In keeping with our regular series of interviews “A Few Minutes With…” we decided to speak to Oliver Adams, the man responsible for managing the website, social media and digital strategy at one of the country’s leading independent schools.
Brentwood School is one of the UK’s leading independent schools for children aged between three and eighteen. Refusing to be slaves to tradition, the school enjoys and uses the freedom of independence wisely by being one of few in the area to offer GCSEs and IGCSEs, A levels and IB. The fantastic academic results are perhaps testament to their forward thinking approach to education and the evolving world around them. The school’s more well-known alumni include Frank Lampard, Jack Straw, Noel Edmonds, Griff Rhys-Jones, ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ author Douglas Adams and Eastenders theme composer Simon May.
Here’s what Oliver had to say on his experiences within the digital world and how it positively affects the school.
Could you describe your organisation’s activity on social networks?
The School’s very active on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Most of our Facebook followers are former students and parents that like to keep up to date with successes, events and general updates. On Twitter each department engages in the national debate in their academic sphere. The School Twitter handle, @Brentwood_Sch, provides similar, but more succinct, updates to parents and followers from the education world. On LinkedIn, we’ve built up a vast network of Old Brentwoods alumni who open a window into many different industries for our pupils and particularly our School leavers.
Are there elements of your organisation now that would not have been possible without social media?
I don’t think I could say that, as the traditional forms of communication (email, letters, telephone calls) continue to be effective. I see social media as another (easier) way to communicate with people. To some parents for example, it’s second nature to be on Facebook or Twitter many times throughout the day, and so as an instant form of communication it’s highly successful, but it may take a few more years before we can rely on these solely for more important messages.
How has your relationship with your students/clients changed with the dawn of social media?
We don’t interact with students on social media, but our relationship with parents has improved; it’s become more instant and less formal. Facebook and Twitter are informal media, and as I said before, for many it’s a more comfortable way of communicating. Of course, like many organisations in the public eye that use social media, we’re more exposed, but that just means that we have to be confident in our approach to teaching and learning excellence at all times, which we are.
Which social media campaigns or accounts have really caught your eye recently?
Along with the Ice Bucket Challenge and ‘No Make Up Selfies’, which didn’t escape anyone’s attention last year and raised millions for good causes, a memorable campaign that I remember my wife getting involved with from last year was the Always product #LikeAGirl ad campaign. It was an emotional story about what it means to do something ‘like a girl’. Women, men and boys were asked questions like ‘Run like a girl’, which in the first instance saw people wildly waving their hands in the air. Conversely, when the younger girls were asked to ‘Run like a girl’, they ran on the spot as fast as they could. It was a very simple yet extremely emotive ad campaign, which promoted positive gender image. Women even began posting photos of themselves doing ‘manly’ jobs and activities with the hashtag #LikeAGirl.
What have you found to be the most positive and negative aspects of using social media for your organisation?
The most positive aspects have to be the ease and frequency that we can now share photos and updates with parents of our current pupils. It creates a sense of community and shows how much is going on at the School. Apart from the obvious risks to do with the safeguarding of pupils, (which we take very seriously and all our staff, both teaching and non-teaching, strictly adhere to our School Social Media Policy), I honestly can’t think of any negative aspects of using it.
What advice would you give to companies/businesses looking to improve their social media activity?
Update daily or several times a day if possible, use photos and videos to boost your posts, use hashtags on Twitter to make sure your tweets show up on searches and are a part of a wider conversation, and use Hootsuite to schedule posts for when times get busier.
For more information on Brentwood School or to organise a visit and tour, simply contact them via email on [email protected] or [email protected], or by phone – +44 (0)1277 243239 (ages 3-7) / +44 (0)1277 243333 (ages 7-11).