Kids, pets, and food are subjects that dominate social media, no question. But if you’re an educator, there can be many upsides to expanding your social media interactions beyond those categories to start promoting your students and their classroom projects. Showing off the good work going on in your classes can help recruit new students, build better relationships with parents, and form connections to community and industry supporters.
Creating social media posts is easy enough: You can shoot some quick photos or videos with your smartphone and add some text. But the most vital first step to creating effective social media is clarifying what you want to achieve. What are your goals? What audience are you trying to reach?
Maybe you’d like to boost student and parent engagement through content that highlights your manufacturing and machining classes. “Students and parents love to see what other students are accomplishing—and parents love to share posts about their kids,” says Deema Kharuf, Autodesk Education social media specialist.
Or perhaps you’d like to change parent and community perceptions about what manufacturing actually looks like today. “We can show parents and students that manufacturing facilities are bright and beautiful—not the dark and dingy places they used to be,” says Jason Roth, Autodesk Education account manager.
Social media is also a good tool to recruit more students—or show school and community leaders the value of your teaching. Whatever your goals are, here are 5 tips to sharpen your social media skills.
1. Choose the Right Social Media Channels
Of the big players in the social media world, a general consensus is that Facebook and Instagram are solid starting points, especially for educators looking to reach parents.
Edward Doherty—a lead instructor in precision metalworking at Suncoast Technical College (STC) in Sarasota, Florida—says that, when possible, teachers should post on the school’s social media accounts. If your school doesn’t have active Facebook or Instagram accounts, consider starting up your own accounts dedicated to promoting classroom projects and students.
Doherty shows students at work on his YouTube channel, CNC Machinist Education Network, which he created to share skills videos. The YouTube channel page has a link to Doherty’s blog, where he posts articles about career opportunities in manufacturing, along with links to STC’s Facebook page about the school’s precision machining and CNC automation program.
2. Show Students at Work
Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to get students’ permission before using their images online—be sure to check your school’s policies. Then, for engaging content, capture your students at work on their assignments. “Action shots work best,” says Kharuf. “Don’t line students up and pose them.”
William Rakonczay, an advanced manufacturing and engineering instructor at Orleans Career and Technical Center in Medina, New York, agrees. “The posts that get the most likes from parents and students are the ones showing someone making something cool in Fusion 360 or AutoCAD—like a video of a student explaining what they’re drawing,” he says. “We’ll tag the parents in the posts to make sure they see it.” Rakonczay posts pictures and videos from his advanced manufacturing and engineering class on Instagram and Facebook.
3. Highlight Student and Alumni Accomplishments
Showcasing student wins can also help your classroom overall—and increase community engagement. “Show that students are doing great work, like getting their certifications,” Roth suggests. “That can help with accreditation and budgeting.” Make sure to tag students when possible—just as parents want to share their kids’ accomplishments, students will likely share posts that they’re featured in.
It can also be inspiring to show what students—current and former—are doing in the real world. When Rakonczay recently visited Voss Manufacturing near his school’s campus, he created a Facebook post about current students interning there, as well as a Voss employee who’s a graduate of Rakonczay’s program. “It’s a good way to show who’s getting jobs,” Roth says. “A great idea would be to use a quote from that former student in the post.”
4. Add Trending Hashtags—Or Make Up Your Own
As you probably know, hashtags are keywords preceded by # that make it easier for people to find your posts. Hashtags can help you spotlight community organizations or vendors that support your school or machining programs. In an Instagram post about Haas Automation’s donation of a mill, Rakonczay used the hashtags #haaseducation and #haascnc to attract people searching by those hashtags. You can also make up your own hashtag to promote your education program.
Also, consider adding the #AutodeskEDU hashtag to your post. If Autodesk’s education team sees the hashtag, your post might be shared on Autodesk’s social media channels, giving your school and program greater visibility.
5. Be Your Authentic Self
Don’t worry about posting slick content or sounding like a sports announcer in your videos. “Be simple and authentic,” says Kharuf. “You don’t need to sound promotional or salesy.”
Or, as Doherty says, “Nothing goes perfectly when I’m making videos or taking pictures. It’s just me being me.”