Marketing Advice for Schools caught up with Mark Woodward, Webmaster (and Head of Careers) at Bablake to find out how the school had embraced social media and the impact it has had on the school.
Mark has had an interesting career path. He started off as a Classics teacher, then took over responsibility for careers education. In 2006 he stopped teaching and as well as careers education took over responsibility for the school website and publications. Mark had been using the Internet for careers research for a while and had set up his own careers website to help students access careers information (www.woodyswebwatch.com - worth a visit in itself!). He was aware that students were going online for careers information and started to educate them in safe use of the Internet.
His work led in a logical progression to setting up social media. The first step was to work with his Headmaster and Director of Studies on a general policy. They didn't find any obvious problems with setting up a Twitter account but were much more tentative about Facebook given the less open nature of the platform. However, the students and parents were keen and so Mark worked with two of the school's senior prefects to draw up a proposal for moderating the school Facebook page. All posts are moderated, but there has been little problem in reality, Mark commenting 'people know you can't be anonymous'. Having said that, he would also be able to identify issues affecting the school and pass them on to senior management to address quickly if something critical happened.
The school now has a flexible approach to social media - they know that different groups will use different media. Facebook is used mainly by 25-35 year old former pupils, but they are seen as very important as they have their own families and become parents of the next generation of potential students. Students at the school favour newer social media - Instagram and Snapchatare popular. The school tries new platforms and moves on if they're not seen to have a significant take-up - 'we've tried Tumblr and Google+ but they weren't popular - we're now looking at Vine', adds Mark.
What links the different social media is a central approach to content development. Mark gets content from across the school - from staff, the school diary, the other publications he edits, and has started using WhatsApp to get content from teachers leading school trips. He produces one key story per day during term time as well as 60 stories to use across the holidays, but will also focus more time on the biggest stories - for example the school recently worked with a school in South Africa to offer a range of practical help, including creating the school's website. He is keen to post the stories in real time wherever possible in order to be able to reply to the wider community, although he does admit to occasionally scheduling website posts in the long holidays if likely to be away from a WiFi connection.
Mark believes that the school's success comes from having an insider working on communications - ''I'm part of a group of local private schools and some have outsourced social media - that means that content is regularly posted but there's no interaction. My goal is to 'make it real' and show that we are the best school in the Midlands.' Mark is also able to approach staff as a peer and for example offer advice on the best photographs to take.
What is the impact? In numerical terms there are a lot of people engaging with the school - the school has almost 2,000 Twitter followers and over 1,000 followers on the school's main Facebook page and over 700 on the Alumni page. They are also active - with typically 500 Facebook visitors per day and a highly active Twitter community that includes celebrities and many former students. The school has managed to weather the economic downturn well, but Mark says that the biggest impact has been in relationship development - 'for example we've had former students come back to careers events to give advice to current students'.
Bablake School's Social Media Numbers
1974: Twitter Followers
1087: Facebook Followers
790: Alumni Facebook Followers (private site)
55: Klout score