Your strategy is the who, what, why, where and when of your social media activity. Begin by looking at these points in the context of your setting.
We know your customers are going to be parents, but what are their interests and concerns? Write a customer profile with your team. This means everyone is clear on who they are talking to online. Try answering the following:
- What age range are they?
- Is it usually mum or dad?
- What area do they live in?
- What do you notice about their lifestyle and income?
- What are their most frequent questions and concerns?
- Why did they choose you?
Social media can be used for public relations, marketing, communication, networking or customer service. What reasons make most sense for you?
- Are you trying to attract new parents and fill spaces?
- Do you want to share news with current parents?
- Is it about raising awareness and improving public relations?
- Do you want to recruit new staff and network with professionals?
- Are you hoping to use it for communication and customer service?
Show rather than tell. Photos, your news, children's work and video that demonstrates a variety of activities, indoors and out, with children looking happy, interested and excited, will have much more impact than just telling people you do all these things.
You can add comments that align with your aims - for example: 'Would you like to work here?' or 'We believe in outdoor play all year around, so don't forget to send a hat and scarf with your child tomorrow. Look out for the pictures!'
Ask your current parents where they spend time online. Facebook is usually top, but you might be surprised by the alternatives. This can help choose where to post.
You can also plan how to track your results. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest all provide free analytics that tell you how many followers you have, who has commented on and shared your posts, and where they have been most active. Google Analytics does the same for your website.
Consistency is vital to success. You need to be able to post something every day, ideally, or three times a week at least.
It is always more effective if one person is tasked with the job - you will get a consistent tone of voice and the individual will take responsibility for collecting images, checking they are safe to use and posting regularly. If you don't have capacity in your team, consider outsourcing.
Social media is a communications tool. Most people use it in a personal capacity, and your posts will sit alongside an update from auntie and a friend's latest news. So for tone, a friendly, non-marketing approach works best. A hard sell will just put people off. Good spelling and grammar are essential to be taken seriously as professionals.
People may find you on social networks before they even look at your website. Every post should align with your overall image. A good rule of thumb is to think: 'Would I be happy if this was on a poster outside the nursery?' If the answer is no, don't post.
- Let us know how you got on by using the #nwsocial hashtag on Twitter
The most popular network and the most powerful for nurseries. People can collect 'friends' and companies can collect 'likes' for their profile pages.
This real-time service is unrivalled for fast-paced, breaking news. Use hashtags (#) to group conversations together. Tweets are limited to just 140 characters.
A virtual pinboard for all the things you love. Boards are based on different themes, with images 'pinned' on your board linking back to the website they came from.
YouTube is now the second largest search engine in the world. Owned by Google, it is immensely popular and affects your online search rankings.
A blog (web-log) is an online article or journal that can include text, images and video.
Although not as widely used as other social networks, Google+ does influence search engine rankings.
Connects people for professional purposes.
With its square format and retro filters, Instagram gives your images a polaroid feel. Only available for use on mobile phones, it is intended to be about recording the moment.
Allows users to create 'snaps' - photos or videos that only last for up to ten seconds once the recipient has opened them.
Kate Tyler is the managing director of Shake Social, a social media agency for the early years sector
!Tweet us at #nwsocial.