George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

Creating a Dynamic Facebook Page for Your School

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

There are a number of reasons that educators use social media. Most often, we talk about its potential impact on student engagement and learning, educator professional growth and family communications. We speak less frequently about another important use: Marketing and public relations.

Historically, most public schools haven't actively marketed themselves -- and they haven't needed to. But in the evolving landscape of public education, with ever-present conversations about school choice and concerns about school quality, that is changing. As Principal Michael Waiksnis wrote in Principal Leadership:

"Public education has been taking a beating in the press and in popular culture for some time now. If you judge schools solely by the news and peoples' perceptions, all US educators would all be working in downright awful schools. But the truth isn't close to what is portrayed by many of those outside education. As educators working on the front lines every day, what can we do to accurately tell our stories?"

One place where schools and districts can take charge of their image is Facebook. And as of September 2013, 71 percent of online adults used Facebook -- so the audience is there.

For the Beginner

Setting up a school Facebook page is relatively simple (this video from Pasco County Schools gives step-by-step instructions).

But before diving in, review your district's social media policy (if applicable) to make sure you act appropriately. And think through a few key decisions about how you will incorporate Facebook into your school or district culture and communication plan. For example, who will have administrator rights -- and responsibility for uploading content? To ensure active use, task someone on staff with collecting and posting content. At the district level, a central office official might make sense. At the school level, the principal, assistant principal, library media specialist, head custodian or someone else may be appropriate, based on the school's context.

Also consider questions such as: Are you going to post pictures of students? Who can post to your page (comments and pictures)? Are you going to tag students, staff and others? Who is going to moderate comments?

Content Ideas: Low-Hanging Fruit

You also have to decide what content to feature. Some types of content will help improve communications with families or strengthen engagement at home. For PR purposes, include content that spreads the word about the great things happening in your school or district. Here are a few specific ideas, many of which come from Lincoln Public Schools (NE) Communications Specialist Zachary Baehr, via a breakout session at the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) 2014 Annual Seminar.

Some educators are concerned about joining social media because of time constraints. However, there is a great deal of content you can post in very little time:

Idea #1: Share the School Calendar. A main reason that people visit a school or district Facebook page is the calendar and calendar-related announcements. Rumor has it the number-one driver of traffic to school social media sites is school closings. But once they come for the calendar, take advantage of the following to let them know the great things that are happening.

Idea #2: Link to Positive Stories. Was your school featured in the local paper? Post a link. Did the basketball team win a big game? Post a link. Was a teacher interviewed for the news? Post a link. And don't forget that a school is part of something bigger -- share district-wide success stories as well.

Idea #3: Post Photos of Events. Many of us carry smartphones that allow us to both take pictures and upload them to Facebook, so this can be a very simple process. Even if in general you don't post photos of individual learners, take team or action shots at athletic events. Band and choir concerts, student art shows, science fairs, school plays and other such events offer the opportunity to highlight what schools offer beyond the basics.

Idea #4: Congratulate Students and Staff Who Achieve. A sentence congratulating the students of the week, teacher of the month, swimmer who broke a district record, class that brought the most cans for a food drive or baseball team for a big win is quick to write. In addition to sharing the good news with the wider community, this simple activity can also improve school culture.

Going Deeper

After mastering the basics, you may be interested in creating additional content to truly highlight what makes your learning community special.

1. Post a Photo of the Week on a consistent day and time. Thanks to smartphones, this can be relatively easy. And giving people a glimpse into a school reminds them that it is a real place where real students go. In addition to (or in lieu of) photos of students, consider pictures of cafeteria food, students' shoes, hallway banners, classroom pets, school media centers and so on. You may also invite teachers, students and parents to submit photos for consideration.

2. Highlight New and Retiring Teachers and Staff. Facebook can be a great way to welcome new staff and celebrate the accomplishments of those moving on. In addition to sharing their photos, create short questionnaires for them to complete. Choose a highlight to include in the post, and upload the complete document.

3. Celebrate Staff Accomplishments -- and Highlight How They Benefit Students. When teachers and other staff members win awards, go on study trips, get advanced degrees or achieve any else you would like to highlight, have them write a sentence or two explaining what they did and how it benefits students. Use the response to craft a congratulatory post.

4. Create Written or Video Q & As with Students. According to Baehr, these are his most popular content. To start, target a small group of students (such as student government representatives, athletes, participants in other activities or winners of academic awards) to share their perspectives on their school. After conducting a few, you may want to open it up to all students.

5. Give Staff a "Homework" Assignment. Have staff share what they are teaching each week and post it with a related fact or link.

6. Feature Alumni. Create written or video Q & As with recent graduates discussing their transition to college and career. Elementary and middle schools can also feature success stories about moving up to new schools. These pieces both contribute to PR by highlighting success and serve as advice for current students and parents.

Post Strategically

Regardless of your content, it is best to share it strategically. Ritenour School District's (MO) Doug Bray offers tips on doing so on NSPRA's Social School Public Relations blog. Some of his best practices:

  • Be consistent in posting multiple times a week
  • Include photos with your post when possible
  • Don't publish too many stories in the same time frame (no more than three in a 24-hour period)
  • Don't publish multiple stories about the same subject in the same time frame

Do you have other ideas on using Facebook to spread the word about the good work happening in your school? Please share in the comments section below.

Was this useful? (2)

Comments (12) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Michelle H.'s picture
Michelle H.
I am a Title I teacher and the Facebook manager at Spitler Elementary in Hart, Michigan.

We started a Facebook page (link below) for our elementary school in September of 2012. We wanted to create a positive image for our school and get important information to parents and families. Many of our paper newsletters were not making it home, thus creating a lack of school to home communication.

When we launched our page we were concerned that there may be negative or inappropriate comments, but honestly we've only deleted two comments in two years. You can set your profanity filter to "strong" and also under "page moderation" in settings add any words that you want blocked. Here is the list of words we chose to block: hate, stupid, angry, mad, upset, hating, upsetting, frustrated, frustrating, balls, devil, satan and hated.

Our Facebook page has become a consistent & dependable resource for our families and community members. Not only do they have access to all the information we post (*even if not a Facebook member), but they can get answers by posting or messaging us. It has literally changed our public appearance in the community. Now parents can see all the wonderful things we are doing and they are bragging about it. We just became a 2013-2014 REWARD school so we are especially proud of that!

*How to set your page up so people without Facebook accounts can see your info. Go to "settings". Go to "country restrictions". Set to "page is visible to everyone". Our principal is not on Facebook, but she can see what's being posted.

TIPS: As soon as we have information we post it. We also give a one day reminder! At 3:30 P.M. every day is any reminder posts for the next day. Also at the first of each month we post a CALENDAR of EVENTS of everything scheduled for that month.

Steve C's picture

This is a very useful and straightforward guide that should enable most schools to manage their pages (considering it's often not a full-time job for a school admin or office manager). Keeping a consistent flow of information is really the key -- some schools either overwhelm or abandon their users by posting too much or too little. One thing that's also important is to have a privacy plan in place as to how you share images/names of students, especially those under 13. Additionally, have a response plan/team in place to answer any replies, questions, or criticisms. Not everything is worth responding to, but make sure you have a way to reply to parents who ask questions or show them the proper procedure for contacting school staff.

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat this schedule (& stealing it for our own FB group) -->
TIPS: As soon as we have information we post it. We also give a one day reminder! At 3:30 P.M. every day is any reminder posts for the next day. Also at the first of each month we post a CALENDAR of EVENTS of everything scheduled for that month.

Thank you!!

Michelle H.'s picture
Michelle H.
I am a Title I teacher and the Facebook manager at Spitler Elementary in Hart, Michigan.

Thanks Gwen! The scheduling a post feature has made my life a lot easier!!

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Hi everyone, and great article, Anne. Some very clear advice here for budding social media managers. I just wanted to add one little tip that I've discovered while I've been managing my school's FB page. We wanted to get to 1000 likes as quickly as possible to establish our presence, and the way that we did this was by allowing students (and parents) to vote for the bell song (we play a song instead of ringing bells at my school). This took off - we grew really quickly because everyone wanted to vote. So things like polls are a good way of building attention.

Katey's picture

Hi Anne!
I am currently pursuing my teaching credential and have been looking for ideas of ways to incorporate technology in my future classrooms, since I keep hearing about how difficult it is to maintain certain mediums like blogs consistently. I love this idea of using Facebook because it is one of the most popular social medias out there and most parents and colleagues likely already use it. It would be so much easier to post a photo or link via a smartphone directly to a Facebook page rather than trying to remember to update a classroom blog later on that day. Thanks for sharing! I look forward to using as a future teacher!

Sasha's picture

I have been trying to sell the idea of a face book page to my school for some time. No one has been taking it serious because they are not will to work on it and also they can not see how a FB page an actually help the school. Thanks to this article, I will be showing it to my colleagues and selling the idea over to them once again.
Great idea Anne. I am really thankful for the insight and ways in which I can go about this task.

Michelle H.'s picture
Michelle H.
I am a Title I teacher and the Facebook manager at Spitler Elementary in Hart, Michigan.


The great thing about the school Facebook page is that there are many levels. If there is hesitation or concern, just start the page as a view only. You can turn off comments, posting, tagging, downloading, etc..... You can leave "messaging" on because only your Facebook administrators would be able to see that. It gives parents a place to ask or get information without posting a comment directly on your page. We started our page very tight and secure and then slowly loosened up. It has been such a positive and informational resource for our families. Feel free to check us out.

Teri Turner's picture

How can I make a page "View Only?" I have gone through all the settings I can find. Thanks.

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

Teri...from page>>go to settings>>general (tab in left column)>>visitor post (selection in center column)>>select disable posts by others.

The best part about using social media tools though, is the ability to encourage, inspire and grow the 2-way conversations between those in the school building, and those outside of it. With proper modeling of best use and well communicated norms/expectations, tools like FB can be really a most positive way.

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.