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July/August 2018

School districts no longer won­der “if” they should use social media. The question they now ask is “How?”

Social media is how people get their news. It has become a primary source of information for parents. Their opinions are shaped by what they see and how they interact with the district, regardless of the plat­form. This happens quicker than ever before, is unpredictable, and you can’t take your eye off it. But, maybe your district isn’t posting quite as much as it used to. And when you do post, it might not be quite as strategic as it was when you started. It is a fact of life, social media efforts, wheth­er Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or even Pinterest, can get stale. School districts need to ensure they have a vibrant social media presence. It is a simple and inexpensive way to highlight excellence.

Efforts need to be taken to ensure that social media messaging is a vital part of a district’s communication efforts, and that it is utilized as a way to reach key audiences.

Here are some easy tips to max­imize the effectiveness, while inject­ing new life into longstanding social media accounts:

Know what you are dealing with : Take inventory of your accounts, posts, and number of followers. Set goals of where you would like to be after your overhaul. Assess the fre­quency and quality of your posts to ensure that the message you have been sending is reflective of your school community and the district’s strategic plan.

Back to basics : Talk to leader­ship and walk away with three to five specific goals for what you want to accomplish on social media. You need a variety of content to reach all types of audiences. Want to reach parents? Want to brag about district achievements? Want to spotlight tech in classrooms? No post can be all of the above. A better plan is to set goals, to aim at specific targets from the get-go instead of just trying out random, unfocused ideas week to week.

Think beyond your own con­tent : It’s OK to share content that your district didn’t produce itself. Articles from major media outlets, for example, that relate to issues or topics of interest to your parents and students. If another district shares a video you think is cool or relates to your audience, share it or retweet it. If someone tweets something nice about your district, retweet it. Gotta fill the days with something!

The best form of flattery : Look to what others have done well on social media, including major brands and other school districts. See if you can adopt any of those ideas.

Call on reinforcements : Put additional effort into activating your network of teachers, adminis­trators, staff, and parents. You may never know about the best content floating around out there, unless you have a pipeline to these people. Make it known (in person, calls, and emails) that the district is seeking social media submissions to share to a broader audience. Most of these people are already shooting photos and tweeting out stuff. Leverage that existing network and amplify it on your district’s primary social media accounts.

Say cheese : If you’re going to invest in anything, make it photos. Images are more engaging than text. Buy a nice camera. Create a team of students who shoot events, maybe through a class or a part-time job. Use the district’s calendar as a mechanism to assign those students

to shoot photos. Put those photos in albums on Facebook, Twitter, Insta­gram, etc. Photos in high frequency are the No. 1 low-hanging fruit on social media.

Don’t go it alone : Engage your followers by monitoring feedback on your posts and regularly responding to questions or concerns. Ask school district partners, businesses, and foundations to help raise awareness of your school district’s social media presence by sharing on their pages and websites. Host a Twitter Chat, Facebook Live, or other engaging activity that inspires others to engage with your account.

Consistency : Engagement of audience on social media is directly correlated to consistency and fre­quency of posts. Set up a schedule that includes a few recurring features, for example, something as simple as #ThrowbackThursday photos from the district’s photo archives can lead to a wider social media audience. You could also do Teacher of the Week, asking a different teacher the same five questions and pair it with a photo. Pass around a traveling Classroom of the Week award; take a photo and share.

Utilize tools to help : Create a social media calendar for the school year to outline major milestones you’d like to be sure to share. Stay flexible and add ideas as the school year progresses. Early evening hits a higher traffic time, and typically for schools reaches the most interactive audience. Check into services like Hootsuite that can assist with time­ly and strategic sharing. If it fits into your budget, check into promoted posts and pages to help improve your reach.