School Marketing - When Things Go Wrong On Social Media
Updated: Mar 15
Before a school jumps headfirst into any social media program, they must be sure to consider the pitfalls of social media usage and where things can, and often do, go wrong.
There should be safe and secure frameworks for appropriate social media usage for staff and students both during and outside of school hours. Beyond applying common sense, many staff members, teachers, and students are sometimes only vaguely aware (and often completely unaware) of a school’s policies surrounding social media.
While common sense can undoubtedly go a long way in helping people stay out of trouble online, training should be provided to teachers and other staff about responsible social media usage. This should not just include what is acceptable and unacceptable – but general digital upskilling and the development of new techniques to better interact online, engage with families, and take advantage opportunities on social media.
A school social media policy should be created. Leadership must determine and clearly establish where the boundaries lie with social media with staff and students. Sometimes these boundaries may not be as straightforward as it seems. Let us consider a teacher who is a family friend of a student and befriended the student on Facebook years before gaining employment at the school. Is this acceptable? Should they have to terminate the social media ‘friendship’? Should they be told not to communicate with them online publicly?
What happens if a staff member who has access to school social media accounts leaves the school in unsavoury circumstances? How do you best deal with an angry parent who is writing derogatory messages on your school’s public Facebook page or group? What about a students uploading videos online while in school uniform?
It is crucial that guidelines are in place for whoever is entrusted with the school’s social media accounts. This is an important job and not something that should be taken lightly. It should be someone with a strong understanding of social media, the school’s marketing strategies and a person who can answer queries and respond quickly to messages.
An active social media presence can bring about many unpredictable challenges, and the handling of situations like these will be up to the discretion of the school itself. But it is essential to prepare accordingly for different scenarios. Failing to plan can leave the school vulnerable and can result in inappropriate handling of the situation, which could lead to a public relations nightmare.
CREATING A SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY
It is vital for schools to create a clear social media policy for their community.
Schools should take an active role in educating students about proper social media usage and how to stay safe online. Many of the next generation aspire to be famous internet celebrities or YouTubers, just like the previous generations aspired to be movies stars or singers. Our students are not waiting to get started; many are already online creating content and building a following.
Having your school receive negative, unwanted public attention due to the behaviour of one of your students online is not something any school wishes to deal with. There have been situations where schools have received backlash due to a student posting inappropriate videos online while dressed in school uniform. Some examples of this could be imitating sexual acts or miming explicit song lyrics in TikTok videos.
Therefore, schools should get on the front foot and take responsibility in educating their students about the online world. Provide education around topics that can impact a student’s mental health and learning. Things like best practices for dealing with bullying and ‘trolling’, and how to deal with inappropriate material, etc.
For a school’s social media policy to be effective, it is important to engage with parents. They must be clear about the school’s policies. Ensure that messages are regularly sent home about the proper use of social media and the internet. This can remind parents to have a more active involvement in monitoring their child’s social media usage.
Naturally, a social media policy also extends to the faculty within your school. Determine what is acceptable for your staff to post and educate them about the different social media platform’s privacy settings.