School districts are starting to realize the potential of using social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for communications and marketing. I talked with social media consultants and school districts across the country to create this collection of best practices which may help you get started.
- Learn from the best. Business understands the potential of social media. Kodak’s Social Media Tips is a good foundation for getting started.
- Commit the time. There must be a person who can commit a minimum of 5 – 10 minutes a day to post new content and review replies.
- Select the right social media. Start with one and add others as you learn. Grandville Public Schools and Zeeland Public Schools currently use only Twitter for communications. Some schools find success in creating a Facebook “fan” page.
- Block for students at school. Social media sites such as Facebook have the potential to consume huge amounts of time and not support learning. Most schools block social media sites for students. Some open these sites for staff.
- Add users. Evergreen Public Schools in Washington provides links on their school website’s front page to the district Facebook and Twitter page.
- Create Facebook fan page. A Facebook fan page is the best Facebook tool for communicating and marketing. It may be created and not made “live”. This reserves your preferred page name.
- Create a distinct marketing Facebook user. Since a Facebook fan page is linked to a specific Facebook user’s account, create a fan page under a distinct user account. Note: Facebook doesn’t officially approve this.
- Guide staff. Schools have acceptable use policies for Internet use. However, they typically have no written guidelines about how teachers should use social media. For example, how does a district reply when a teacher asks, “Should I friend my students on Facebook? I’m developing a draft of guidelines which I will share.
- Drive users to district page. Facebook posts and Twitter tweets should include links to your district webpage for more detailed information and images.
- Post 3 – 5 times a week. Make a commitment to post regularly. If you don’t have something to share, share a useful website or retweet a tip or link to a resource.
- Monitor what is being said. Tools such as SocialMonitor, Google Alerts, and HootSuite allow you to monitor when your school or staff are mentioned online.
- Be prepared for negative comments. While you won’t tolerate profanity, the best social media sites allow open two way communications. However, how do you reply when criticized or something negative is said? Plan a reply strategy in advance. Note: sometimes you decide it’s best to ignore it, or a parent replies representing the school’s view.
Andy will be presenting “School Marketing in a Social Media Jungle” at the 2010 MACUL Conference in Grand Rapids, MI on March 12th. His presentation, related links and documents will be available online.