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For some schools, communicating with parents can be as difficult as the annual fire drill rehearsal. Endless flyers, newsletters, messages and memos make their way from school office to kitchen counter in attempt to keep contact between teachers and parents constant, clear and organised. This system isn’t easy, it’s certainly not cheap, and don’t  get us started on the amount of trees there used to be before that weekly newsletter was commissioned. Social media sites were created for one principal reason; to make communicating just that bit easier – so why are schools not taking advantage of it?

Sites like YouTube are ideal for establishments with a busy school calendar of events that not all parents, friends or guardians can attend. It provides them with an opportunity to catch up online and, relive the whole experience without fear of a disappointed child. The site can also be an incredible marketing tool. Take, for example, this school in Northern Ireland, “The Friends School”. This video involves over a 1,000 of its students and displays an array of acrobatics, horses trotting across campus and rows of gleeful students lining the corridors, thick smiles plastered across their faces.

The Friends School

YouTube, alongside Facebook and Twitter, can provide a great platform for communication between parents, students and teachers. This has already been proven in schools, more specifically, across the US. The Chicago Public Schools (a collection of 675 schools serving more than 400,000 students) have recently embraced all aspects of social media, even putting together a toolkit of resources (including videos, documents, and links to other sites) for principals and staff wishing to take advantage of these sites to connect with their school communities. This toolkit highlights creative and effective social media use by schools with a focus on Twitter and Facebook.

You can see the toolkit here:

So…why should schools be jumping to join this online revolution?

  1. It’s cheap. There are no printing/design or delivery costs to worry about.
  2. It’s easy. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know how to navigate social media sites, and if you don’t…it’s not hard to learn!
  3. Instant communication. These sites allow users to connect and communicate instantly, meaning important news or information is received when it’s needed.
  4. Q&A. Facebook/Twitter allows users (parents or potential) to communicate directly with school officials with any queries, questions or concerns, and allows the person with all the answers to communicate directly with those in need of answers.
  5. Forums. These “queries, questions or concerns” can then be left for others to read and encourage any further discussions; building a forum of knowledge and information, easily accessible to anyone online.
  6. Opinions. If schools are looking to make changes they can set up polls and questionnaires through these sites gaining instant feedback, where they can really understand individual’s responses.
  7. Events. Through Facebook, schools can create events, inviting parents to all the annual functions and performances. These events are easily updated within seconds and so simplify last minute time or venue changes.
  8. Alerts. Social media is a great way to notify parents of urgencies like bus strikes, or disruptive weather.
  9. Already engaged. Most people are already using social media sites. Incorporating school life into a parent’s homepage would be convenient more than anything. It also presents the opportunity to engage parents in student’s learning.
  10. Be Green – think of all the paper that won’t be wasted; you’ll be doing the environment a huge favour, that’s for sure.

Even if leaping into the world of social media feels like a natural progression for a school, it’s important to get a little help along the way. To avoid a Facebook faux pas or a Twitter travesty, schools should seek advice from someone who knows the ins and outs of both social media marketing and the school itself. Getting involved in social media is one thing, getting it right is a whole new challenge – a challenge we’ll be looking at in our next blog post.

Social media is a great tool, and the perfect opportunity to get students, teachers and parents all on the same boat. If you can’t beat them, join them…. or at least tweet them.

Here are some of our favourites, so far… but let us know if you have any you want us to add…

–  Chicago Public Schools:

–  Robert Gordon’s College:

–  Citizen Schools:

–  Chatt Hills Charter School:

Written by EC associate Katy Jones.