Where to Start with Social Media for Your School, PTA or PTO
On a recent episode of The Multipurpose Room, hosts Debora and Wesley Jones explored the role of social media in the education space. Finding your way through the ever-changing world of social media can be daunting, and it always helps to hear what other schools are doing. So, whether you’re a PTA, a PTO, or a school, here’s your go-to guide on where to start with social media.
One of the first decisions that any educational organization has to make in terms of its social media presence is what platforms it should be using. The safest bet for those in education is to stick to the most common social media tools, namely, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Of course, the method of use that surrounds each of these applications varies, and it is best to look at them in some detail.
In short, Facebook should serve as a school, PTA, or PTO’s do-it-all platform. It has the most users thereby reaching the most parents. The best part, though, is the versatility of Facebook – how it lets users create private groups, just for your PTA members, create events, and post pictures, videos and live events.
Educational spaces can use Instagram for the same purposes they use Facebook – event announcements, news updates, and member conversations – but in an entirely different way, mainly because of its nature as a visually-driven platform.
One of the main benefits of Instagram’s visual role is the part it plays in boosting morale by showcasing spirit wear, student awards, and student recognition. It’s good to remember that text can get monotonous – especially when you’re already spending hours on email– and so the Instagram temporary story feature is a great addition where schools or PTA/PTO’s can add in little bursts of presence to make sure their members are in on the loop without clogging up their newsfeed.
Think of Twitter as your school’s news flash media. Short text announcements get the reminder across quickly and without additional fanfare. Twitter is best for the upcoming events that are important for members to know about.
While not exactly in the social media category, an educational organization’s website is of key importance. It serves as a more formal central hub of information and resources. A school, PTA, or PTO’s website will have information on its basics, such as its mission statement and principles, so it’s a great place for new members to familiarize themselves. Of course, the website can also have updates about more recent happenings such as upcoming events or announcements just to keep members in the know. But since the community has to visit the site proactively, as opposed to getting information fed to them via social media, it should not be your school or organization’s sole source of information.
The Making of a Typical Post
While using the right platform goes a long way, it’s also important to put some thought into your actual post. Irrespective of platform, a typical post will consist of text and an image or video.
It’s a no-brainer that images and videos get more likes, and the better the quality of your media, the better the response. If you’re really going for the all-attention-grabber, then video posts are the most captivating, with videos getting as much as six times more interaction than other posts. So, the next time you have a fundraiser or a community event, pop in a live video to maximize engagement.
One of the major concerns that organizations share is a worry about how to design “pretty” posts. This shouldn’t stop you as there are plenty of free, easy-to-use tools that will have you making superb posts in no time. A good place to start is your app store, and even the platforms themselves have several great tools. In particular, Instagram has a variety of filters that can take your pictures from drab to fab in minutes, and the best part is that it only takes a few clicks.
So, you’ve got your platforms and posts sorted, and now it’s time to put your content out there for all to see. But hold on, shouldn’t you be putting in some finishing touches? Why, of course, you should! And the first of these is – believe it or not – hashtags. An identifier tool, hashtags allow your post to reach people with similar interests. For instance, a hashtag with the word fundraiser, followed by your school’s name will come up for anyone searching the term fundraiser or your school’s name on the platform. Similarly, you can capture all photos related to an event with a simple hashtag like #spiritwearfridays so that you can later search for those photos to add to the yearbook. So, it's an effective way to categorize your social media without much hassle.
However, while hashtags are useful, they follow the principle of ‘anything in excess loses its virtue.’ Instagram allows up to 30 tags in a post, but the most optimum number has shown to be nine as these posts garner the most interaction. Surprisingly, the moderation principle also pertains to Twitter, where 120-character tweets tend to fare the best.
Once your posts are up for all to see, then it comes down to the real talk: engagement. If all your hard work and strategizing are to bear fruit, your community needs to engage with your posts, and there are certain ways you can make sure that this happens.
Straight off the bat, inviting parents to like pages or follow events is a basic, as is tagging them in photos or posts. Once they get a notification for a post, they’re more likely to view it and engage with it. Even asking parents to share the post goes a long way as it stimulates a snowball effect within the community.
Of course, engagement goes two-ways, and so it’s really important for the school or organization to respond to their community, particularly if the matter is one of urgency or concern. However, when it comes to negative comments, deleting those and avoiding a response is the best practice. Since you are speaking on behalf of your organization, you want to limit any controversial and/or negative topics. In addition, responding to comments should be limited to the administrators of your page. As a side note: it’s advisable to have a limited number of administrators in order to streamline posting and decision-making. However, all schools, PTAs, and PTOs should have at least two, so there’s always someone to take over in case of emergencies or one leaving.
So, there you have it, social media 101 for schools and school organizations from The Multipurpose Room. Now get to posting!