As more and more families and students go online and dive into social media, schools too are working to engage with families across different social networks and platforms.
Social media platforms provide schools with opportunities to showcase their school beyond a campus visit or a brochure, engage in conversations with families all over the world, and share news and information in real time.
Boarding schools — just as companies and organizations —- experiment with and try different social media platforms as they work to find the communication outlets for their work, time and talents.
This article is a quick look as the 'hows' and 'ways' some schools are integrating social media into their communications work as they promote their school and engage families.
A quick caveat — we do not intend this list to be exhaustive or overly judgmental. This is a quick view of schools and practices with whom, and which, we're familiar. If we've omitted a school that you know does some interesting social media work, by all means, please let us know by leaving a comment below.
1. Make Information Easy to Read, Share
Who: The Hun School
Why it works: As much as social media is about conversations, without dynamic, interactive content, there's not much to talk about. As a result, the Hun School has repurposed many of its traditional publications to make them easier to read and share, which increases their promotion across social networks. Even if prospective guests aren't fully engaged socially, they can still see all the activity in one place through the school's Hun 2.0 website, which features the latest news, photos, video and conversations taking place across their networks.
2. Choose Two Channels, and Make Them Great
Who: New Hampton School
Why it works: Not every school needs to be on every platform to be effective. At the New Hampton School, they have consolidated their social engagement primarily across video and Twitter. Whether you're browsing through their comprehensive video and media galleries, issues of the Hamptonia or Tweeting the headmaster on Twitter, it's easy to become engaged with the school, its students and faculty.
3. Show Rather Than Tell
Who: The Webb Schools
Why it Works: If a photo is worth one thousand words, The Web Schools have a lot to say. Their use of photos across social media inspires likes, comments and provokes great emotion among their fans. But it's not just high quality photography that catches their fans' attention — it's student-generated, it's Instagrammed, and it all serves to highlight the behind the scenes interactions and perspectives that take place every day, in every corner of campus.
4. Tell a Story with Many Voices
Who: The Williston Northampton School
Why it works: At the Williston Northampton School, the diversity of the school's voices are promoted through its blogs. The school features several blogs that encompass the many different perspectives around campus, from the Community Garden, the Headmaster's desk, the parent's point of view, to athletics, arts and other aspects of student life. Every school thinks they have a compelling story to tell, but not many are able to effectively capture enough stories from different perspectives to consistently promote during the course of the year. Williston, however, has an impressive arsenal of voices and stories that are continually updated and shared.
5. Build a Community
Who: Westtown School
Why it works: At the Westtown School, parents, students and perspectives alike can engage with their content through the school's Our 'Town social media hub. What is particularly innovative is that instead of having multiple news feeds, Westtown uses Facebook as their primary news feed. Not only does this help to streamline content management, it makes it easier for schools to direct users to Facebook for information since it won't be duplicated. Westtown's digital and social media presence speaks to its commitment to innovation in and outside the classroom and serves to reinforce the school's community.
6. Make Engagement Seamless
Who: The Baylor School
Why it works: The Baylor School has long been at the forefront of independent school social media. Whether it's been recording podcasts, offering multi-language translations of its website, or providing an engaging Facebook feed, Baylor offers many ways for parents, students, alumni and prospective families to stay connected. Baylor 2.0 not only serves as a social media hub, it also helps outline all the different channels available to each audience. Baylor has also helped to streamline and reformat traditional media. Its alumni magazine is online and designed to be interactive and engaging. Additionally, the website is available on multiple devices, including the iPad and iPhone.
7. Assert Your Authority
Who: McCallie School
Why it works: At the McCallie School, social serves as an outlet to both engage current families and educate prospective families about the merits of a single-sex education. Their Twitter feed curates content effectively from prominent sources, while their Facebook page posts updates about school news. Schools can effectively leverage social media by using to assert their authority as a premier educator, while letting their online presence reinforce their expertise. For example, McCallie's student newspaper, the Tornado is an impressive network of student-generated content, multimedia and student life perspectives that rivals even the best publishing sites.
8. Present a New Perspective
Who: Fork Union Military Academy
Why it works: When you think of military school, you don't necessary think Pinterest and yet Fork Union's Pinterest page effectively helps lend a visual perspective of the school's history. Additionally, the school employs alternative social media outlets, like Tumblr to present alternative perspectives of what life is like at a military school. For a military school, it's easy to fall into what's expected of you. However, Fork Union has been able to leverage social media to challenge others' ideas and preconceived notions about what military school is like.
9. Be a Digital Role Model
Who: Wasatch Academy
Why it works: Wasatch Academy is committed to preparing for 21st century realities, so it's great that its social media presence is just as committed. The school features Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and UStream pages, all dedicated to promoting the school, its activities and student life. Their social media engagement wouldn't nearly be as successful without the school's strong content. Throughout the website, Wasatch offers blogs designed to cover a variety of topics, from classroom innovations to digital arts to school news. The content is sharable and welcomes comments from community members who are logged in.
10. Be Social From the Inside Out
Who: Proctor Academy
Why it works: Coupled with an active presence across many social media sites, Proctor Academy has successfully integrated social behaviors into every facet of the school. From the first time you visit Proctor Academy's website, you feel like you're on a social network. Information is organized in a convenient and engaging format, inviting users to experience campus life. Once inside the site, the pages are dynamic, interactive and encourage engagement, whether it's a photo gallery, video gallery or campus maps. One of the highlights is Chuck's Corner, a self-described "campus paparazzo", who documents student and faculty life from different perspectives. His page includes a blog, photos, reflections, student voices and more.
These schools provide a snapshot of the different ways schools can incorporate social media. There is no one way to use social media to successfully engage your audience, however by not engaging them all you are sure to miss out on the benefits their engagement can afford you.