At its heart, social media is about telling stories. That’s what has made social media more than just a passing fad in our modern world. Never before has a medium allowed such a quick and global dispersing of stories throughout the world. A TikTok reel could gain literally billions of views in a few short hours. But whilst going viral might not be your goal, we know that so many of our members are creating incredibly valuable experiences for the children on a daily basis and it would be lovely to showcase that work.
In this Scéalta blog post I’ll briefly discuss how to start thinking about a social media strategy and some of the considerations to take on board.
When creating a social media post, the first port of call is to do some research to understand your audience. Who are you trying to connect with? You might want to let parents know about the activities their children are doing in the service. You might want to speak to the quality of your setting to attract new families. Or you might want to tap into the online jobs market and use your social media campaign to find staff. The type of person you’re trying to reach will dictate the platform you choose to post on.
There are five major players in the Irish social media scene right now: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok. To be able to reach your chosen audience you need to post to the platform they most typically use. This report from Sprout Social might help you identify which platforms will work well for you. There’s no need to be on all of the platforms, regular and quality posts on two or three appropriate platforms will work in your favour.
Creating a social media policy
This might sound like a big task for a small part of the service’s activities, but it is a worthwhile activity that can clarify objectives and ensure safeguarding of children is properly in place. We have a detailed document on how to create a social media policy here. You should consider having guidelines for staff on how they mention the service in social media, as well as decisions on legal and ethical responsibilities around sharing information and images.
Images and videos
Imagery is key to creating an engaging post. Currently about 88% of posts on Facebook contain either an image or video. There are so many opportunities in day-to-day life to capture images or short videos that can be used in a number of ways on different platforms. But since the main bulk of an Early Years service focuses on children, I’d like to consider the role of children in imagery.
Whilst it is wonderful to see a child enjoying an activity or interaction in the service, you must ensure that you have parental consent to use this image on social media. In recent years there has been a trend to show children with their faces covered by a smiley face or star but I wonder about the real value of this. An image that focuses more on the action of the activity might speak to a wider audience. For example, if the activity is planting seeds, the conventional image might show a child with his or her face covered, holding a plant. However, a video of a child’s hands digging in the soil or using their fine motor skills to pick up small seeds might be more engaging for your audience to really drill down into what the experience was like for the child. A before and after shot of the area planted could also speak to the activity.
Settings must get parental consent before taking any images of children. If consent is not given, the child should not be included in the picture. If a child can’t be included in a photo, make sure to have a respectful way of making sure they are not in the shot. This can be done, for example, by taking small groups, or asking the child to help you take the photo. As well as parental consent, it is also recommended to ask the child if they agree to be photographed.
Generally speaking there is a three-year retention period for images or when the child no longer attends the service. You should be guided by your social media policy. It may be easiest to delete the photos at the end of the school year. Whatever you decide to do, you must build in administrative tasks into your social media policy to remove the images once consent has expired.
No matter how you decide to take on social media, remember that at the root of everything is the story. For our members we can imagine that will be a story of progress, of excellence, or adventure and of community. Early Childhood Ireland works to ensure that our social media platforms speak to the value of our sector’s work and for that reason we always use the hashtag #QualityForChildren at the end of our social media posts – you’re welcome to join us in using it if you so wish.