8 Ways Schools Can Engage Their Communities Through Social Media

From schools with a few hundred students to those hosting thousands, the entire educational industry has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. School boards are weighing their options, with some announcing closures for the upcoming fall season while others plan to open their doors. For institutions educating students remotely in the coming school year, the heavy lifting is already underway. They’re striving to maintain the pace of their standard curriculum — no mean feat when teaching in an online environment.

The same is true of a school’s communications efforts, which are more important now than ever. From email blasts to public-access television announcements, a school’s public information program is vital. A key element is the school’s social media presence. Right now, students are looking for solutions. Parents are wondering what the future holds for their kids. They’re all looking to their school for the latest updates, insights, and even a little light-hearted distraction in this time of uncertainty.

Social media can provide the guidance, comfort, and direction that today’s students need. Here are some things schools can do with their social media accounts right now:  

Share Information and Resources to Keep Students Safe

Schools are the hub of information for students, staff, and the rest of the school community. In many ways, the school helps shape and define the lifestyle and current life choices of its students. All the more reason to make information sharing a top priority. Use all available channels to get safety updates out to students; as noted before, social media may be just the tip of the communications iceberg.

Publicize Online Learning Resources

Most colleges have some level of online learning resources. Some are leading the pack with live-streamed classes and online courses. Others are just dipping their toes into the remote learning pool by offering a curated collection of links and printable practice pages. Whatever online learning infrastructure is available, share it. Often, these resources and features are buried in department sub-domains and specific teacher lessons.

Help students find these resources. Share direct links and invite the teachers who use these resources to do the same. Provide any available material to help students stay on track or at least keep their knowledge sharp.

Communicate the Status of Events

One beloved aspect of the school experience is the wealth of live events typically available to students, from sports to theater to after-school activites. The current state of the world may preclude the hosting of such events. Should that be the case, the status of cancelled events, even those called off well in advance, need to be appropriately publicized. Use the school’s social channels to spread the word.

Fortunately, not all events will be cancelled; some will be held virtually instead. Schools might host webinars instead of live talks. They’ll offer video tours instead of taking students on a real tour. Some will even offer live music via streaming to let students rock out safely from their homes or dorm rooms. Provide students with clear instructions on how to log into online events.

Share Tips with a Dash of Humor

It may sound out of place, but right now humor is more important than ever. Humor helps lift students’ and teachers’ spirits as they work to keep up their remote learning. If you ever wondered about the power of humor, consider this: We’ve heard anecdotally that hand-sanitizing stations in hospitals are used more consistently if a printed meme is taped to the machine. So embrace the power of humor. When appropriate, amuse students, staff, and community with carefully considered memes. Or just lighten the mood a little with a joke that the school community would appreciate.

Reassure Students of Their Futures

No matter the situation, many students are uncertain about the upcoming school year. If they’re going back to school, will their year get cut short with another quarantine? If they’re planning to learn remotely, how effective will it be, and what will they be missing out on? Now is a good time to offer students some reassurance. Schools should share plans to help students stay on track. A few inspiring words may help allay students’ anxieties about their academic futures.

Highlight Valiant Student Efforts

In every community, there are outstanding people who rise above the rest. Those who volunteer in medical facilities or sign up to delivery groceries may be saving lives. Find the students who are shining the brightest through their good work and compassionate labor. Interview them and share their stories via social media. Showcasing the philanthropic motivation of students inspires others. Students love stories about their peers’ experiences, and now is an ideal time to share the best student achievements.

Share DIY Projects for Students Staying Indoors

Students sheltering at home or socially distancing in dorms need something to do beyond course work. Do-it-yourself projects have hit new heights in popularity, so why not brainstorm a few DIY projects to keep students busy with something fun? From toothpick castles to hand-mending clothes, this could be a great source of engaging user-generated content to share on social channels.

Announce Online Degree-Completion Programs

Finally, share the school’s plans with students. High schools and colleges that have established or are in the process of developing an online program to help students finish their degrees will want to highlight that news. This acknowledges that the institution is thinking about the futures of its students and their lost semester(s), and is working beyond the day-to-day. Make this new program a recurring topic on social channels by following its progress and highlighting its features. At this moment, continuing to move forward with their education is one of the most important things to students; they want to hear about it.

What should schools be doing in preparation for the upcoming academic year? Schools can use social media to help students with a steady stream of updates, inspirational messaging, and perhaps a bit of light-heartedness. Social media is an incredibly powerful tool, and schools will be using it to offer students the knowledge and support they need to successfully navigate the coming academic year.

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