Getting the troops on board: Social media monitoring

Social media, specifically Twitter, can be a great information tool during a crisis, in more ways than one. You can keep up with developments, get information out quickly and stay in touch throughout a situation. However, with all that is going on in any given crisis, monitoring the air waves may not be top of mind. That is when having assistance – and not necessarily an assistant – comes in handy.

Recently, the Hutto Police Department was dealing with a situation where a homeowner had barricaded himself in his home. Police had blocked a major thoroughfare in our town, so everyone knew something was amiss. Because we collaborate well with the PD, we were aware and watching for a resolution. None of our campuses were in danger, but it’s always best to be safe. As a precaution, administration had campuses limit activity to indoor only and notified parents that some bus routes may be affected by road closures. Mindful that social media would be buzzing, but tasked with writing, calling and texting parents, I wasn’t at a point to monitor my social media feeds. That is, until a parent emailed me a screen shot of a tweet.

The tweet, sent by a user I’d never seen, mentioned “may be my last tweets” “lockdown” and “serious.” The parent even ran down the previous tweets and let me know this person was subbing in our district that day. The police situation was resolved shortly after I received the email, all was well and our students went home safe. But the tweet bothered me enough to look up the user, check the times and figure out the situation. From it all, I learned some critical lessons:

  1. Build your troops. Without the email from this parent, I wouldn’t have caught this tweet. I have built close relationships with many parents (in person and on social media), so it was quickly brought to my attention. Make sure parents know how to inform you and that they feel comfortable doing so. Be sure you have developed the relationships that will allow them to assist you.
  2. Make sure your staff is on board. If your staff sees anything on social media, they should inform you as well. A quick email with a link, screen shot or details can help you get a hold of a potential social media disaster. Your staff can be built in assistants.
  3. Get out the necessary info. In a crisis, if you aren’t informing your staff members of what is going on, they are going to make assumptions and they may post their assumptions on social media. And don’t forget front office staff, subs and coaches. Give them relevant details they need to know and what they should tell parents who call, tweet and post. Let them assist you.
  4. Discuss the best information to share. It is never too early to have a conversation with your staff about the importance of what they tweet, post or share during a situation. Their safety, students’ safety or the sanity of a parent may depend on it. Remind them that vague and misleading information only serves to scare parents and make the situation that much more difficult to handle. Instruct them not to send cryptic tweets like this sub did, because the district has a protocol for when and how to notify parents and you will follow it.
  5. After action, after action, after action. As in any situation, be sure you follow up after the event to monitor residual effects that might have arisen. Consider it an after-action debrief.

What Does the Upcoming Facebook Redesign Mean for Your District’s Page?

Get ready for the griping from your Facebook friends – another redesign is on its way over the next few weeks.

Facebook is promoting some features that should be good for your district’s page:

  • People will be able to look at different feeds, including a “following” feed. This one will show them posts by pages they follow, including yours. This might help you recapture the attention of followers who haven’t looked at your page in a while. If followers engage with your content in this feed, Facebook is more likely to show it to them in their regular feed.
  • Your photos, which are usually your most engaging content, will be more prominent.
  • When someone likes your page, your cover photo will show up in the post that appears in the feeds of that person’s friends.
  • Even the most change-averse folks on Facebook should find this change a bit easier because it will be familiar — the new design looks like the current design of Facebook’s mobile app.

image from Facebook Studio

Work Smarter, Not Harder…Repurpose Content

Working in education, we have all heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder.” It’s easy to talk about, but not always easy to implement. If your district is like ours, your communications department is small and there is usually more work than time, so working smarter is key.

While in college, I learned about the marketing rule of seven: individuals have to see your message at least seven times before they will remember it. I don’t think it is the number that really matters; it is more about the meaning. Individuals need to see your message multiple times in multiple formats to remember it.

In order accomplish this; our district makes a point to repurpose content. Our philosophy is simple: when we write something to put out to our audiences, it has to be used in a least five different places. By doing this, we are saving time and we are reaching our audiences via multiple communication channels.

For example, we might write a short new release about an upcoming play at one of our high schools. We distribute it to the media, we then include the same information on our district website announcements, in the parent e-newsletter, in school e-newsletters, in the staff e-newsletter, on our mobile app, on Facebook, on Twitter and in our monthly youth activities publication. By writing one story and repurposing it, we reach our audiences via 10 communication channels.

Here are some tips on repurposing content:

  • Write content so it can be used in multiple formats, exactly as it is or changed only slightly.
  • Write content so it is a quick, easy read. Readers want quick, short blurbs they can scan on their mobile devices, not long, complicated reads.
  • Stagger the timing of your messages. Sending the same message out via five different communication channels at the same exact time probably isn’t as effective as sending it out in five different ways at staggered times.