Are you overwhelmed by the thought of using social media for your school? Do you have social media accounts but aren’t sure how to utilize them? You are not alone. Fortunately, utilizing social media effectively isn’t as daunting as it may seem and can help schools increase enrollment, connect with students and their families, and aid in fundraising. Here are answers to FAQ and a few quick tips that may help.
1. Where do we start?
Facebook & Instagram
Most schools have set up Facebook and Instagram accounts which are a great place to start and adequate for most schools. Attempting to utilize too many social media accounts such as Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, TikTok, etc., is not only time-consuming but typically unnecessary. (One exception may be a middle or high school where administrators want to use TikTok or a similar app to connect with students.) Just keep in mind that most parents/guardians would rather have you spending time with their children instead of posting on every social media platform.
If you are a new school that doesn’t have Facebook and Instagram set up, be sure to get them running as soon as your school is authorized. Mountain Sunrise Academy in Saratoga Springs was able to get the word out about their new charter school to local families, government, and businesses by creating their Facebook and Instagram accounts quickly and sharing floorplans, blueprints, photos, and videos of progress being made. This not only built relationships within their community, but increased enrollment applications. It also gave the new Executive Director a chance to introduce herself.
Review Your Accounts
If your school already has social media accounts in place, how can they be used to reach your goals more effectively? Begin by looking at your pages objectively. Can your audience tell who you are, what you do, and where you are located? If not, make these changes sooner than later. Social media won’t be helpful if users don’t know where you are located or how you are different from other schools in your area.
The next question to ask when reviewing your school’s social media accounts is, “What is the first impression we are leaving about our school?” Is it negative, neutral, or positive? A few details to help create a positive impact are using clear, colorful photos and clean, easy-to-read fonts. Keep in mind that 80% of people say they can remember what they see compared to what they read and hear. Images are a key way to share information about your school.
2. Who should manage the accounts at the school?
For consistency, it is best to have a staff member or trusted volunteer who will be around for a few years to manage the accounts. It also helps if the person who oversees the accounts has a desire to do it, likes social media, and knows a bit about it.
Tip: Use a general school email address as the login username so that when the person running your social media account leaves, you still have access to the account. Be sure to record the passwords used and change them when someone quits, leaves, or no longer manages the accounts.
3. We don’t have time or know-how to run social media. Why should we?
If your school isn’t on social media, you are likely missing out on opportunities to be discovered by potential families interested in your school, keep your parents and school supporters informed about school information, and build a positive culture and community online. If your school isn’t on Facebook or Instagram, it is likely the schools you compete with for students use these platforms, which gives them an advantage in your area.
4. Need a boost with fundraising? Social media can help.
Not only is social media a great resource for schools to let users know about how they can donate, but also, it makes it easy for fans of your school to share details of fundraising events with their friends, family, neighbors, church groups, and work colleagues.
To make it even easier, Instagram has created donation buttons that allow users to donate directly to your school! Once your nonprofit (aka school) is vetted by Facebook and Instagram, you will be added to a list of nonprofits to which users near and far can choose to donate. Donations can be given through a button on your school’s main profile or when a “Donation” sticker is added to a story or reel.
Another option for fundraising is to crowdfund using a social platform like Kickstarter. This can be especially useful if your school wants to complete a specific project like building a new playground.
5. How often should we post?
The real question is, “How often do you need to connect with and/or share information with your audience?” For some schools, it may mean posting once a week when they give their community an update of everything happening at the school. For others, it may mean two times a week during September, once a week in October, and twice a month in November and December. Most social media managers are relieved to hear they don’t need to post every day to be effective. In fact, posting too often can be overbearing and turn your audience away from your feed. The important principle to remember is that we are all bombarded with information coming in every direction so focus on what is meaningful to your audience and post accordingly.
Creating a posting plan can also be helpful when deciding how often to post, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, sit down for an hour at the beginning of each month and make a list of all of the information that you would like to share on social media. This would include upcoming meetings, events, schedule changes, etc., as well as content that can help your school to reach its goals. Decide which photos and text would clearly present the information you want to share, which days would be best to post the information, and create a basic calendar to remind you when to post. (Note: There are third-party apps where you can schedule posts but be prepared to pay a fee for their services. Combining information into one post may be more time and cost-effective.) Keep in mind that having content relevant to your audience is more important than how often you post.
What do you think? Are you ready to jump in and tackle social media for your school? If in doubt, just remember the inspiring words you tell your students: when something is new and seems difficult, roll up those shirt sleeves, and look ahead to the positive impact this resource can have on your school.
Emily Ashby is an Associate Professor at the University of Utah. She served as a founding member of the Mountain Sunrise Academy, a Utah charter school. She has helped hundreds of small organizations tackle digital marketing through 1:1 meetings, classes, presentations, and training events. Connect with Emily on Linkedin at linkedin.com/in/emilysmithashby.