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Quick question: Do you use social media?

Over the years, the one piece of advice I most often give to providers and educators is that they should sign up to receive the regular email updates from Ofsted, Department for Education and the sector press. It is vital they keep up-to-date with legislation, guidance and other important information that may affect their practices and, if necessary, make changes.

Nowadays my advice is that they should also be using social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Blogs, etc).

Last week I attended an evening seminar titled: ‘Close Encounters of the Digital Kind’social media...

There were interesting speakers and discussions on how we should embrace social media from a business point of view.

Social media can be used in a variety of ways within your setting: to market your setting, sharing positive aspects such as raising funds for charity, a new mud kitchen or sharing an innovative area in your practice.

However, it can also be used to reflect positive aspects of your setting in a time of crisis: I have noticed recently that local and national newspapers are quick to point out if a setting receives an inadequate Ofsted Judgment or a setting’s registration is suspended. If I do an on-line search of these providers, it is interesting that some of these providers do not engage in social media and in some cases do not even have a website, or their website is very basic and doesn’t bring alive their setting.

In one recent case, a local newspaper carried the story of a setting’s temporary suspension by Ofsted. I did a quick search of this setting: the only “hits” were this negative story, rather than the positive information that the setting could have shared via social media and on its website.

If the setting had had an effective website or used social media, it would have been able to confidently share the positive aspects of the setting. As we know, Ofsted does, at times, get it wrong. However, let me be clear that the newspaper story, as printed, was correct. If the story relates to a serious safeguarding and child protection issue then the public and prospective parents have the right to know.

Some providers say to me they are full, have a waiting list, or are outstanding, so what is the point of using social media or a website? As you can see from the above example it is imperative that your setting has a strong, positive social media presence. Remember, it is not about the number of followers you have on Twitter or likes on Facebook, it is the quality of interaction.

If we look at popular or renowned brands and retailers, whose product and services speak for themselves, they still have a strong social media presence. Years ago one would have written to or telephoned the customer services department with an issue – and one still can. Today, a tweet to the Chief Executive or company’s Twitter account soon gets a response! This demonstrates the power of protecting the brand online. Companies also respond to positive comments about their services.

Many of you know that we have a weekly discussion on Twitter called #EYTalking: in addition to the discussion, many providers and educators share examples of excellent practice encountered in their setting throughout the week. Imagine how positive this looks to your current and prospective parents that you share positive stories about your setting?

Providers are now communicating with their parents via Facebook, sharing ideas and newsletters. One provider remarked to me recently that parents do not come to face-to-face whole setting meetings, but they do connect via Facebook. There is an argument that we risk excluding some groups of parents by using social media alone, especially hard-to-reach and low income parents. However, many parents do not have a telephone landline, only a mobile telephone, which they also use to access social media. Be mindful that we should continue to communicate with parents face-to-face and in paper form.

Jennie Johnson, CEO of Kids Allowed, is now using a ‘YouTube newsletter’ to share information with parents, as a new way of communicating with parents, who are then able to access at a time that suits them. This doesn’t replace the individual nursery newsletters or face-to-face communication.

I know some may say “Yes, but we will lose face-to-face contact”. You will still see parents on a daily basis and exchange information that relates to their child or share setting news.

Using social media is the way forward. Until a few years ago I didn’t fully ‘get’ social media, neither did I like it! Folks of my generation and above are ‘immigrants’ to social media, whereas my children’s age group are ‘natives’. So we have to catch up and keep up! Those who do not become social media savvy will, unfortunately, be left behind.

Many providers are using e-learning journals to share with parents. I believe, in a few years’ time, that the majority of settings will have an e-system in place, either their own or one from a supplier.

I have known educators to use Skype so children can speak with parents and other family members who may live or work oversees.

Remember to connect not only with other providers and parents, but also with other businesses within your local community. For example, your local florist: they or a family member or friend – or even another customer – might have children or be pregnant. When the conversation turns to looking for childcare, your provision could be at the forefront of their mind, as you have connected via social media!

Of course we have to be mindful of confidentiality and professional integrity. This should be outlined within your social media and ‘parents as partners’ statement, to make sure that everyone is clear about your commitment to confidentiality and safeguarding and protecting children.

I offer a service for providers and educators on social media and content writing for websites. Please feel free to contact me:

laura@laurahenryconsultancy.com

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Twitter: @IamLauraHenry

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8 Comments

  • Sarah Steel

    Hi Laura – great blog and I totally agree. We’ve recently started running short sessions after morning drop off where we help parents to put the app for our e-learning journeys on to their smart phones and give them a quick teach in. It has turned some of our ‘hardest to reach’ parents into the most engaged in their children’s progress. We just need to make sure their is something for everyone – but nurseries are very familiar with that concept!

    • Laura Henry

      Thanks, Sarah.

      Wow, love the concept of how you are getting parents engaged.

      Great idea! 🙂

      • June O'Sullivan

        Its a fascinating debate given how recent the whole marketing debate has been in the sector. I think we must be careful not to confuse technology to assist communication such as e learning or app with social media which is more of an amplification tool .We also need to note that 11million people in the UK cannot send an email and this is not just elderly people. So I would suggest that we help settings draft a marketing plan that clearly outlines the different reasons they want to use technology and social media such as increase visibility, build reputation or better communicate with parents about children’s learning nd help them choose the best tool and tactic to make that happen.

        • Laura Henry

          Thanks June.
          Food for thought and excellent comments. On writing this blog, I realised that I could develop as a book!
          Yes, many levels to this from a settings marketing perspective (which I have helped settings to do), e-communication with parents and children using ICT.
          Recently saw a great image of children using an i-pad to take photographs of their creations during their Forest school visit.
          Many LAs only communicate via email to providers and to book on to training is also done on-line. There are many folks who do not use a computer, etc and perhaps should be supported if they want to become ICT literate? We can be creative to support parents (as noted by Sarah) and support colleagues with those with the know how, in ICT/social media.

  • Etain Ferdenzi

    Really interesting to have this debate. The difficulties for me are managing learning journals on one day a week. I teach music once a week to each class. At the moment I record work done and hold it on my own laptop. I should transfer that to a cloud account really now. I will be working with Musical Futures in September to set up a progressive tracker using a badge system with pupils using makewav.es. Happy days ahead, then!

  • Erica Evans

    Interesting blog Laura – thank you. For me, the power of social media comes from the potential that it has to create communities of practice. Connecting with people who are, sometimes, thousands of miles away but who share the same philosophy, pedagogy, beliefs as me is such a powerful tool. When I started teaching over twenty years ago I felt quite isolated in my classroom. Today practitioners can connect with a much wider group of people with ease. Social media has fantastic potential as a CPD tool. But also as a powerful political tool to challenge, discuss, share, wonder, question.

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