Once upon a time, Facebook was new, Instagram hadn’t been created, and “TikTok” was just the sound of time passing by. Flash forward and there always seems to be a new social platform for schools to consider adding to their social media lineup.
Threads, for example, Meta's answer to Twitter, surpassed 10 million signups in its first seven hours. In comparison, it took Facebook 852 days to reach 10 million users and 780 days for Twitter to reach that mark.
Take a look at BeReal, an app that prompts users to capture and share a “real” photo every day at a different time. After a couple of years of obscurity, it quickly gained popularity in early 2022. The app's monthly active users have increased by 2,254% between January-September 2022 and now, about 73.5 million people use BeReal at least once per month, two-thirds of whom are between 18 and 24 years old.
Impressive numbers for sure, but they’re still short of some of the world’s biggest social media platforms: Facebook is still the world’s most widely used social media platform, but six social media platforms each have one billion or more monthly active users.
In January 2023, 15 social media platforms have at least 400 million active users, including
- Facebook has nearly 3 billion active users each month
- YouTube’s potential advertising reach is more than 2.5 billion users worldwide
- WhatsApp has at least 2 billion active users each month
- Instagram has 2 billion monthly active users
- WeChat has 1.309 billion monthly active users
- TikTok ads can potentially reach more than 1 billion adults each month
Is your school or district using all of those channels, or better yet, should you be using all those channels? Most aren’t and here’s why:
- Adopting new social media platforms can be difficult for schools — limited resources make it challenging to allocate time and effort toward learning and implementing new tools
- You have a responsibility to protect the privacy and security of your students, and adopting new social media platforms may introduce new risks.
- If there’s enough engagement over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, why fix what’s not broken?
You may prefer to stick with traditional methods of school communications if they’ve been successful in the past, but it’s also important to explore new social media channels, explore new audiences, and engage different age groups.
Furthermore, adopting a new platform can offer opportunities to engage students, parents, and the broader community, as well as provide new opportunities for learning and collaboration.
Here are several ways your school can increase the adoption of new social media channels.
1. Start small
2. Education others on the benefits — and risks
3. Have a clear plan and articulate it
4. Involve students, teachers, and parents
5. Award participation and innovation
6. Analyze your social media adoption rates
1. Start small
Begin by experimenting with a single social media channel that aligns with your school's goals and values. For example, you could create a TikTok account to share authentic content about school events or student achievements. Launching a YouTube channel can open doors to showcasing your school in a more visual way, or starting a LinkedIn page could engage alumni and support social networking. Once you have established a presence on one platform, you can expand the content to other channels as appropriate.
Mercersburg Academy joined the fun and launched its TikTok channel earlier this school year.
“I was very apprehensive to launch a TikTok channel,” said Cody Parks, Mercersburg Academy’s social media manager. “We had been discussing it on and off for a few months until one day we decided we were launching TikTok the following week. We couldn't think of a good reason to wait, so we dove in headfirst.”
“Our primary audience here is current and prospective students, which gives us the opportunity to have a different tone of voice and ride some of the trends we'd be more apprehensive to promote on Instagram, where we have a much broader audience."
Mercersburg will sometimes add the TikTok handle and branding, then post it on Instagram, alerting IG followers about their TikTok channel. The school also promotes the channel in its Linktree and within the footer of the school’s website.
“To promote the channel, we've sent out internal emails to employees and students announcing the launch of TikTok, and we send reminders periodically to check out certain content across our social channels.”
Cody added that sometimes the content they think will be a slam dunk, may occasionally fall flat, and the most unlikely videos will sometimes be a hit, like this video an intern captured at a school dance.
“Stay away from promotional and ad-like content,” warned Cody. “Don't be afraid to be raw. TikTok content doesn't have to be polished and pretty. It just needs to be relatable and interesting. Let authentic content drive your channel.”
2. Educate others on the benefits — and risks
And now for the hard part….How will you overcome the two biggest obstacles that could crash your social media effort?
How will you address:
1) Staff not knowing how to use the platform
2) Student privacy concerns
Invest time in learning about a popular social media platform, and ensure your staff members are also aware of their potential benefits — and risks. You have to teach them the basic requirements of a good post. Attend webinars, workshops, and conferences to keep up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices.
Pick one hashtag for all schools to use in your social media marketing. It reinforces your school or district’s brand and unites your user base across all social media sites.
3. Have a clear plan and articulate it
Superintendents, heads of schools, and principals should be involved in promoting a new platform to their schools and you need realistic expectations when it comes to getting buy-in from the top — some administrators may not understand how new channels can be used effectively in your school’s social media strategy.
To get there, you have to train yourself well — study best practices and set up clear and concise procedures. Meet with members of school leadership and explain the benefits of the platform so you can gain the endorsement of the effort.
Once the administration is on board, you have to get in front of the full teaching staff and explain the "why" and "how" of your social media effort.
You have to preach the benefits of using positive social media posts for transparency and openness in front of every audience you can.
Since joining Twitter more than a decade ago, Eanes Independent School District regularly posts great content about its school community. The district’s superintendent, Dr. Jeff Arnett, posts his own content on Twitter, highlighting his visits to schools, meeting students, and learning about their classwork while covering the initiatives of the district.
3. Involve students, teachers, and parents
Solicit feedback from students and parents about which social media channels they use and how they prefer to receive information from the school. Consider creating a student social media team to help manage your school's social media channels, as well as your parent ambassadors in social media campaigns or events.
Is there a new trend that’s gaining popularity? Can your school get involved in a creative spin that supports your mission?
Lake Washington School District started uploading content to YouTube in early 2015, and since then, they’ve added more than 600 videos, racking up more than 560,000 views.
Videos highlighting chess programs, coding challenges, and district updates cover so many aspects of the district, and interviews with students, instructors, and school administrators help share the diversity of voices within the community.
This can help ensure that your school is using the platforms that are most relevant to your audience and can also help build engagement and support for your social media efforts.
4. Award participation and innovation
Who doesn’t like to be honored for a job well done? Social media strategies for schools involve celebrating the little victories and the big breakthroughs.
Present monthly awards to schools for Twitter growth, milestones for new followers, and recognition for excellent post engagement. You can present school awards at the principal meetings or bring teacher awards to their classrooms and make a big deal out of it with their students.
Continue to push innovation at your district and school levels by using Facebook and Instagram for live events, and breaking your own news first on social media. Local news outlets will soon catch on to your large following, and the social content you’re producing works to replace a formal press release to the media.
6. Analyze your social media adoption rates
After launching a new platform, it’s important to analyze your social media adoption statistics to see if the effort is actually supporting your marketing efforts and influencing more community engagement.
- Are you gaining new followers each week? Each month?
- What's the average engagement for each post?
- What's the average reach for each post?
- How are you leading users back to your school's website to engage prospective students further?
Analyzing social media data can:
Provide insights into the effectiveness of your social media strategy
Stats help you to understand which types of content are resonating with your audience, and which are not. This information can then be used to adjust your social media strategy to better meet the needs and preferences of your audience.
Track your progress toward social media goals
For example, if your goal is to increase engagement on your social media channels, you can use data to track how many likes, shares, and comments your posts are receiving, and adjust your strategy accordingly to improve engagement.
Show the value of your social media efforts to stakeholders
Demonstrate the value of your social media efforts to stakeholders such as parents, students, and the wider community. By tracking metrics such as follower growth, engagement rates, and website traffic from social media, schools can show the impact of their social media efforts on raising awareness, building community, and achieving their goals.
No matter how small your communications department is, strategically adopting new social media platforms can greatly expand your reach to engage new audiences. With new tools, some planning, and buy-in from school leaders, your school can continue to promote its brand and join the important conversations and topics that influence your school community.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.