Staking Your Claim

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Many school districts are just now entering the social media space as a result of changing policies and the realization that social media channels are a vital method of communication with students and stakeholders. One of the first things to do when working in social media for your district or school is to secure identities on all of the popular channels. If you don’t already control Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for your organization, get started claiming those properties now.

In an ideal world, you’ll be able to secure the sites without any problem. Realistically, though, you may find that a page has already been created by someone other than an official representative. Each channel has different methods to follow in making claims on user names and accounts:

  • With Facebook, the steps to follow are outlined in a help topic titled “Claiming a Page for Your Business.”
  • Twitter will assist in cases of trademark infringement with Twitter handles (if you can prove ownership) but tends to suggest you devise an alternate name.
  • Instagram cautions that starting a trademark battle can have serious legal consequences and suggests trying to work out disputes with the alleged violator before lodging a complaint.

It may turn out that you have to follow the lead of celebrities and well-established brands and settle for using something like the_real_school_district or trueISD501.

In addition to claiming obvious user names, handles and accounts, look into claiming other permutations and derivatives. If you control localschoolsucks, terriblelocalschool or badsuperintendentjones, you can avoid potential problems with embarrassing postings.

Facebook ads — do they work?

I had always wanted to try a Facebook ad. Suddenly last spring an opportunity arose when the school board decided – at the very last minute – to approve open enrollment (a new option in our state) for students who live beyond our boundaries.

With only a four-week application window, no advance notice and a tiny budget, I decided social media might be my only affordable option to get the news out quickly.

The process is easy: On your Facebook page, under the gear symbol, click “Create Ad.” Then, just follow the steps.

To create your ad, use a compelling picture, some bullet points that appeal to your target audience and include a link to your website. You can create several different ads if you wish, and the campaign will use them in rotation.

Can you afford this? Yes, because you set the budget up front. Facebook will not exceed the financial limit you set for your ad campaign. You can choose whether you want to be charged by the number of impressions (CPM) or by the number of clicks (CPC). Research on the helpful blog AllFacebook reveals that bidding CPC will have better success because Facebook tends to position these ads higher on the page, in areas that get more clicks.

You can select target demographics for your ad by geographic range, gender, age, education level, and even individual interests (e.g. crafters, museum-goers, sports fans, fast food eaters, book lovers, etc.). Looking at your page insights will give you some clues. For example, my fan base is 80-percent female, age 25 to 55.

Then choose your target dates and launch your campaign. Yes, it’s that easy.

Did it work? Yes, but definitely not in the way I expected.

I had hoped my ads would dramatically increase the number of applicants for open enrollment, but this did not happen. Attempting this over Spring Break definitely hurt this marketing push.

What did happen was that in just two weeks, I added 250 fans to my Facebook site. Total cost was $250 – just $1 per fan.

Because I purposefully targeted a broad demographic of students and parents surrounding our district boundaries, these new fans may become interested enough in the school district to move there, or transfer in when the time is right.

If you have not yet tried a Facebook ad, invest $50 and dip your toe in the water. With practice and strategy, this can be a useful tool in school PR.

Using data to set your social media strategy

Our ability to use data to make decisions about how best to leverage social media for our school districts has never been more available. Over the past several months, several new research studies were released by the Pew Research Center that can be used to pinpoint demographics and usage habits for us to make strategic decisions about social media as a part of our communication strategies.

Fact: Five years ago, just 29 percent of online adults used social networking sites. Today, that figure has more than doubled to 72 percent.

What It Means: As if we didn’t know, social media is not a fad or a fading trend. Social media are a collection of communication channels that are here to stay. In the next five years, we can likely expect that 72% to grow to well over 90% of all internet users. The fact is your district must adopt some sort of social media strategy.

Fact: Three quarters (74 percent) of all women internet users are on social networks, 8 percent more than men. Women are significantly more likely to use social sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Women are actually five times more likely to use Pinterest than men.

What It Means: As you think about which platforms to use and what the strategy is for them, consider that your audiences will be large numbers of females. It is important to gear your content for this audience and what would be most interesting to them.

Fact: While age demographics have shown growth among older audiences, social media is still a young person’s playground. Eighty-nine percent of social media users are in the 18-29 year-old demographic. 

What It Means: I think we have all realized that the next generation of parents will be the most connected generation of parents ever. Consider your social media strategy a proactive investment in the future. Still, every other age demographic has seen significant growth over the years. For example, 78 percent of 30-49 year-olds are using social media and close to 45 percent of those over age 65 are on a social network.

There is much more interesting data in various studies. If you want to explore even more data to help you make more strategic decisions about social media, feel free to check them out:

Should you sync your social media accounts?

As if you had any time to spare, social media are adding to your list of daily duties.

So I can understand the appeal of simplifying your life by syncing your social media accounts. With one keystroke, you can send the same message out to your Twitter followers and your Facebook fans.

Here are the reasons I choose not to sync:

  • I tailor my content to the audience, and Facebook users are different than Twitter users. Generally, I tend to have more parents on Facebook and more students and reporters on Twitter.
  • Facebook and Twitter don’t play nicely with each other, so photos come through as links that require users to click through to the other platform. On Facebook, people love photos they can tag and like and comment on, and on Twitter, they want to see the photo embedded without having to click through to another program.
  • The style of writing users expect on each platform is different. Abbreviations that Twitter users expect and understand sound strange on Facebook. And while I try to write succinct captions, I prefer not to limit my Facebook posts to the number of characters left after including a link on Twitter.
  • Those users who follow you in both places find identical posts tedious. If I post about the same thing in more than one place, I try to put a twist on the content that is appropriate to each platform.
  • It really doesn’t take much more time to add something to another platform. We meet weekly to schedule our social media calendar, and we decide which content is appropriate for each site.