Five Steps to Move your District into Social Media

By now your school district falls into one of the following categories when it comes to social media:

  1. All in
  2. Dipping toes into the water
  3. Wavering and stuck
  4. The door is closed

Congratulations if you are all-in, and my sympathies if the door is closed. Your district has made a decision to either engage your constituents with social media or to stick with traditional methods. However, if your district falls into the second or third categories, here are five steps you can take to methodically and practically implement some form of social media into your existing communications plan:

1. Develop a social media strategy and plan. Figure out what you want to accomplish by doing surveys and focus groups, and then plan how you are going to meet your constituents’ needs and interests with social media.

2. Develop your social media policies or guidelines. Either your board is going to want to develop stand-alone social media policies or you can complement existing, board-approved technology policies with guidelines that don’t require board approval.

3. Train and educate your staff and students. Depending on what you will do, your staff and students need to have clear expectations about why you are using social media and how they can help.

4. Develop a content plan. Just as you would develop an editorial calendar for a newsletter, develop a content plan for videos, photos or other content that will keep your social presence current and engaging. Also, determine who will manage your social media.

5. Launch it and measure it. Don’t just start a Facebook page or Twitter account and expect people to flock to it. You have to launch it effectively, so think through your internal and external roll-out. The nice thing about social media is you can measure them all the time to prove their effectiveness or lack thereof.

Five Great Social Media Guides

Image representing Mashable as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

If you’re just heading down the road to creating social media sites for your school or district, you might want to consider a handful of social media “bibles” that can make the process much less daunting.

1. One of my favorite guides is Facebook‘s own Pages Manual, created specifically for those of us in the field of education. The 10-page manual is a step-by-step guide to setting up a fan page (which, by the way, is the best way to create a page for your school or district). Try to avoid creating a Facebook “group” or a Facebook “community page,” because you’ll be limited in what you can accomplish.

2. Facebook also provides a Guide for Educators, which dives deeper and provides tips on encouraging appropriate behavior on your site, sharing important content, using the polls tool, and the Discussions and Notes tabs.

3.  I frequently refer to Mashable‘s Facebook Guide Book for help. This visual online guide provides beginners with a Facebook 101 tutorial, and more seasoned Facebook page administrators with “Facebook 305: Advanced Topics.” There’s plenty in this guide about using Facebook applications — an important second step for most fan page admins.

4. Twitter newbies will want to consult Mashable’s Twitter Guide Book, which is divided into five chapters beginning with “Twitter 101.” This guide, which can be downloaded, viewed online or as a video, is a must-have for anyone putting his toe into the Twitter waters for the first time.

5. Let’s not forget about LinkedIn, which continues to be the best social media site for professional networking. LinkedIn has added Company Pages, Jobs, Groups and an Answers tool for sharing expertise with others. The best way to learn more about using Linkedin is to go straight to the LinkedIn Learning Center, which will provide you with just about everything you need to know.

Social Monitoring Tools

A big part of moving a district into the world of social media is keeping track of what that brave, new world is saying about your organization.  By using social media monitoring tools (some free, some paid), you can automate or at least simplify the process of staying ahead of breaking news and digital gossip.

Free services and applications that work for small to moderate-sized organizations:

  • Google Alerts – scans the Internet for selected words or phrases and sends you messages
  • TweetDeck – gathers mentions from across the most popular social media sites and delivers to your desktop
  • HootSuite – monitors social media sites and allows assignment of response tasks to team members

Welcome to NSPRA’s New Blog

As the field of social media marketing and communications expands, there is a great deal of information out there about general best practices. However, specifics about using these tools for school public relations are more difficult to find.

NSPRA experts are the best qualified to meet this need, and we have a group of knowledgable contributors poised to provide weekly posts:

Do you have a suggestion for a future blog post? Contact Nicole Kirby, (816) 359-6030.