Social media is only gaining in popularity, as it has morphed into a truly cross-generational tool used by a high percentage of people in multiple age groups. That makes it an effective tool for schools attempting to communicate with their audience, which can consist of the young (students) as well as adults (parents and families of those students).
To ensure the highest return on your investment, however, it helps to have a plan before using it. Here’s how to create a comprehensive social media plan for your school – please note these tips are also broadly applicable to wider businesses too.
1. Define the goal you want to target
Before developing a social media strategy, you have to know what you aim to achieve out of using it. There are a number of reasons people use social media, so you have to identify the specific one for your school as well as what you hope to gain.
A few possible goals to target could include:
- Increasing engagement with the families of your current students
- Highlighting your academic, athletic, and extracurricular programs
- Promote your school to potential new students by highlighting the strengths and value proposition associated with attending your school
- Generally, improve the public perception of your school by showcasing your charity work in the community or your students’ superior academic and athletic achievements
- Increase engagement with alumni
For businesses this may include anything from increasing sales, raising awareness or simply boosting your reputation.
2. Know and identify your audience
Once you’ve identified your goals, you can then begin to consider who you’re speaking to. To build the best possible social media plan, you also have to know who your plan is trying to reach.
This doesn’t have to be one specific group of people, either – you can have multiple sub-groups within your larger audience. This audience could include:
- Current students and their families
- Prospective new students and their families
- The people of your community
- Alumni attempting to stay engaged with the school and other potential contributors or donors
You can speak to one or many of these groups, but it’s important to know which segments of your larger audience you’re attempting to reach with every social media post. This holds true for all businesses – consider things like whether you’re talking to established customers, new clients, or your local community.
3. Know which platforms you want to use and how to get the most out of them
Social media is a broad, catch-all term for a lot of different online platforms. When crafting your social media plan, you should consider two key points:
- Based on the sheer volume of social media platforms available, it’s almost impossible for your school to establish a presence on all of them.
- Different platforms have different strengths (and different weaknesses). Some are better suited than others for specific types of engagement.
Use laser focus on a smaller number of platforms (2-4) that your target audience is most likely to engage with. Each platform differs in its audience and interface. Consider each of the platforms listed below:
- Older users tend to prefer Facebook. This may be the optimal platform for posts communicating with the parents of your students.
- Younger users prefer newer apps such as Instagram and Snapchat, which may make them better modes of communication for your students.
- Twitter is built for short text posts. Announcements of school cancellations or important but brief updates may be best suited for this platform.
- LinkedIn is more professional in nature. This platform is great for posts on your school’s academic achievements as well as posting articles or other tips for your graduating class looking towards university or their professional career.
Each platform will have a different strategy for when and how often you post as well. You can find recommendations online that provide advice on both. No matter what frequency you opt to go with, consistency is important to condition your audience to know when to expect your posts. Your plan should include a content calendar, front-loading your content production so you can pre-schedule content without ever fearing you’ll run out of material to post.
4. Understand the risks and mitigate them where you can
It’s also important to consider the challenges that may come between you and reaching your goals. As social media grows in usage and popularity, its negative aspects also creep towards the forefront. Cyberbullying, negative commenting, as well as the question of parental consent for student posts are all inherent risks associated with social media use.
It’s impossible to completely mitigate all these risks, but you can put safeguards into place in your plan to help minimise them. Don’t forget to build an archival and retrieval component into your plan – this is where social media archiving plays a critical role!
Social media is now considered a public record that must be maintained and managed, so you’ll need to store and track all past posts across every platform you use. If any posts need to be reviewed or you receive a Freedom of Information request, having an archive can ensure you meet compliance expectations. Additionally, having searchable archives help you examine what went wrong in the past to decrease the likelihood of a similar experience occurring again – something which any organisation will find highly valuable!
5. Assign roles and responsibilities
Once you’ve developed your plan, make sure you know who on your staff is tasked with executing it and making sure it works correctly. Identify who is tasked with each component of the social media process (i.e. your photographer for visual posts, your blogger for blog posts, a comment monitor and moderator, someone to review Google Alerts for mentions of your school, etc.).
Clearly define what each role entails and what is expected of the person assigned to it.
6. Summarise the points above for a checklist to include as part of the plan
Once you’ve developed your plan, you can develop a checklist to serve as your roadmap to help you execute and evaluate the plan. The checklist should include questions such as:
- What are the goals of this social media plan?
- Who is included in our audience? (Include a segmented list, broken out by group)
- What messages do we need to deliver?
- What is the best platform for each different type of message we need to deliver?
- Who are our content creators and how do they plan to create content?
- Who monitors our platform(s)?
- What challenges will we face in executing this plan?
- What safeguards do we have in place to remove negative content and protect ourselves?
Keeping these considerations in mind as you draft your social media plan will help you build one that helps you improve engagement with your audience and, in turn, helps you better achieve the goals of your school. As long as you focus on key components such as consistent posting and archiving all posts into your records, your social media plan will be a success.