Twitter for schools: strategy, management, measurement

There are a number of schools on Twitter. Many tweet board of education meetings or link press releases they just posted on the district’s website. For some, they rarely update the account after they set it up because they find it is repetitive and scarcely followed. Twitter is one of the most powerful social media platforms out there, though it isn’t for every district. What I have discovered is that more and more high school students are using it, the media is all over it, teachers are using it, and community influencers (politicians, chambers, business owners) are using it. So, while Twitter may not yield as large of a following for your school district as Facebook, it may be the key to reaching influencers.

Strategy suggestions:

  1. Don’t just recycle Facebook or website content, bring personality to your Twitter account by having a team of staff members tweet and share photos using Instagram or TwitPic. I suggest building administrative teams using Twitter to open up communication and bringing transparency and awareness to the day-to-day activities of your staff and students.
  2. Create niche Twitter accounts. Instead of just one district Twitter account, perhaps you have a charismatic superintendent who can represent the district on Twitter or maybe you have principals who can tweet regularly. It isn’t about being on Twitter as a district, but rather making it so an audience of influencers wants to follow your presence.

Management suggestions:

  1. Time is always the biggest excuse for why Twitter cannot be used successfully in a school, but there are ways to schedule tweets to compliment live tweeting from district representatives that makes it manageable. Check out Hootsuite, SocialOomph, Tweetdeck, Buffer or SocialBro to schedule your tweets ahead of time.

Measurement suggestions:

  1. No one working in school PR wants to waste his or her time on a tactic that yields little results. With tools like SocialBro, analyzing who is being reached and what is being discussed on Twitter is manageable. Obviously, if 75 percent of your Twitter followers are spammers or from Belgium, you may want to re-think investing time on this social community.
  2. Use hashtags. By promoting various hashtags for your district (ex. #JFKTigers or #FDRProm12 or #TigerHoops) you are encouraging your followers to tag conversations. These conversations can then be easily moderated or monitored using tools like TweetChat or by doing a simple Twitter Search. Sometimes listening is just as important as tweeting.

Responding to Web Postings

Attention has been given in this space previously to the importance of monitoring social media channels as part of an environmental scanning regimen. More and more, what is being said about schools and school districts is happening through social sites and not mainstream media. By using tools such as Google Alerts, TweetDeck and HootSuite, it is much easier to be aware of mentions and remarks being made in the blogosphere.

But what to do next? Does every mention warrant a response? Now that you know what people are saying about your organization, what should you do about it?

One of the best policies (which also became a process) is that which was developed by the United States Air Force.  Realizing that the men and women of the Air Force would be confronted on a daily basis by rumors, speculation and misinformation as published and posted by all manner of people, the Air Force developed a logic flow process. This process, viewable as a flow chart, methodically guides users through every step needed to determine what actions, if any, should be taken to address a web posting.

This same approach can be modified for use in your district and will help provide a systematic response that is consistent and efficient.

NSPRA Seminar Will Include Plenty of Social School PR

So you’ve been enjoying this blog and picking up great tips from our NSPRA members who are social media experts, but you need a little more – some in-person guidance.

Once again, NSPRA has the solution.

This summer’s NSPRA Seminar in Chicago will have several great sessions on social media. There are offerings designed to either get you up and running with these new tools or take your understanding to the next level if you are already comfortable with the basics.

  • There will be a pre-seminar session from Cody Cunningham and Terry Morawski called “Mobile Apps Strategy in School Communications.”
  • Another pre-seminar session from Dana VanDen Heuvel will focus on “Social Media Strategy for School Districts.”
  • VanDen Heuvel will also offer a session during the seminar called “What Every School District Needs to Know About Social Media.”
  • One of the contributers to this blog, Evelyn McCormack, will present “Connecting Your Social Media.”
  • Joseph Donzelli and Robert Dodig, Esq. will present “How to Use Social Media Properly.”
  • Terri McHugh, APR will present “I Know How to Tweet, But Not What to Say – Social Media Content.”
  • Shelly Hickman and Kathleen Kennedy, APR will present “Don’t Suppress Your APPetite: Tell Your Story to Everyone, Everywhere, Anytime!”
  • Another of our blog contributers, Shane Haggerty, along with Erika Daggett, will present “Stepping Into Social Media: A School District Case Study.”
  • McHugh will present another session with John Rork called “Blog Is Not a Bad Word – Design a User-Friendly Website.”
  • Meg Carnes, APR and Kitty Porterfield will present “Ten Things Your Superintendent Needs to Know About Social Media.”
  • Elise Shelton and Andrew Pitt will present “Making Web-Based Video an Essential Tool in School Communications.”
  • John Moss will present “Using Video Productions and Smart-Phone APPs to Tell Your Story.”
  • A.J. Huff wil present “Student Blogging for School Pride and High School Credit.”
  • Jennifer Woodley will present “You Have a Friend Request.”
  • And Annette Eyman and Kala Morrissey will offer an action lab on “Using Social Media to Improve Your Communication.”

Of course, there are dozens of offerings from national experts on all kinds of issues, so no matter your school PR question, you will find answers at this seminar.