On an average day, you’ll find over 40% of the world’s population (that includes your school community!) snapping, tweeting, posting, commenting — you name it. So, what does this mean for you?
From articulating your school’s goals to providing photography releases, it’s more important than ever to have a clear social media policy. This can come from your head of communications, your marketing director, or even your superintendent. What matters most is that it is easily accessible to your community and that it supports responsible use.
You may not know where to begin, and that’s okay! Whether your school has its own social media strategy or not, this five-step guide will help you craft the policy you need to ensure proper behavior across all channels.
As an introduction to your social media policy, it is crucial that you be transparent about the way your school approaches posting content and engaging with followers. Setting expectations for what your community will see online will further support your values as an institution.
Begin by asking yourself these three questions:
- Why does my school post on social media?
- What channels do we use, and what do we post?
- Why is it important for our school to set social media guidelines?
You can make this introduction as succinct or as detailed as you feel is necessary. Here is a quick example taken from our Social Media Policy Template:
“At [Name of School/District], our school community members use social media platforms to connect with prospective families, current families, students and alumni. This may include promotional materials, educational content, and school activities, amongst others. The tools we use to do this are [list social media channels].
[Name of School/District] takes social media seriously. Faculty, staff, and students are all expected to show respect and to take the privacy of others into careful consideration.”
This section should also cover your school or district’s plan for dealing with negative reviews and commentary. Outline if and how you plan on responding to all comments so that there aren’t any delays. For example:
“All comments — both positive and negative — should be responded to within 24 hours during the school week, and within 48 hours on the weekend. [School/district name] is required to respond to all relevant comments, and will handle addressing the comment publicly or privately (via a direct message) on a case-by-case basis.”
2. Establish a baseline for privacy protection
Student privacy is one of the top concerns we see when it comes to social media — especially in countries where GDPR, FERPA, and COPPA are a factor. You want to be sure you cover these concerns in your policy so that parents, faculty, and staff all understand your regulations and expectations.
If you are able to post photos of students (more on this in Step 3), be sure to specifically lay out what information you will and will not post from the school’s accounts. State your stance on the importance of privacy integrity and cover other topics like copyright infringement, if applicable.
“To ensure the safety of our community, [Name of School/District] will never post or release information that is considered private and confidential. This includes posting conversations, names, personal schedules, addresses, phone numbers, etc. without noted consent.
Photos of students will not be posted on [Name of School/District] social media accounts if a parent specifically opts their child(ren) out of such communications. Unless otherwise opted out, students automatically opt-in.
Students, faculty, and staff should similarly respect each other’s confidential information in addition to [Name of School/District]’s brand and copyrighted material.”
A science teacher gives a really cool lesson on static energy. The school choir is nailing their practice run for the winter concert. These are all moments where faculty and staff may want to snap a photo or video to post. That’s great! ... Well, as long as they follow your social media policy.
This is a section where regulations can vary from school to school, so be sure to ask yourself what you feel is appropriate for your school’s values and rules. In almost every case, it would not be advisable for faculty or staff to post photos or videos of students to their personal accounts. But receiving content from your school community is sometimes the easiest way to fill your calendar, so don’t forget to include this step in your policy!
“As a member of the [Name of School/District] community, you are expected to act professionally on social media. If you wish to post any content of your classes, practices, or in-school interactions on social media, please send to [designated email] for proper review to be posted to the [Name of School/District] accounts. Never use photos of students on your own personal accounts.
Responding to Comments
Whether positive or negative, it is important for [Name of School/District] to respond to comments on our social media posts. Responses to comments or questions asked by community members are only to be made by the [name of team responsible for running social media].
Posting During a Crisis
In a crisis situation, you as a [Name of School/District] faculty or staff member are strongly discouraged from using social media to make a statement. Posting a personal statement or opinion on social media regarding a district-related topic might also violate school board policy [insert policy number]. A formal press release will be created by the [name of team] team. Depending on the situation, a social media post may also be shared by the [name of team].
4. Set guidelines for student use
Whether you allow cell phones on campus or not, you may find students using social media while at school, and it’s important to have a set of guidelines for how to use these platforms responsibly while also reflecting the values of your school or district.
You likely already have a code of conduct, so this language may come easy for you.
“As a student of [Name of School/District], you are welcome to participate in interactions with the school online. You are expected to employ responsible behavior, and any disrespect to the school or to your peers — in addition to posting photos of other students without consent — will result in disciplinary action.”
5. Review your policy with your legal team
We recommend that you review your social media policy with your school’s legal team before it is implemented. A policy like this covers some sensitive issues and should always get an attorney’s eye to make sure everything is in compliance with legal requirements.
There can be matters of censoring comments, archiving content, and more that you should consider discussing to decide if it is necessary for your policy.
That’s it! Now you are ready to start a social media policy for your school or district. And if you’d like additional help, download our Social Media Policy Template.
Once published, try to assign someone on your team the job of monitoring activity. This can be done by following hashtags with your school/district’s name in them, following teachers, and keeping an eye on comments in your own accounts.
While social media continues to grow, so does its scrutiny. As an educational institution, it is important for you to not only have a presence online but to also safeguard yourself and your community from any potential misuses of the platforms. Creating a social media policy that lives on your website is a great way to identify your expectations and guidelines for safe and responsible social media use.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In her position as Director of Demand Generation, Kristen provides the strategy and creation of content across email, website, advertising, and social media communications at Finalsite. With over six years of experience in marketing, Kristen enjoys sharing best practices with schools around the world to develop their SEO, social media, and advertising strategies, in addition to providing the latest recommendations for improving their websites. She holds and maintains a number of certifications from Google, Hubspot, and Hootsuite, and she often speaks at Finalsite events.