The Sensis Social Media Report 2016 revealed that 48 per cent of small businesses in Australia are actively using social media – this includes early learning centres, pre-schools, before & after school care and family day care providers. Social media and technology are changing the way educators communicate and engage with parents, caregivers and the wider community.
Many centres are now sending parent’s regular texts and/or emails throughout the day providing them with updates and photos of their child’s day. Having access to instantaneous information is one of the main reasons people are actively engaged in social media.
Utilising our experience in early childhood education and communications, the Committed to Childcare Conferences team have created a list of nine social media tips that may assist you and your centre.
1. Know your audience – who are they and where are they from?
One of the most important aspects of social media is being aware of your audience. Your social media audience won’t only consist of parents who attend your centre.
There will be prospective parents, extended family members, a mix of competitors, employees (past, present and future), other professionals in the early education community and members of your local community.
2. Have a social media policy – keep everyone safe
It is essential for all early learning centres, who have a social media account to have an active Social Media Policy in place that is tailored to suit their centre. If you don’t wish to introduce a new policy for social media, create a sub-section for it within your Communication Policy or include your expectations of social media use within your Code of Conduct.
What should be included in your Social Media Policy? It should include what devices are to be used, who is authorised to use/post from your social media accounts and strict guidelines for all staff to follow regarding the sharing of private and confidential information, that if when shared, may damage the reputation of the centre.
3. Social media management – who and where
There should be appointed staff within your centre who are authorised to access and use your social media accounts. We recommend two or three staff members being granted access to login and post information. This allows greater control of social media and creates consistent messaging.
When posting on social media, ensure that you are using business devices (company computer/phone). This will minimise the risk of your account accidentally falling into the wrong hands. It only takes one bad/inappropriate post on social media to damage your professional reputation.
4. Make your posts timely – schedule it
Once you are familiar with your social media audience, a pattern of engagement with your sites, will begin to emerge. This indicates the key times you should be posting. The Sensis Social Media Report 2016, revealed that 63 per cent of Australians use social media in the evening and 49 per cent in the early morning.
Keeping these figures in mind – you need to find out the key times your key audience members (parents) are viewing your social media pages.
Our own experience has shown that the key times parents are logging on are: when they’re commuting to and from work, during their breaks at work and in the evening after 7.30pm. If you want high engagement with your posts, we recommend surveying parents at your centre about their preferences with social media and all forms of communication.
5. Make your posts relevant – connect with your audience
To increase engagement on your social media page; you need to share content that is of interest to your audience. In general, social media posts should be informative, professional and positive.
What is relevant for early education social media posts?
– Upcoming events at your centre;
– Projects the children are working on;
– Activities the children participated in;
– Events/workshops/training the staff attended;
– Informative posts (For example: seasonal health updates);
– Holiday posts (Will your opening times be changing?);
– Parent information nights;
– Local community news/events that parents might be interested in.
6. Spelling, grammar and punctuation – fresh eyes are the best eyes
Incorrect spelling, grammar and punctuation can make your business appear unprofessional. Always ask another staff member to double-check your post before you press enter and make sure the information you are posting is 100 per cent accurate.
7. Be consistent – develop the habit
Have you ever viewed a company’s social media page and found their social media activity to be inconsistent, unprofessional and non-existent? Did you ‘like’ or ‘follow’ their page? Probably not.
To successfully utilise your social media accounts, plan your posts ahead of time and update on a regular basis. Forming a social media schedule is crucial – even if it’s once a day or once a week. Everyone who likes your page will know when to expect an update from you.
8. Be respectful – maintain your credibility
Social media should not be used as a platform to vent. Remember, once you post online – it’s public information and the same privacy laws apply to social media as newspapers and other forms of media.
Unprofessional online conduct can have serious ramifications for any business. Monitor your social media account regularly – if you see posts that are discriminatory, obscene, defamatory, threatening or harassing on your page, delete them immediately.
9. Use visuals – be creative and colourful
Social media posts that use images achieve 90 per cent more engagement than those that just use text. Early childhood is a creative, colourful and caring environment that provides educators with an abundance of opportunity to capture wonderful photographic moments to post on social media.
Parents and caregivers take pride in viewing and sharing photographs of their children, but written permission from parents, allowing the centre to post images of their children online is crucial. If you use someone else’s image or photograph, always source it. There are plenty of websites online where you can find free images to use.
The use of social media in the workplace will only continue to increase. Successful engagement through the use of social media will come to those who embrace and encourage this constantly evolving platform of communication.
Social media should be used as an online community for sharing, connecting, supporting and embracing the profession of early childhood education.
We look forward to continuing this social media conversation with early childhood educators …
© Committed to Childcare Conferences 2016