Using social media has quickly become a vital requirement for all businesses and organizations and many schools are getting in on the act. Due to my personal interest in this subject (I've become involved with helping my son's school with its social media); I was invited to speak on this very subject at the AMDIS Annual Conference in May. It's become clear that digital and social media can play an important role as cost-effective methods of communication for both pupils and their parents.
I gave a talk titled "Social Media: Opportunities and Rules of Engagement" which took place at the end of the day. Throughout the day, as I sat in on discussions, it became apparent that although there are schools which have successfully initiated social media into their communications strategies, there are others which are more cautious in adopting the use of Social Media. This highlights the fact that some people working in schools are not aware of the potential risks and rewards of using Social Media and may lack the basic knowledge of how to get started.
Using Social Media in schools can have some great benefits:
- Raising the school's profile
- Communicating effectively and in real time with pupils and parents
- Sharing positive news stories about the school and its pupils
- Mobilizing school staff as expert opinion leaders
- Giving great customer service, so enhancing the user experience
Don't Be Discouraged: (Negative) Comments Are Good
Before the conference I distributed a questionnaire to the attendees in order to find out what are the perceived risks that discourage them from using Social Media. What came across loud and clear is that the fear of negative comments came top of the list. But, by turning your liabilities into assets, negative comments actually present great opportunities if approached in the right way.
There are always people who talk and complain about organizations, especially schools. This means that negative comments will always find an outlet – especially online. If the comments don't end up on the school's website, chances are they will be on Facebook or Twitter. By electing to provide a platform on the school's website for negative comments, the school will usually be one of the first to know about the comment and will be able to reply accordingly and address the situation before the comments are shared or misunderstood.
Is It Legal?
Many schools also have worries about legal compliance when using Social Media – what about using photos and videos with children in it; schools really need to get clued in so that they can ensure that they act within the law and best practice guidelines here.
Schools, like any other organizations, need to create a Social Media Policy so that all members of staff have clear guidelines. Offering basic Social Media Training for employees will ensure that school staff can be involved in the school's social media marketing.
Code Of Practice (Makes Perfect)
The school will need a Social Media Code of Practice for staff and pupils so that everybody is fully informed as to what is acceptable and what is not. Staff will also need to be educated on the use of social media platforms with clear guidelines for both personal and professional use.
Social Media is here to stay and using it in an effective manner is vital for schools if they want to promote themselves in a compelling and efficient manner online.
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Jonny Ross from Jonny Ross Consultancy specialises in Social & Digital Marketing and Organic Search. Having worked in small business management for over 13 years, he has a proven track record in the retail e-commerce field and has created a very successful operation in the field of e-business, culminating in positive coverage by the press and the media. He now specialises in providing and enhancing social and digital services in the B2B and B2C sectors.