The sin of social media is self-promotion.
Just because social media is “free” (and it’s increasingly costing more to participate), it does not mean it is a venue for “free advertising”! And worse, it does not mean it is a venue for incessant self-promotion. In reality, you have to understand this mantra when it comes to social media:
“It’s not about US, it’s about THEM.”
When all of your social media postings are about your school, this is what I consider as “scrapbook” content. It is not evil, but it requires an important question be asked.
Who’s the audience?
Scrapbooks are typically a lot more interesting and compelling for those who have experienced something (a summer camp, a vacation, etc.) If you gather your friends who experienced this with you and shared your scrapbook with them, you could sit for hours and reminisce about all the wonderful memories. Everyone would already recall the specific people involved (i.e., those funny camp counselors or that hiking guide who seemed to always get his facts wrong!) You would find yourself pouring over that scrapbook for a long time, oo-in and ah-ing over every visual reminder of the experience!
Now try and gather 5 friends who did not experience what you did. This is common on mission trips to far-away places (I was a missionary for 10 years, so I got this feeling a lot). You get out the scrapbook and start to share detailed accounts of every photo and feeling that same enthusiasm — except that your realize your audience of 5 is less engaged. Sure, they start out interested, but eventually, they cannot make the connection because they do not have the emotional attachment that you do. In a matter of minutes, you find yourself flipping hurriedly through the stack of photos only to hear them say at the end, “Wow, that was neat. Now, where do you want to go to lunch?”
When your school exclusively posts “scrapbook” content on your Facebook page (or other social platform), you will showcase some interesting things about your school, but it is unlikely that your content will resonate with your prospective families.
Here are 5 sins of social media scrapbooking:
- PRONOUNS – when you post a photo of everyone’s favorite teacher, do not post it with the description, “Click LIKE if you like her class!” If I am not yet a student at your school, I immediately feel like an outsider. And while a name identifies her more, use the opportunity to tell me (the outsider) something unique about this teacher. And if you can link me to a video on your website where I can learn more, all the better.
- NO DESCRIPTION – It pains me to see a generically titled photo album on a school’s Facebook page, only to find 15 photos with no description. It does not take long for someone to go in to your photo gallery and tell me (the prospective Dad) what that picture is about. Provide me context about the picture so I can know where the photos were taken, who was on the field trip and how the photos showcase something unique about your school. For example, if your Student Council hosts a Staff Appreciation breakfast, do not just show me pictures of the pancake event without giving me a history of this rich tradition (this could be a link to a video on the website).
- WHAT A TRIP! – speaking of far-away places, I see a lot of schools posting pictures of their far-out field trips across the country or around the world. This can be significant content to showcase the amazing opportunities your school offers, but provide as much context around it as you can. Share a link that explains how the students do group-fundraising events to pay for the trips (without it, this could intimidate some families who see the tuition cost alone as a financial challenge much less adding expensive trips), how the trips fit into your academic curriculum or character preparation (ensuring prospective families that they are not meaningless excursions), and include video testimonials from past students about the impact of such trips (if a Christian school senior talks about the spiritual impact of a junior year mission trip to Haiti, this speaks volumes to a prospective family).
- KIDS SITTING AT THE FEET OF A TEACHER – I see so many schools posting pictures of lower school kids circled around a teacher reading to them. While sometimes you can’t think of anything else to post, I would suggest this is the most worthless piece of content. Why? I follow schools of all types (public, independent non-religious, Christian) and everyone posts the same type of picture. This does nothing to differentiate you. If you have to post a picture like this, do it in a cool outdoor setting that your competition can’t replicate. Tell more about the book being read because it could provide more opportunities to tell about the types of topics discussed at your school that might not be able to be talked about at another school).
- AND THE AWARD GOES TO . . . – showcasing your athletic teams, drama, debate, choir or band is a natural part of the content mixture on your Facebook page. Again, if you have a prospective family in mind, look for UNIQUENESS when posting this content. If this is your girl’s basketball 2nd straight state championship, that is worth noting. Even if your choir did not win at the regional competition, post a photo with a link to a choir page on your website where you list other awards or even video testimonials of what students love about choir at your school. Posting football banquet award pictures could have more impact on prospective families if paired with a link to a video introduction to your school’s football coach where he shares his values and coaching philosophy (which are hopefully different than the public school down the street).
There are valid reasons for sharing pictures and posting things about your school. You can often give prospective families a peek “behind the curtain” and show what “real life” is like on your campus (which hopefully seems much more believable than a billboard or brochure). Self-promotional postings can entice a prospective family to want to know more because they want to be a part of your school family. But just remember to keep these prospective families in mind when posting on social media. And remember:
“It’s not about US, it’s about THEM!”
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