Society's love affair with social media has exploded in recent years. I have read reports suggesting that a staggering 72% of global internet users are now active on one or more of the myriad of channels now available for connecting with our friends and favourite brands online.
It seems that everyone from pop stars to politicians to the pope have joined the online chatter - even age old institutions such as Buckingham Palace and Eton now have a Twitter account.
The way the world communicates is undoubtedly changing. And education is not being left behind.
The trend to click and send
SIMS Independent ran a survey of staff working in fee-paying schools recently. It revealed that over the last 12 months they had seen marked increases in the use of email (84%), social media (68%) and blogs (32%) in their schools. Almost 30% were using more text messaging and 60% reported a decline in the production of paper correspondence.
So, why are schools moving away from the traditional paper-based routes when they are engaging with parents?
This could be explained by one of the other results from the survey - the more than 98% of respondents who said they thought it was becoming increasingly important for their schools to demonstrate the value they add to their pupils' education.
Where previously, many of us may have been content to leave our son or daughter at the school gates each day and receive the occasional written report on their progress, we are now demanding much more information from our child's school, much more frequently.
This expectation can be magnified when the family has made a financial commitment to their child's schooling. They will want to know that their child has just come top in the maths quiz or been picked for the school squash team. Not only that, but they want to get updates on the half time score of their son's rugby match directly to their mobile or if they live overseas, find out whether their daughter got a standing ovation after soloing with the school orchestra.
Increasingly, parents want to experience more of school life so they know that their child is getting the quality education they want for them. To meet this expectation, more and more schools are embracing the power of social media.
Getting the word out
Schools that are active on social media will often post and share good news stories or event updates, such as the latest from the inter-schools tennis tournament, and re-tweet positive comments from students and parents too. Digitally savvy schools know that the more students interact positively with their social media sites, the more it helps to promote the quality education they offer.
Sites like Twitter and Facebook are becoming increasingly popular for announcing things like school closures in bad weather, alongside the more traditional phone and website channels. There's nothing quite like a parent hitting the retweet or share button for getting the word out quickly.
Social media sites are also a great way for schools to share success stories such as outstanding GCSE results, awards evenings and photos from school trips. Many also now have their own Facebook alumni page to boost their image further. But the question is, how does a school really get the essence of its ethos and often centuries of heritage over in just 140 characters? Is this even possible?
There may be some of you who hold the view that schools embrace the world of social media simply because they do not want to be regarded as 'stuffy' or 'behind the times'. But isn't it just that the faster, more efficient communication we have all come to expect is so much simpler for schools to deliver if they take the plunge?
For more information on SIMS Independent click here