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Experts Share Social Media Best Practices for Independent Schools

Social media is a powerful way to strengthen and build relationships with parents, grandparents, students and even the local media, say two presenters at a recent CASE webinar on social media at independent schools.

Susan Bearden, director of information technology at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Melbourne, Fla., and Catherine Koos, head of the Lower School at Holy Trinity, discussed the effectiveness of social media for schools during the webinar: "Building Relationships with Your Independent School Communities Through Social Media."

Bearden and Koos said that neither of them knew much about social networking two years ago when they began to explore a presence for their institution. After establishing themselves and their school on social networks, they found that these channels were very effective in reaching out to parents, grandparents, alumni, donors and board members—as well as prospective families, the media and local community members.

During the webinar, Bearden and Koos offered the following advice for independent schools interested in establishing or growing their social media presence:

  • Distinguish between institutional and teacher or student social media use. "I think a lot of administrators have negative impressions of social media because they deal with a lot of disciplinary issues," said Bearden. She recommends establishing policies and exploring closed social networks like Edmodo for faculty and student use.
  • Make a commitment. "Nothing's worse than a Facebook page that hasn't been updated in three months," said Bearden. Even quick, casual photos of classrooms can count as updates.
  • Borrow ideas from other organizations. On Mother's Day last year, Bearden asked teachers to submit photos of themselves with their mothers, an idea she borrowed from a local symphony orchestra that had borrowed it from another organization. "There wasn't a lot of crossover between the audiences, and it was very popular," she said.
  • Include a media release form in your tuition contract. Holy Trinity includes a form in its contract that covers pictures, likenesses and works of art. "Of course, we are very sensitive to families...who maybe don't want photos of their children taken," said Koos.
  • Educate your community. Bearden and Koos hold monthly parent coffees that are open to the public on how to use Twitter and other topics. They also posted Twitter instructions for parents on the website. "Hashtags are a great way to introduce people to Twitter because they filter out all the junk," said Bearden.
  • Engage with your broader community. Bearden and Koos make a point of liking, commenting or sharing education-related news articles, blogs and even posts from competing schools. "It all comes back to relationships. We try not to be me-me-me; we try to become trust agents so people can see what's important to us," said Koos.

Bearden and Koos also shared resources, answered questions on metrics and management, and gave examples of independent school social networks. Purchase the full webinar.

This article is from the October 2012 issue of BriefCASE.