Using all available communication channels to their fullest extent is critical to a strong school communications strategy. Now, more than ever, we have at our disposal an array of ready to use communications tools. Between social media and school district mobile apps, it’s easy to think that one could be a replacement for the other. However, if you’d like to maximize your district’s community engagement, using only one or the other would be a mistake. This blog post will go over the changing landscape of what parents and guardians expect when it comes to school communications. We examine both social media and school mobile apps, breaking down their pros and cons to demonstrate why you need both to push your school district’s communications strategy to its fullest potential.
Not too long ago, communications between school administrators and parents and guardians consisted primarily of physical letters sent home with students, messages on radio stations and phone calls home. It wasn’t uncommon for these letters to never make it home or for them to be damaged in students’ backpacks. Today, the technological landscape has changed drastically and with it so has the expectation of how communications are received from schools. Parents and guardians expect to receive information as simply and conveniently as possible – on their phones. With 79% of adults having their phone on them for 22 hours a day, it’s critical that as a communications specialist you reach them where they’re at on the fastest and most convenient channels available. The most effective communication channels you can use to reach your audience on their phone are social media and school district mobile apps.
You and your school district most likely already have asocial media strategy. If you don’t – you’re losing out on a massive opportunity to connect with your community.
The following are social media’s strengths:
Today at least 72% of adults are on at least one social media platform, be it Facebook,Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, etc., with the most popular being YouTube, Facebook & Instagram. By posting regularly on a few, if not several of these platforms, you’re able to reach the vast majority of your school district community quickly & conveniently.
Building off the previous point, with so many adults already being on social media, having them follow your school and district accounts is as easy as them touching their phone screen. With very little effort on your part, your content and information are now on their timelines.
These are their weaknesses:
Formatting is the central factor that differentiates various social media platforms:
One of your schools may have had an amazing fundraiser during which you were able to take many great photos. While these could easily go up on the school and district Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you wouldn’t be able to post them on YouTube, meaning you’d be missing out on an opportunity to share the story. More importantly, having to post on three separate platforms requires three times the work – unless your solution has Single-Source Publishing, allowing you to create once then publish everywhere.
Once you’ve posted on social media, it’s out for the public to view, comment on and react to. How they choose to do so is completely out of your control at this point, raising the possibility for some to leave negative comments or start arguments with other followers in the comment section. While you’re able to disable comments, this would drastically reduce both engagement and the opportunity to connect with your school and district community.
As a communications specialist, one of your responsibilities is influencing the public’s perception of your school district. If you need to communicate sensitive or private information while a crisis is unfolding to parents, guardians and students, posting on social media for the public could backfire as you’re no longer in control of the narrative once the information is out.
Many of your followers following hundreds of other accounts, meaning that unless they have your push notifications enabled, it’s very easy to have your posts become lost in their busy timelines.
Social media platforms gain and lose popularity over time. A prime example would be Facebook. Once very popular amongst young people, the platform is now used primarily by Gen X and Baby Boomers, with young people gravitating towards Instagram and more recently, TikTok. It’s paramount that you stay on top of social media trends to ensure the content and information you post is targeted appropriately to your desired audience.
School and district mobile apps are the natural next step after websites as technology continues to advance. With more adults using phones and tablets more often than laptops or desktop computers to check news, the importance of having a mobile app for your school district community is now more important than ever.
Mobile apps excel in many aspects:
Having a mobile app for your school district enables you to consolidate all your content and information in one place. It allows parents, guardians and students to quickly access information regarding closures, emergencies, upcoming events, etc., all within a few touches on their phone or tablet, instead of having to open their laptop or turn on their computer.
The information you share on the mobile app is only seen by those who have signed up and logged into the app – your district’s parents, guardians and students. The app is the ideal place to post important updates during a crisis in progress, changes to upcoming events and updates on your children’s assignments.
When posting important information such as closures, upcoming events, and emergencies, your audience will be alerted instantly by push notifications. Updates lost in cluttered timelines are no longer an issue.
The mobile app you choose should simplify your workload through Single-Source Publishing which allows any content you create once for mobile to be published everywhere else, be it your district website, any or all of your school websites, and your choice of social media platforms.
If you’re using a mobile app like SchoolBundle’s, it pulls information directly from your existing HR, SIS and finance databases to populate data shown inside the mobile app instead of you having to migrate all of the information manually, saving you significant amounts of time.
A good mobile app should have information that is only relevant to the parent, guardian or student using it. It will have all their children’s information, including calendars, grades, upcoming assignments and important dates, teacher content information, news from their respective schools and more.
Here are their drawbacks:
Adoption Can Be Challenging
Getting your audience to download and sign up for a mobile app can be more challenging than having them follow your social media accounts. It may require multiple rounds of promotion to your audience before you see widespread adoption. Once you do, however, you’ll reap all the benefits listed above. Don’t worry though, its easy - our recent blog post goes over how to execute an effective mobile app promotion.
Need Support From Your Provider:
A good mobile app should be intuitive and easy to use. However, naturally, with every new technology you adopt, both you and your audience are going to have questions regarding its use and how to troubleshoot common issues. You’ll want to rely on your mobile app provider for training and as a source of support when issues arise.
Social media and mobile apps are both powerful communications tools that you need to use in conjunction to maximize your district’s communications strategy. Social media are excellent platforms to post cheerful recaps of school events such as fundraisers or sports games. Mobile apps, on the other hand, consolidate all the information a parent or guardian needs to stay in the loop day-to-day. The app is the best place to ensure that parents and guardians are receiving key information such as closures, important upcoming dates, emergencies, etc., that could otherwise be missed through social media. Along with your websites, your mobile app should be your central focus in terms of your communications efforts, with your social media platforms acting as a support for additional, light-hearted content.
Bottom line, you need to use both social media and school district mobile apps to ensure that your community receives the information you put out there as effectively as possible. Both tools bring something different to the table, with their strengths play off the other’s weaknesses. Social media is effective thanks to its widespread use and ease of adoption, while it suffers from its variance in formatting, lack of control, incompatibility with posting sensitive material, how easy it is to miss information, and lastly its unreliable usage over time. School mobile apps address these weaknesses by providing a central location for all important information, security, and notifications for key updates.
Mobile apps also simplify your work by pulling data from your existing databases, in addition to providing a completely personalized experience for its users. By excluding one for the other, you’re creating an unnecessary gap in your communications strategy, limiting your ability to maximize your engagement with your school community. You need both.
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