The @intSchools #BackToSchool Marketing Guide

We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we DO it.
— Erik Qualman

This will come as no surprise, we are sure, but the summer holidays are grinding to a very sudden end! This means rushing, preparation, panic, confusion and for some, knee-jerking excitement/fear as the new school year looms closer by the day.

Yes, ladies and gentleman, it is #BackToSchool time. This means it's time to boot up those computers and return your tanned fingers to the keyboards, as you look to stoke the social media fires that have been slowly glowing duller. 

What's that? You've forgotten what a Tweet is and all your Instagrams seem to be of half a thumb? Don't worry - we've got you covered. 

What does social media do for me?

Social media is the perfect way to create an accessible, engaging and dynamic community. Your community can include staff, pupils, parents and prospective families. It is the best way to be able to reach all of these people, but you do have to be fully committed to make the most of it. 

One of the most exciting aspects of having a good social media presence is the three-way relationship that you can build between pupils, parents and your school. Why is this important?

Well, first of all studies have proven that involved parents will have a greater impact on their children's education. If you have a platform where parents can see their children's work and exploits at school it can lead to driving involvement up.

Secondly,  you are offering a service where parents can communicate easily with the school. So longing as responses are punctual and helpful the level of trust between parent and school will grow. This will mean that your school's brand and reputation will also grow in the local, physical community (remember, people talk 😃).

How to get started.

We are going to assume that you have some social media already set up, most likely Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (or a combination of these three). What should be looked at, and rectified where needed, is your school's vision and how this is represented on your social media outlet(s). By this we suggest these basic principles to follow:

  1. does your social media page reflect your school's theme? In other words if you advertise your school as being traditional is this represented by the style of your page's headers, icons and images? Or if your school is known for being highly creative in the arts is this reflected?
  2. do you have a brand message? Consider your website; what is the core message you are trying to put across, and does this translate across your social media? Again this is about consistency but specifically focussed on putting your school's value(s) out into your community.
  3. if you have multiple platforms are they consistent with one another? Is your naming strategy consistent throughout? Does each social media outlet have the same school crest as it's profile picture? Do the headers match or follow a theme of sorts? If the answer is no then it would be highly worth making some small, simple but effective changes.

Check out the video below from Wimbledon High School - it is a fantastic example of their core message "Imagine" and is the first thing visitors will see on their school website. 

Now look at their social media sites for Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, alongside their website landing page. They have theme and the school's core value (Imagine) consistently throughout. This is what you should be striving for!

With everything looking good what should you do to start? Obviously #BackToSchool is a huge event. It sees the return of pupils as well as an influx of new ones. Here are some small tips that can help you disseminate the momentousness of the occasion to your community:

  • begin posting helpful, valuable and highly relevant content. This can be anything that you feel will be of value to your followers. Some ideas are:
    • term start times
    • transport information
    • where to buy supplies and uniforms
    • important events related to the start of term time (e.g. assemblies that new parents can attend during the first week)
    • afterschool clubs times/fees.

Make your platforms a well-known place for parents to find the information they require

  • senior members of your school, including the head, can introduce themselves. This can be a short post wishing everyone luck on their first day or a message to parents about an exciting year to come. Remember, this is about building a sense of community so seeing content from the 'leaders' can go a long way

Know your social media platform.

Having a sound understanding of the various platforms out there and what each can offer is an essential step in developing your strategy. Luckily we have some fantastic infographics that provide an oversight of each social media and what they can offer in their unique ways. 🙌

Getting more followers

Having a strategy is of course very important but absolutely fruitless if people aren't following you. It is time to think about how you can begin to drive your list of followers up. Luckily we have pulled together some cool ideas that will quickly engage more parents to follow you.

@ or # stuff!

Yes, sounds simple enough but putting your social media handle or school-related # onto things is an effective way for parents and pupils to know that you have a presence online. How about using chalk and tagging your school asphalt or pavement for the first day back? Or creating some merchandise that parents can buy - t-shirts, frisbees and bags being some simple items to arrange. It doesn't need to cost an arm and a leg and the end result can be a thriving virtual community for you to oversee.

Raffle

Have a raffle, with prize winners to be announced on social media. Nothing will get people following you faster than the promise of a prize!

Promote the traditional way

Yep, even social media can benefit from the old-school methods. Posters, leaflets and actual newsletters can be employed to make people aware that you are also online. Boost hype by developing a large first-term campaign - all details to be revealed over the weeks on social media.

Snapchat Geofilters

A bit more specific but the Snapchat Geofilter is an amazing way to engage the younger parents and their kids. Snapchat is incredibly popular with 13-24 year olds. Geofilters work by being an overlay image on the Snapchat application - specific to a geographical location. You can create one for as little as £5 and specify a date range when this will be available. This guide explains everything is greater detail. Employ Snapchat Geofilters and really show off your ability to be part of the digital world.

What can I post?

With the basics being taken care of, and your list of mums and dads growing by the second, it's time for the fun stuff: what you can post across your platforms. The short answer is (pretty much) ANYTHING. The core thing to remember is value. ALWAYS VALUE!

How about considering a few of these ideas?

  • Build excitement around the first day back: obviously time is limited for the actual #BackToSchool date but you can start building excitement with a few simple posts. Perhaps introduce new staff members and bid fond farewells to those who departed at the end of last term. Post an animation or short video recapping the previous year with the tag line, 'Let's make this year even better.' Announce the fantastic A-Level and GSCE results that are now out. Be innovative and have some fun - it will translate to interested followers.
  • Cheat-sheets and handy instructional videos: for the less tech-savvy how about a video or animated guide showing them how to sign up on social media, post questions to the school or even turn on notifications so they can be alerted to your school's posts as they happen? 
  • Success from the pupils: 90% of parents who follow your feeds are likely wanting to see their child doing things and being successful. Promote this, it will be one of your greatest assets. Parents will be happy and you will effortlessly build an archive of images and videos for prospective families to view.

The #BackToSchool Strategy

Ok, so we have spoken about some of the principles behind social media but now it is time to focus on the big part - the strategy. This will be the most important part to implement and maintain. It will undoubtedly change as the year goes on - to meet the demands of your school - so we have 5 Interactive Schools inspired actions to take and really kick off the new term:

1. Does your marketing STAND OUT? What will make you different to your competitors? This is all about being that needle in the haystack; the big fish in the big sea; the diamond among the rough. This is the essential part of the strategy and so much of it boils down to creating an emotional impact on the end users: parents, pupils and prospectives. 

2. Does your social naming match throughout? This is one of the ways we believe will make your social media STAND OUT and makes it easy for anyone to find you across all platforms you operate on. This point is covered in the 'How to Get Started' segment. Remember, it is so incredibly important to aim for a consistency with your social media. This may require making some small changes (i.e. ensuring all social media profile icons are the same) but it will equate to a big difference.

3. Do you have a content strategy framework ready to use at your school? This should cover all the details such as:

  • what to post
  • when to post
  • who posts
  • where it is posted
  • ratio of school-related posts to non-school-related posts
  • who governs the profiles.

If you don't have one then make sure you define one. This will essentially be a one-stop guide for you to refer to when considering the coming social media marketing plan.

4. Is your process to communicate with parents streamlined? This isn't just about responding to queries raised by parents via social media; it is about how you get information to them. One great way to make a huge dent in this process is asking parents to turn notifications on for your profiles. This will ensure that when you post they will see it.

5. Finally, do you have an audit process in place to make sure content is only published once? Nothing looks more unprofessional that your feed filled with the same image because too many people are trying to post at the same time and it was not clear who was doing what. We recommend using scheduling tools such as Buffer (you can read our guide to using Buffer here) so that multiple people can see what is being queued up for publishing. 

We can help

All this may seem simple to some and unreasonably complex to others - that is only natural. What we want you to take away from this is we are here to help! This is what we do as a company; our mission is to help schools STAND OUT online. 

We would therefore love to invite you our intSchools LIVE event - 5 cities, 5 days, #coffee. From 19th - 23rd Sep 2016, Interactive Schools CEO & Founder, Simon Noakes will be taking to the English roads, so you can talk to him personally face-to-face. This is an amazing opportunity to ask him anything about social media marketing in schools. To book an appointment (60 minute slots) click the button below. 

The locations are:

Otherwise we are here to help in any capacity we can. You can head to our website and fill out a contact form with any queries you may have, or send us a query in the comments box below.

Book an appointment with Interactive Schools using SetMore

We hope that this guide has aided you in your #BackToSchool preperations. We'd love to hear some of your stories, comments or thoughts about social media marketing and this article. Comment below.

Does mindfulness have a place in schools?

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
— Albert Einstein

Mindfulness at its most basic concept is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. It is associated heavily with breathing techniques and meditation and, until recently, was not a particularly Western concept.

Throughout history the practice of mindfulness is synonymous with religion, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism; though there are links to all major religions. In modern society however mindfulness has been associated with scientific studies, forms of medical treatment, and as a tool to improve general living.

Studies show that mindfulness can help with a myriad of things, including: stress, managing pain, anxiety, depression, sleep issues, controlling substance abuse problems, and overcoming/managing personality disorders. While some may find this somewhat questionable, the backing of scientific and clinical studies would suggest that it can in fact be a real asset to medicine. 

But what else can this apparently miraculous practice bring to the table? Studies suggest that mindfulness can boost many different characteristics, depending on how you approach it.

  • calmness
  • creativity
  • happiness
  • tenacity
  • memory
  • compassion
  • heightened awareness
  • self-control
  • problem solving
  • decision making

All of these have been noted as common traits that mindfulness exercises can improve.

With a steady increase in popularity, mindfulness is obviously making a lasting impression in today's tech-fuelled society. But what practical applications could mindfulness education have in our classrooms? Are there positive benefits that could be reaped from the odd workshop here and there? Or could these benefits lead to mindfulness being on the Curriculum - fitting comfortably perhaps in subjects like PHSE (Personal, Health and Social Education)? 

Interestingly a recent UK Government drive, with Nicky Morgan as Secretary of State for Education at the helm, was to promote 'Character Education'. This promotion saw character traits being actively taught to young learners under the premise it will make them more resilient in the real world. These traits included:

  • perseverance, resilience and grit
  • confidence and optimism
  • motivation, drive and ambition
  • neighbourliness and community spirit
  • tolerance and respect
  • honesty, integrity and dignity
  • conscientiousness, curiosity and focus

Notice some similarities? Amazingly, those characteristics identified as being a essential to the futures of coming generations closely resemble those that studies suggest mindfulness can help deliver. Advocates for mindfulness will surely argue a touch of serendipity to this.

Evidence is beginning to stack to one side of this question. With the UK Government wishing to provide young learners with certain traits, and mindfulness a seemingly perfect way to deliver these traits, it would be obvious to say that there is a place for mindfulness in schools.

How to be More Mindful Every Day

Getting into the practise of mindfulness is actually quite easy. It does require some discipline and can take a while to master, but by following 5 basic principles it can easily integrate into your day-to-day living. Through learning these 5 steps it becomes clearer just how you could adapt mindfulness to be used in learning.

  1. Put your phone on Airplane Mode: It is amazing just how distracting a phone can be. How many times have you quickly checked your phone when talking to a friend or trying to focus on a task? Remove the temptation, even if it just for 30 minutes a day, and give your full attention to what you are doing. 
  2. Connect with nature: You don't need to go full Bear Grylls, but doing something like going for a walk in the woods is an effective way to reconnect with the physical world. Take notice of what is around you and be aware of how your thoughts wonder. Remember: mindfulness is about being present in the moment.
  3. Get more sleep: This is essential. Being tired makes being present that much harder. It may be difficult for some but make the aim to get a full eight hours each night. Believe us, you will notice a difference. It goes without saying that having young learners adopt this same philosophy will really help them during school hours.
  4. Meditate: Forget the cross-legged, five-hour stint under the torrent of a waterfall. No, meditation requires you to be comfortable and undistracted. Sitting in a dark room is a perfect start. Begin by trying to sit in silence for 5 minutes and focus on your breathing, slowly in and out. Your mind will wonder but this is fine. You aren't trying to find Nirvana; you are focussing on being in the moment.
  5. Eat slowly and savour your food: Eating for many now is an automatic process. How many of us chew and think, "Wow! This is delicious"? During your next meal think about each bite you take: the texture and flavours. Chew slowly and take note of what you can taste. By learning this process you are beginning to master the art of being present. 

As a final note, there are loads of amazing books, apps and online sources for mindfulness. Don't be afraid to try it and don't make the excuse of having no time. Meditation, for example, can just be 5 minutes a day. Instead of hitting the snooze button in the morning try sitting up in bed and giving the meditation a go! This could be the key to unlocking more happiness and reducing stress in our hectic lives. 

We would love to hear your views on mindfulness and whether it could benefit young learners. Comment below.

Guest Blog: Keeping Children Safe Online

The internet is a wonderful place for children to learn and keep in touch with loved ones, but there’s always threats that are difficult to protect them from. We spoke to Rosalind Brookman of Broadband Genie about some of the steps we can take to help keep children safe online.

Online safety in schools

Technology is now an important part of a student’s learning experience, both at school and at home. Along with the many positives that this can bring, however, it also creates many areas of concern around exactly what students may be able to access.

Schools can ensure that their own devices are rendered safe for pupil use, by equipping their IT network with the correct filters and monitoring systems to prevent inappropriate content being viewed and which will flag up any concerns but students’ personal smartphones and tablets present a trickier problem.

Encouraging thoughtful online behaviour

Monitoring or removing personal devices from students is not an effective answer to keeping them safe on the internet. Pro-actively teaching them to demonstrate positive online behaviour is more likely to protect them in the long run and is something that can be incorporated throughout all aspects of the curriculum, not just during IT lessons.

Pupils should be helped to identify the boundaries (including the legal implications that could arise from inappropriate online actions) they should adhere to in terms of good internet practices and the consequences outlined in school policy if they deliberately overstep them. For their own safety they need to understand the potential ramifications of posting personal information online and can be reminded that their mobile devices should not be left lying around so that others can access their private data.

Preventing cyberbullying

All schools should already have a tough anti-bullying policy in place, and it is vital that the whole student body is clear that this includes a zero tolerance approach to all forms of online harassment, or cyberbullying, as well. Students might receive threats of physical abuse or psychological intimidation; or the humiliation of somebody posting unwanted photos or derogatory messages on social networking sites. With practically everybody owning some sort of mobile device nowadays cyberbullying can become a continuous and inescapable pressure for its victims.

Teachers need to be vigilant for signs that a child is being bullied online: withdrawal from classroom interactions or social activities, the sudden drop in standards of school work, drastic changes in appearance or personality, signs of depression or self-harm and a greater obsession with checking their mobile device, followed by extreme behaviours could all point to potential cyberbullying.

There should be a transparent and robust strategy in place for those who are victims of cyberbullying. Teachers need to ensure their pupils know that any worries they have around this issue will always be taken seriously and that there is a defined action plan that can be used to help them deal with it. They should be advised to keep any evidence that they are being bullied (take screen shots etc.) and to report abuse via the specific buttons on their social media accounts as well as to a trusted adult. School can provide an anonymous drop box, email address or hotline for this if necessary. 

Technology is a huge asset to education and a stimulating motivational tool for schools. A forward thinking teaching structure, along with support from parents at home, can help to foster a positive and confident online school community as well as creating a safe pathway for children to explore and assertively resolve issues around negative conduct.

Keeping children safe online is a paramount issue. We would love to hear your views on this below.

Can playing video games at school boost learning? Microsoft certainly think so!

Yes, it’s fun and, yes, it’s engaging but the way we use Minecraft, it’s not a game. It’s a genuine learning technique.
— Leigh Wolmarans, Headteacher of Lings Primary School, Northampton, UK

It seems pretty obvious to say that technology has invaded practically every aspect of our day-to-day living. But when it comes to education there has been some reluctance in seeing the age of digital meet the classroom and our young learners. 

Tech powerhouse Microsoft are on the brink of releasing their answer to this, Minecraft: Education Edition. For those who have not seen Minecraft, it is an open-world, or Sandbox, game where players can create entire worlds using blocks - lots and lots of blocks.

User-created house with water feature and livestock.

User-created house with water feature and livestock.

What you can build ranges from basic little homes, with fireplaces and a table and chair set, to castles in the clouds or the Eiffel Tower. Quite literally the only limit is your imagination. Resources are mined from the player inhabited world using tools, zombies and spiders can be slain with crafted weapons, and you can even create music using "soundblocks" ----------->

 

The latest iteration of Minecraft, to be released September 2016 by Microsoft, is aimed at the classroom. In a press release, Microsoft claim that through working alongside teachers they have created a version of the game that can actively boost learning.

Geography seems the most logical starting point for subjects which the game can begin to broach. Creating landscapes filled with mountains, gorges, farmland and flowing streams are all very easy things to do in-game. But what about more obscure subjects? How about creating the Great Pyramids for history lessons; or stages and scenery for drama, then acting out plays with avatars? What about creating real structures to perfect scale for mathematics or making giant artistic pieces in block form? It is all very, very possible.

At this year's Bett Show, Microsoft showcased the possible applications of Minecraft and biology; taking onlookers through a human eye created in-game. Sign-posts dotted outside and inside the ocular structure detailed the process of light entering the eye through the cornea through to signals being sent to the brain. What it expertly demonstrated is an innovative, digital and highly approachable format for bettering learner education. No longer will the dusty, old projector need to be wheeled out for science info reels!

A model of the human eye, demoed by Microsoft at Bett Show 2015

A model of the human eye, demoed by Microsoft at Bett Show 2015

Subjects aside, there are other benefits to be taken from the game. Character building skills such as collaboration, creativity and problem solving are all possible outcomes through playing.

One common example where this is highlighted is where students are tasked with building a representation of their own school. They need to go out of the classroom, measure it up and estimate scales. They need to work together and decide  who’s going to build the cafeteria, the gym, and the science lab. In a group they need to decide the right materials to use. Alone the task would be too much but as a group there is a notion of being able to create something really special.

Minecraft: Education Edition will be released in September this year with a subscription cost up to $5 for every user.

Could you see your school using Minecraft as a learning tool? We'd love to hear your thoughts below.

Using Buffer to schedule social media posts

Don’t start your day until you have finished it. Plan your day.
— Jim Rohn

If you are invested in the digital marketing industry chances are you have heard of Buffer; an incredibly useful tool for scheduling social media posts. We use Buffer daily and absolutely love it. The time it can help save alone makes it an essential part of our business.

Schools are very busy places, and most marketers are strapped for time. This is where scheduling comes into play! Most marketers will know what is happening during the day - trips, concerts, sports fixtures, visitors and so on - so these can all be scheduled.

Start the day by scheduling the key events that are happening today.

This blog piece will cover top Buffer tips focussed around scheduling posts across your social media platforms.

Getting Started

Ok. You've signed up with Buffer but where do you start? Buffer is practically valueless if you haven't added your social media accounts; so let's start there. 

From your dashboard you will be able to see, on the left, Accounts with the plus+ symbol next to it. Click it. You will see that you can add profiles for six different social media sites.

  • Twitter: simply add your school's @TwitterName handle
  • Facebook: you can add three different elements depending on how you use Facebook. These are:
    • Profile (i.e John Smith)
    • Page (i.e. JS Digital Marketing)
    • Group (i.e. John Smith's Marketing Tips)
  • LinkedIn: similarly LinkedIn has two different elements you can add:
    • Profile (i.e John Smith)
    • Page (i.e. JS Digital Marketing)
  • Google+: add your business page
  • Pinterest: add your Pinterest handle (note, this is only available on the Awesome Plan)
  • Instagram: Buffer's newest addition, just add you @InstagramName handle. 

Added them all? Perfect. Let's look now at the Dashboard.

The Buffer Dashboard

This is what our dashboard often looks like. As you can see we have queued up posts to go out on Twitter and Facebook throughout the day.

This means that for a small amount of work in the morning, finding photos to share and looking at what events are happening today, we have ensured that a day's worth of Tweets/posts will reach our audience.

Schedules

To maximise our reach we have created a schedule. This means that Buffer will automatically post at the times you specify. Using Twitter as an example here is how we post -------->

Setting up your own time plan is very easy to do. Click on the desired social media platform you want to schedule. From that site's dashboard you can see a tab called Schedule. Click this and you will see a page similar to the one aside (minus of course the scheduled times). 

Before you get going take note of the Schedule Timezone. If you want posts to actually post at the time you intend make sure that you have set the timezone to your area. It seems obvious but if missed the default may be 6 hours ahead or behind, and you could be missing out on reaching your intended audience

Your audience is online throughout the entire day - but schools tend to tweet during key times:

  • Before school (8am)
  • Lunchtime (12pm)
  • After school (4pm)

Which means a huge number of people will miss your tweets - particularly parents who may  be at work during those hours, and not checking Twitter until the late evening.

It becomes a 24 hour game when you have international pupils!

Creating a Schedule

Creating the schedule is as easy as clicking New Posting Schedule. Here are a few tips to nail down your plan:

  • Everyday or specific days: do you want to have posts going out daily or are there a particular range of days you had in mind? Knowing the days and times that will be of the greatest benefit will help drive stats such as Click Through Rate (CTR) and impressions
  • How often and at what level: do you want your posts to go out at a high level or do you want them spaced out? Do you plan to send 5 tweets a day or 20? These are all important points to consider.

Adding to the Queue

Excellent, you have a schedule and are ready to start posting. There are three easy ways this can be done:

  1. Writing posts through Buffer
  2. Using the Buffer tool on social media sites
  3. Using an app/extension on your browser.

Buffer.com is the obvious first stop. First, make sure you are in the Content tab and you will see a field with What do you want to share? inside it. Clicking on this will open a box where you can craft your content. You can then Add to Queue (or choose from other options, according to what you need).

The second option can be done through your chosen social media platform. They will now all have a Buffer icon/button somewhere, making it very easy to queue your content up.

The final option, one that we use more than any other, is to add an extension to your browser. This is simple enough to do, depending on the browser of choice.

This tool will enable you to Buffer any page with a few simple clicks, including editing the post and adding images and the like.

So if you are on a news article on your website, or blog post, then you can instantly Buffer that page without having to leave your website.

Going Pro

Buffer's Awesome Plan offers more advanced and greater options compared to the Individual (free) Plan. 

The key features of the Awesome Plan include:

  • More profiles, more planning: the cap of 1 profile for each social media outlet has been raised up to 10. This means that if your company has multiple accounts on Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn,  you can now Buffer across them all with relative ease. Likewise the queue limit of 10 (for each platform) has been raised to 100. This grants you so much scope for planning way in advance; giving you more time to focus on other areas. This is very useful if you have multiple departmental Twitter accounts.
  • Different day, different plan: there is now no limit to how much control you can put over your schedule. If you want Monday to have two posts at 10:00am and 11:00am, then Tuesday to have 15 posts every half hour during office hours then you can easily set this up. This freedom with scheduling means you can easily create multiple plans to cover your week, and month if needed!

A few more points

So that's the basics pretty much covered. A few more things to take note of:

  • You can specify your own times. This is for already queued posts or ones that you may be writing. Setting a custom time will queue the post as normal, and will not affect other posts already in the schedule. Do note that it will push posts down the queue.
  • Individual (free) accounts are limited to 10 posts in the Buffer queue at any one time (per social media platform). 
  • You can integrate RSS Feeds into your scheduling. This offers such an easy way to source posts from sites/feeds that you have liked or use. Or to pull through your own school news/blogs. There is a limit of one feed per platform, or 15 per platform with the Awesome Plan.
  • There are a host of useful tools included on the dashboard to help you make the most of Buffer. Analytics is one such - taking note of CTR and impressions over a period of time will help you see what times and what types of posts are getting the most engagement.

For more helpful tips head over to Buffer's YouTube channel. They have put together a series of insightful videos to help you become a social media scheduling pro in no time at all!

Buffer is an important tool for our social media planning and posting. We would love to hear your comments below on how you use Buffer.