How to Manage Your School?s Reputation in the Digital Era

The fast paced evolution of online communication has allowed for your school?s brand to reach more people across the world than ever before. But is your message a positive one and how are people responding to it?

Reputation is an increasingly vital component of schools; it is a socially shared impression of expected performance based on past actions. As social media exponentially creates more sharing and receiving of information about your brand, your reputation can be built up rapidly, but just as easily lost. If a school thrives, the value of its brand increases, in turn attracting the best academics, students and increased funding.

Reputation management is an important part of marketing in the business world, but schools are still adjusting to this new environment in which reputations are increasingly important and yet beyond their control.

We are living in a time where the generation of prospective students is more inclined to trust the opinions of anonymous peers on the internet rather than traditional communications. If you advertise your brand too heavily, you risk creating the impression that you need the hard sell to counteract your lack of intrinsic qualities.

Treat social media like a telephone and less like a megaphone

A study of student behaviour showed that 75% of students use social media to make their enrolment decisions, relying on the unsolicited opinions of respected third parties. Leveraging this influential medium necessitates ?social listening? to monitor your brand. You?ll want to know what?s being said about you, where they?re saying it and how to respond.

There are several online tools available to help monitor your school?s reputation.

Here are some of the free ones we use every day:

  1. Google Alerts: A good entry-level way to get some feedback about relevant ?search query? results emailed to you. This does not capture social media or most blog sites. Sign up at www.google.com/alerts (if you want instant results, mark “as-it-happens” under “how often”).
  2. Hootsuite/TweetDeck: Both offer tools to consolidate and manage your social media accounts.
  3. Social Mention: One of the best free tools on the market ? it analyses and measures influence using 4 key categories: Strength, Sentiment, Passion and Reach.
  4. Icerocket: This tool focuses mainly on blog searches, but you can use the ?big buzz? option to capture activity on Facebook, Twitter and image sites such as Flickr.

None of these tools are all-inclusive, but give a good idea of what is being said about you. Make a habit of searching and listening, your brand?s reputation depends on it.

Read more on some of these free tools.

Maintaining the Value of Social Media Channels

The key is to remain as authentic and independent as possible. It is better to allow students to post honest negative feedback than risk accusations of censorship by intervening. However, it is important to establish a social media policy and moderation protocol to limit abuse while clarifying expectations for both administration and students. Begin by briefing moderators about the policies and dynamics of the online community, and by defining the limits of permitted language and content.

Be consistent when dealing with members of the community who overstep these boundaries and decide how you will take action against them e.g. warning, suspension or banning from the forum. Balance real-time social media marketing with conservative approval processes, ensuring intuitive policies exist for proactive response to offenders.

Additionally, administrators should have access to the answers of frequently asked questions and the relevant contacts for retrieving information.

While brand management is controlled within the resources you own, reputation management occurs in an environment owned by students, parents and other interested parties.

Does your school need help managing its reputation?

Vividus specialises in school marketing offering a wide range of services that can help change the perceptions of your stakeholders, staff, parents and potential students including social media marketing, reputation management and survey and research services.

Contact us today to find out more.

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