Understanding the risks and rewards of social media for education organisations

For today’s younger generation of digital natives who are advancing through the education system, they will never know a life where the journey to school, breaks and lunchtimes aren’t spent checking and posting to social media networks like Instagram and Snapchat.

Blog post image 21Dec2017 2.pngThe appetite for sharing information at such a young age is being evidenced by the number of children under the legal age limit registering for ‘adult’ social media accounts. As one parent of a 10 year old recently put it “You don’t want to be the only parent at school that doesn’t allow your child on social media and I prefer that my son uses the platforms openly so that I can keep an eye on what he posts.”

However, as we know already it is not just the youth that are hitting the social channels, parents are increasingly turning to social media as their preferred communication channel over more traditional phone call or email. It was inevitable that social media habits which are rapidly becoming part of the daily routine like posting and checking Facebook or asking friends for recommendations, would transfer into working, engaging and studying in the education arena.

This has left the education institutions with a big challenge in terms of how they manage and deliver social media channels and content. Here we take a look at some of the key risks and rewards of social media on the education sector. In terms risks, there are some critical challenges to mitigate:

Cyber Bullying

Seven out of ten young people aged between 13 and 22 have been a victim of cyber bullying. Sadly, it is present in all forms of social media and not just amongst children but adults alike. As such, it is essential that educational establishment set out policies and procedures for social media use which staff, pupils and even parents must adhere to when interacting with a schools social accounts, and also more generally on social.

Likewise, there should be guidelines set out that allows these organisations to deal with cyber bullying immediately. Social media management platforms like SoCrowd can help you to listen in on what is being said across all official accounts as well as more generally within the community about pupils and teachers allowing you to act quickly, and in more serious cases provide an audit trail of conversations arising for use in criminal investigations.


It is well known that people are often more motivated in times of frustration to take to social media to complain than they are to tell an orgainsation how wonderful they are. Any visit to sites like Trip Advisor shows the passion we have today to complain online. There is now also an expectation as to the speed and mechanics of how a complaint will be handled, and managing expectations in and around this area is key.

It is important that complaints are acknowledged and dealt with effectively and efficiently to ensure they do not spiral. Thankfully, there are a number of useful frameworks you can follow to when it comes to complaints and negative comments via social; check out our webinar with Hel Reynolds to see how you can handle negative comments on social media.

Reputation Management

Like any other organisation, education institutions need to protect their reputation online, but social media places brands, people and working practices at risk every second of every day with the speed at which social media operates 24/7. Key to this is managing the security around social media assets. A misplaced shared password or lack of password protocols can result in embarrassing malicious posts being made over official accounts.

It is also essential that with more sensitive content that there is a ‘two sets of eyes’ policy to check and challenge content created prior to it being posting out. Social media management platforms have very effective built-in validation tools to ensure high-quality, consistent and on-brand content, and ‘kill switch’ triggers allowing social media content to be suspended in times of crisis to help protect brand reputation.

If the risks of social are managed effectively, the rewards can be leveraged and in many cases used as a point of differentiation:

Information Sharing

One key benefit of social media is the ability to share information. Schools using social media to its fullest can provide and tailor a vast amount of relevant information such as school trips, sports days or after school club news. Using social media in this way helps engage the local community, with research showing that 81% of parents who use social media try to respond to ‘good news’ shared by others.

Gauging Opinion

Social media has made it much easier to gauge the feeling of students, parents or teachers alike and can be used practically to conduct polls on opinions about certain topics, or to start discussions. Various case studies exist to show that the use of social media can be used to gain very positive buy-in and brand loyalty long-term from active listening and collaboration.


Increasingly, school groups and universities are using social media to attract prospective students. By targeting them in this way, it helps to build a relationship with the student and influence them prior to deciding which university to attend. The use of social media analytics features are providing a level of sophistication in education marketing never seen before, with specific insights of demographics associated with those following or engaging with social profiles.

Greenwood Academies Trust

Greenwood Academies Twitter

In 2015, the Greenwood Academies Trust had 51 Twitter accounts for its 25 academy schools. Managing the multiple accounts was challenging, and some issues were experienced with staff members leaving and sometimes taking the Twitter login details with them!

They adopted SoCrowd’s social media management platform to ensure that all accounts were plugged into a single management system, removing the issue of employees losing access to individual accounts. They were then able to focus on creating more valuable and engaging content to publish, using the ‘validation’ tool to allow more staff to create and schedule posts which could be quality checked before going live.

Additionally, since using SoCrowd the Greenwood Academies Trust has seen a significant increase in engagement with local communities, parents, pupils and other stakeholders, reaching an audience of over 5.2 million on Twitter alone.

Posting content that the audience recognised and valued was the precursor to driving meaningful engagement. Greenwood were able to excel at this, as they solved the inefficiencies associated with managing multiple accounts to create a more fluid and robust process for creating and sharing content.