As social media blooms into everyday lives, now more than ever schools are using the technology to reach students.
“If you’re not doing it, you’re behind. If you’re not actively engaging on social media, you’re missing out,” said Jeff Sullivan, digital media and marketing administrator at Williamsburg Christian Academy.
Both private and public schools in the area have started using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to actively engage students and their parents.
Parents can now follow accounts from high school principals, school division transportation, and even individual teachers to get updates on their child’s education.
Both Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools and York County Public Schools Twitter accounts have around 5,000 followers and regularly tweets updates on information about different school events, closings and board meetings.
WJCC even started to address the use of social media for the school as early as 2013, when the district adopted a policy that defined its use as a strategy to engage audiences and improve communication, according to the district’s website.
One of the advantages of these platforms is that in situations like electrical outages, which occurred after Tropical Storm Michael last week, schools can still send updates on social media as opposed to waiting for phone lines to work again, Sullivan said.
Connecting to parents
These platforms reach their audience in a way like never before and parents have started to take notice.
“Social media, (in my opinion), is the best method,” said parent Tryna Fitzpatrick in a Facebook message. “Flyers? Forget about it! Email? It’s a dying platform and most ends up getting filtered to junk! But social allows me to access info when I want it. It puts it in my face.”
Social media allows parents to get the information more directly than posting it to a website or sending an email, said Clara Byrd Baker principal Mike Hurley. Since implementing more use of social media, he said he has noticed a 40-50 percent increase of guests at school functions.
“It’s because we are starting to move to a completely digital society,” he said. “Parents are waiting in line at the store or a dentist’s office and the first thing they do is check social media. And we want to be engaging with them when they do.”
Individual schools, like Clara Byrd Baker or WCA, have also started using social media as marketing strategies. It gives institutions the ability to promote their school’s activities and education on a free and far-reaching platform.
“We want to tell our school story through these platforms and demonstrate the learning that takes place,” Hurley said.
These accounts don’t only come from the school in general. Individual teachers have made them to send updates, like at DJ Montague Elementary where Christy Murphy is able to see daily Twitter updates from her daughter’s kindergarten teacher.
“I have my notifications set for her account and get so excited with each tweet! (It) allows me to have a glimpse inside their classroom and be ready for questions about the day when my daughter gets home,” Murphy wrote in an email.
The interaction between students and their parents is another benefit of social media, Hurley said. Accounts like Twitter give parents the ability to see in real-time what their children are learning each day which helps them to build discussions with their children when they come home from school.
As an engagement platform, both parents and schools view social media as something that has positively impacted the educational experience for all.
“As social media progresses, we’re hoping that it continues to help build the love of our school and a connection that will last,” Hurley said.