Donovan Group Insights

How to Develop Social Media as a Trust-Building Platform

In recent years, social media has served an increasingly pivotal role in school district communications. Stakeholders are spending more time online, and platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are effective ways to get in touch with them. A strong social media presence shows you’re committed to keeping stakeholders in the loop.

Social media helps you do more than talk directly with stakeholders. Every post you create nurtures a greater level of trust between your district and the school community. It’s a tool that allows you to celebrate the good and unite through the bad. Little by little, consistent communication through social media can earn you stakeholder trust that’s strong enough to weather any storm.

Take a moment to reflect on how your district uses social media. Chances are, you could be doing more. Below you’ll discover ways to strengthen your district’s social media presence with the goal of building stakeholder trust.

Benefits of communicating through social media

You have variety of media at your disposal. You may choose to communicate with stakeholders through letters, email, the district’s website or any other media channel. However, few channels offer the same benefits as social media. Trust requires open and honest two-way communication, and social media was designed to provide exactly that.

Here’s why social media is essential for building trust:

  • Real-time feedback: Social media platforms are places where stakeholders can share their thoughts and opinions in real time. This ever-expanding reservoir of feedback gives you a timely, accurate depiction of where the community stands on certain topics. Unlike other forms of communication, stakeholders are able to make their voices heard just minutes after you create a post.
  • Built-in tools: Every social media platform has built-in tools that help you communicate with stakeholders. You could start a poll, host a livestream or answer questions in an Instagram story. These tools make it possible for district leaders to interact directly with members of the school community.
  • Two-way communication: Many channels don’t give stakeholders a chance to respond to their district’s messages. Print materials, e-newsletters and recorded meetings get your message across, but these channels are also very one-sided. To build trust, stakeholders need the option to say something in return. Rather than calling, writing a letter or speaking at meetings, anyone can simply leave a comment beneath one of your district’s social media posts.

Publicize events and board meetings

District leaders can more easily gain stakeholders’ trust by keeping them in the loop. Stakeholders want to know what’s happening in their district, especially when the board is discussing budgets and other big decisions that may affect the quality of their children’s education. Inform stakeholders about meetings well in advance, and invite them to participate when they’re allowed to do so.

Many stakeholders will appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on these pivotal conversations. Social media reaches a wide audience, which makes it easier to generate awareness about upcoming events and board meetings. Without social media, a large portion of your school community might’ve never heard about these events in the first place. Establishing trust means telling people what their district is up to, even if they have little interest in playing an active role.

Introduce new staff and board members

Many parents want to know who’s in charge of their children’s education. A great way to build trust is by announcing new teachers, staff, principals and board members. Creating an announcement on social media gives stakeholders a chance to get to know the newest members of their school district. You can post a link to the new hire’s biography and credentials to help instill stakeholder confidence. Inviting stakeholders to a night of free refreshments also gives the new hire a chance to make a good first impression.

Your district might even consider inviting stakeholders to participate in the hiring process. Doing so can help establish trust with stakeholders because it shows you value their input regarding important decisions. Publicize an open house night where families can voice their thoughts on what makes a great candidate for an open position. Parents may feel more secure about their children’s future if they feel like they have some influence over hiring decisions.

Educate stakeholders about referenda

The more knowledge you give, the more trust you get in return. This is especially true if your district is planning to put a school referendum on the next ballot. If you’re petitioning for capital or a larger budget, stakeholders will want to know how you plan to spend those extra resources. They also want to know how a referendum will improve students’ education and benefit the community as a whole.

Social media can help you build trust during a referendum campaign. Post regular updates about the referendum, including links to relevant studies, meeting minutes and informational events that are open to the public. If your district has created a referendum survey, advertise it on social media to encourage more stakeholders to complete it. The community wants to feel heard, and you can accomplish this by inviting them to fill out a survey.

Share links to district news stories

If you want to build trust with stakeholders, you need to show them all the amazing things that are happening at your schools. Sharing stories about fundraisers, teacher accolades and other accomplishments can help cast your district in a positive light. Stakeholders with a positive perception of your district are more likely to trust that students’ education is in good hands.

It’s important to post consistently on social media. Imagine what stakeholders would think if you posted a positive story every day, then went over a month without posting anything! What you don’t share with stakeholders can speak volumes. Flesh out a content schedule well in advance so there’s always something good to share. Positive stories leave less room for negative stories, which will put your district well on its way to gaining stakeholders’ trust.

Address crises and sensitive situations

Every school district faces their fair share of sticky situations. When a negative event affects one of your schools, your natural instinct will probably be to pretend it never happened. District leaders often fear addressing a negative event will damage the community’s trust. In fact, shedding light on these events can actually make stakeholders trust you even more. It shows you’re not afraid to talk about what happened, and you get a chance to explain what the district is doing to move in the right direction.

Social media is a critical tool in the days following a crisis or negative event. It allows you to engage a broader audience and get your message across in a timely manner. Regular communication through social media tells stakeholders you’re taking steps to keep the situation under control. You can also use social media to share official statements, news releases and links to more information.

Social media was designed to help people connect, and in the case of school districts, it can help you build a solid foundation of trust with the community. Social media opens a line of communication between stakeholders and district leaders, which makes it possible to post updates, ask for feedback and share your district’s story. Establish a strong social media presence, and the community’s trust will grow over time.

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