When it comes to school social media management, there are those who outsource and those who prefer to learn what they need to keep things in-house. As social media managers, we spend enough time on Pinterest to understand and respect that DIY spirit. Spending time on Pinterest, though, has also made us sympathetic to those almost inevitable “Pinterest fails,” a term that has become so well-known that pinners dedicate entire boards to those DIY projects they were so sure they had the know-how to tackle, only to find out that not everyone really can make a beautiful lamp out of a milk jug.
Much like some of those too-perfect-to-be-homemade Pinterest crafts, managing a truly effective social media presence for your school is not quite as easy as it looks. Not everyone has the time or the inclination to add it to their skill set, but maybe you do! Maybe you are the adventurous crafter who stops to read the directions and really learn the skills necessary to make that lamp. If this describes you, we hope you also recognize the need to train yourself to use this tool properly in order to create something beautiful. When it comes to social media, there are best practices to follow, school policies and photo release forms to consider, and of course, keeping up with the latest trends. Social media is fast-paced (What? You just learned about using gifs and everyone is already moving on to Facebook Stories?), and it takes time and effort to use it well.
As our social media management client list grows, so does the number of educators coming to us with questions about managing their school or district pages themselves. And we’re happy to help! If we can help your school communicate and market to prospective students more effectively with social media, whether it’s by managing your pages or teaching you how to manage them yourselves, we’ll feel fulfilled. With that in mind, please let us share a few of the most frequently asked questions from school personnel making the leap into the role of social media manager.
What social media platform should our school be using?
The long answer is that each social media platform has its own appeal and unique features and attracts a slightly different demographic. Your parent community is most likely on Facebook and might also be on Pinterest, but your students may be using Instagram and Twitter more. If you’re a district office or a high school, you might want to cover your bases to reach parents and students alike. For primary and elementary schools, maybe you only need Facebook.
The shorter, slightly less involved answer is that if you’re going to manage your school’s social page(s) in-house, it’s best to choose one platform and do it really, really well. As an educator, you’re likely familiar with the concept of spreading yourself too thin. Trying to fit in the time needed to manage multiple platforms effectively might result in the entire social media effort going south.
So if you have to choose just one, which social platform is best for schools? In our experience, Facebook is the most effective place to start. Even with the recent changes Facebook has made to their algorithm affecting the way some pages show up on the news feed, Facebook is perhaps the most widely used social networking site out there, with 71% of online adults using it to keep in touch with family, friends, and colleagues. The ability to create a business page on FB makes it a unique tool for those who want to spread an awareness of their brand, and your school is no exception. At a minimum, all schools should have a Facebook page. You don’t have to take our word for it, though. In the end, studying your own audience will usually give you the tailored information you need to make your decision. Try conducting a quick survey to find out which platforms your community is using, and go there first.
Should our school page be set up the same way as a personal page, or do we need a business page? What’s the difference?
First off, be sure to set up your school social media pages under the name of your school or district—never under the name of your superintendent, principal, or any other staff member. You’ll want to make the identity of your page crystal clear by naming it appropriately.
For Facebook, this means you should be using the “page” option rather than the “profile” option. Individuals have profiles, and organizations have pages. There’s also an option on Facebook to create a group, but your school should have a page, reserving groups for smaller organizations within your school community like alumni groups (Facebook now allows pages to link a group to the page. Visit the Facebook Help Center for more information about this feature).
For Twitter and Instagram, just set up the page as normal, using your district or school name in place of an individual’s name when creating the page. And for Pinterest, schools should use the Pinterest for Business option to set up your school profile.
Why does Facebook require me to attach our school page to a personal account?
We get this question A LOT. The Facebook philosophy revolves around personal profiles—the idea of giving individuals the opportunity to connect with other individuals from wherever they are. Once the platform took off, people started to see the benefits of using it to help their organizations, businesses, etc. connect with their audience, customers, etc. The natural progression was to allow the individuals using Facebook to create pages for the organizations they wanted to build an online community around. This way, Facebook could ensure that someone with a profile was responsible for the page, following their rules and regulations regarding conducting business in a social media environment. When you set up a new page, you are the page manager. As the page manager, you can seamlessly use Facebook on a personal level and manage your business page all from one place, without having to log out and back in every time you want to change how you’re using the platform. This arrangement also allows a page to have multiple managers, which is a handy way of ensuring that your school page will never be without an administrator.
Can our school page followers see my name or personal information when I post to the school page?
No, page followers will only see the name of your page, never the names or any other information about the page managers. If you ever want to verify what your page visitors are seeing, you can always use the option to “View as Page Visitor.” by following these steps:
- Click on the three dots next to the Share tab.
- Select “View as Page Visitor.”
- To return to your Page Manager view, just refresh the page.
This view shows you what your page visitors see when they visit your page (except for the top menu and Contact list, which is always personalized for you or whoever is logged into FB). Page visitors will also have the option to invite friends to like the page, but when they click on that tab, their friends list will generate, not yours.
How many posts should our school be making every week?
One of the most frustrating things for us as school social media managers is when we set up a beautiful new Facebook page for a school who wants to manage it themselves, hand it off to an administrator, and then visit it a month later only to find that they have only made one or two posts in that time. We understand that educators have a lot on their plates already; it’s the reason we created our Social4Schools management services. If you’re going to manage your school’s social pages yourself, though, remember that it’s very important to post regularly, keeping up with the general flow on the social platforms you’re using. With that in mind, here’s the post frequency we recommend schools follow based on how long you can expect a post to stay on your followers’ radar per platform:
- Facebook: Every weekday. You can throw in weekends if you really want to stay in front of your audience but, let’s face it, parents aren’t usually expecting to hear from their kids’ schools on weekends.
- Twitter: 2–3 times per day
- Pinterest: 10–15 new pins per week
- YouTube: Add a new video as often as you create one to keep your school’s YouTube channel updated.
- Instagram: 1 photo per day (more if you have a particular event going on)
Is there a certain time I should be posting to the school social pages to ensure the most people possible are seeing our posts?
Our social media representatives have generally found that the best times to post for the schools we manage are between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m., M–F. According to this CoSchedule blog, our practices are pretty much on the mark. According to the article, posting at these times will result in peak post engagement.
While this afternoon window is generally thought to be the best time to post, if you’re posting about something happening the same day, you’ll want to post early in the morning. We’ve found that 7:30–8:30 a.m. is a good time for early morning posts.
By all means, however, if you learn through your own experience that certain post times perform better than others, you should use that data to schedule your posts accordingly—even if the times don’t fall into the “statistically” best post times. Statistics are one thing, but letting your own experiences with your audience guide you is always better.
Should our school use Instagram?
Instagram is all about photo-sharing, and the students at your school are probably using it more than the parents are. If you’re looking to engage students in your school’s social media presence, Instagram is a great way to do it. It’s a mobile-based platform, meaning you post photos straight from an app on your phone or tablet, not a desktop computer. Instagram is a great go-to, photo-sharing platform when you’re on-the-go, and it has some fun features. If you do choose to integrate Instagram into your school culture, remember that business accounts are public, which means anyone can follow your profile. As with all social platforms, be sure to get your photo release forms in order, and make sure whoever manages the Instagram account is well-versed in your school’s social media policy.
The students at our school seem to use Snapchat a lot. Should our school be using Snapchat?
Ok, I’m just going to say it—I’m not a fan of Snapchat where schools are concerned. Some people choose the platform specifically for its temporary nature (photos disappear after 10 seconds and Snapchat Stories stay visible for 24 hours); but in my opinion, it’s that very feature that makes it problematic for schools. One of the reasons your school should be using social media is to demonstrate transparency, so using a platform where the content doesn’t stay on your permanent record isn’t ideal. There are arguments for using Snapchat to reach teens where they are, but as someone who works closely with school social media, I’m not convinced it’s the best way to do that. Whatever you decide, do your homework first. Here are a few resources that might help:
- Common Sense Education: Snapchat Review
- U.S. News: High Schools Experiment with Snapchat to Reach Teens
- Should A School Bother with Snapchat?
Is it ok for our teachers and staff to allow students to follow their personal social media pages? What about vice versa?
It’s not a best practice for school administration, teachers, and staff to connect with students’ personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat profiles. We say, encourage students to follow your official school social media pages instead. There are some who would argue for using social media to open up the lines of communication between students and teachers, but there are plenty of other, more transparent ways to communicate digitally. The Remind app is a great way for teachers to get messages straight to students via text without having to worry about blurring the lines between personal and professional digital communication. It might be a good idea to implement a rule through your school social media policy that students can follow or friend school personnel only after they graduate.
On a slightly related note: administrators, teachers, and staff should not post photos of their students on their own personal social media pages. When parents sign photo release forms, they are only giving their permission to share their child’s image on official school social pages, not the personal pages of your staff. It’s important that your school social media policy stipulate this rule as well.
What should I do if someone posts something negative on our school social media pages?
Responding to negative comments is just as important as responding to positive ones, and handling these situations in a professional manner is a healthy ingredient in public relations for schools. With 21st-century education, it’s necessary to practice 21st-century communication by treating your online outlets the same as you would your phone lines. Your school wouldn’t dream of leaving your phones unanswered during business hours, and you certainly wouldn’t neglect to return voice messages; your social media communication is no different. FB messages, posts, tweets, hashtags, or online commenters who directly involve your school merit a similar level of your attention. The best advice is to equip your staff with tools for community and parent engagement.
Is social media ADA compliant?
Social media platforms may still have a little bit of work to do in this area, but there are steps you can take to ensure that your school’s social media posts are accessible to everyone. Screen readers can read the text in your social media posts, so the big question becomes how they handle the photos/graphics you add to those posts. FB adds automatic alternative text to the images included in posts to allow people using screen readers to get an idea of what’s pictured. Twitter is a little further behind, requiring users to add alt text themselves, something you can easily do. For both platforms, the biggest issue may be with graphics that include text, and that’s probably an important thing to remember since users sometimes get important information from these graphics. As a general rule of thumb, if you share a graphic that contains text with important information, like the date and time of an upcoming art show, for instance, you should also include that basic information in your post. This way, a visually impaired person can get the pertinent information from the post itself, even if their screen reader skips the image. And for videos, be sure you’re using the closed captioning features available on each platform.
Another good rule of thumb is to make the information on your social media pages available on your ADA compliant website as a backup. This means that if you’re going to invite people to the school talent show in a Facebook post, be sure that event’s date and time are also available on your school website’s calendar and/or News page. This way, you can be sure that everyone in your community will get the invitation.
How do I use social media to drive more traffic to our school website?
We’re so glad you asked! School social media is most effective when you partner it with your school website. Be sure to include links to your social media pages on your website so site visitors can find you there. Your website is also a great place to share some of the stories happening on your social media pages. Did you run a social media campaign offering a prize for post likes or shares? Tell your website visitors about it, and encourage them to visit your school social media pages to join in on the fun.
Likewise, driving traffic back to your website should be one of your social media goals, so be sure to post links to specific pages on your school’s website pages often. Did you recently add a new athletics schedule to your website’s Athletics page? Post about it on Facebook, and include a link so people will know where to find it. Use your website to provide parents and students with the current information they need like school menus, forms, and updated calendars, and use your social media posts to tell followers where they’ll find that information. Your social media posts push straight to their news feeds, so use those posts to teach your school community to use your school website as their go-to resource.
Ask an Expert!
We hope that sharing the answers to some of these more frequently asked questions proves helpful as all you DIY social media managers work toward adding this task to your skill set. If you have a question that doesn’t appear here, please reach out to us! Just fill out our handy “Ask an Expert” form, and one of our professional social media managers will get back to you. With the right tools, you can become an effective social media manager for your school or district, keeping your pages off the dreaded “Pinterest fail” boards.