Rosin Lamb, Communications Manager at Pakuranga College, explains how they use social media to connect with the community. They use a number of online tools to manage their various communications channels. This has become an opportunity to work with parents to help them understand how social media can support community engagement.
Rosin Lamb: I try to divide everything up into not just connecting to community but connecting to different audiences. So we have to think about our internal and external audiences for a start and then you’re looking at parents and students who are already here, parents and students who may be considering coming here. Different audiences require different channels because they have a different level of involvement and a different level of understanding.
So in the past, our newsletter was sent out as a PDF. The problem with that is a portion of our parents don’t have English as a first language so when faced with this huge tranche of copy, it’s quite intimidating. But also most people these days read these things on their smartphones and those documents take a long time to download on your smartphone and because people are impatient, they just say oh I can’t be bothered with that and they don’t read it. We’re using a system called Mailchimp. If you have a small school with a database of under 2000 I believe it is, it’s free. We will send ours out. They will open it up and there will be lots of different stories in there which they will quickly scroll through and see, the idea being that it’s much more interactive, we can track what people are clicking on, what they’re interested in, how many people have opened it and they can see it on their smartphones. The great thing is, foreign language parents, it’s lots of pictures. It’s lots of visuals, we can put videos in there which is much more dynamic and less intimidating than large amounts of copy.
The website is great but not everybody wants to download an entire website when they are using their mobile phone. We know that people often go to the website for a repeated number of things. So we looked at those sort of most common contact points that we have and they’ve been incorporated into the app. There’s a company called School Apps who will do it for you! You can report an absence, it’s got main contacts, it has links to useful websites, maps as to how to find us, term dates, notices, there’s a calendar, sports results, that kind of thing. There’s also a link to the parent portal on there.
If you’re going to use any of these channels like facebook and Twitter, you should subscribe to a social listening software. So we use something called Mention. basically you can put in key terms such as the school name and then every day you get a report as to where the name of your school has come up. It’s just a really good way to keep your finger on the pulse.
One way to manage the different channels quite easily is to use something called HootSuite which basically just pulls in all the different social media channels that you’re using it puts them all onto one dashboard so you can add things to them or see what’s going on very quickly rather than flicking backwards and forwards between all of them and HootSuite will also give you a report as to what’s happening
YouTube is just a functional way, somewhere to put your videos. You can either set it so only a certain number of people can see it or it’s open to the public to see. We use it because video is a great way to show the immediacy of what is going on in a school
Billy Merchant: We definitely wanted to help parents cope with the world of social media. And part of that is helping parents understand it but also making sure that parents don’t shut that down. Social media is actually incredibly powerful. It can actually bring real life events into the classroom. So, I think we just need to constantly keep our parents up to speed and educated around the good and the bad and that’s the same with any Internet use.