Don’t lose heart.

We all go through phases when the project list is so big we wonder how in the world we’re supposed to find time for social media. We may wonder if it’s really worth it. Am I getting a return on my investment?

The answer is yes. It is worth it. So how do we stay motivated? How do we get inspired?

  1. Remind yourself of the reason you do what you do. Perhaps you’re doing it because your boss told you to. This quick reminder could inspire you to keep on so you can keep your job. Maybe you’re participating because you need an outlet to respond to negative responses. Or it could be the perfect outlet to recognize and praise students and staff. Take a moment to assess the reason and see if it jumpstarts your productivity and creativity.
  2. Have a regular routine. Habits can be powerful things. It’s a proven fact that a habit can be very difficult to break. However in the case of social media, habits can be a good thing. If you develop the habit of checking your social media accounts, responding and posting during certain parts of the day, every day, you may find it much easier to schedule your time and ensure the accounts stay current.
  3. Develop a support group. It’s important to have friends and interests outside of your work as well as colleagues who can understand and support what you’re going through. They may be the ones to help you stay motivated and engaged.
  4. Look for opportunities to “steal” social media ideas from others. Be on the lookout and try new things you see working for others. Why reinvent a wheel if one already works well. If you have a competitive nature, this may be the perfect boost to your game.
  5. Follow the experts. Mashable and Social Media Examiner provide free updates daily. Use their tips, how tos, case studies, reviews and tools to inspire you through this drought.
  6. Attend a workshop or seminar. Fresh, new ideas generally come from attending workshops and seminars like the NSPRA seminar or your state chapter meeting, especially if you get to share it with colleagues. Use the time away to get refreshed, reenergized and geared up.
  7. Go to your “happy place.” Take a quick break and think of the place that just plasters a grin on your face. All the worries, stress and deadlines seem to disappear.

We’ve all heard the motivational quotes… Stay engaged. Persevere. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t lose heart. This too shall pass. Although we may tire of hearing these phrases, we must recognize the truth in them.

Good luck and press on!

Six Strategies to Deal with Negative Posts

Worried about negative comments on your Facebook page?  Don’t be.

Social media is an opportunity for two-way communication with your community. The occasional negative comment provides an opportunity to understand which problems need fixing, to clarify rumors and misconceptions, and to truly listen to community members.

What’s the best strategy to deal with a negative post?  Here are six tactics to respond effectively:

1)    Wait. Very often, an involved, informed parent will counter-post  in defense of the school district, or provide the needed facts to clarify a misconception. Having a parent leap to your defense can be more effective than anything you say.

2)    Ask questions. If a post raises a new issue or a situation you are unaware of, this is an opportunity! Find out more. If this is best done privately, offer your phone number and ask the person to call you. If you are hearing the same message from several people, post an online survey to find out more.

3)    Provide accurate information. If the negative post is based on a false assumption or a lack of understanding, this is your chance to open a two-way dialog and provide the facts. Don’t just do this on your social media site; look for opportunities to spread the information using several communication strategies.

4)    Forward comments to district leaders. Does the post raise a safety concern? A complaint  A suggestion? Many top district leaders are not social media users, or might have missed the post. Simply copy and paste the comment, then email it to district leaders. It’s important to also send them the positive comments, which can be a real morale booster for staff.

5)    Enforce basic ground rules. Whether covered in district policy or not, a few simple rules will keep your social media site under control:

  • No profanity.
  • No personal attacks on any person: student, staff, or community member.
  • Offending posts will be deleted immediately.
  • Two-time offenders will be banned from the site.

6)  If trolls have taken over, go dark. If you are overwhelmed by negative posts, click the “unpublish” box. Figure out a plan to deal with the situation, then turn your page back on when you are ready.

Five ways your school district can use Pinterest

By now you have heard someone mention Pinterest. Usually it is followed by the words, “I’m addicted.” Pinterest shot to stardom in 2011, and so far it is an invite-only social network that allows users to “pin” their interests, dreams, likes, favorites, inspirations and more onto boards based on the categories of their choosing. Basically, Pinterest is social bookmarking, but visually appealing.

The image-based platform is one of the top ten most-visited social networks over the past year and interest continues to grow, especially among women, a key demographic. While it may not seem like Pinterest would be worthy of considering as a potential communications or marketing tool for schools, there are many ways a school district could use the site. And, based on its growing popularity, especially amongst moms, why wouldn’t you at least consider it and stay one step ahead of the social media game.

As always, corporations are already taking advantage of the site’s popularity, using it for various showcases, contests and more. Schools can also use this platform easily and effectively. Here are five ways to use Pinterest:

Digital News Clippings
Instead of clipping articles from your local newspaper, take advantage of the article being online and pin it. Pin the links to your television news stories or any other online media for that matter. You can also pin JPEG files as well. Create a visual, easy to look at digital clipping room on your Pinterest page to keep track of your media coverage.

Resource Room
Be helpful to your parents, students and other constituents by pinning resourceful articles and blogs that you find online. Perhaps you choose to focus on articles and resources about colleges, financial aid, career trends and the job market.

Employee Showcase
You can post pictures of your staff members and write brief bios on each. However, why not touch on what makes them stand out? Feature unique, pre-teaching career experiences or hobbies they have that are interesting. Maybe they played college sports or excel at playing an instrument. Why not humanize your staff members by telling brief stories about them and pinning it here in the “faculty lounge” section of your Pinterest page?

Education Advocacy
Now more than ever, those who work in education need to curate content and advocate for education at every turn. Create an advocacy board on your Pinterest and pin articles that support or inform about new legislation, school funding, testing, curriculum or more.

Student Success Showcase
Much like featuring your employees, featuring your students is important as well. Make this unique and differentiated from other areas of communications, though. We all know athletes and smart kids get a lot of attention, but here you could create a student success showcase of those that are doing remarkable community service projects, those who are remarkable employees at their after-school jobs or students who are earning industry credentials, college credit, scholarship money or more while in high school.

The possibilities with Pinterest are endless! Explore this hot, new social media tool and take advantage of its growing popularity. What ideas do you have for using Pinterest in schools?

The Future of Social Media Maintenance?

If you’re like me, you probably look forward to school calendar season as much as you look forward to your next dentist appointment.

I can remember nearly losing my sanity during a few school calendar seasons, sorting through hundreds of pieces of paper (including handwritten notes) containing competing events and dates.

And now, many of us have social media responsibilities added to our long list of tasks. What’s a school communicator to do?

There might be help on the way. In my web travels, I stumbled across some pretty interesting web-based problem-solvers. I am in no way endorsing these products; I’m just noting a possible trend here.

Tandem for Schools, for example, is a web-based calendar service now available to schools. Using Tandem, school administrators can contribute to and update a central calendar, thereby sidestepping competing events, eliminating all that paper, and permitting the person who compiles your print calendar to retain his or her grip on reality. And perhaps, if your district is ready for this, Tandem might eventually make the print calendar obsolete.

Tandem connects school districts with parents in multiple ways, centered around a sophisticated-looking system. The web-based calendar, set up by a school district (or by individual schools, PTAs, education foundations, sports booster organizations, etc.), can sync with users’ Outlook, iCal, Google Calendar, Windows Live and other calendar systems.

The service also provides iPhone and smartphone integration so that Tandem can send emails and text message alerts to parents. Messages can be filtered by parents along the lines of their interests — for example, some parents might only want alerts about sports events; others might want to know about everything on the calendar.

Tandem also integrates with the district website by allowing you to re-direct the calendar button or the link you use to your district or school Tandem URL, and users will land right on the calendar. The calendar also can be customized to your school or district colors and logo.  And it includes directions to every event you post on the district calendar, with the help of Google Maps. You can also post individual events from the Tandem calendar directly onto Twitter and Facebook, and the calendar can be embedded onto your district’s Facebook page.

The best way to understand how Tandem works is to watch the company video.

Although Tandem hasn’t published any rates that I can find, you can see what the company offers in two different pricing levels — basic (free version) and enterprise — here. You can also sign up for a demo or watch a Tandem webinar before deciding your next course of action.

Squareberry promotes itself as an automated social media tool that helps social media managers with scheduling news and posts, tracking feedback and impressions, and centralizing and automating your social media work, saving time and angst. The Squareberry tool integrates your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, and your LinkedIn page, and it lets you post to all at the same time. For those of you without a Facebook fan page, Squareberry will build one for you.

Squareberry also allows you to use a full web-based calendar as your central events tool, and will post those events on all your social media sites. Postings can be scheduled way in advance, and that will undoubtedly save you oodles of time. In addition, the tool includes in-depth integration with mobile devices.

The free version of Squareberry (for schools and non-profits) is somewhat limited and doesn’t include the Facebook fan page creation. You’re limited to 100 events per month and three social media accounts. The pro version, at $29 per month, offers unlimited events, unlimited web calendars, and five social media accounts.

To better understand how Squareberry works, take a look at their video overview.

If any of our readers have tried out these tools, please feel free to share your experience with the rest of us in the comments section of this blog.