At eyworks, we are always looking for ways to be involved in the Early Years sector and connect our amazing staff and customers. This year we have started a series of exclusive webinars for our customers to attend, which we are calling eymeets!
We kicked off eymeets by discussing building an online Early Years community and, whilst these webinars are customer-exclusive, we thought we would impart some of the shared wisdom!
What makes up an Early Years community?
There are lots of things that can make up an Early Years community, and these can vary from setting to setting, but we have classified them into two groups: internal and external.
Your internal community consists of everyone who visits your setting day-to-day. We find that there are three main sets of people here; the children, staff and parents/carers. These are the people you regularly interact with and form close bonds with over their time at your setting.
Your external community consists of people around your setting. These are often groups such as your local primary schools, the surrounding area and businesses, and even the Early Years sector as a whole. These groups don’t necessarily interact with your setting on a regular basis but rather widen and expand your setting’s community which otherwise would remain quite small.
Strengthening your internal community
Now we can imagine if all is going well, you will already have a bond with those in your internal community but it is always a good idea to continue building on this online, as well as in person.
“But our parents never engage online!” I hear you cry. Well, the trick to encouraging engagement from your internal community is to create great experiences for them. We understand that isn’t always as simple as it sounds, so here are a few tips to get you started on the track to great engagement.
1. Identify how you are going to interact with your internal community
Do you have a nursery community forum? Are your staff wizzes on social media? Or do they prefer a good old-fashioned email newsletter? By identifying the preferences of your audience and the strengths of the people who will be working on your online community, you can make sure you are working as efficiently as possible along the path to engagement.
2. Consider what you want your setting brand and personality to be
Over the time your setting has been open and offering wonderful experiences to little ones, you will have inevitably built a bit of a setting personality. But when starting to build a community online it is always important to think about how you come across to those you are communicating with, what you want your ‘brand’ to be.
A brand doesn’t have to be tied to logos, colours, and content styles (although these can be helpful in establishing a recognisable brand) but can also be found in the type of content you share and the tone of voice you use. Before you start, why not sit down and brainstorm how you want your setting to come across and then use these ideas to establish your ‘setting personality’?
3. Send high-quality appropriate content to the right community group
Do the people in your community LOVE videos but are not so keen on blog-type posts? Perhaps they are all avid readers and would much rather read a newsletter than scroll through short social media posts. Making sure you are utilising the right type of content is key to seeing the engagement wrack up.
Now at first, this may seem like a challenge. How are you supposed to know what type of content your audience interacts with? The key to understanding what content works best for you is simply trial and error. Start out by posting a wide variety of content and then narrow it down to what you find performs best. Once you know what works, stick with it until something changes.
This also doesn’t have to be the same content for your entire internal community. You can always vary the content you are sharing with each audience type to make sure they are engaging as much as possible.
At eyworks, we offer eyengage, an online community platform, offering a safe and secure platform to start strengthening your internal community. With the ability to share posts and polls to different audiences, and filter between content types, you really have the tools to understand and increase internal engagement!
Expanding your external community
Your external community might not necessarily be one you initially think of but it is of equal importance when it comes to your setting’s presence online.
Expanding your external community can be a daunting task, you’re trying to engage people online that you may not necessarily have met or have a connection with in real life. But you should have no fear, if you have worked on strengthening your internal community then the same steps apply here. The main difference is that to expand your external audience you have to think about content that will be relevant to a wider community rather than just your setting. The aim should be to make your setting known to the people and businesses in your area, focusing on creating great relationships which will in turn boost those great experiences.
Perhaps you took a visit to the local park or library or you had a member of the local community visit your setting and share their wisdom with the children. Perhaps there are some local parent and child groups that you think are great. These are all examples of content that relates to your setting and your internal community but expands your visibility to a wider external audience. If you can, it is also great to tag relevant people in your posts, whether this be on social media or on your website through a link to theirs. Making sure you are interacting with other people’s content the same way they interact with yours is a great way to create strong online relationships with your external community.
And there are some great benefits that come from expanding your external community! It gives you access to what is going on in your local area to share back with your internal community, whether this is new baby groups, parent online or in-person forums, or resources you can share with staff or parents.
However you decide to take a look at your online Early Years community, you will often find that building your internal community and expanding your external community have an impact on one another, making them more interconnected than they first seem!
At eyworks we are always working on improving our very own online Early Years community, if you’re on social media you should give us a follow (@eyworksLTD on all platforms). We would love to see what you’re getting up to and help expand your external community!