Share Your Social Media Knowledge

Many of us have seen an explosion in the use of social media by school administrators in the past couple of years, particularly on Twitter. But some school superintendents and building principals remain either skeptical or simply too busy to take on social media in a direct way. You know who you are.

The major social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn – are no longer a playground reserved just for the communications and instructional technology staff. The superintendents and building principals who have decided that they wanted to join in on the fun have come around to understand the platforms, and to participate themselves.

As a school public relations professional, you might find (as I do) that you’ve become the social media teacher, and your superintendents and building principals have become your students. I can’t tell you the number of times over the past several years that a district administrator has asked me, “So what’s this social media thing, anyway?”

To answer that question, you might want to consider some of the following tips:

  • Conduct a social media workshop for members of your district’s cabinet, or explain how your district is using social media at a Board of Education meeting.
  • Offer to do a social media workshop for your PTA – usually an eager, social media-deprived audience. I’ve presented for the past two years, for example, at the annual Westchester/East Putnam Parent Teacher Association’s conference on social media. As you might expect, the audience has grown.
  • Develop a social media toolkit page on your school district website. To see how this is done well, visit the Chicago Public Schools’ Social Media Toolkit page here. Chicago has developed a toolkit of resources that includes how-to videos, documents and links to other sites, meant primarily for school principals who want to use social media to connect with their communities.

You might be surprised at the reception you’ll get by sharing your social media knowledge.

Ideas to engage through niche social media

It’s safe to assume Facebook and Twitter aren’t going anywhere, and most schools have figured out how to effectively leverage these platforms. But what of all the new or niche social media out there? How can schools use these platforms to engage their communities and reinforce brand?

Google Plus

What it is: A very niche social network that is popular for long-form content, targeted communities called Circles, video conferencing called Hangouts and broadcasting opportunities through Hangouts on Air

Who uses it: 18-34 demographics are tops; dominated by males

Ideas for schools: 

  • Use Circles to build relationships and have consistent communications with your key communicators and advocates;
  • Use Hangouts On Air to broadcast messages from administrators or to host one-on-one segments with teachers, students, etc.

My take: G+ is not for mass outreach right now. Consider it as a tool to add value to other tactics rather than as a communications platform by itself.

Vine

What it is: A social video platform that only allows for 6.5 seconds on a loop. It works seamlessly with Twitter because it was created by the same people.

Who uses it: Demographic data is limited on Vine, though it tends to be a younger audience (13-24).

Ideas for schools:

  • How-to videos
  • Call-to-action campaigns
  • Host a Vine open house and push the videos out on Twitter to a larger audience.
  • Campus tours
  • Quick Q&A videos

My take: Vine is a very niche crowd and using it as a platform by itself does not make sense for schools. The content that can be created on Vine does make sense, though. If you have strong Twitter following in your district, make Vine your go-to platform for quick videos and push them out on Twitter, which has become a much more visual social platform.

Instagram

What it is: A social photo and video platform. Videos on Instagram can be 15 seconds long. Instagram is owned by Facebook.

Who uses it: A younger demographic. It is one of the top platforms of ages 18-24.

Uses for schools:

  • Since you already have Facebook to share photo galleries, no use posting the same pictures here. Have a specific purpose for using Instagram.
  • That purpose could include a place to showcase school history or traditions, a place for special campaigns or a place to hold a visual open house.
  • Create special hashtags to crowdsource your content and have the community, students or teachers take photos for you.

My take: Instagram is a great place to be creative and engage your audiences by involving them in content creation. It is also a great place, thanks to their array of filters, to showcase more creative images than your typical school district photos.

Snow Drama

In the last few weeks, Doug Bray and Kala Morrissey provided great wisdom about snow-day social media, and I have to say I agree with them. Like Doug, we added hundreds of followers during the recent storms, and like Kala, we found it important to communicate early and often.

As I commiserated with my MOSPRA and KanSPRA colleagues today at lunch over the beating we are all taking from parents and students, I decided we could all use a little laugh at all the snow drama.

So here, for your amusement, are some of the best student tweets we received this week (names redacted, of course):

@ParkHillSchools we need another snow day tomorrow! I’m going to die if I have to wake up early!! Please cancel school xo

Don’t do me like that bb plz no skool @ParkHillSchools

@ParkHillSchools If you make me drive to school tomorrow, I will wreck and be stuck on the side of the road at -12 degrees

.@ParkHillSchools my fingers are delicate #coldday2014

Park Hill will be putting all of our lives in danger if they make us go to school tomorrow

@ParkHillSchools do you want to be the cause of my suffering tomorrow? Because I don’t think you want that on your conscience.

so if you could cancel it now when my moms in a good mood I may have a chance OF ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING TONIGHT @ParkHillSchools

Do you get some kind of pleasure from being the last one to cancel @ParkHillSchools ???????

Hey guess what…its gonna be cold tomorrow #hinthint @ParkHillSchools

@ParkHillSchools we can have a giant sledding party tomorrow if you cancel school

@ParkHillSchools cancel school because I can’t get out of my driveway

Don’t know how I’m gonna get to school alive tomorrow. Dangerous @ParkHillSchools

@ParkHillSchools plz cancel school tomorrow it’s my birthday

Life is About Timing

It’s often said that the key to great comedy is timing. Knowing when to deliver the punchline, or how long to hold back that wry comment that caps off a joke are key to keeping an audience amused and engaged.

The same can be said for social media posts. Knowing when your audiences are likely to be scanning their social sites is vital as you plan a social media strategy and posting process. One example is Facebook. If you post early in the day, not realizing peak usage is in the afternoon, your message may have long since rolled to the bottom of a friend’s news feed by the time they are online.

A very helpful article by Brianna Smith, writing for “Social Media Today,” details the best times to post on the major social media platforms. In summary:

  • Facebook – Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday
  • Twitter – Between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday
  • LinkedIn – Before and after business hours, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday
  • Google+ – 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on workdays
  • Pinterest – 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. on weekdays. The best time to pin items on Pinterest is on Saturday morning.

Many of the social media monitoring and management applications, such as Hootsuite and TweetDeck, include tools that let you schedule postings in advance or even automate the process to get the best results. Take advantage of these capabilities as you plan your posts for maximum exposure.

From the Social Caffeine blog:
Best-Times-to-Share-Social-Media-Updates