I’ve decided to jump into social media in order to market my independent school but I can’t decide which sites to use and how many to use. Please help?
Signed, Independent School Employee whose main job function is not Social Media.
Where To Start With Social Media
Does the above question sound familiar? Have you been asking that question or recently answered that question? Have you been “listening” to social media sites but don’t know where to begin? Well I’m here to help and offer my opinion as to where you should start. Quite simply, your school should be on Facebook and Twitter.
First, if your school does not have a Facebook Fan Page I would begin the process of creating one now. Why the sense of urgency? According to Wikipedia, Facebook has 400,000,000 registered users. Shocking isn’t it. The world is there and your independent schools needs to be there as well. The goal of any social media campaign should be engagement; I have found it much easier to engage our constituents where they are “living” and spending their time. They are spending their time on Facebook and it is important for you to spend your time there as well.
Second, I would create an official school account on Twitter. What do I mean by “official”? I have seen some schools that have created Twitter accounts and assigned usernames that are connected in some way to people who work at school. While I absolutely feel that there is a place for this kind of personal social media marketing, I also feel it is important to have an institutional voice that represents your independent school in every tweet that is sent. There are also practical reasons to have an institutional/official Twitter account. The main reason that comes to mind is if a school account is tied to an individual what if that individual no longer works at your independent school and they “own” the account that your alumni, parents, students, employees, and prospective families are now following. Not a great situation.
Goals for Facebook and Twitter
There are three phases of social media implementation which I break down the following way: 1. Launch, 2. Friend, 3. Engage. These are very simple concepts to understand in theory but are much more difficult in practice. It is also very important to understand that through each of these phases the social media strategy should be to “drive” the different constituents you engage through social media back to the school’s official website.
1. Launch – This is the easiest and quickest phase of social media implementation. This phase will be complete when you create your Twitter account and Facebook Fan Page. Once you start posting information on these social media sites you have moved into the second phase which I like to call Friend.
2. Friend – After you have created your Facebook Fan Page and Twitter account you should work to have people ‘follow’ you on Twitter and become a “fan” of your independent school on Facebook. “Follow” and “Fan” are essentially the same concept and are extremely important because this is how the news, events, etc… that you post on Facebook and Twitter are “pushed” to people so that you can put information that you deem important about your school in front of their noses without them having to do any work. In order to complete the Friend phase you will need to cross-promote your Facebook Fan Page and Twitter account in any number of ways:
- Put links from your school’s website to your Facebook and Twitter accounts
- Send an email to alumni, parents, students, and prospective families that you have these accounts and ask them to Fan and Follow your school
- Announce at school meetings that you want your faculty, staff, and students to Fan and Follow your school
- Post signs around campus asking members of the community to Fan and Follow your school.
Again, this is not an easy process and it takes time. So be patient and remember when thinking about completing the Friend phase that this is a long-distance race and not a sprint.
3. Engage – In the final phase of social media implementation you should encourage the members of your different constituencies to begin to engage your school on Facebook and Twitter. This is by far the most difficult phase and from my experience, it takes the most work and time. The rewards, however, are worth it. What do I mean by engage? Engagement on Facebook is that you want your Fans to create and post content on your Facebook Fan Page themselves. This content can take many forms and you can limit which forms are most important to your own independent school. You know you are in this phase when your community is creating their own content. Engagement on Twitter comes through retweets and mentions of your school’s Twitter account by members of your social media community that have Twitter themselves. They don’t necessarily create content for your school’s Twitter account but they share your school’s content with the members of their community which helps your message spread. The strength of these engagements is that your marketing is, in a manner of speaking, done for you and the authenticity of a “third-party” spreading or creating a positive message is invaluable.
I would love to hear comments about my big two social media sites and any suggestions about how to achieve the three phases of social media implementation.