We know that around 75% of UK schools are looking to remove paper from their communications in the next 12 months.
As such, your school may be looking to utilise a variety of digital communication methods, including email, SMS text messaging, app-based messages, and social media, for your parental engagement needs.
But building meaningful parental engagement requires a well-thought-out communications strategy, encompassing a range of channels with clear purposes for each. This means connecting with parents where they naturally will be, with appropriate messaging, and at the right times.
And with 84% of UK adults active on social media, this can be one of the most powerful avenues for schools to engage with parents. However you choose to utilise social media, it offers up a free, versatile, channel for two-way communication with a wide audience.
It’s your chance to really connect with your school community, fostering stronger relationships by engaging parents, staff, and pupils. Not only this, but it’s an effective tool for promoting what makes your school truly special, showing prospective parents why they should send their children to your school.
The trick to being effective on social media comes down to how you build a targeted audience, what you post and when, which sites you use, and how you build and execute your school’s social media strategies.
In return, successful use of social media will give your school a greater sense of personability and authenticity, easy access to data from your parents in the form of polls and FAQs, a larger reach for your communications, and real-time updates for urgent and time-sensitive updates.
So, to help you get the most out of social media, we’ve come up with 5 tips and tricks for your school to help improve parental engagement…
1. Start with a social media audit
The most effective way to know how best you can improve your school’s social media strategies is to start by understanding what you’re already doing well and what’s currently not working. For this, you could conduct an audit of the current state of play for your school’s social media.
Ask around to understand what social media networks (if any) your school is currently using. Are you on Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn?
And do a bit of digging to see if there are any networks that you used to be using. Scour the internet for any unknown accounts that your school may have used in the past. Think about looking at some more obscure and less obvious networks like Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, and TikTok.
Once you have all your accounts accounted for, it’s time to delve into the stats. Take a look through your old posts to see if you can spot any trends. You’ll want to be analysing your posts’ impressions, clicks, likes, and comments, as well as any other measurable metrics that may be important for you.
See if you can uncover any specific networks or types of posts that parents may be engaging more with. Do you have more engagement on posts about upcoming events? Or are parents more interested in hearing about your school’s good news stories? Does the day of the week or time of day have any bearing on your posts’ success?
And if you really want to get into the mind of a parent, try running a survey or questionnaire to find out what social media networks they use and what they want to hear from you.
All of this information will help inform your future plans for how’ll you’ll utilise social media in your school…
2. Create your school’s social media plan
Now that you’ve completed your audit, you’re ready to kick your social media strategy into gear and start creating your plan. A great plan is the backbone for your school’s social media success, so you’ll want to do your research to create the best plan possible.
This should include a number of measurable and attainable goals to guide your strategies and help you drive engagement. Picking one, two, or three goals is probably a good starting point, depending on how many departments will become involved.
To help you contextualise and come up with these goals, get stuck in to some competitor analysis. Look at schools similar to yours; these could even be other local schools that you compete with for pupil intake. How are they utilising social media and is it effective? What can you learn from them and how can you differentiate yourselves in a positive light?
It’s also worth getting under the skin of the social media industry to really understand how you can best utilise it for your school. Get familiar with the latest algorithms and what works on the platforms you want your school to use. It could be that posting with images and GIFs are better at driving engagement on some networks than others.
But while a good, detailed plan will do wonders for improving your school’s social media strategies, it’s just as important to understand that not everything can be planned. In the fast-paced world of social media, many of your posts will have to be ad-hoc and reactive, especially when you’re engaging with and responding to comments from your school community.
3. Audience personas and targeting each platform to different people
Speaking of your school community, understanding how to marry up your social media networks with parents, pupils, and community members is key for optimising social media in your school.
The trick is being able to strike a balance between consistency and originality. You’ll need to be able to keep synergy across all networks whilst tailoring your posts for the style of the platform they’re being posted to.
As an example, you could be promoting a parents’ evening across your social media networks, so make sure to post about it on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But to maximise the effectiveness of these posts, you’ll need to be aware that a Twitter post has a character limit and Instagram lends better to posting messages in the form of images and videos.
To help you get started, here’s a quick run-through of some of the most common social media networks for schools, who they’re used by, and what they are good for:
- Used by: parents, carers, and community members
- Good for: setting up a virtual space for events and its group functionality
- Used by: pupils and younger parents
- Good for: image and video focussed posts with a ‘stories’ feature for quick real-time updates
- Used by: parents, pupils, and community members
- Good for: quick, real-time text updates due to its short character limit – if there is a developing situation, Twitter is a great place to send any updates
- Used by: school staff, staff from other schools, and alumni
- Good for: networking with other schools and organisations and finding out about industry events due to its business-focussed set-up
4. Create a calendar for scheduling and content
Along with your goals, creating a social media content calendar keeps your school on track with your social media strategy. It will help you to keep track of everything that you’re posting, ensuring that you’re posting often enough (but not too often) with a variety of posts across all your networks.
You’ll probably want to send out a couple of posts per week on each of your channels with a variety of content. Remember to strike the balance between tailoring your posts for the social media network you’re sending them out on and keeping the synergy across those networks.
Make sure you plan for a good selection of images, videos, and GIFs to keep everything varied for maximum engagement.
It’s also good to utilise your networks’ in-built features to really drive up your engagement. These could be polls, events, photo collages, articles, and job adverts, depending on the network. These features can also be used to support your wider parental engagement strategies.
5. Types of posts
To keep your posts interesting, it’s good to post a variety of content frequently to keep things fresh and varied. But there’s no use posting just for the sake of it, so make sure every post has a purpose.
For example, here are a few different types of useful social media posts for schools:
- Informative posts: timely posts providing useful and relevant information to parents, pupils, and the wider community.
- Brand building posts: interviews with teachers, other stakeholders, and alumni. These can be posts about events, achievements (academic or extracurricular), or other good news stories.
- User-generated posts: encourage parents to leave reviews and share your posts, get ideas from your pupils, and reshare or respond to tagged posts.
- Entertainment posts: anything a bit more light-hearted that your followers might enjoy, such as sharing memories to prove that your school will make a lasting impact. You could even leverage your pupils for entertaining and informative content on subjects or topics they’re interested in – a comedic ‘day in the life’ school tour maybe?
Just one piece of the puzzle
Mastering your school’s social media communications will do wonders to rejuvenate your parental engagement. Done right, you’ll be well on your way to creating a close-knit community of parents, pupils, staff, and other members of your school community.
But social media is only one piece of the parental engagement puzzle, and there are plenty of other channels and resources at your disposal to help you communicate with your parent base.