Have you caught yourself saying something similar to this? Are you afraid that jumping into social media will cost your school too much money or money that does not exist in your marketing budget? Well, I have a secret for you – it won’t cost you a dime to get started with social media, only your time.
Time is Money
Well, time is money and you’re probably thinking that you don’t have any time to manage these sites and that no one else in your school can help you. I’m here to tell you that your school cannot afford to NOT be on Facebook and Twitter. In your role in admissions, marketing, technology, communications, or advancement, it is imperative that your school begin to dip it’s toe in the social media pool. I would argue that while the tools may change in the future, e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc…, there is one fundamental reason why social media has risen so quickly is here to stay. That reason is engagement. The web is evolving from a static, one-way, single channel of communication to dynamic, multi-channel, multi-directional “webs” of communication (pun intended) and social media is the vehicle of that evolution. In this time of recession, declining demographics, and “right-sizing” by independent schools, no educational body is immune. Check out this article outlining the struggles of a local public school district as it weighs closing an elementary school “because of dwindling enrollments.” Read Keystone Oaks: Two of three elementaries to close?
So hopefully I’ve convinced you to create your Facebook and Twitter accounts and you now understand these social media sites are free but how do I manage these sites and keep the content current.
But Wait! There’s more!
Let me be the first to tell you that managing your schools Facebook and Twitter accounts will take some of your valuable time and will inevitable change your daily workflow. There are, however, a number of free tools that are available to help you leverage your time and make managing your social media channels fairly easy.
I currently use a number of tools to help me manage our Facebook Fan Page. My favorite is probably Involver. Involver offers over 20 applications that you can choose to install of your school’s Facebook Fan Page. They have a free account that will allow you install two of their applications. In order to maximize the content on your Fan Page and minimize your time doing it, I would recommend that you install RSS Feed and Twitter. RSS Feed takes your official school website RSS Feed and syndicates your posts onto the News Tab on your Fan Page. This is a win-win for everybody and takes away the extra step of posting content twice in two places. The Involver Twitter application takes your twitter feed and posts that feed to your Facebook Fan Page. These two applications are simple to install and once configured bring to mind the words of Ron Popeil, “Set it and forget it!” (Disclosure: I utilize a paid account at Involver and use their non-profit discount. The reason I do this is to take advantage of more than two applications as well as have the RSS Feed and Twitter application post to our Fan Page Wall and update our Fan Page status.)
There are two other free stand-alone applications that are not quite as easy to set-up as the Involver apps but are very close. The benefit of using these applications are that they will update your Fan Page’s wall and status. In place of Involver’s RSS Feed I have used Social RSS and for Involver’s Twitter application I have used Smart Twitter for Pages. If you aren’t sure about using Involver I would recommend both of these applications.
There are two main tools that I use to help me manage my time with Twitter. Both of these tools are free. (Really, there are three but the third involves the use of my beloved iPhone which I will save for another post.) The first tool I use is twitterfeed.com which takes an RSS Feed, for example the RSS Feed of our official school website, and posts the feed to our school’s Twitter account. You can also set twitterfeed to post your RSS Feed to Facebook although I prefer using the application from Involver. Twitterfeed is again a win-win because once the content is posted to your school’s website it will automatically post to Twitter within 30 minutes.
The other tool I love using to help managing my Twitter account is Hootsuite. Where twitterfeed helps put content INTO Twitter, Hootsuite helps to make sense of the content coming OUT of Twitter. I’ve already written a post about why I love Hootsuite which is available here.
Closing the Loop
I am going to double-dip here, and I don’t mean to confuse anyone, but I love using Hootsuite to help me put content into Twitter as well. In my blog post of why I love Hootsuite, Reason #2 is Hootsuite’s ability to handle multiple social media accounts. I’ve configured Hootsuite to manage our school’s Twitter account and our school’s Facebook Fan Page which not only allows me to check what posts have been made to our account but it also allows me to simultaneously post content to Twitter and Facebook one time. Again, this is a huge time saver and absolutely brilliant in my opinion.
There is such a thing as a free lunch
Using social media tools doesn’t have to cost a dime, the only cost is your time. Your business manager will be happy because they don’t have to “find” money in an already tight budget for something else and your Head of School will be happy because launching a social media campaign doesn’t mean that they have to hire another person. There are many tools/applications that you can use to help leverage your time with social media. These are my favorites but I would love to hear if anyone else has been happy using another tool.