• General Best Practices
  • International Schools
State of Social Media at International Schools [Webinar Recap]
Debbie Eisenach

During the past year, we have a seen a massive increase in social media usage among international schools. As just one data point, our recent webinar, Social Media for International Schools in 2019, attracted over 250 marketing and communication professionals from 79 countries across the globe. During the live webinar, Max Eisl, International Education Consultant, shared best practices along with real stories from school marketing professionals around the world.

“We have held webinars on social media during the past few years but this recent webinar had the most interest and more engagement,” Max said. "It just shows that social media continues to gain in importance for international schools as a means for attracting, recruiting and engaging members of a school community. It's exciting to see how schools use it to attract not only prospective families but also faculty — because recruitment continues to be a concern for international schools.”

Here are some key takeaways from the webinar important to international schools along with resources your team can use to improve your social media presence.

Facebook Still Dominates at International Schools

In the opening poll we asked which social network was used most often. Facebook dominated with 81%, followed by Instagram. In working with schools around the world, we see the dominance of Facebook and how effective it is for international schools. Cruise some schools’ pages and you are taken on an amazing journey where schools share PTA bake sale photos, sports and drama events, to incredible service travel to places like Nepal and the Dominican Republic.

Given its popularity among parents, reviews are also a critical component of Facebook, so it’s worth investing time in cultivating school advocates and asking them to share their positive reviews. (If you are new to Facebook, this blog outlines key features and best practices for schools.)

The American School in Switzerland Facebook page

Our predictions are that Instagram will keep gaining steam and is worth evaluating if you are not already using it. Snapchat? We won’t waste our energy on that this year.  Eighty-seven percent of the schools said they were not using it while another 10% said they would never use it.   

Download our Social Media for International Schools webinar to hear social media best practices and stories from Max Eisl!


Safety and Security in Sharing Photos of Students

Schools around the world have many worries and concerns regarding the use of social media. One of the biggest concerns schools have is how, when, and where to share photos of students and staff safely.

“Security and privacy regulations are dependent upon the location of the school and the legalities of that country. We have found that in Asia, schools are less concerned with this compared to schools in Europe,” Max said. “Schools with upwards of 800 students have told us that anywhere from 3 - 200 parents have opted out of having their children’s photos anywhere in marketing, whether in print or online.” That’s a huge variation! It’s impossible to have a one-size fits all solution for international schools.

With the release of GDPR last year, many schools in Europe, and those who enroll students from European nations, took it as an opportunity to evaluate their policies on social media and craft a well-defined policy. The policies tend to cover the use of student photos by the school, while also creating guidelines for parents and students and their responsibilities as they relate to other members of the community. One excellent resource for networking with other school professionals and discussing topics such as this is our School Marketing Community on Facebook.  

Schools Struggle with Strategy

During the webinar, we polled attendees on their current strategies. The following results were very telling of the lack of strategy for international schools: 

Do you have a clearly defined social media strategy? 

●      12%: Yes and up to date

●      26%: Yes but needs updating

●      46%: Kind, sort of but…

●      16%: No

social media chart 1

What your biggest challenge in sharing your stories on social media?

●      68% no time

●      20% things change so quickly

●      20% no support from admin

●      10% resistance from community

●      10% don't see the value

Bar chart showing the biggest challenges in sharing school stories on social media

Many schools struggle with a clearly defined strategy, whether it is lack of resources, time or management buy-in. Not all international schools have a dedicated social media guru or have the resources to hire an outside firm - so it’s an additional and ever-growing task for many who are already busy school marketing professionals. How can one person be at every after-school or weekend event, not to mention trips to regional alumni events? The list goes on.  

One solution is to incorporate other members of your community to generate content; a great way to share this is through a social media mashup page. The content can be used to fuel your website and your social media channels, which in turn can all help with your rankings in the search engines.

Zurich International School social media feeds

With Finalsite Feeds, our social media aggregation and moderation tool, your school has the  power to promote your social presence and engage website visitors with recent, authentic content that is totally in your control.

Tips for Getting Management Buy-In

Several schools brought up the fact that management just does not see the value.  Often times the best way to bring management on board is by using data. For example, millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) are changing the way schools need to communicate and are tech savvy; this group includes your young parents, your prospective employees and young alumni. One compelling data point is that 50 percent of millennials use social media to research products and brands prior to purchase, and another 30 percent of millennials engaging with brands at least once a month. Social media is where millennials spend a lot of their time.  

Hong Kong International School social media page

Furthermore, social media advertising has quickly become the go-to method for modern marketing and communications for schools. It delivers your message directly to your targeted audience; it’s always readily available and easy-to-use.  In a recent case study, we share how it helped schools drive traffic to the their school websites, increase awareness of admission events and increase brand awareness.  Social media advertising can quickly get you in front of the right people.

For those senior leaders who shy away from social media, LinkedIn is a great medium for them to connect and collaborate with other leaders and might be their gateway to additional social media usage.

Where to Start

Based on our experience working with schools around the world, we have crafted a 10 step plan to get your started.  You can also learn about strategies for engaging millennial parents which summarizes each platform and the strategy tips you consider.

If you are struggling to even get started, Finalsite has a team of social media experts who can help. You can sign up for a Social Media Audit to learn how your school is doing, and what you can do to improve.

Key Takeaway

“The only real constant is that there will be constant change.  New platforms are developed and adopted by new generations who reject using platforms used by previous generations,”  Max concluded. “ Schools must always be on the lookout for the next wave of social media trends.”

Download Social Media for International School webinar

Debbie Eisenach

As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 9 years while living in both Asia and Europe. From conference planning and presentations, to association events, and client success stories, she helps schools understand how they can maximize their digital presence while partnering with Finalsite. In her free time she enjoys traveling and attending events at her children's international school in Berlin, Germany.

  • International Schools
  • Marketing/Communications
  • Social Media
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