Won’t you be my neighbor?

How can you expand the reach of your Facebook posts to different demographics than your current fan base? It’s easy with a little help from your friends!

My school district page reaches mostly women 25 to 54, mothers and staff members. However, by connecting with other local pages, I am able to spread our school district message to other groups in our community – more men, empty nesters and seniors.

In a small town, this happens naturally. Frequently I see my district posts shared by several other community pages:

  • Meanwhile in Gladstone: Run by a local retiree, this page frequently shares school posts.
  • Downtown Gladstone: Run by a local coffee shop owner who has invited me to be a co-editor of her page
  • Gladstone Historical Society: This page draws a mostly senior audience that is less connected to schools.
  • Gladiator Sports: Run by a local sports buff, this page features news about both school teams and youth leagues. Because it reaches a targeted audience, it’s a great place to post when we have a change in the athletic schedule or an important playoff game. Also, it provides a way to engage more men.

As an involved community member, I run the Facebook pages for both the Rotary Club and The Gladstone Community Festival. This gives me the opportunity to cross-pollinate messages with different audiences as appropriate.

As the operator of multiple pages, remember to have each of the pages you run like the content on the others’. As a result of doing this a few times each week, all three pages I run have increased their fan base substantially.

Just remember to keep your cross-page liking and sharing audience-appropriate. For example, on the sports page, stick to sharing sports stories, but sneak in some news lauding the achievements of scholar-athletes so they see the academic benefits schools bring to local athletes. For the historical society, try a then-and-now post highlighting the changes in schools over time.

Be sure to do your neighbor pages a favor by liking and sharing their posts appropriate to your audience. This encourages them to return the favor.

Facebook wishes granted in 2016

Despite the rapid growth and change that takes place in the social media landscape, Facebook still crushes its competition. With more than three times the daily traffic of Twitter and 10 times the traffic of Instagram, it remains the place where the largest audience goes to socially connect online.

For districts using Facebook to engage with key audiences, 2016 has already delivered new features with great value.

  • Verified pages. It now only takes entering a unique code delivered by phone to get that all-important check mark next to your district or school’s account name. This has been available for school districts on Twitter for more than a year, but has only just recently rolled out for all pages on Facebook. In five minutes or less, you can help protect your brand and social media presence against confusing, malicious or other unofficial accounts. Get started here.

  • Privately contact commenters directly from their post. If your Facebook pages are anything like ours, there are countless times you’d like to answer a person’s question privately. Facebook has made this easier than ever with a new feature that was unveiled this month. Now when you post about online enrollment and someone posts an individual comment or question — “Why won’t it let me log in?” — you have the option to click message below the comment, right next to the familiar like and reply.

  • New ways to share visual elements in your page’s posts. Now when you click Photo/Video to begin creating a page post, you have a couple of new options. You can create a collage of photos that will play advance automatically in slideshow fashion. Or you can choose to include photos and a web page link by creating a photo carousel. (Think multiple photos on a website news story about high school graduation.) Whether you’re creating organic or ad content, visual elements are the single most important key to engaging an audience. These new tools offer great potential to up your game.

And, although it isn’t rolled out quite yet, Facebook has announced that it will extend the live video streaming feature now available to public figures to all pages. We still don’t know the exact timing of this roll-out, but insiders say it is coming soon to any page that has been verified with the little check mark. The ability to live stream naturally raises various questions and concerns, but with some basic risk management in place, it will most certainly be a powerful way to engage our audiences and showcase the great work that takes place in our schools and classrooms, every day of the year.

While it’s unlikely that Facebook will ever again be the hottest social media option, it is a tried and true tool for schools and districts to engage with audiences — and these new features make that tool all the more valuable.

 

Engage Your Audience and Grow Your Following During Snow Days

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What would you do if you knew that thousands of people were simultaneously watching your social media accounts waiting to see just two simple words, “snow day”?

Like so many school districts, when there is a possibility of snow, parents and students take to our social media accounts knowing that we will announce a snow day there first. So, if you knew there were going to be so many people looking at your social media all at one time, what would you do? The answer should be ENGAGE THEM!

On our most recent snow day, we added more than 700 new followers across our district and superintendent social media channels, and our engagement was six times our normal rate.

  • If your superintendent is on social media, have him or her engage in the conversation (before, during and after) and let them make the first official announcement.
    • If your superintendent is new to Twitter, like ours, have them follow other superintendents to see how they engage with students and parents.
  • Retweet and share the “official” announcement in various places.
    • Our superintendent sends the first “official” announcement. We share this message, as well as an official message from the district page.
    • Do you have community pages? Share on these.
  • Run a contest
    • Who can provide the best reason to have a snow day?
    • Who can build the best snow man?
  • Engage with media outlets and local city officials.
    • Retweet your closing announcements from media outlets.
    • Thank city crews (tag the public works department or official city account) for working so hard to keep the streets clean.
    • Share pictures of your school district grounds crew working to clear parking lots and sidewalks.

What other tips do you have for engaging your audience during snow days? Feel free to post them in the comments.

Mobile-friendly: more than just a good idea

As we’ve gone from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 to Web whatever, it’s been a struggle to keep up with the latest technology platform guidelines. Some of you may remember when screen resolutions exploded to 640 x 480 and the limited color palette blossomed from 16 colors to 256 and we wondered who would ever need more colors. Now, screen resolution and color choices appear to go on without end.

We were also told that we needed a mobile version of our website. Then . . . forget having a separate mobile site, but spend your resources on a responsive site, if you have the time and money. Responsive design was a progressive nicety, but not necessarily a necessity. And, it wasn’t even a concern when it came to email.

Today, mobile devices seem to have taken over the Web and the world. If your school regularly uses email blasts to communicate with your students and patrons, here’s some important news:

How can you make sure your messages are getting through to the mobile throngs? Many of the larger email service platforms (and blogging tools, like WordPress) include templates designed for mobile devices along with mobile previewers. Taking the time to use these tools can save some missteps and heartache.

Before you hit the send button, make sure you sneak a mobile peek.