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Good Practice - Case Study
Oughton Children’s Centre
School No: 635
Using Facebook for Children’s Centre Communication & Promotion
Oughton Children’s Centre is a Sure Start centre serving a wide area in Hitchin and some of the surrounding villages.
Over 500 families have registered to use the facilities and services.
In October 2011 the centre manager set up a Facebook ‘fan page’ to use as a communication tool for reaching local parents and carers.
Aims of using Facebook
The Children’s Centre uses several forms of communication, including mailings and a website. They wanted to use Facebook as an additional form of communication to reach people in a way in that many are familiar with from their online socialising. Social networks are rapidly replacing email as the primary form of electronic social communication.
Rather than have to actively go to a website to find information, the information would reach parents/carers whenever they logged on to Facebook, as so many do, using their computers or mobile devices such as smartphones.
By setting up a Facebook ‘fan page’ the centre is able to post text and images, quickly and easily, and furthermore encourage interaction, as users of the page can comment on what has been posted and ask questions etc. This, it was hoped, would build an online community to reflect the important ‘community feel’ of the centre.
Setting up and managing the page
A personal profile is needed to create a Facebook ‘fan page’ and once created, other administrators can be added. Administrators have the ability to post content and manage users and settings. They can also receive email notifications of any comments posted by page users, so that they can monitor the online activity and quickly remove any comments if it was felt necessary. There was initially some concern over the potential for people to post negative comments to the page, but this has not happened.
Security settings were implemented to prevent users from being able to post any content directly to the page ‘wall,’ but they are able to comment on content posted by the page administrators.
Launching and promoting the Facebook ‘fan page.’
Staff at the Children’s Centre have worked hard to promote the page so that as many parents and carers as possible would use it. People who are already Facebook users can ‘like’ the page, meaning anything posted would show up in their own Facebook news feeds. People that do not use Facebook could still view the fan page by simply going to the page address (URL) in their browsers. They would not, however, be able to interact with the page as this requires a Facebook account.
Once the page was set up and some content added, flyers were produced to hand out to anyone coming to the centre. These flyers included a QR code linking directly to the fan page. Owners of mobile devices would be able to scan this code to be taken directly to the page.
Posters were put up around the centre informing people about the page and an ‘advert’ was added to the promotional booklet which details all the services offered by the centre.
The centre also organised a ‘Facebook Week’ to really promote the page. They made badges and handed out helium filled balloons to children, when they visited with their parents/carers, with a Facebook page card attached, telling people how to access the page.
Response to the promotion was very positive, and a number of new users began to follow the page as a result.
Continued use of the Facebook page
Staff at Oughton Children’s Centre regularly post relevant news and information to the page. This includes details of forthcoming events and services, and it has been very useful when plans have to be changed for any reason. For example, in February 2012 there was a problem with the boiler meaning a Toddler Group had to be cancelled. This news could be immediately posted to the wall, and whilst this would not reach everyone concerned, many parents/carers were alerted in this way.
The page has also been used to carry out surveys (posting a link to an online survey) and publishing ‘posters’ for future events. These posters are made in Microsoft Publisher and saved as an image file, which can easily be added to the Facebook page.
Impact and challenges
The manager and staff at Oughton Children’s Centre feel that the Facebook page has definitely had a positive impact on communication and promotion of the centre’s services and events. They mentioned that some parents/carers had given positive feedback about how useful they found the page and that they felt it has made the centre more accessible. The number of page users steadily continues to grow, with over 100 followers at the time of writing.
The manager commented on the fact that it is necessary to keep using the page regularly to maintain its interest and usefulness. They therefore need to be regularly thinking of things to post, which can be a pressure. She also mentioned that, whilst they have a large number of followers, very few of them ever make comments on the page themselves, perferring to simply receive information in this way.
Oughton Children’s Centre has shown how a popular social networking tool can be effectively used for communication and promotion of its services, reaching parents/carers in a way many of them are used to and like. Whilst there is a small risk of inappropriate comments by users, careful monitoring and management of the page security settings reduces this. The page has been positively received and is used regularly by a large number of people in the local community to stay up to date with the services available to them.
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