Has Your Supe Done the Ice Bucket Challenge Yet?

Unless you’ve been in a complete media blackout the last few weeks, you know that the ice bucket challenge to benefit ALS is sweeping social media.

This is a great opportunity to tap into a cultural moment and show how caring your boss is.

My superintendent’s video on our district Facebook page showed his daughter dumping a cooler on his head, while he stood below in his weekend casual T-shirt. My community got a glimpse into the man behind the title and how he is a family man and a good sport.

The post got 100 likes, and more importantly, it got a page reach of 4,308. People really wanted to see this side of him.

He challenged all our district administrators, and all the response videos from principals and their teams around the district are positively engaging our families.

What do you teach? The school PR person as lead teacher

As school communicators and marketers, our jobs are many times separated from the day-to-day educational elements of the classroom. Dealing with the media, working with vendors, spending time in the community — it can all feel so overwhelming. We sometimes forget the value in being the lead teacher on topics to do with social media, communications and digital citizenship. While time is sparse, school communicators should take stock in the value of providing professional development to teachers and being a resource to students. The bottom line is this helps create a team of responsible content makers and communicators (remember, you can’t be everywhere at once), and it helps you showcase the value of your knowledge, expertise and place in the district’s organization even further.

Teach Digital Citizenship
Provide professional development to administrators and teachers on the importance of responsible social media usage. Digital citizenship should be taught around nine key areas: online privacy, digital communications, etiquette, personal branding, digital health and wellness, copyright, plagiarism, digital access, and cyberbullying. Many issues school PR people must face result from fallout over inappropriate online activity. By becoming the lead educator on this topic, you are helping solve this problem. Teaching responsible usage to your colleagues can then be passed on to both students and parents.

Teach Social Media For The Classroom
We know that social media is a powerful tool of outreach to our audiences, but that can become even more powerful when teachers use it in the classroom. Social media are effective platforms for both student learning and a personal learning network for teachers and administrators. Moreover, these platforms can open up the classroom to parents and community and truly showcase student learning at its finest. From creating classroom YouTube channels that stream live Google Plus Hangouts On Air to hosting Vine and Instagram open house tours to showcasing student work in a science fair via Twitter, the meshing of student learning and social media can sometimes be the best PR of all. But teachers have to know how to effectively use it. Add value to your role by providing professional development on this. Be the go-to expert.

Teach Parents And Other Constituents
Hosting parent universities or senior citizen digital events can be valuable in creating digital literacy among key constituent groups. If you are using social media as a communications tool, it will become even more effective if your core audiences know how to consume the content you are putting out there. Parents and community members need to learn, too. Since we can’t do it alone, why not use students to help teach it? One of the best examples of this is the subject of a new documentary called “Cyber Seniors.”

Customer service is key, even on social media

Customer service is the root of PR.

Do you know who your customers are? Are they parents? Students? Staff? When we deal with them, do we do so with a smile? Whom do they come in contact with when they come to our schools? Does that person treat them with respect and kindness? We need to ask ourselves these questions to ensure our customers feel a part of the system. More pertinent to this blog, how do we deal with them on social media platforms?

It is easy to change your tone or slack on your customer service skills when you are not having a face-to-face conversation. It is important to remember, even when commenting, tweeting or sharing a photo, your presentation and response once it starts spreading, is equivalent to great customer service. Be helpful, positive and courteous. Share your message, but listen. Thank your followers, posters, friends and likes.

Hutto ISD reached out to fellow school PR pro Brad Domitrovich, from Georgetown ISD in Georgetown, Texas, who got us thinking about what customer service means to us and taught us some basic lessons on customer service, which we have been careful to follow on our social media pages:

1. Keep customers the priority: It’s important to make sure your customers’ needs are being met, especially on social media. Be sure to respond thoughtfully and completely.

2. Over-deliver when possible: Tone can come across in writing. Be sure your customers can read the smile on your face while engaged with you on social media.

3. Offer choices: Help your customers with their questions or concerns by offering several ways to communicate, providing several solutions or asking others to help.

4. Be access-approachable: Being on social media is a great first step to being accessible. Be sure you are approachable online. Encourage customers to engage, be kind and courteous and helpful.

5. Use logic, not emotion: It’s just as easy to lose your cool online. Remember, every customer deserves for you to pay attention and follow the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Image Excellence

Compelling, high-quality images make all the difference in whether viewers pay attention to your posts. And the better your images are and the easier they are to share, the more likely it is that someone will retweet, post, or share your content.

Image

The Social Media Examiner provides a great resource, titled 15 Resources to Create Images for Social Media.

To summarize the key points:

  1. It’s a visual world — people expect to see high-quality images.
  2. Photos (free or purchased) are easy to find online.
  3. You can take better pictures by following some simple tips.
  4. Tools are available that can improve your images after the fact.
  5. Photos combined with quotes are very popular and generate increased engagement.

The recipe for social media success is equal parts creativity and technology. Taking advantage of these resources will ensure that your visitors enjoy what you serve.

Prepare for Changes to Facebook Pages

If you haven’t heard, Facebook pages are changing…again. Pages have gradually been transforming over to a new look and feel and will continue to do so in the coming weeks. The goal with these changes is to make it easier for users and page managers to see the information valuable to them.

What will my new page look like?

  • The cover photo and profile picture will stay virtually the same.
  • The left-hand side will be reserved for information about a business (hours of operation, address, etc…).
  • The right-hand side will be status updates and comments from others.
  • Next to the cover photo will be a snapshot of that past week’s insights.

What do the changes mean for my page?

  • While Facebook changes sometimes mean that page managers have to learn how to navigate the new layout, it also is a good time to evaluate the information about your organization. It’s a reminder that we all need to make sure the most important information is highlighted on our social media pages.

What am I most excited about?

  • One change you can already see is in the pages overview section. Facebook now allows managers to create a “pages to watch” section. This allows you to create a list of pages similar to your own and compare the performance of the pages. This is a great way to learn useful tips on what works for other organizations.

We have signed up our District Facebook account to be switched over to the new layout but so far we haven’t been switched. Facebook is allowing some pages to be added to the waiting list. If you see a “join wait list” option at the top of the page, you have this opportunity.

To read more on how Facebook pages are changing, click here.

Posting Strategically to Build Audience Reach and Interaction on Social Media

On a daily basis, our communications department tracks the data on our social media platforms. It is always interesting to listen to the discussions in our office regarding what we should post on Facebook and Twitter. Often, we take bets on what post is going to get the most “likes,” “shares” or “retweets” after it has been posted. We also do the same with website stories in our e-newsletters. It’s possible we could be a little nerdy with the data.

After spending time analyzing the information, we have a pretty good feel for what our audience likes and expects from our social media platforms. We can generally tell what will be popular and what won’t before it is posted. We work together strategically to plan our schedule of information to share.

It is very important to track and analyze your social media data to ensure you are providing the best experience for your fans and are continually building your audience. Facebook in particular has its own built-in data tracking system. The only surefire way to make sure your audience is able to see your post is to purchase an ad or pay to promote your post. If you are not paying, the next best way is to increase fan interaction. More users liking or sharing your post with others equals more people reached per post.

While our community and audience of more than 3,600 Facebook users is different than yours, we hope some of these tips can help you increase your reach and post interaction.

Below is a list of dos and don’ts we use for posts on Facebook:

Do include photos with your posts.
The best post interaction occurs when we include both a photo uploaded to Facebook and a link to the story on our website. On our page, a photo almost always equals at least 40 likes.

Do share stories from other Facebook users or organizations.
One of our alumni is a military veteran who was injured in Afghanistan and became the face of injured warriors during President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address. He was invited to drop the first puck before a St. Louis Blues hockey game and we shared photos from the team page. The fan reaction went through the roof.

Do feature interesting stories or anecdotes.
Our most popular posts feature success stories about our students, staff and alumni.

Do encourage your staff to submit photos to be used on social media.
You don’t have to be the sole source of photos; encourage your students and staff to submit photos for you to use on social media.

Do be consistent in posting multiple times a week.
To maintain your presence, be sure to post at least a few stories or photos each week.

Don’t publish too many stories in the same time frame.
Be careful, strategic and timely with your posts. Unless it is an emergency (or an amazing story), our rule of thumb is not to post more than three stories in a 24-hour period.

Don’t publish multiple stories about the same subject in the same time frame.
We learned an important lesson after sharing three versions of the story about our alumnus dropping the puck before a Blues game. The fan interaction went down each time.

Don’t overload your page with upcoming events or boring stories.
While it is important to promote upcoming events, your audience tires quickly when they see the same post about the PTO or booster club meeting multiple times. And, while new curriculum adoption may be exciting to some, it doesn’t always get the audience interaction you might be looking for on social media.