At Denver Christian Schools, social media is building up community within the school system and assisting with retention. “A parent with two elementary kids came up to me one day and said, ‘I can’t wait for my kids to get to the high school’ because she had seen all the Instagram photos of high school events and the kids learning and having a blast,” said Tyler Amidon, director of student life at Denver Christian High. “Social media connects us, and Instagram gives literally a picture of what we’re doing at Denver Christian.”
Up until a few years ago, parents were content with a monthly newsletter sent home in their child’s backpack. Given the wide variety of communication available now, parents expect more information delivered in a timely fashion, and they appreciate that social media allows for two-way communication: a way for them to participate by commenting on posts or sharing photos.
“Social media has promoted the two-way conversation,” says Amidon. “Some of the comments on our posts are priceless and really show our community spirit. And our Instagram account has been a blast. It's followed by parents, students, teachers, and alumni, and it definitely promotes the sense of community. It has given our families a peak into their children's classrooms, hallways, and friendships and gives them a better sense of what we’re about.”
In this day of instant communication, “someone is always telling the story of your school,” says Mike Wiersma, principal at Ontario (California) Christian Elementary. “The goal is to be proactive, to be on the front end of that storytelling.”
Wiersma and Amidon recently presented a CSI webinar on ways schools can use social media to tell the stories of their schools and to build community with students and their families. Both administrators use an assortment of apps and platforms to share good news as well as basic information.
Platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow for both, although it’s important for schools to monitor content. Additional apps, programs, and resources—YouTube, Instagram, Remind, Buffer, and a host of others—can also be valuable tools for administrators and teachers to promote the school and keep parents and students informed and engaged.
“Our Alumni Facebook page has helped us reconnect with alumni that we haven't stayed connected to over the years,” says Amidon. “I try to use social media to draw them into the community, and it seems to help quite a bit.”
While both Wiersma and Amidon use all of these methods (and more!) and are always willing to try something new, they advise that it’s best for a school to begin by choosing one social media avenue and cultivating it: creating a quality presence and promoting that avenue. Once the school is well established and comfortable with that avenue, add another layer to build your social media presence. Each avenue will offer different information and will reach a different audience.
“It's fun to hear students say to each other, after I've take a picture or video, ‘You're going to be Facebook famous.’ They're starting to feel the connection more and more,” says Amidon.