Facebook Parent Groups: the good, the bad, and the meh.
Facebook parent groups. Love them or hate them, they’re here, and they’re not going away. Some Facebook groups are full of your biggest supporters, and others serve as a hotbed of misinformation and negativity. Do you know when (and how) to navigate the world of fan (or foe) run social media accounts and when to step aside?
Busy schedules and greater school choice mean fewer parents are getting to know one another face-to-face. Parents are turning to Facebook to find their village and to feel more connected.
In many areas, parents have formed location-based Facebook groups (a common theme is “City-name Moms”), where they share everything from product recommendations, insights into pediatricians, and opinions on childcare and school districts. And it doesn’t stop there—you’re likely to find school-based groups like “School Name Class of 2032” right down to kindergarteners. It’s not uncommon for parents to join multiple similar groups.
If your first instinct is to ignore Facebook groups, think again. Information about your district is trafficked heavily in these areas, and perception is everything. When a crisis occurs, or the unexpected happens (can anyone say pandemic?), you’ll need to dip into your trust bank. Your biggest champions? The parents who support you, endorse your schools, and advocate for district support are doing it across media channels — many you didn’t even know exist. It is critical to foster open communication with your district champions and ensure they know where to go for accurate information.
If you’re having a referendum vote or school board election, parent champions may develop their own campaigns to support a vote or candidate. Encourage them to link to credible sources from your district website when you can.
You can’t stop it, you can’t control it, and it will happen. No matter how ridiculous, misinformation will trend, and you’ll end up with emails in your inbox and fliers in your mailbox. How can you combat misinformation, especially when it circulates in back channels?
The best way to combat misinformation is to share accurate information regularly. Keep your website updated with important news, and make sure you’re the first place parents look for answers. Parents often turn to Facebook for questions if your website information is hard to find or is missing information.
Most importantly, be aware of the communications channels that your families are using. You can send daily emails, but if your parents aren’t reading them, that’s precious time down the drain. A communications audit can help you understand what channels your families value and how to best use each channel.
Set yourself up for success by planning consistent communications throughout the year. Parents will rely on your information and get to know your communication channels when the information is timely and consistent.
Pro-tip: Toss the cutesy titles. Flexing your creativity when it comes to newsletter subject lines and email titles is tempting, but busy parents need to know what’s in communication at-a-glance. Keep your subject lines pertinent and clear. There will always be parents who don’t read your regular newsletter, but will read items labeled urgent or important.
Open two-way communication
Posting information on Facebook is great, but when parents ask questions on posts and don’t receive answers, they may feel frustrated. However, not every communications team has the personnel to answer every question that crosses social media. What can you do?
- Pick up the phone or send an email. Reach out to a complaining parent with the intent to help or resolve the issue. Kindness and customer service go a long way.
- Keep your website updated with important information, frequently asked questions, and contact information.
- Encourage people who ask questions to visit your website for information. Over time, they’ll learn to browse first, and ask second.
- Encourage families to keep up-to-date contact information in your system so they never miss important school communications.
- Transparency is key: many parents will ignore what’s happening in school board meetings and committees — be sure to share highlights of important school business in regular parent communications.
JOINING PRIVATE GROUPS
Should you join these private parent groups on Facebook? It depends on the group and your school system. Having a staff member in the group listening is always helpful, even if they don’t engage. Honor the group rules. Some groups welcome school representatives to answer questions and share information. Still, many have a “what happens in this group stays in this group” policy, and it’s against the spirit of the group to share information or screenshots outside of the group. This is when your parent champions can shine. When involved parents are active in local Facebook groups, they can combat misinformation and share (reshare) important information. Either way, listening for community concerns and trends is basic reach for issues management; groups can’t be ignored.
Key piece of advice? Remember that Facebook groups are usually a tiny part of your district. What might spark a massive discussion thread in a Facebook group may actually be a small part of your overall district—it’s important not to get overwhelmed. If you hear “everyone is upset about this!” take a step back and look at actual numbers. If 20 parents complain about something, that can feel overwhelming in a Facebook group, but 20 parents out of a district of 20,000 parents…perspective is everything.
Updated on September 7, 2022.
Published on: April 30, 2018