For many brands, the ultimate goal is steadily increasing the number of followers on a given social media channel. Brands want to have high numbers because it somehow makes us feel “better” than the other guys. However, I constantly find myself telling others it isn’t the quantity; it’s the quality. It is more important to have quality engagement with your followers than merely knowing that you are reaching a high number of users.
Reaching and engaging your audience(s) can be one of the hardest things for school districts to do on social media. “Likes” and retweets are rarely in short supply, but when it comes to two-way communication, it just doesn’t happen – at least for our district.
I have spent countless hours trying to figure out what we were doing wrong. Are we not posting the right information? Do parents and community members not care? I’ve come to the conclusion that in today’s on-the-go society, people have to really genuinely care about what a brand is talking about to engage. Even then, there has to be a driving force as to why they engage.
Here are some tips on increasing engagement in your district:
- Research. Know your audience and what it is looking for. In our district we conduct an annual communication audit of staff and parents. We want to make sure that we are not only reaching our audience, but that we are giving people the information they want and need. We specifically ask what they are looking for on social media, among other communication channels. The results of these surveys drive our communication.
- Photos. There is no bigger engagement than photos. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and neighbors love to see what children they know are doing during the school day, as well as see them participating in extra-curricular activities. We also post photos from PTO events like family nights and staff events like back to school kick-off. People love to see themselves or their children in these photos. They are constantly commenting on these photos and sharing with their family and friends.
- Find light-hearted ways to engage your audience. We do a weekly “Where Are We Wednesday” segment. I’d like to say this is our original idea, but it was a NSPRA conference idea. We post a photo on Wednesday of something in our district and ask followers to tell us where we are. The following Wednesday we follow the photo up and tell them where we were. We tie the Wednesday photo back to an upcoming event or an important topic in our district. I’ve learned over the years that people love competition. Even though this is a small competition with no prize, people still love to know they have the right answer. Plus, this is a great way to start conversations about important topics.
- Contests. Selfishly, we routinely host contests on our social media channels to drive up our numbers. We offer a prize (tickets to a play, gift card to high school book store, etc) to one current fan who shares the page with a friend and to one of the next 50 new “likes” to the page. Yes, the ultimate goal is to drive numbers up, but we also know that hosting these contests kick-starts conversations about the district. Other school districts have also seen great success with art contests, essay contests and “tell us about your favorite teacher” contests.
- Educational posts. Throughout the year, we encourage schools to post curriculum updates on their social media pages. However, non-school days are some of the least active days on district social media. To help drive traffic on these days, we post educational activities. The posts are activities parents can do with their kids to engage learning in a fun way. Examples include practicing math by playing card games, or having a scavenger hunt with the newspaper. Many parents comment with additional ideas for other parents to use.
- Timing. Timing really is everything in social media. Posting a great story at 11 p.m. is not going to get the same traffic that something at 5 p.m. will get. Research has shown that most people look at social media first thing in the morning (as they are getting ready and before work), over the lunch hour, and between 5 and 7 p.m., when people are getting off work. If possible, post during these times. Some social media channels now have tools where you can schedule posts. Take advantage of these tools.
- Analytics. Look at the analytics from your social media channels. These are great tools to tell you what is working and what isn’t working for your district.