10 top tips on how schools can use social media
Published on May 8, 2015
1. Always keep the school’s vision in mind
Base much of what you say and do through social media on your school’s existing goals and aspirations. Some of the impact you’ll be looking to make will be practical and measurable (parents should get event invitations more reliably than they would via a written letter, for example), while some will be aspirational (championing your school’s ethos and values).
2. Get support from senior leadership
This is critical. Headteachers, deputies and business managers are well placed to speak as the school’s voice with families. Schools benefit initially from going for a single “voice”, even though more than one person may be contributing; in the first year we suggest activity on social media comes from school leadership while staff observe.
3. Don’t be afraid of giving power to the parents
Be confident about shifting some of the power associated with old school style information transmission over to your parental community.
4. You don’t need to answer everything
There’s a lot of wisdom in a crowd. Be prepared to let some questions and conversations go unanswered from time to time – at least for an hour or so anyway. Also, recognize that you don’t have to be the font of all knowledge – other parents can answer queries and save you time.
5. The biggest monsters are often in our heads
Starting a conversation with anyone in any context can feel risky and this is normal. You could be rejected, say the wrong thing, get shouted at or even mislead and feel guilty afterwards. You can also strengthen relationships, model good practice in all areas including safeguarding, share great ideas, celebrate achievement, rally support or trigger instant awareness on a plethora of issues and spin round minor negatives or misunderstandings.
6. Have an emergency plan in place
If you know that your school is risk averse, perhaps after some highly emotive recent incident it had to manage, then invest time establishing the risks and ensure you’re willing and able to manage them. No one wants a car crash and if you sense someone is sitting back waiting for one, then be aware and prepared.
7. Work with ICT
Primary and secondary schools face different challenges with their ICT curriculum and admin networks. Work with your tech people to balance simplicity and security so that it’s effortless and bureaucracy-free to update parents.
8. Don’t let the naysayers put you off
Focus on the positive majority not the negative minority.
9. Make sure everyone understands the plan
Set out your school’s guidelines for how it plans to use social media in plain language that everyone can understand – including parents. “Extending the school’s vision of inclusion and equality” is just white noise to many parents and won’t do your school any favours in building its reputation as a place that embraces and cares deeply about every child’s success.
10. Be ready to learn and listen
Social media is a two-way conversation; it’s immediate and easy to push information out to parents but that’s not a conversation. The golden 80:20 rule is one we’ve learned works best. Eight out of 10 updates are soft communications or items, such as student-made videos, that are genuinely interesting and which you wouldn’t mind receiving. The remaining 20% of updates are operational, such as timely Ofsted reminders.
The conversation aspect can take place around both. Schools might informally test the water on specific issues – “How would you feel about a year 6 tie?” – and after some time spent relationship-building move on to more formal engagement on harder-to-engage issues where some control over exposure to the wider world is in place.