Month to month, it seems social media is the preferred contest judge. Shares, likes, comments and favorites now have the power to grant awards, from a free bag of dog food to a $50,000 cash prize.
Schools often find themselves at the center of the target, as generous corporations and foundations hope to make a difference in schools and, simultaneously shine a spotlight on the organization’s support of schools. What seems like a great opportunity for schools, however, quickly becomes tricky for district social media managers.
Two weeks ago in Eudora, a student team learned that their STEM exhibit proposal was selected among the top 20 out of nearly 1,000. The final winner — awarded with money for the school and the chance to see their proposal brought to life in a popular science and technology museum — would be determined by online votes over the week.
At first blush, making the list of finalists in a prestigious competition is reason for celebration — and the chance to showcase and support students on social media seems like a win-win. But the most exciting news in one school is likely less exciting to people in other schools. And in larger districts, multiple local schools may even be competing for the same shares, hearts and votes.
Before you schedule repeated social media reminders to “vote vote vote!”, ask yourself a few questions:
- What content does your audience already expect and prefer on your channel?
- How much would reminders to vote in a contest be a deviation from that — or a possible annoyance to your audience?
- Does the school or club manage its own social channel? If so, that is far and away the best place for repeated sharing.
- How can you use other strategies — asking people or other influential local accounts to share your vote post, for example — to help spread the word?
- And perhaps the trickiest questions: Do you want to become the arbiter of which contests are big or important enough to share on district accounts? Do you want your district accounts to become the go-to place for your followers to find contest promotions?
For our STEM contest, I agreed to post voting prompts three times — on the first day of voting, part-way through the week, on and the final day. I encouraged the high school to tweet the voting link as often as they wanted, and to be strategic with their use of parent notification tools. And I enlisted our schools’ foundation to schedule posts at different times to help fill a few gaps. We’ve yet to learn the outcome, but the communications approach felt balanced.
No doubt, contests can be outstanding opportunities for students, teachers, schools and communities. How do you and your team manage the impulse that you must play to win?