Managing and Monitoring Facebook Ads

This fall, we learned an important lesson in always monitoring your ads on Facebook. We have been using Facebook as part of two different ad campaigns – one to encourage our community to take the district’s annual online survey and the other to recruit quality substitute teachers.

Our entire budget was $200 for both ad campaigns. It is a relatively inexpensive way to drive traffic to a certain page or conduct an online survey.

By targeting it to individuals that were not associated with the Ritenour School District but lived within specific zip codes within our area, we were able to gain 300 responses from non-parent community members. Our department developed a strategic plan and used our website, rapid telephone system, email and postcards home with students to promote the survey to our community. In all, we received more than 1,000 responses.

The ad to recruit substitute teachers began in the second week of November. Anecdotally, we received “more calls that usual” to our human resources department seeking information to become a sub in our district.

Anyone can like, share or comment on your ad – if it is in the news feed. If you run your ad in the right hand column, commenting is not allowed. We were thrilled with the likes and shares, but the comments are tricky. And you can’t turn the comments off.

The ad does not show up on your regular business page or business news feed. Ads are located in the “Manage Ads” area of Facebook. If you do not check on them, the ads can just sit out there – quietly – with negative comments piling up that everyone will see. I am sure you agree that it is not a good thing to pay for an ad that feeds negative comments to your audience.

Luckily, we discovered any negative comments quickly and were able to delete them before too much damage was done. But we also learned an important lesson: always be sure to monitor your ads on a regular basis. During the height of your paid ad campaign, I would suggest checking in several times a day.

Viewing your ad on Facebook is simple. You can click here for more information from Facebook.

Locked Down by Yik Yak

Last month, while I was interviewing a high school student in one of my school districts, our conversation was interrupted by the announcement that the school was on lockdown.

For two long hours, my delightful companion and I spoke in whispers about our families and her college plans. She was calm and collected, occasionally checking her smartphone for texts from classmates and reassuring her parents by text that she was safe. I asked her what might have precipitated the lockdown, which ended only after a police officer knocked on our locked office door and set us free.

“Yik Yak,” she said. “It’s disgusting.”

Yik Yak is the latest in a long litany of anonymous social apps, this one providing users with a way to have Twitter-like conversations with others within a 1.5-mile geographic radius. Like a location-based bulletin board, Yik Yak permits users to “upvote” or “downvote” others’ posts.

But since the app’s inception only a year ago, some of the comments posted by its young users have included serious threats and persistent bullying, resulting in lockdowns, evacuations and even arrests on college campuses and at high schools around the country.

Yik Yak was intended, say its creators, to provide college students with a way to converse with each other about campus life in an unofficial and unfiltered way. But as is often the case when an app is anonymous, problems have plagued its use.

In fact, in a digital landscape that includes the often-maligned and anonymous Ask.fm, Whisper and 4chan, the Washington Post wrote recently that “perhaps none has proved so consistently problematic — so apparently irredeemable — as Yik Yak.”

Because of the bad publicity, Yik Yak creators now say that posts flagged as “inappropriate” by two or more users will be removed, and are said to be working on a tool that will notify them when posts come directly from a high school or middle school.

But social apps – good and bad — will continue to be a moving target for school officials and communications professionals. We need to be ready to respond. Here are some tips from my own recent experience:

  • Ask your technology team if a “geo-fence” can be established around your high schools and middle schools to block troublesome apps.
  • It’s never too early to send a letter or an email out to parents, informing them about the latest app making headlines. If schools in Chicago or Marblehead, Mass., are being locked down, the problem is likely to reach your doorstep.
  • Remind parents and students that even “anonymous” comments and posts can be tracked by law enforcement, particularly if a post can be interpreted as a threat.
  • Include discussions about the dangers of anonymous apps in your digital citizenship classes and at parents’ nights. Enlist the help of your PTAs.
  • Invite experts on the use of anonymous social media and apps to make presentations to your school community. In another of my districts next week, we’re hosting cyberbullying expert Josh Gunderson, who will speak to students during the day and to parents in the evening.
  • If your school community finds itself in the midst of a Yik Yak invasion, be ready to handle calls from the press. Rather than evading reporters, engage them in a thoughtful conversation about the problems of anonymous apps and provide them with the bigger picture. They will probably appreciate the research you did and the wider perspective.

Nextdoor: a new way to meet your neighbors

Want to invite veterans to a school celebration? Need to share information about a bond measure? Trying to reach families with preschoolers?

As newspapers decline in readership, how can we deliver school news to the 75 percent of community members who don’t have a child in school? One free solution is Nextdoor, a private social media site for folks who live in the same neighborhood.

Nextdoor now serves neighborhoods across the nation, providing a way for communities to connect on local matters, from safety concerns and lost pets to local politics and community events.

For those of us working in school PR, Nextdoor is a way to share school news with the broader community, while keeping on top of emerging issues that involve or impact schools.

To join a Nextdoor site (mine is Nextdoor Gladstone), you must register using your real name and address, and provide proof by responding to a postcard sent by mail. If you don’t live in the community where you work, register at a school address.

On Nextdoor, you can post school news and events, seek public comments on district planning efforts or post a survey. You can also request donations for your district clothes closet or food pantry, recruit volunteers, and respond to complaints or misperceptions about schools.

The site pushes out email notifications whenever new posts are added, so people need not log into the site to know your message is waiting there.

Log in regularly, and you can quickly respond to issues involving your students, such as littering in a school neighborhood, concerns about high school drivers, or positive comments about the school’s day of service or the fall play. And while you’re there, you can also connect with community partners, such as the local police chief or the local librarian.

Ready to discover the Nextdoor neighborhoods in your school district? Go meet your neighbors at https://nextdoor.com/.