Summer is a natural time to shift gears in school PR, as students and teachers go on break, family routines change and people’s focus moves to summer ball schedules, family gatherings and road trips — especially after the much more restricted summer of 2020! What role should school social media have in your efforts this summer, with a slower stream of student stories and an audience whose attention is likely pointed away from school?
School Social Media: Summer Edition
Working strategically is the key to a summer that balances high-value work with important time away from the office to rest and recharge. These four strategies will help you use social media to serve up the content your audience wants, without sacrificing your summer days or nights.
“Even though a lot of people consider summer to be ‘down time’ in school systems, school PR people know that the work keeps going — and often intensifies,” said Kristin Magette, who wrote the book on Social Media for Schools. “Social media that is both strategic and simple to execute will carry your voice through the summer months and continue to invest in the trust and loyalty of your valued audience.”
Understand your audience
Your social media strategy is as unique as your community — no two are alike. Key to reaching your audience during the summer shift (and all year long) is understanding the content your followers want, need and like — as well as the days and times they are most likely to engage.
Review the metrics and insights from the last two to three summers to learn what worked best and what fell short. If summer content hasn’t performed well in the past, explore the last 12-18 months in total and consider it in the context of the predictable changes that summer brings.
As you review your metrics, seek to answer these questions:
- Who is your most reliably engaged audience? Male or female? What age group? How might these demographics connect to the families of your students?
- When is your engagement highest? Specific days of the week? Weekdays versus weekends? Mornings, midday, afternoons, evenings or late night?
- What types of posts drove the highest engagement? Videos? Text only? Featured photos? Informational graphics without photos? Links that point to your website? Shared content from other organizations or pages within your district?
- How might these factors shift in the summer? For example, if moms and dads were likely to engage at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday during the school year — after kids are in bed — how might summer routines affect your schedule?
With your data and deeper understanding, you’re prepared to develop a few strategic goals that will help you engage your key audiences and also simplify your summer.
Identify your objectives
Summer social media for schools carries a natural temptation to go with the flow. After all, it’s summer break! But spending an hour to write down your objectives will streamline your work and give you a clear strategy to measure success. This simple starting point will guide evaluation when you find yourself wrapping up the 2021-22 school year next spring.
Be realistic — not only about your workload, but also about your followers’ needs and wants. Because employees and families have shifted their focus for most of summer, it tends not to be the ideal time to invest dozens of hours developing content and campaigns.
If you could accomplish one or two outcomes this summer on social media — whether a change in attitude, change in knowledge or change in behavior — what would they be? Consider the few things you will need your families to know, such as online enrollment dates, calendar dates for the first few days of school, and other back-to-school details. One or two targeted objectives in these areas will allow you the flexibility to go with the flow on other simple summer content to fill in the gaps.
Now is the perfect time to develop a simple back-to-school countdown for a week, 10 days or any length of time prior to the first day of school. Post a helpful back-to-school tip or fact each day, or develop a creative way to highlight different faces from the staff team, student body or community. These planned daily posts also help re-engage parents as they begin to think more about school as summer draws to a close.
Simplify value-added content
Summer often brings a noticeable shift in activities for students and their families, as well as teachers and staff. Look for simple ways to your school social media can connect your followers to the community information that serves families and students.
Identify community organizations that you might amplify to help families.
- Food programs available to feed students and others, whether served or available for pick-up.
- Public pool schedule changes or updates about swimming lessons or safety courses.
- Public library reading program details or celebration of students reading and reaching their goals.
- Safety tips from law enforcement or other experts for riding bikes, swimming, celebrating Independence Day, road trips — you name it.
- Summer learning and enrichment programs at school and beyond.
There are likely organizations in your community providing need-to-know information for students’ families — but the school district often has a bigger social media following and an easier time breaking through followers’ feeds. You have a simple opportunity to create goodwill, put important information in the hands of those who need it and keep your social media feed relevant and active with very little effort. Increase reach and engagement by adding a sentence or two when you share another organization’s post.
“School districts often have among the biggest and most loyal social media following in a community. Strategically sharing information from community groups gets helpful information in the hands of families—helping families and community organizations,” Kristin reminds us. “And on school social media, generosity is always a big win.”
Look at your community event calendar, from arts and entertainment to sports, parades and festivals. Invite your followers to share events — with a public post or a private message to a few people you know will help out. Whether students performing on a stage or in a parade, a blue ribbon winner at the county fair or even a few teachers doing summer workouts or meal prep together, your followers love to see the people they know having fun in the community they love.
Make the tools work for you
- Editorial calendar. As simple as it gets, an editorial calendar will help you streamline social media in the summer. Begin with the posts that directly support your objectives, and then identify gaps of more than a few days where you can snap a pic of the grounds crew working hard on campus or other value-added content.
- DM auto-replies. Set up automatic replies to the inboxes on your social media accounts. Use these to help adjust people’s expectations for an instant reply and provide insight into summer schedules and availability.
- Schedule your posts. Create a routine by scheduling posts in advance to avoid falling behind in your calendar when you’re working summer hours or away from the office for a few days of rest. Any time you schedule posts, be sure to keep track of what’s in your queue to allow quick adjustment if a crisis event or major news story should require it.
- Facebook Business Manager unified inbox. If you aren’t already using Facebook Business Manager for both Facebook and Instagram, now is the time! The unified inbox will streamline your messages, comments and replies across both platforms in a single mobile app.
Not sure about working strategically? Need a partner who understands your work to cover the communication bases while you’re on vacation? CEL’s team helps school systems like yours. Schedule a free, no-obligation 30-minute consultation to think through your list with us.
What school social media content, tips or tricks have helped you simplify your summer? We’d love to learn and share! Share a comment on our blog or Tweet this article with your additional suggestions.
Published on: June 24, 2021