With almost 38 million users of Social Media in the UK (stats from wearesocial, Digital in 2016 report), it is no longer a ‘should we?’ question but more of a how should we, use social media in school communications?
More and more schools are using this free communication tool as a platform to communicate key messages to their parents. You will struggle to find someone who is not using any type of social media whether that be Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
As a parental engagement strategy, social media can play an integral part if you manage this correctly. It is also imperative that the school is clear with parents from the outset as to what and how social media will be used as part of the schools communication strategy.
School Social media, if used effectively can also raise the profile of the school within the community, prospective parents or indeed other key stakeholders. An understanding therefore of the key reasons for embarking upon a social media platform will need to be addressed prior to deciding on which platform to utilise if any at all.
Safeguarding and security plays a major part in a schools decision as to whether to take the plunge and embrace social media within their communication strategy.
The fear of negative comments is a big factor in schools choosing not to go social however, the positives of this method of communication far outweighs the negative.
Consideration also needs to be made for the following:
- Who will be responsible for updating the account?
- How often will updates occur?
- What content will you be publishing?
- How will it be policed on a weekend?
- What measures are in place for misuse?
- Is a process in place for checking if content is approved for publication or will this be down to the individual?
- Does your school have appropriate policies in place and approved by Governors so that clear rules are in place and a social media policy created.
There are 2 ways a school can set up a Facebook account.
The School as a standard user
In this instance a user account is created in the name of the school in the same way that a personal account is used. Parents would need to send a ‘friend’ request to the school and if accepted they would have access to the timeline. This is not recommended as an appropriate route by Facebook. The Facebook terms and conditions state that you must use your real name when establishing a Facebook account therefore to create a school account you would be in breach of the sites terms and conditions.
- You can control who views any content
- The school user would be able to see everything a parent writes, for some parents they may feel this is an invasion of privacy
- It relies on parents signing up
- How will the school verify parents? What about other family members e.g. grandparents, aunts etc
The school as a page
An existing Facebook account is used to create a Fan page about the school. The content of the page is publicly available and users like the page to follow any updates or new posts. This is the Facebook-recommended route for schools wishing to have a social media presence.
- Anyone can ‘like’ the page to follow it without giving access to their timeline
- It is searchable so parents can easily find it
- Users can be blocked from viewing the page if they are causing problems
- Anyone can see the page content
- Anyone can like or comment on content
The School as a group
There are 3 types of group available on Facebook, Open, Closed and Secret. All groups require a Facebook account first. The recommended option would be a closed group as you can then control who sees the content.
Open: Anyone on Facebook can see and join the group. Open groups will appear in search results and all content that members post (ex: photos, videos and files) is visible to anyone viewing the group. People may see who joins or is invited to an open group, such as in news feed or search. Learn more.
Closed: Anyone on Facebook can see the group name, its members and people invited to join the group; but only members can see posts in the group. To join a closed group, a member needs to add users, or you can ask to join. People may see when someone joins or is invited to a closed group, such as in news feed or search. Learn more.
Secret: Non-members can’t find these groups in searches or see anything about the group, including its name and member list. The name of the group will not display on the timelines of members. To join a secret group, you need to be added by a member of the group.
- You can control who views the content
- You don’t have to be ‘Friends’ with the parents as you can email them an invite
- You can see who has viewed each post you make Cons
- Limited control over posts made by others
There is a great article in TES magazine – a head teacher explains how Facebook has revolutionised the way her school interacts with parents.
Twitter is a much simpler set up, the account is set up either as a public or private account.
Public or private?: Twitter accounts have the option of public or private (protected) settings – if you protect your account, your tweets cannot be copied (retweeted) by others and will only be seen by people you approve as your followers.
If you think of your Twitter account as an extension to your school’s public website, unless you intend to tweet confidential or sensitive information, or photos of students that parents have not given permission to be online, a public Twitter will probably suit you. A private account can pose restrictions which can include integration with your website. For example, if you have your schools’ tweets feeding through your school website then this will not show if your account is set to private.
There is plenty of information across the web on how social media can be used but the most important elements to introducing social media into your school is that there is a objective for why it is being used and a plan for how it is going to be used.