Schools and social media

I am a big fan of social media. I have been on twitter since 2009, facebook from before that and I enjoy posting updates.

I like to share with family and close friends on facebook, particularly with 2 young kids and brothers who live a long way away.

I love how twitter allows me to interact with big brands and interesting individuals. I have sorted so many problems out by tweeting social media teams it is now my first port of call if I have an issue. It is also a geat professional development tool.

When it comes to schools however, it is a different story. I have launched facebook and twitter pages at three schools I support, and all have had fantastic success. A free way of interacting with parents, on a platform that has usage statistics like no other.

I was sat in an induction meeting for my sons new school on Thursday, and the school was raving about its website. I have been on its website, it is okay – but I can’t say I will return to check the news.

The reason? Websites are boring. I will visit it when I know I need to know about something, but not just to check it. I check my facebook though, all the time -so why don’t more schools embrace it?

You can put out  message and instantly people see it, can react and interact with it. It is free to boot!

At Bede’s we have nearly 700 facebook subscribers, and another 200 twitter followers, at a first school I support, some 200 parents follow it, and at the high school I used to work at, some 700 parents.

But the real interest for schools should be the engagement levels. Bede’s posts residentials as an event, allowing parents to ask questions, leave comments and like pictures. Engagement is incredibly high, and those parents then remain on our friends lists and get all future updates.

We actively encourage parents to talk to us via facebook, and it means we control our online presence. When the school account says something, everyone knows it is the truth, not word of mouth. Parents actually point any parents spreading untrue rumours, or who are simply not sure of something, to our pages for us and the right message gets put out.

The reasons behind schools not embracing is either, in my experience, leaders who do not engage with facebook or twitter on a personal level, and so are scared of it, and ill founded fears for safeguarding.

Many people worry about putting photos etc onto facebook and twitter, but happily share them on their websites. The simple fact is, when a photo is online, its online. That’s why robust procedures need to be in place to make sure that the photos that do go online are appropriate.

You do of course, need to be careful, a trustworthy person needs to manage and react instantly to anything on there that may escalate. You have to engage with users and provide a real insight to your school for the best results.

For years parents have wanted to look  at the inner workings of the schools their kids attend, and schools have wanted parents to play bigger roles at home to their children’s days at school -so imagine knowing what your child has done before they walk in the door does!

In these days of tightening budgets, an effective social media presence is free, and its ability to reach out to parents instantly and on mass is priceless.