1 billion users are on YouTube. And chances are, some of your students are probably already streaming on YouTube – you just don’t know it yet.
While many classrooms block YouTube due to inappropriate material, the great thing about it is that it’s a versatile platform in terms of how you can use it. Yes, some content isn’t suitable for your school, but you can also make content that is both safe and effective, too.
You can post short educational videos for students and parents to watch after school, you can share highlights or video from events that students or parents may have missed, or you can even use it in the classroom to serve as an eLearning resource.
Create YouTube playlists as student assignments or as recommended extra resources.
Record class lessons or lectures and save them for future viewing.
Create “clip shows” of events or school news stories.
Interview teachers and create short videos to share with parents.
Try the teachers channel on YouTube. It starts with a ten-step tutorial on how to use YouTube in your classroom, with many more tips available if you join the YouTube Teachers Community and sign up for the e-newsletter.
Try the YouTube education channel. It allows users to search within it for videos on a wide range of academic subjects.
Unless you’re a college or university, your students are probably not on LinkedIn. However, teachers and parents will be.
LinkedIn is a great social channel for recruiting teachers, reaching other working members of your school and community, and connecting and networking with working parents.
And with over 450 millions users (and with two new users every second), this platform is poised to keep growing its influence, whether you choose to engage with it or not.
Post commentary about major policy changes or news that affects the community.
Create groups for working parents to connect with faculty and staff.
Share articles about leadership, fundraising, sponsorships, team building, etc.
Network with other schools to share tips, tricks, and other advice.
Recruit new faculty and staff members.
While it may not be obvious how to leverage this channel for the most benefit, you can find plenty of inspiration from other schools and universities to give you some ideas. HubSpot has a few great examples here.
We highly recommend being on at least a few social media channels. And if you’re looking for safe bets, Facebook and Twitter are essentials.
If you want to branch out to more visual channels, Instagram and YouTube are perfect for connecting with students and teachers through video and images. You can create a lot of aesthetic appeal and showcase a different side of your school.
Or, if you just need to find some help, LinkedIn can be a great tool for finding new talent, or at the very least, connecting with parents and other industry professionals.