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Meaningful Social Media for Schools

Tips for School Social Media Managers Dealing with Local Disaster

Image of students clasping hands

Social media is a wonderful school communications tool. At a minimum, your school should be using social media to keep parents and the community informed about the daily routines at your school—late starts, early releases, snow-days, etc. Ideally, your social media should connect you with your community and engage parents.

This month our social media team reminded us that school social media can (and should!) be so much more than the same old, tired news post or calendar reminder on our social media streams. With a little extra investment and the courage to be personal, schools can turn their social media into a truly unifying force with their overall community. 

Adding Meaning to Social Media

Anna Nolan personally manages the social media for several schools while also directing our Social4Schools service line at School Webmasters. Here are her insights about how school social media managers can invest a little more humanity into their efforts to better connect with the community: 

    This past week, I've spent more time than usual on one particular client, Bayshore Christian School, as they were on hurricane watch while they waited for Irma to make landfall.

    Over the past two years, I’ve developed a great working relationship with Tara, my contact there. This week, I exchanged a few e-mails and texts with her regarding announcements we need to make about school closures, and I've been watching the news to hear how Tampa has been faring.

    Aside from simply announcing when school was canceled, knowing what was going on in their area has affected what I will write in each of their posts for the next week. It's got me to thinking how important it is that we're making an effort to follow not just what's going on at our schools but also how events in their communities at large might be affecting them.

    I imagine myself in the shoes of the parents in that community in order to imagine what kinds of posts might be most helpful or encouraging to them. They deal with hurricane season every year, but as you can imagine, this one has disrupted their community more than others have. With all of that in mind, I’ve been able to schedule out a week's worth of everything from safety kit recommendations from the state and activities to help keep the kids distracted while they wait out the storm indoors to sharing encouraging stories about how community members are helping one another deal with these events.



    Now, I'm just waiting to hear from Tara about re-opening the school and returning to more business-as-usual posts (upcoming school news & events, etc.).

    Having the events relevant to their community on my radar has made a real difference in my tone and content choices all week, and the posts are getting very positive interaction (likes, shares, etc.), which tells me that the school community appreciates the information and encouragement coming from their school.

School Social Media Management Tips

In addition to this great example of going the extra mile in your school communications, Anna shares a few school social media tips for school social media managers about posting when dealing with a newsworthy disaster or tragedy in your community. Here are Anna’s tips:

  • Don't make assumptions. Send an e-mail to your school or district administrator to understand and gauge the school's official response before you begin posting.

    I e-mailed Tara back on Wednesday to let her know I was aware of what was coming and to ask if there was anything I needed to know about posting over the next several days. Her response helped me better understand how the community was being affected so I could post appropriately. You don't want to ignore an important conversation that might be happening in your learning community, but you also don't want to create an issue where there isn't one. Tampa doesn't often experience too much damage from these storms because of where they're located, so I didn't want to start sounding off alarms without approval—that would just create panic where there was none before.

  • Be sure you're following local news on your school's News feed. Monitoring local news is an important part of managing social media for schools. A lot of these cities have Facebook pages for their local news channels or online newspapers, and watching those posts can help you stay current with how the community is faring (just beware of the tone the media sometimes takes just to sell stories). These community pages can also provide you with relevant news stories to share on your school's page where appropriate.

  • Add positivity to the mix.

    There was plenty I could post about the importance of emergency kits and sandbags, but I made a point to include articles like keeping the kids busy while they were stuck indoors and, because this is a Christian school, I shared a few encouraging Bible quotes. Try to provide a balance between providing important information and being a voice of comfort and support.



  • Follow up. At a certain point, all communities will feel ready to start talking about something else after a tragedy, especially one that's all over the news like this one has been. Touch base with your client after you think things have calmed down, and stay sensitive to the fact that not everyone in the community might be back on their feet. Gradually get back to business-as-usual as appropriate. 

So there it is! Social media managers for schools have a unique opportunity to engage parents and help the community get to know our schools on an even more personal level than they might if they were just viewing their school websites. In fact, if you had visited Bayshore's website these past two weeks, you would never have known any of this was happening! School social media is where the real connection happens.

If your school struggles with social media, you’re not alone. For tips and advice about how to improve your school communications, be sure to subscribe to this blog for Marketing Your School and the School Webmasters blog. If you’re looking for an affordable solution to manage your social media, drop Anna Nolan an e-mail, and she’ll tell you how easy it is keep your social media updated with Social4Schools

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