Adapted from a presentation by Inga Cotton, Founder & Executive Director of San Antonio Charter Moms, at the Texas Charter Schools Conference on Wednesday, October 30, 2019.
Families rely on digital information to make help them make decisions about where to send their children to school. How can your school use online platforms like social media and mobile apps to present information that accurately reflects school culture and motivates families to enroll? Parent activist Inga Cotton, founder and executive director of San Antonio Charter Moms, offers advice about best practices and tools for effectively communicating about your school on social media and boosting enrollment.
These are the elements of using social media and mobile apps for boosting student enrollment:
- Social media platforms that families are using
- Communicating school culture
- Enrollment information and calls to action
- The funnel: enrollment to advocacy
Families on Social Media
Social media is the digital distillation of word of mouth, a powerful driver of parenting and childrearing decisions.
- Facebook: Widely used by parents and caregivers, including older Millennials and Generation X. Images and videos, including live videos, often get more traction than text. Posts on public pages may need a paid boost to reach a wide audience.
- Facebook Groups: Posts in groups are seen by many members, but groups need careful moderation to stay civil and positive. Groups can build a sense of community.
- Instagram: A highly visual platform that reaches a younger audience. Establishes the look and identity of a school.
- Instagram Stories: Brief, short-lived videos that spread ideas and promote engagement.
- Snapchat: Brief, visual, localized platform popular with younger families and teen students.
- Twitter: Less for families and more for reaching media, elected officials, and other leaders.
- YouTube: A place where families go to learn, where a longer video can inform about school culture and mission.
Communicating School Culture
When families begin a school search, they have many unanswered questions, including basic facts about the differences between charter schools and other types of schools. They are still learning about different types of schools and the meaning of terms such as STEM, project-based learning, liberal arts, dual language, and Montessori. Presenting your school’s culture on social media is a way to help families understand what to expect when they enroll their children at your school.
- Branding: Frequently present identifiers such as the school’s name, colors, mascot, motto, signage, and campus. If your students wear uniforms, show them.
- People: Show faces of students, teachers, school leaders, parents, grandparents, and community supporters. Families will notice things they can identify with—“These are people like me!”
- Mission: Talk about your learning model and show it in action. Examples: STEM activities like Hour of Code and solar car races. Learning in nature like urban farming or tending a chicken coop. Achievements like victories in science fairs and spelling bees. Workplace learning. Travel, such as college visits. Celebrations like college signing day or book club parties. Inclusive events like Special Olympics. Arts activities like plays and art exhibits.
Enrollment Information on Social Media
Families are overwhelmed with information and need help to make sure the important things—like applying to a charter school during open enrollment—get done. Email communication is essential, but sometimes messages get overlooked.
- Beat the drum about enrollment timelines. Your followers are not going to see every social media post, so be redundant.
- Families still have basic questions about charter schools, such as whether they charge tuition, whether students have to take a test to get in, and if they accept special education students. Our site, sachartermoms.com, has explainers to help.
- Families are also still learning why it’s important to apply during open enrollment, what it means to go through a lottery, and how waiting lists work. We can help.
- Share your events. Use all your channels to invite families to come to your school for open houses, information sessions, school tours, and more.
- Ask parents and caregivers to take action now: register for an event, fill out an online application, tell a friend.
- Teamwork: Set up joint information sessions with other charter schools in your part of town. Use resources like libraries, community centers, and computer labs.
- Partner with organizations in your area that communicate with families about education. We offer a free mobile app, San Antonio Charter Schools, available at sachartermoms.com/app, that includes information about enrollment dates and lets families opt in to notifications that buzz their phone about deadlines.
- Spruce up your school website. Look at a school profile in the app and make sure all that information is easy to find on your website. For example, is it easy for families to find out what grade levels you serve?
- Defend your digital reputation. Look at school ratings and sites where users post reviews. You can’t take down the bad stuff, but you can balance the information by encouraging your most engaged families to speak up.
Funnel: Enrollment to Advocacy
On the journey to becoming parent advocates, families are moving through a funnel. They start out with big dreams of a bright future for their children. Then, they learn about what education options are available to them in their community and how to navigate the enrollment process. Once they have their children enrolled in schools that are a good fit, where they are happy and learning, then parents and caregivers are ready to speak up for their schools, their teachers, and for high quality education. The digital communication tools that we discussed today can also be applied to advocacy work. That was the topic of our talk earlier this week, on Monday, October 28 at 4:00 PM, on Charter Moms Advocacy: Community Building Through Social Media. If you missed that presentation, we encourage you to look up those materials in this earlier post and reach out to us with questions.
- “Charter School Advocacy: Community Building Through Social Media,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, October 29, 2019
- “[Hall Monitor] On Mobile Apps and Equity,” San Antonio Charter Moms, April 27, 2019
- “Charters 101: Being a Charter School Parent Advocate – Founders Schertz Edition,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, March 5, 2018
- “Notes from the Texas School Choice Week Rally in Austin on January 30, 2015,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, February 2, 2015