Students are connected to social media almost constantly. How do you make sure they’re connecting in the right way?
#ICANHELP—a nonprofit group whose mission is to educate and empower students to use social media positively—offers a commonsense approach to help students clear away negativity. This is done through modeling, guiding, and a lot of practice. Schools that support students and openly engage in the positive use of social media report fewer incidents of negative online behavior and also have students who are more likely to report negative online content. This happens because students own the content; it is their words and their work that they care about.
Use these tips for building your social media team, managing social media on your campus, and helping your content grow.
Build Your Team
Managing social media takes a lot of effort and requires a dedicated team. It’s one thing if you are managing a social feed for your class; it’s completely different if you are managing this for your school. You will need a team of people to help generate content. Employ the help of students, including yearbook staff, athletes, and clubs; administrators; and parents.
A Few Considerations
Before digging in on social media, take the time to think about a few basics:
- Check your school policy on social media. You may or may not want to let a student have access to a social media account on their device.
- Work with students closely on messaging and branding. Consider presenting information and doing a workshop at the start of the year to look at specific social media posts and content. Decide what you want your school’s message and outlook to be.
- Survey your students to see which social media platforms they are comfortable using. This varies by age and geography. Currently, according to national data, we see more parents on Facebook, students on Instagram and Snapchat (grades 6–12), and high school students on Twitter. This data varies by school. Knowing your audience will determine what type of content you should post to each platform.
Managing Social Media
There are a few ways to manage your social media feed. You will want to refer to your district policy for guidance on whether or not you can have a school account. At the very least, make sure you have permission from your administrator. If something happens, you will want administrative support.
- Use a generic district email address whenever possible. Many social accounts get linked to an administrator or teacher on campus. When that person leaves the school, the social media account goes with them. By having a generic email to connect everything, it’s easy to keep the account going. In addition, this allows for the possibility of multiple users (principal, assistant principal, athletic director, teachers, etc.).
- Request a district device for schools, if feasible. For example, a school may have an iPhone or device that is already logged into the school’s social accounts. That device is then checked out to a student that is verified by the school. That student’s job is to post content to the account at special events. If a school-sanctioned device is not provided, another option is to have a teacher or administrator act as a gatekeeper. Content is submitted to that teacher, who then posts it.
- Post about every group, club, sport, activity, and community event that you can. Leave no one out, and if someone complains about their event being overlooked, ask if they’d be willing to take photos and do a short write-up the next time their event happens so it can be shared on social media. If your council or chapter—or comparable student group—is traveling, identify a student, teacher, or parent who is going and ask them to take pictures.
- Use your school’s hashtag whenever possible. You will want a few students to help track engagement and get people talking about your posts.
- Hang posters up around campus that highlight your social media channels. Include those usernames on all marketing materials, announcements, and school events.
- Any time you have all students together, ask them to take out their device, log in to Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., and follow your account. Start talking up your social media at orientation or assembly on the first day of school. You don’t need to follow students, but you want them to follow you.
- Try to use the same username, fonts, and colors in all of your profile pics and posts. This is essential in branding your account and making it easy for people to find you.
- For Instagram, make sure you set up your school account as a business account. That way, you can have access to analytics.
Helping Your Content Go Viral
Viral is a relative term. Basically, you want a lot of people to see your content. You can work with your student body on creating the content and then identify the best time to share that content. Using these steps, you can help spread your content to as many people as possible.
- Identify which platforms your students actively use. Then, make sure students are sharing to those platforms.
- Create a memorable hashtag for your group, school, or event. Recruit your students to help create this hashtag. You can use it to track engagement and use that data in your school report on student engagement with evidence. And yes, I said this one twice—it’s that important.
- Have your students help create the content you want to share. Ask what should be in the main image and how they would like to caption the post. Don’t be afraid to reach out to student influencers and recruit them to create and share content for you. Along with images, you can use video or animated GIFs—mix it up!
- Use analytics on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat to see when students are on the app and looking at your account. Talk to your core group of students and identify what time they would like this content shared: right after school, 6:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m., or 8:00 p.m., for example. You can also use this data in your school plan to show how you are engaging students.
- Using an app like Remind, have a teacher send out a text five minutes before the agreed-upon time with the image, the caption, and a reminder of what time to share that content online.
- Have students “like,” mark as “favorite,” or share content from their friends and classmates on their own channels. This provides a plethora of connections so as many people as possible will see it.
- Increase your use of action shots. Not all photos need to be posed. In fact, you will see a 20 percent increase in engagement if the photos you post do not have students looking directly at the camera.
- Use “stories” in Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. Right now, those platforms are optimized for stories and you will get more people reading your entries and engaging in your feed.
Remember, this is a long game. You are looking to grow your audience over a long period of time, so growth may be slow, but it should be consistent. Contests can work, though consider posting diverse content from your entire campus. Students want to see themselves and their friends.
This is your school’s story, so have fun with it and make it a good one. You have a lot to share as a school and much to celebrate.
Matt Soeth is a former English, video production, and student leadership teacher. He now serves as the executive director at #ICANHELP. Learn more at www.icanhelpdeletenegativity.org.