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Being the School of Choice in Your Community

Use school social media to stand out

Being the School of Choice in Your Community: Use school social media to stand out

Understandably, many schools are a little nervous about school choice, especially since the recent appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. We’re not here to stoke political fires—our aim is to calm nerves. School choice doesn’t have to mean declining enrollment for public schools. In fact, public schools can thrive in a school choice environment

Arizona has the highest percentage of students in charter school than any other state in the nation; our public schools face strong competition with the many private and charter school options available. Here is a true story from Judy Bittner, our Lead Project Coordinator: 

“My daughter-in-law has been researching the options for her children’s education ever since her first child was two years old. Would she send her children to a public, private, or charter school? Or would she decide to home-school them? All the above were viable options, but the one she felt was the least likely, was sending them to one of the local school district’s public elementary schools. She wasn’t happy with the direction she saw the public entire school system going and was determined to find a better option for her young and growing family.

With a job change and new opportunities, her family, including her now four-year-old son who will be entering kindergarten in the upcoming year, began building a home in a new neighborhood in the Queen Creek School District (QCUSD). Now it was time to get serious. She had already applied and been accepted to a local charter school she felt great about. But she felt she had to be sure, and since she was moving to a new school district, she began researching what would be her children’s new school in their new public school district, Jack Barnes Elementary School.

She reached out to ‘people who knew people’ whose children attended schools in the QCUSD district as well as those who specifically attended Jack Barnes Elementary. She became intrigued as she followed her would-be new school on Facebook. Conversation after conversation, I heard her say things like, “I love that they’re really active on Facebook,” “It seems like they do a lot of fun things,” and “I keep hearing and reading good things about them.” The more my daughter-in-law followed them, the more impressed she was, and the more she wanted to be part of their community—their family. 

By the time the house was built, she had turned down the charter school acceptance and was ready to register her son for kindergarten at Francis Brandon-Pickett Elementary School. FBPE’s social media marketing was the main factor in this important decision. Way to do a tremendous job, Jack Barnes Elementary!”

What’s the moral of the story? To be competitive, your school must have a social media presence. It’s not enough to have a website and hope people find you. It’s not enough to quietly do a good job in the background. School marketing is essential. 

More and more frequently, people are turning to social media for advice and referrals. It’s an easily accessible source ripe for word-of-mouth marketing. But you can’t entrust your school marketing solely to the recommendations of parents who may or may not be happy with how things are run in your school. 

In persuasive theory, “social proof” refers to the psychological phenomenon where people comply with the actions or opinions of others in order to appear “socially acceptable.” When it comes to decisions that affect the future of our children, social proof isn’t strong enough to be a deciding factor. Think of Judy’s daughter-in-law. She reached out to the community and heard good things about the elementary school, but it wasn’t enough to convince her to enroll her child, especially since she already had preconceived opinions about public education and an acceptance from a charter school she felt good about. She needed to see for herself. The fact that Jack Barnes Elementary School had an active school social media page where she could see for herself the “fun things” going on and reading “good things” about the school was the deciding factor to enroll her student in the public school. 

School social media opens a window into your classrooms and lets parents see and be a part of your school community. It’s a good idea to start with things parents want to see on your social media feeds: classroom activities, outstanding teachers, exceptional students, heartwarming stories, and school traditions.

It’s no secret that the greatest impact on a child’s learning is the extent of parental engagement in their child’s education. Technology is transforming that three-way relationship among parents, schools, and students. Conversations are taking place on social media with or without your school’s presence—you must engage in social media marketing to have your voice heard. Having an active, meaningful school social media can make the difference between losing students and being your community’s choice school.