Managing and Monitoring Facebook Ads

This fall, we learned an important lesson in always monitoring your ads on Facebook. We have been using Facebook as part of two different ad campaigns – one to encourage our community to take the district’s annual online survey and the other to recruit quality substitute teachers.

Our entire budget was $200 for both ad campaigns. It is a relatively inexpensive way to drive traffic to a certain page or conduct an online survey.

By targeting it to individuals that were not associated with the Ritenour School District but lived within specific zip codes within our area, we were able to gain 300 responses from non-parent community members. Our department developed a strategic plan and used our website, rapid telephone system, email and postcards home with students to promote the survey to our community. In all, we received more than 1,000 responses.

The ad to recruit substitute teachers began in the second week of November. Anecdotally, we received “more calls that usual” to our human resources department seeking information to become a sub in our district.

Anyone can like, share or comment on your ad – if it is in the news feed. If you run your ad in the right hand column, commenting is not allowed. We were thrilled with the likes and shares, but the comments are tricky. And you can’t turn the comments off.

The ad does not show up on your regular business page or business news feed. Ads are located in the “Manage Ads” area of Facebook. If you do not check on them, the ads can just sit out there – quietly – with negative comments piling up that everyone will see. I am sure you agree that it is not a good thing to pay for an ad that feeds negative comments to your audience.

Luckily, we discovered any negative comments quickly and were able to delete them before too much damage was done. But we also learned an important lesson: always be sure to monitor your ads on a regular basis. During the height of your paid ad campaign, I would suggest checking in several times a day.

Viewing your ad on Facebook is simple. You can click here for more information from Facebook.

Locked Down by Yik Yak

Last month, while I was interviewing a high school student in one of my school districts, our conversation was interrupted by the announcement that the school was on lockdown.

For two long hours, my delightful companion and I spoke in whispers about our families and her college plans. She was calm and collected, occasionally checking her smartphone for texts from classmates and reassuring her parents by text that she was safe. I asked her what might have precipitated the lockdown, which ended only after a police officer knocked on our locked office door and set us free.

“Yik Yak,” she said. “It’s disgusting.”

Yik Yak is the latest in a long litany of anonymous social apps, this one providing users with a way to have Twitter-like conversations with others within a 1.5-mile geographic radius. Like a location-based bulletin board, Yik Yak permits users to “upvote” or “downvote” others’ posts.

But since the app’s inception only a year ago, some of the comments posted by its young users have included serious threats and persistent bullying, resulting in lockdowns, evacuations and even arrests on college campuses and at high schools around the country.

Yik Yak was intended, say its creators, to provide college students with a way to converse with each other about campus life in an unofficial and unfiltered way. But as is often the case when an app is anonymous, problems have plagued its use.

In fact, in a digital landscape that includes the often-maligned and anonymous Ask.fm, Whisper and 4chan, the Washington Post wrote recently that “perhaps none has proved so consistently problematic — so apparently irredeemable — as Yik Yak.”

Because of the bad publicity, Yik Yak creators now say that posts flagged as “inappropriate” by two or more users will be removed, and are said to be working on a tool that will notify them when posts come directly from a high school or middle school.

But social apps – good and bad — will continue to be a moving target for school officials and communications professionals. We need to be ready to respond. Here are some tips from my own recent experience:

  • Ask your technology team if a “geo-fence” can be established around your high schools and middle schools to block troublesome apps.
  • It’s never too early to send a letter or an email out to parents, informing them about the latest app making headlines. If schools in Chicago or Marblehead, Mass., are being locked down, the problem is likely to reach your doorstep.
  • Remind parents and students that even “anonymous” comments and posts can be tracked by law enforcement, particularly if a post can be interpreted as a threat.
  • Include discussions about the dangers of anonymous apps in your digital citizenship classes and at parents’ nights. Enlist the help of your PTAs.
  • Invite experts on the use of anonymous social media and apps to make presentations to your school community. In another of my districts next week, we’re hosting cyberbullying expert Josh Gunderson, who will speak to students during the day and to parents in the evening.
  • If your school community finds itself in the midst of a Yik Yak invasion, be ready to handle calls from the press. Rather than evading reporters, engage them in a thoughtful conversation about the problems of anonymous apps and provide them with the bigger picture. They will probably appreciate the research you did and the wider perspective.

Nextdoor: a new way to meet your neighbors

Want to invite veterans to a school celebration? Need to share information about a bond measure? Trying to reach families with preschoolers?

As newspapers decline in readership, how can we deliver school news to the 75 percent of community members who don’t have a child in school? One free solution is Nextdoor, a private social media site for folks who live in the same neighborhood.

Nextdoor now serves neighborhoods across the nation, providing a way for communities to connect on local matters, from safety concerns and lost pets to local politics and community events.

For those of us working in school PR, Nextdoor is a way to share school news with the broader community, while keeping on top of emerging issues that involve or impact schools.

To join a Nextdoor site (mine is Nextdoor Gladstone), you must register using your real name and address, and provide proof by responding to a postcard sent by mail. If you don’t live in the community where you work, register at a school address.

On Nextdoor, you can post school news and events, seek public comments on district planning efforts or post a survey. You can also request donations for your district clothes closet or food pantry, recruit volunteers, and respond to complaints or misperceptions about schools.

The site pushes out email notifications whenever new posts are added, so people need not log into the site to know your message is waiting there.

Log in regularly, and you can quickly respond to issues involving your students, such as littering in a school neighborhood, concerns about high school drivers, or positive comments about the school’s day of service or the fall play. And while you’re there, you can also connect with community partners, such as the local police chief or the local librarian.

Ready to discover the Nextdoor neighborhoods in your school district? Go meet your neighbors at https://nextdoor.com/.

Making Twitter Management Manageable with Lists

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Twitter is wonderful for everything from monitoring community chatter about your schools to sharing the great things going on in your classrooms. But cutting through the clutter can be a chore.

I use Twitter lists to make this easy, and when I combine the list feature with a great Twitter management application, it’s like a magic dashboard.

My application of choice is TweetDeck, but Hootsuite is also great (if you have other favorites, please share in the comments!).

I have one column dedicated to a standing search on the name of my district (“Park Hill”), so I can monitor what people are saying about us. This means I’ve learned a lot about a neighborhood in Denver and a housing project in Sheffield, England, which are also named Park Hill.

Then I have a column showing my “Park Hill” list, which has accounts related to my district, including teachers, coaches, schools, parents and a few students. I use this list both for monitoring and for finding great tweets from the schools to retweet from the district account.

Then there are my “School PR Resources” list, my list of NSPRA colleagues, my “Local Schools” list, my “News” list and my regional lists.

Having columns for these lists is just as important as having columns for notifications and direct messages, because lists help cut through the deluge of posts.

Plus, I can organize my columns so the professional ones are easily accessible and the personal ones require me to scroll. This keeps me on task when I’m working on Twitter! I’m sure none of the rest of you have this issue.

Feel free to follow any of my lists, and I welcome suggestions to round them out! My Twitter handle is @kirby310.

Three reasons you should be using Vine

While many prefer Instagram because of all of the nifty things you can do with it (clip editing, drafts, filters) and the extended time of the videos (15 seconds versus six for Vine), there is definite potential with Vine in your visual storytelling efforts on social media.

Here are three clear-cut reasons why you should consider Vine as a tool in your social media toolbox:

For Brevity
First off, it’s not like 15 seconds is that much longer, so let’s get over worrying too much about six seconds versus the 15 Instagram offers. But those working in K-12 education marketing are typically small shops, depending on the size of the district, and their roles span across the various tasks of marketing. Needless to say, I can already hear the groans from school marketers everywhere screaming “Not another thing to do!!” So, while a nine-second difference isn’t all that important, it is something. Vine also doesn’t have all the bells and whistles Instagram does. No need to complicate the process. Make your videos creative and interesting, but don’t get caught up on filters, editing and drafts.

For Visual Stories
Vine provides a nice, quick alternative to showcasing district stories through elements other than photos or long form videos. Vine is a quick way to live tweet graduation ceremonies, live tweet student or staff introductions, take people on tours of your facility, or showcase various projects around the school. There are so many exciting and unique ways to use Vine. Think of it as a storytelling tool that contributes to the chapters of your district’s annual novel.

As An Extension
Lastly, and most importantly, I would argue that Vine should be thought of as an extension of Twitter. One, Vine is the brainchild of Twitter, so the integration and sharing are seamless. Vines are easily sharable on Twitter, can be watched directly on Twitter (which doesn’t happen with Instagram videos or photos), and you can grab embed codes straight from your Vines and share them on other channels like blogs or even your website (yes, I know you can embed with Instagram too, but not from Twitter). If you are a district that has invested in Twitter as a communications platform (and you should), Vine is a must-have extension.

Always, always have a social media plan

Take a deep breath. Now let it out. It’s time to look at your social media plan for the year.

Are you on track? Have you put any of your plan in place? Do you even have a plan yet?

If you are part of a small office (like mine) you may not have yet taken to the time to evaluate your social media plan yet this year. So, let’s take the time today.

Your social media plan should be proactive, if you will. Often we find ourselves at the mercy of groups or clubs that want last minute posts about their event or fundraiser, or your coworker wants you to share a local business’ post about a discount that is going on today. How do you manage these last-minute requests?

Here are a few tips to ensure your social media plan is effective for both you, your schools and your community:

1. Schedule time for social media. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. I think it is crucial to a successful social media campaign (or just general use of social media for your organization) to plan and make time. So, make time for it. Spend 20 minutes a week and schedule a month’s worth of content.

2. Set standards. You should have criteria on what makes it on your page, when it goes up and how often it is posted. Stick to this. While those days come up that you need to share last-minute information, remind those eleventh-hour requesters that you can better promote their event, story or fundraiser ahead of time. Ask them to post to your page or share the info earlier.

3. Have enough, but not too much. You should encourage consistency within your organization. One school should not have separate pages for all groups while another only has one page for the entire school. Find out what works best, how those pages are being used and create some uniformity. If you have too many pages (one for each club in a school, and for the parent organization, and for the afterschool tutoring, and for…you get it), people won’t know where to go to get information or will miss information. Uniformity will help with this.

4. Share and share alike. You are busy. Your campus staff is busy. If you are going to post about your elementary school’s fundraiser, check out their pages. They have probably already posted the info. Look at the comments. Are there any questions that needed to be answered? Any other info that needed to be included? No? Share away. If so, share the status and include the answer in your post. And remind others they can share your content as well.

Tell Me Again About this Social Media Thing

If you’re having a tough time convincing your administration team of the district’s need to have an official social media presence; allow faculty and staff to use social media while working; or (gasp) have a staff position dedicated to social media communication, here are some key metrics that speak volumes:

  • 72% of Internet users are active on social media.
  • 93% of marketers use social media (yes, your district is a marketer).
  • Social media use cuts across all age groups, including younger patrons with elementary age kids, mid-life parents with high schoolers, and senior citizens with great-grandchildren in your school.
  • Social media usage keeps growing and growing and…

There are tons of statistics like these (and more details are available in this infographic from Jeff Bullas), but the point is that this social media thing is not a fad. It’s a serious force that needs to be a vital part of your communication mix. Be sure to mine this data and be prepared to make your case.