On holiday in York in the summer it became very clear to me how important social media is in marketing especially to young people. The street entertainer Purpleman was displaying his twitter feed (@purpleman1 of course) as he travelled through the streets. Shops uniformly listed their Facebook pages alongside websites, and one fashion retailer devoted much of its window display to asking shoppers to follow/support it on four different social media (including my first view of Pinterest in public!)

I’m way behind the times (being the wrong side of 35), but I’m a bit afraid that schools are a bit further behind than me! Young people and increasingly their parents are going to look for news of schools in these social media – and while it might be possible to avoid this trend for recruitment to primary school, it can’t be ignored at 16+! And just using Facebook is probably not the answer – my Y10 class last year admitted never using it…

So, how should schools respond?

1. Get current students and parents to help you with your research. Ask which social media they use. Set up a group of students to track your school and let you know what is being said about it and where. (This reminds me of the late 1990s when companies did a similar job with young employees and websites…)

2. Work on content based marketing rather than channel specific ideas – ie write stories that say good things about the school that can be used across different media, rather than writing just for the website or a prospectus.

3. Record everything in multimedia – don’t just write a story, take pictures and videos. Instagram and Pinterest rely heavily on photos, YouTube on videos. Encourage students to write, blog or photograph events and send you their contributions. 

4. Let (and encourage) parents, students and other stakeholders to put stories on their social media. For example this blog has links to Twitter and Facebook (please click on them!). You can easily put photos up and let students share them on Instagram or videos on You Tube. A couple of examples of educational institutions that have set up news pages on their websites to enable this (supplied by US guru Steve Momorella - thanks!) are http://newsroom.hacc.edu/ and http://oxfordschools.org.

5. Monitor social media  – both by tracking online content and by research with key stakeholders. You will probably find negative comments. You can then find evidence to contradict this - if you're not looking these opinions will just grow!

6. Learn from others – since following a few US experts on Twitter (thanks @delainanicoleand @schneiderb), I’ve been introduced to a vast array of ideas about using social media. 



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