First things first – the title is pronounced, “Are You a Fan?”
About ten years ago, I published a Marketing Matter called “Email is Free Mail.” It encouraged Development Directors and School Leaders to communicate via email rather than printing a newsletter, copying it, and then giving it to the children to take home to the parents. It also advocated creating online eNewsletters to communicate with alumni rather than spending money on print newsletters.
Isn’t it amazing how, ten years later, the world has changed, and yet, many things still stay the same. MANY companies are now in the electronic communication business – from eNewsletter creation to online donor tracking.
Five years ago, I wrote an article regarding schools which were requiring an email address for parents, and cautioned that if the reader’s school was not one of those schools, that they’d be lost in the next few years when members of the Millennial Generation became parents of the children in our schools). Today, parents walk in the school exclaim, “Do you mean I have to pay my tuition with a check? Today’s parents want to pay and communicate electronically.
And all this leads to the value of social networking and communication. While there are dangers that still exist, there are significant advantages, primarily because the way the world does business has changed.
As social media networks go, the three that are most important for your school are: 1) Your school’s blog; 2) Twitter; and 3) Facebook.
Your School’s Blog
Just as your school’s Web site is the place where all information about your school resides, there should be a blog for your school as a part of that Web site. It’s where news and other items about your school are posted. While the pages of information should be important to parents of current and/or prospective students, whatever you’d like to share with your constituents (such as alumni, businesses, community members, donors and everyone else) should be a post on your school’s blog. How often should your school post something? At least once per day.
Twitter one of the ways you announce this news. While your school’s constituents can subscribe to your school’s blog, Twitter can be thought of in the same way that radio, television or newspapers used to be. Radio, television and newspapers are “broad”cast media. That is, the material communicated has a broad audience, and there is always someone who filters the information before it’s published for the world to hear, see or read. Think of Twitter as your school’s “media” outlet, where you can communicate your school’s content (on your blog) to the world. In order for those interested in your school’s success to hear it, they need to “follow your school” on Twitter (rather than have a radio, television or a newspaper) in order to receive your news.
So why is it called “social” media? Think of radio, television or newspapers. They are “mass” media, in that they contact a lot of people at once. Further, items communicated through them are “singular” in nature. Each moment of a broadcast is unique. The experience can only be shared if many interested and engaged individuals are listening or watching at the same time. Otherwise, the communication between individuals starts with, “Hey, did you hear what was on the radio this morning?” The event is then described, but there’s no way for the receiver of that message to go back in time to listen to “what was on the radio” at that particular time.
With “social” media, links to compelling content are shared within an individual’s “network” of friends and followers. Further, those friends and followers have their own “network” of friends and followers, and they can “retweet” the content. While radio, television, and newspaper have only a local market impact, communication via a social network can be dispersed nationally in an instant.
Take a moment for the impact of that message to sink in.
That’s why your school needs a Twitter account.
It’s now being used by businesses when college graduates apply for jobs. Prospective employers Google their name, and if they have a LinkedIn profile (something not necessarily important for your school, but definitely something important for your personal professional online presence), the prospective employer can see their qualifications, achievements and recommendations. But other potential items appear. If the potential hire has a Facebook page, and the photos there aren’t something that is becoming of the demeanor of a new hire, the young learner can kiss that ideal job goodbye. That’s a learning experience that builds character.
Even if you’re afraid of using Facebook to promote your school, you should create a Facebook Page for your school. Why? If you don’t, someone else could. However, Facebook rules state that you need to create a Facebook profile in YOUR name before you can add a Page for a business or other organization. You can do that, but then make sure there is another person that has administrative rights to it that is associated with the school. It is at this page that your schools constituents can become “fans” of your school.
In the recent past, the practice has been to post information directly to the Facebook timeline to promote the activities of your school, and accept the requests of individuals that wish to become “Fans” rather than “Friends.” When you post material to your blog, you can automatically connect to your school’s Twitter account and your school’s Facebook page to promote your school’s activities and newsworthy items.
An important daily “to do”
You (or the person responsible for your social media presence) must make a commitment to check your Twitter account and Facebook Fan page EVERY DAY in addition to posting at least one item to your school’s blog every day. If you can reserve a half hour, take ten minutes to pray, ten minutes to take some silent time to allow God to speak to you, and then ten minutes to do your daily social media “due diligence.” If there’s nothing noteworthy that’s happening at your school every day, that should be a wakeup call for you. Today’s parents want a vibrant experience. If they see great things happening at your school every day, the more likely they are to check out your school. You need to look for those great things and then go and tell the good news about your school.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2009-2014 (Original Publication Date – 20091115)