How to build the best social, online presence for your school
Why do schools need a social media strategy?
Living in the most technologically rich and well-connected age ever means one’s K-12 school needs to also be able to keep up. Schools are not silos that exist independent to the world around them. In fact, they must graduate students who can easily enter their future academic or professional careers in the real world.
It thus makes sense that schools too must have an online and social media presence that reflects their real-world identity. Stakeholders – especially students – now rely on these online channels to stay in touch with what is happening with the school, engage with their fellow stakeholders, and essentially recreate the school community online.
But it is not enough for a school to merely have a social media presence in name only. Their social channels are a reflection of the values and experience they offer in the real world and must reflect this fact. They must also be informative and engaging so that they become another method through which stakeholders like students, teachers, parents, can feel like they are part of the school community.
Modern students, especially, are a target group for the school’s social media channels since they already spend so much time online. Social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are popular mediums of communication for students, especially those in advanced classes. It is thus a natural channel through which the school can also remain connected and engaged with its student body.
What are the top strategies to implement when setting your school’s social presence?
Social media management or strategy is an entirely modern field. Originally, much of it functioned on instinct with norms developing organically and the content remaining more or less raw. However, now, while social media still has a casual and friendly tone to it, there are some hygiene factors to consider when deciding on a social media strategy. This is especially the case for schools that have a more serious tone to convey due to their institutional nature and the audience they are dealing with. Below, we discuss in detail some top strategies for social media that will start schools off on the right foot:
- Create an official account
The first step towards establishing your online social media presence is to create an official account. The handle (username) must reflect or relate to the school’s actual name. But it must also have indicators that this is an official account for the school, so followers and friends are not led astray. There are many ways to do this – use official mail ID to set up any communication, link to the official school website, announce to students and parents and other stakeholders about your new social media presence along with related user info. Also, personalize the official account by adding in user photos, banners, headers, etc, that reflect official school visual design.
- Do some competitor analysis
Competitor analysis is not just for competitive corporations. Schools can really learn a lot from observing how their fellow educational institutions use their social media channels. There is an infinite number of strategies to use when handling social media platforms, but some basic competitor analysis will help schools better understand how institutions like theirs represent themselves online.
Some things to keep an eye out for when doing your competitor analysis is to note the tone of communication for your fellow school, how much they use it as a channel for communication and announcements, the amount of non announcement comments, how they interact with students and other stakeholders and how they keep the content fresh, yet relevant.
- Research best practices
Will specific research of the social media strategies of other school’s is a good way to understand how to specifically run your institution’s account, it is just the starting point. Some endemic best practices exist that ensure the hygiene in experience for the end-user or audience of all your social media channels. These are known as best practices and vary from platform to platform. Understanding these best practices ensures that our social media outreach remains in line with accepted norms, instead of standing out for all the wrong reasons. Best practices also ensure that your school looks knowledgeable and aware of how to behave online, making it a more trustworthy and reliable representation of the institution itself.
- Cross-Platform Presence
Multiple social media platforms serve different purposes. For example, while Instagram is visual-heavy and aesthetically pleasing, Twitter is swift and telegraphic, and Facebook is suitable for longer, more engaging discussions. There is no one singular social media platform for your institution. Instead, it is advisable to create a presence across platforms. There will emerge a platform that your audience engages with the most, however, it is circumspect to at least squat on accounts on other platforms to ensure that miscreants do not use a similar or same account name to create trouble. It also means that stakeholders at the school have an option to use whatever platform they are most comfortable with. It goes without saying, but it is necessary to ensure that the same information is communicated across platforms to ensure no one falls through the cracks about staying in the loop about going on at the school.
- Post regularly
The most popular social media accounts will all have one piece of advice to see success: post regularly and consistently. It is essential that the account remains active – posting on a schedule that is predictable and consistent with the audience expectation. The social media presence of a school must be useful to the stakeholders it is trying to reach in the educational ecosystem, and step one to doing that is to ensure that the account does not seem dead or behind the times.
- Be responsive
Posting regularly on the school’s social media channels is only step one of ensuring your school’s presence remains relevant to the audience. An engaged audience enlivens the school’s social media presence, while also providing continual feedback on what they are interested in, what is useful to them and what they like to see.
The key way of building an engaged audience is to be responsive across social media channels. This means responding to daily trends in terms of posting content, but also replying to queries, engaging with audience posts, anticipating audience interest and needs, etc.
- Ensure appropriate interactions
So you are posting regularly and building up an audience that is committed and engaged. Unlike more trend-driven account, this is a school or institutional social media account, which means it is necessary to be extra cautious about ensuring appropriate interactions. As a general maxim, it might be helpful to expect that stakeholders interacting with social media accounts of the school maintain the same decorum and civility they would in more direct interactions. This would also ensure that inappropriate language and imagery is not used on a platform being accessed by younger students and for professional interactions.
Setting expectations with all stakeholders is key over here – giving them guidelines to follow will ensure that interactions remain fruitful and positive across social media channels.
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