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).
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:
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