Future Implications

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There are two primary motives for social media users: communication and connection with others…, they way company’s match these motives is constantly changing.

Social media – it’s constantly changing and evolving, therefore, companies’ social media strategies must do the same. The start of a new year is a great time to look ahead at 2017 future implications for brands and how these might impact social media strategies.

Google “social media trends for 2017,” and you’ll stumble upon a plethora of links to 2017 projections for social media. Four caught my eye, causing me to pause and reflect on their relations to each other. Two “work against” each other: Analytics and Dark Social, while two “compliment” each other: Real Time Customer Service and Chatbots, and are important for businesses to monitor and adjust their social media strategies for.

Analytics versus Dark Social

Analytics

With the use of social media increasing daily, it is important that businesses understand how their social media marketing/engagement efforts (in both dollars and resources) are working towards building relationships, visibility, and ultimately increasing profits. According to a KPMG survey, 92% of C-level executives use data and analytics (D&A) to “gain greater insights into marketing,” while indicating their biggest challenges in decision making and using data analytics include: difficulty in evaluating data quality and reliability, appropriate data not always available, and limited expertise in running queries.

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How does this impact businesses’ social media strategy in 2017? Brands will need to determine clear goals and tie social media metrics to intermediate goals or conversations…and all will have to lead back to revenue. Businesses must evaluate their current analytics tools and determine if they are providing the data that allows them to back up their social media activity and determine if they are obtaining tangible results.

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Dark Social

Dark Social refers to social link-sharing that is not recognized by analytics in the proper way. For example, if someone finds a link to a company’s website through Facebook, then shares that link with their “friend” via text, their “friend” then clicks on the text link – or copies and pastes it into the URL bar, current analytic tools will view that “friends” visit to the website as direct traffic, as opposed to a result of the Facebook post. “Over two-thirds of all link sharing gets grossly mislabeled by web analytics tools.” Dark Social sources include apps on mobile devices (including Instagram and Facebook), email, text messages, and mobile apps. In addition, private messaging and peer-to-peer networks provide individuals with the opportunity to hold private conversations and share links with those individuals and small group members, without “analytics” picking it up. As a result of “Dark Social” companies receive inaccurate results from their analytics.

How does this impact businesses’ social media strategy in 2017?  Businesses must continue to monitor their analytic tools and determine if these tools are”correctly” the labeling the results. Social media platforms are working on finding fixes for this issue. To help companies continue to target their customer, even if they’ve gone “dark”, they will “need to build local communities,” providing personalized content. This will encourage users to “opt-in” to the company’s community – offering more one-on-one interactions with and information to the customer, along with providing better feedback as to what brought a customer to a specific site or purchase.

Real-Time Customers Service and Chatbots

Real-Time Customer Service

Today, customers expect businesses to have someone available 24/7 to respond to tweets and posts, on whichever platform is used. In fact, 52% of Twitter users expect a brand to respond within an hour. This expectation will continue to increase in 2017.

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from Search Engine Watch

How does this impact businesses’ social media strategy in 2017?  Businesses must look to allocate resources to make sure timely responses are occurring and social media is being monitored.

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Chatbots

We are all familiar with Siri – “Hey Siri, what’s the capital of Massachusetts?” “The capital of Massachusetts is Boston.”

Chatbots are similar to Siri. They are computer programs that “respond to texts or digital chats, effectively carrying on quasi-conversations with the humans.” They can answer standard social media customer questions. If programmed correctly, they take on the personality and “voice” of the business, mimicking a “conversation with a customer in a tone that reflects the brand’s identity.” Chatbots help solve need customers customers have for 24/7 availability of a company via social media, taking some of the burden off “live” employees, by answering basic questions, and sometimes adding humor.

How does this impact businesses’ social media strategy in 2017?  Although this may not be possible, or necessary, for all businesses, it is an option some companies will want to consider in 2017, to help with their “real-time customer service.” (But there are pitfalls to be aware of.)

These are just a few projections companies need to accommodate.

How is your company adjusting for 2017?

 

Viral Marketing Initiatives

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Have you ever watched a video or seen a social media challenge that pulled you in, inspired you, or motivated you in a way that you had to participate in it or share it with a friend or two or ten? You were part of viral marketing! Viral marketing happens when “customers act as advertisers by promoting a product through word-of-mouse.”

Why do videos and campaigns go viral?

Does a company have control over a campaign or video going viral? Although it’s up to the viewers and followers to make a campaign go viral – they’re the ones sharing – to some extent, a company can impact if their campaign goes viral. Five factors that can help a campaign going viral are discussed below.

Evoke Emotions and Feelings

When viewers stumble upon a post or video that moves them – makes them laugh or cry – they are more apt to share. In fact, the viewer “must first enjoy viewing (or feel entertained) before a positive attitude can be formed…and (then) voluntarily share it.”

Studies show that “the greater the intensity of feeling the content evokes, the more likely people are to share it.” Tugging at the heart strings or making someone laugh makes the person connect with the video and its content. A great example of this is the Pantene “Deaf Violin Player.” Just listen to what happened when my 9th grade social media students stumbled upon it…

Budweiser’s “Best Bud’s” gave that warm feeling of a good friend who needs to be by your side – the imagery and music added to the effect.

Be Timely

By being timely, focusing on the what’s going on right now, and what people are concerned with, you are more apt to grab the viewers attention and evoke their emotions (noted above). Sometimes timing is simply spur-of-the-moment, taking advantage of the unexpected. Being in the right place, at the right time, and using it to your advantage.

Oreo’s “Dunk in the Dark” immediately playing off the “darkness” or Arby’s taking advantage of Will Pharrell’s hat looking like their logo are great examples of being in the right place at the right time. On a more serious level, Dove’s “Choose Beautiful” campaign comes at a time when there’s much focus on all the unrealistic images of what a girl or woman should look like.

Sprout Social shares great tips on how to use great timing. (Sprout Social shares great tips on how to use great timing.)

Be Positive and Inspiring

With so much negativity in the news today viewers are attracted to stories of inspiration, overcoming struggles and beating the odds, an of dreams coming true despite obstacles.

Dove’s “Choose Beautiful” and Pantene’s “Deaf Violin Player” are inspiring and positive – showing it’s alright to be you!

Be Engaging

People want to be a part of something – whether it’s a cause, sharing their opinion, asking questions, or participating in an event. The more you can involve your viewers, engage them in a cause or activity, or give them the opportunity to share their voice, the greater the chance they will share the activity and link with others.

ALS’ Ice Bucket Challenge encouraged people to get involved in a good cause – finding a cure for ALS. “The Dress – Black and Blue or White and Gold?” had viewers involved in sharing their opinion on the color of the dress – who doesn’t like to share their opinion? Comedy Central’s “Search Game” led viewers on searches through its ads to find the answers about the new host.

Be Easy to Share

No matter how much someone enjoys a video clip, blog, or other post, if it’s not easy to share they will simply move on (without sharing). However, if all they have to do is click a button and press share (maybe even add their own comment with the share) the chances of going viral increases substantially. Dr. Ralph F. Wilson refers to it as providing “effortless transfer to others.”

Here’s some of the ways the above campaigns made it easy to share:

What’s your favorite campaign or video that’s gone viral? Please share below!

Differentiation

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Differentiation is not only for education

Today, differentiation in the classroom is one of the hot topics for educators, but it’s also a word used in business to refer to companies trying to differentiate themselves from the competitor! Today’s post is not about the classroom but rather on how two coffee companies differentiate themselves, with the help of social media  Go grab yourself some “joe” and read on!

Coffee and Social Media – One Size (or Brand) Does Not Fit All

If you ask any coffee drinker what they prefer – Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts – I’m pretty certain they will have a strong opinion one way or the other, and they will provide you with their reasons. A quick scroll through Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks’ social media sites and you will see they are very different. The feel and impression each site elicits is unique to that company – each staying consistent with their company’s mission, vision, and image. A couple Facebook posts illustrate this point – images one and two are full of loud color or life-sized cup – that’s DD; images three and four show warmth and connection – Starbucks!

Their Mission Statements and Values

It’s not surprising the social media posts are different for each company – after all, one is all about fun, while the other focuses on inspiring and nurturing the human spirit. Can you guess which one is which?

Dunkin’ Donuts original mission was to “make and serve the freshest, most delicious coffee and donuts quickly and courteously in modern, well-merchandised stores.”. Today, each franchise is allowed to have its own mission statement, but they need to follow the Dunkin’ Brands values and guiding principles:

honesty…transparency…humility…integrity…respectfulness…fairness…responsibility…leadership…innovation…execution…social stewardship…fun.

And fun is definitely what is happening on DD’s social media, as seen on this DD’s YouTube video:

Starbucks’ mission is much different. It is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Their values include:

creating a culture of warmth and belonging…acting with courage…challenging the status quo…being present…connecting with transparency…delivering our best… holding ourselves responsible for results.

One visit to Starbucks’ social media platforms and the message is shared, as this YouTube video demonstrates:

Even though the messages and personalities of Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks are different and unique to each company, they are similar with one thing – they both, for the most part, are following social media best practices.

Following Social Media Best Practices

Kaplan and Haenlein recommend ten great points for companies to follow when selecting and using social media. In a nutshell (or coffee bean) they are:

  1.  Choose carefully – you must be able to be active on the platforms you select
  2. Make the application your own – show your personality
  3. Ensure activity alignment – keep your message and personality consistent on all platforms
  4. Integrate social media with traditional media – similar to #3
  5. Access for all – make sure your staff has access
  6. Be active –  which ties to #1. You must be interactive – it’s a two-way conversation!
  7. Be interesting – show your true colors – be engaging.
  8. Be humble – it’s ok if customers complain – that’s how you find out how you can improve – and show you care by quickly responding (the reason for #1 and #6)
  9. Be unprofessional – show your human side (but within reason)
  10. Be honest and respect the rules of the game 

Dunkin’ Donuts prides itself on building relationships with their customer. They have that small community feel, even though they are international. In 2012, when discussing social media, DD’s web communication manager, Tyler Cy, stated, “This is not our space, it’s their (customer) space.” Dunkin’ Donuts tries to respond to customer complaints and has a cross-functional team for communications, public relations, and interaction. One thing I noted, however, when I visited the Dunkin’ Donuts Facebook page and Twitter site was there were often complaints that were not responded to and the ones that were responded to sounded ‘canned.’ 

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I would have to say Starbucks’ has a leg up on Dunkin’ Donuts with their responses. (See below)

Starbucks also prides itself on building a relationship with their customer, showing they value each person. Howard Schultz, CEO states “…Investing in our coffee, our people and the communities we serve will remain at our core…” A quick look at Starbucks’ social media and it is quickly apparent they mean what they say – they appear to genuinely care about the customer:

Both Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts have stayed true to who they are when it comes to promotion. It’s no wonder Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts rank top in social media!

Go get a refill, then comment below which you prefer – Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts…I can’t wait to hear your opinion! 

7 Ways to Successfully Blog and Tweet

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As promised in my last blog – we will be discussing seven ways to successfully blog and tweet to connect with your customer through building authentic relationships.

Benefits of Blogging!

“A blog is your ticket to creating: content, context, connection, and community,” according to John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing.

What does this mean for a vocational school?

As a vocational school, the more people who know (1) what is really taught in the school, (2) the value and benefits of the trade, (3) what employers are saying about employees with these skills (or lack of these skills), and (4) what the marketplace is demanding, the more they will realize the importance of this form of education. It is the school’s job to share their information (content) in the correct context, and connect with their audience (the community). But remember the 80/20 rule – eighty percent of your tweets and blog content should be about topics your customers are interested in. As a vocational school, you may decide to keep it in the area of education and employment skills, sharing education and employment tips, but it shouldn’t be screaming “enroll in our school today!”

Benefits of Tweeting!

Tweeting is not all talking. It’s also listening. Listening to what your customer is saying on Twitter (both your feed or others) and learning what your customer likes and dislikes, answer their questions, make them laugh, and build a relationship. You will discover what to blog or tweet about, how to provide tools for and help your customer, and show you truly care about them and want to help.

As mentioned in my last post, the majority of schools that are tweeting (which are only 33%) don’t venture outside of posting “what’s happening at our school.” There’s so much more that can be accomplished by sharing and recognizing what’s happening at local businesses and in the workforce, as well as providing tools for being successful on the job and in school. One school I found in my “search” noted above, who understands the importance of thanking the community and sharing what businesses are saying. They show their appreciation! Kudos to them!

7 Tips for Blogging and Tweeting with Success!

Seven tips to help ensure your blogs (per Mark Schaefer) and tweets (per Gary Vaynerchuk) are successful include: 

Listen! Begin with listening to what is already being said. Read other blogs and tweets. Get on your competitors’ sites – see what is being said. Read other blogs in your industry, what are customers saying? What do employers want in a student? What do parents need from a school? Where are students struggling?

Purpose! Determine the purpose (goal) of the blog. Without a purpose your customers may become confused and stop following you. Be sure to identify what you want to accomplish, what needs you want to meet. Remember – it needs to be two-way and must put customers first!

ROI! Estimate the return on investment and utilize the analytic tools to determine if you are reaching it. (Refer to my previous blog.)

Plan! When will you post your blogs? What will the blogs be about? Who will be responsible for blogging? It should be someone who truly cares about the customer – who wants to engage with customers.

Monitor / Reply! Be ready to monitor and reply to comments – who’s going to do this? Again, it should be someone who wants to engage with customers – to help.

Authentic Helpfulness! Be authentically helpful! Make the customer feel as though you really do want to help and are concerned with their problems. They will keep coming back if they feel valued.

Be Genuine! Be yourself. Show your human side. Even share “non-business” information about you. When customers see the human side of a business they are more willing to connect.

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SAME but DIFFERENT
Blogs and Twitter are the same, yet different.

The seven tips above apply to both platforms, but the content you include and how you do it should be different, depending on what your goal is for each one. You will have many more tweets than blogs, but you still must respond to both in a timely fashion and be authentic!

Some vocational schools are just beginning to see the value of social media in relations to building authentic community and relationships with their students, parents, community, and employers, while others have a ways to go.

YOUR TURN…

What is one of the tips noted above that surprises you? What is one area you are still nervous about and would like to have me share more information on?

To Blog or Microblog, That is the Question

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“Blogging and the Internet allow us to engage in a lot more real time conversations as opposed to a one-way dump of information or a message.” ~Indra Nooyi (PepsiCo’s CEO)

What is a blog? What is a microblog?
Is Twitter a microblog?

Many of you reading this post most likely know what a blog is – in fact you’re reading a blog right now! Blogs started out as online diaries, but quickly found their way into the business arena. Today, businesses use blogs to reach the customer with interactive conversations. Businesses post blogs to share information with the customer, and in-turn customers can reply to businesses, ask questions, and get answers. Individuals even have their own blogs in which they talk about businesses. Businesses should pay attention to those posts – they can learn a lot! Blogs also help with search engine optimization.

Do you know what a microblog is? If you’ve ever been on Twitter you’ve been on a microblog. Twitter is a great way for companies to network. It is another way businesses can hold conversations with their customer and share information via links. With Twitter you’re limited to 140 characters, while bloggers try to keep their conversations to 500 – 800 characters.  But even though Twitter and blogs are different in some regards, they are very complimentary to each other. Mark Schaeffer explains it as “Twitter is the trailer to the blog’s movie.”

But why should a business (including vocational schools) use blogs and microblogs (in this case Twitter)? Because, as PepsiCo’s CEO, Indra Nooyi states, it allows us (the company) “to engage in a lot more real time conversations as opposed to a one-way dump of information or a message.” Think of the conversations you could have with your parents, students, and local employers through both Twitter and blogging?

Who’s currently using blogs and Twitter to connect with the vocational schools’ audiences?

In my previous blog, Fear of Using Social Media, I mention how only 13% of teachers use social media in the classroom. In this blog, I am looking at the use of social media (specifically Twitter and blogging) as a tool by vocational schools to communicate with their audience – students, parents, community, and employers – about the value of vocational schools and what they have to offer. Although I was unable to locate specific stats for this particular use, I did quick research of my own by visiting 17 Massachusetts vocational high school websites, to see which ones had a link to Twitter or a blog.  I was not surprised with the results.

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Data gathered by Lori Narewski in informal survey

Eleven schools had no links to any social media sites, five schools had links to Twitter (and sometimes Facebook or Instagram), and one had a link to Twitter that when clicked on brought me to my own Twitter page. None had a link to a blog.

What Are the Schools Tweeting?

Of the five ‘tweeting’ schools, all shared what was going on inside the doors of the school – which is important. However, only one shared links to what employers are saying or thanked businesses in the community for field trips and participating in the education of the students. This is a vital part of two-way conversations with the customer that businesses must be having. Businesses need to talk about more than themselves – they must find out what their customer is interested in and talk about that – and they must listen! It makes me think of the song “I Want to Talk About Me” song by Toby Keith – don’t make your customers feel like this!

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80-20 Rule Applies to Social Media Too!

Think of the 80-20 rule. Eighty percent of your posts should be simply connecting with the customer on topics and themes they are interested in, twenty percent are then “selling.” Gary Vaynerchuk refers it to a “jab, jab, jab, right hook,” in which “jabs are the value you provide your customers with: the content you put out, the good things you do to convey your appreciation. And the right hook is the ask: it’s when you go in for the sale, ask for a subscribe, ask for a donation.” In addition to the 80-20 rule, there are several additional tips to being successful with both blogs and Twitter.

Those tips will be provided in my next blog – we will be discussing seven ways to successfully blog and tweet and connect with your customer through building authentic relationships.

YOUR TURN…

Is your business blogging? Tweeting?
Are you  using the 80-20 rule?
Where do you think you need to make adjustments?

Please share your success here, and even your “need to improve” if you would like!

Fear of Using Social Media in the Classroom

fear-441402_1920With social media use on the rise in the general population one would expect it to have the same trend in education. However, this is not always the case, as the information below demonstrates.

Fact #1: Teenagers use the Internet on a regular basis.

According to Pew Research, in 2015:

  • 92% of teens go on-line daily
  • 71% of teens use Facebook account
  • 52% of teens use Instagram
  • 41% of teens use SnapChat (although this figure has increased since then)
  • 33% use Twitter
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Data from Pew Research
Fact #2: Use of social media in the classroom has decreased!
  • In 2013, 18% used SM in the classroom
    (82% of teachers did not use social media in the classroom)
  • In 2013, hesitancy to use social media in the classroom was 55%
  • In 2015 only 13% of teachers use social media in the classroom
    (87% of teachers do not use social media in the classroom)
  • In 2015, hesitancy to use social media in the classroom was 62%
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Data from University of Phoenix
Why are teachers hesitant to bring social media into the classroom? What are the risks?

Although according to the same survey mentioned above,  46% of teachers believe social media “can enhance a student’s educational experience,” the hesitancy to actually use it stems from concern in regards to conflict that could arise with the students or parents.

As I mentioned in my last post regarding the use of Facebook, there are many benefits for both schools, as a whole, and educators to utilize social media.However, there are some hazards that should be addressed, so as to avoid them as much as possible.

Hazard #1: Boundaries!

Teachers must be aware of boundaries between professional and personal lives. All communication should remain professional; personal lives should remain personal. Teachers should have separate social media accounts for school and personal use, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, when communicating with students and families. Simply search the phrase “teachers getting in trouble on social media” and you will find a plethora of examples where a teacher has lost their job due to inappropriate social media posts. Here is just one example of what you will discover.

Hazard #2: Confidentiality!

The same confidentiality that is in place for teachers to abide by in the classroom and community is still in place on social media. Teachers must be aware  of the right to privacy laws, as well as other district rules and regulations. Pictures of students cannot be posted without parents’ consent. Grades and other student information cannot be shared. Teachers should refer to their school employment handbook to make sure they follow the rules and laws.

Hazard #3: Distraction or Improper Use of SM in the Classroom!

Students may be distracted by social media during the lesson or post inappropriate images and content, especially if it’s difficult for the teacher to see what site they are on if they are using SMART phones. Who is responsible if this happens? What are the consequences? How does this impact student learning? These are valid concerns that should be addressed in a district social media policy.

Hazard #4: Cyber Bullying and Inappropriate Posts!

Cyber bullying via social media seems to be in the news on a regular basis. Here is just one result that appeared when I searched for “cyberbullying examples in schools.” Teachers are concerned that if social media use is allowed in the classroom these occurrences may increase. Monitoring every post by students is a challenge, if not impossible. How do schools currently handle cyber bullying? How should the current school policies be adjusted to help deter and stope these occurrences from happening?

With the majority of students already on social media and so many benefits that can be reaped when social media is used appropriately for collaboration, research, and social interaction, and preparing students for life outside of high school (this is for another post) it will be interesting to see where schools go with social media.

YOUR TURN…

Please share any concerns you have with social media being used in the classroom…I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

Snow Days and More…Now Announced by Schools on Facebook: schools hold 1-way & 2-way conversations with students, parents, and community!

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As a teenager in the 80’s I remember sitting by the radio listening for my school to be read off the long list of school cancellations. If I happened to ‘zone out’ and miss when they got to my school I’d have to sit by the radio for another 15 minutes until they read it off again. Years later websites appeared – schools could update their home page to announce the closing, new channels could list the closings – and we’re no longer tied to the radio or tv. But with websites we had to be near a computer. Then came Smart phones…

Thank Goodness for Smart Phones! 

I can now check websites from anywhere. Even better yet, the closings are now posted on Facebook. If my school posts a “School Closed!” message on Facebook it should appear in my newsfeed. If it doesn’t show up on my newsfeed posts from ‘friends’ about the school closing will pop into my newsfeed. Then it’s time to make myself a cup of coffee and get ready for a day off!

Schools Discover the Benefit of Social Media!

School cancellations are just one way schools are discovering the benefits of using social media to connect with their students, families, staff, and community. Schools are realizing there are benefits to using social media in areas such as… 

  • lessons in and out of the physical classroom,
  • professional development of staff,
  • connecting with the community, and
  • communicating with parents
What Platform Are Schools Using?  

Depending on what the school or teacher is trying to accomplish and where the audience (parents, staff, students, community) ‘hangs out’ they may use the school website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, Instagram, Pinterest, or other educational platforms.

Jessica Silva, Tri-County’s public relations specialist, explained their decision to use Facebook to reach parents, “Tri-County’s social media strategy focuses on Facebook…. Since Facebook’s demographics skew more toward the age of our parents and alumni, we chose to direct most of our posts to them (via Facebook). These posts cover upcoming events, news updates, as well as important information about snow cancellations and last-minute changes to athletic schedules due to inclement weather.”

Once schools determine where their audience is they can go to them. According to Pew Research and Statista Facebook appears to be the platform used by both parents and students, with Snapchat surpassing the Facebook for students. But “don’t assume this answer (for your audience). Ask the question” at the beginning of each year, “Do you use social media? If you do, what one?”

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Pew Research and Statista
Facebook Tells Your Story! 

Schools are using Facebook to tell their story, to share and celebrate with students, parents, and the community what is happening in their school and classrooms. Here are just a few of the ways schools utilize Facebook to communicate, either in a ‘one-sided’ or ‘two-way’ conversation.

Facebook for One-Way (Information) Communication!

  • Promote the events and successes of the school – sports, arts, cultural events, open houses, and important dates.
  • Share blogs, news articles, interviews, and announcements
  • Post fundraising information
  • Post “fun and interesting” images and memes

The above examples tend to be more 1-sided conversations, but there is so much more that can be accomplished through Facebook, including…

Facebook for Two-Way Communication!

  • Communication with your audience 24/7: Students can ask homework questions and teachers or students can respond!
  • Collaboration at all levels: Students with students, students with teachers, teachers with teachers, teachers and parents, and parents with parents.
  • Sharing of Work: Students and parents can see the work being done and provide positive feedback and peer-to-peer review.
  • Teaching: Make it interactive.
Cultivate Discussion with Groups! 

Facebook groups are effective ways to share information and cultivate discussion. These groups may be ‘open’ – where anyone can view and interact, or ‘closed’ – allowing only the ‘members’ of the groups to be able to view or participate.  For example, teachers use a closed group to post discussion questions for their students only – almost like a discussion board. Public groups can be used to “show off students achievements, sports day, prom, and so on” to teachers, friends, and family!

Measuring Success!

Each school and teacher (should) evaluate if their use of Facebook has benefitted the learning and communication process and has accomplished the purpose it is being used for. This is done through surveys, in-person discussion, and analyzing their results of student participation, attendance to events, and comments on Facebook.

Facebook is used by schools for various purposes: to keep students, parents, and the community up-to-date in a timely manner, celebrate the accomplishments, collaborate, learn, and  communicate with all!

YOUR TURN…

How is your school using Facebook?
What do you wish they did more of?
If you teach – how do you use Facebook or what are your concerns?

Just Wondering…How do high school technical career centers use social media to reach their target market?

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Earlier this week I set out to find the answer to the question, “Do high school technical career centers use social media to promote their product (programs)? If so, how?”

What I Found…

I’m not sure if I’m looking in the wrong places, or using the wrong search terms, but I came up with very few results! What I did find is how high schools, in general, have embraced social media to enhance the learning experience for students and connect with parents. Whether its through teachers setting up learning communities, blogs, Skype sessions for their students with students from other countries, Facebook pages for projects, online chats about books read in class, or internal social media platforms with discussion boards, it’s obvious that schools are increasingly reaping the benefits of using social media as a tool for reaching their students and parents. In addition, schools are utilizing social media – including using Facebook, Edmodo, Twitter, Blogger, Tumblr, Chatzy, YouTube, and LiveStream – to keep parents connected and updated, replacing traditional notes and flyers once sent home with students (often lost between school and home). Schools going to where their customer is, understanding “social media can be a powerful tool to coordinate and connect with parents.

I found a plethora of information and ideas on how social media can be used in the classroom and to update current parents, but little on using social media to “market” a program to attract new customers.

 “The need to communicate and engage our students, staff, parents, and prospective families became even more essential.”

Learning From Private Schools…

Although technical career centers fall under the public school category, their marketing efforts will be different than the “home” school and should include getting the news out about the great opportunities they have to offer to their target market  – experiences not available at the local high school. Although a public school, in regards to marketing it may make sense to market in a similar fashion as private schools do. TIS (The International School of Macao), a private school, is an example of being successful using social media for public relations.With 90% of teenagers on at least one social media platform, schools should market where their audience is!

Looking at the various ways TIS found successful can be a guide for other schools (any school trying to stand apart from the competition):

  • School website: Show the school’s culture!
  • Facebook: (Including Facebook ads.) Be sure to monitor the posts and use analytics to ensure you’re reaching your target audience. Listen to your audience!
  • Twitter: Be sure to use hashtags – they’re a great way to reach a wider audience!
  • LinkedIn: Follow the major employers in your area. Listen to what they’re saying!
  • YouTube: Tell your story (don’t let someone else) and consider having an official YouTube channel! A couple examples how one career center has done this is at the end of the blog.
  • Blogs: Have administrators blogs and teachers too. Show your personality!
Marketing via Social Media…

To succeed technical career centers must have students enroll in their programs – they must get the word out! ‘Marketing’ to potential students, parents, and the community is similar to businesses marketing to their target market and today’s social media is one of the best opportunities to make this happen. Social media will help be the WOM (word of mouth) for the programs. Just like a business “cannot afford to have no presence on the social channels…there is no escaping social media these days, either for individuals or for businesses,” schools cannot either. Career centers are too valuable of an opportunity to not to get the word out.

Take Advantage and “Promote” via Social Media…

I conducted unofficial research, by typing “technical career centers” and other terms into Twitter and Facebook searches. The results show some centers using the platforms to share information about upcoming events (eg. open houses), but little to communicate the reasons “why” career centers are a great option. However, news channels did a great job sharing what is offered – often linking to a news report like the one below…

This post received 75 comments, including, “The CACC is AMAZING! All three of my sons attended their engineering/drafting program…I have TWO engineers!! …Get your kid in the career center! Shut off the XBOX, drop the sports, get in the CACC now!” Talk about WOM! What if the school retweeted this? Think of the conversations they could have with potential ‘customers!’

It’s important to mention there were posts on YouTube from CACC, which “show off” the programs and address some of the misconceptions – one step closer to getting the word out.

YOUR TURN (just wondering)…

How is your career center using social media to connect with the community? I would love to hear what’s working for you!  

2 Tools to Help Keep Your Sanity When You’re Using Social Media to Promote Your Technical Career Center

“It is especially important to understand these marketing practices, as information they provide to parents has the potential to either enhance or inhibit decision-making.” ~Catherine DiMartino and Sarah Butler Jessen

Before I share information about effective social media management tools I want to take a moment to discuss why social media should be used for marketing technical career centers in the first place.

The Hidden Treasure

A couple years ago my friend came with me while I presented scholarships to two students graduating from a high school career center. As the various programs were announced my friend leaned over, exclaiming, “Wow! I didn’t know they offered all of these ‘programs.’ I never heard of New Visions Medical (see below). This is amazing!” Her daughter had graduated the previous year from one of the “sending” schools; the school provides information to all students the year before students can enroll – so why wasn’t my friend aware of the ‘hidden treasure,’ all the offerings available for students? Why are people still believing ‘myths‘ about career centers (aka vocational technical high schools)? Is it because the schools aren’t marketing themselves effectively?

Communication Should Be a Two-Way Street!

As career centers continue to try to ‘get the word out’ they must include social media in their marketing ‘toolbox.’ As Ms. Sisira Neti points out, “social media, today, is among the ‘best opportunities available’ to a brand for connecting with prospective consumers.” Social media allows businesses to socialize with both their prospective and current customer, connecting with them in ways that allow deeper relationships and trust to be built. By listening to what is being said on social media schools can determine misconceptions and then share the correct information. According to Oyza and Edwin, “Marketers have…been given the opportunity to better understand their consumers directly from the thoughts and views expressed by them.” Schools are all about learning – so let’s learn from our community. Let our customers teach us!

Once you’ve decided on what social media sites (SMSs) will be most effective for your school or business to use (a topic for another day), posting can begin. I know it’s one more thing to do, so I bet you’re wondering…

Can I Create and Schedule Posts Ahead of Time?

Yes! Posting can become very time consuming, and without a plan it can become inconsistent. Some posts can’t be planned ahead – weather announcements, tweets during a sport event or activity, responses to your customers’ posts  (another topic for another day) – but there are posts that can be created ahead of time – a student or local business highlight – and posted via a social media management tool (SMMT), making it so marketers don’t have to be at the computer, tablet, or phone the minute a post needs to go out. (See below for more information). These SSMTs can also answer…

Is Our Social Media Communication Effectively Reaching Our Target Customer?

Social media marketing faces the challenge of gathering data and information then turning it into something in which action can be taken on. Icha and Edwin recommend social media to “be used as a tracking system,” which allows businesses to monitor pages’ traffic and compare the attention given to a product or campaign to the actual sales (or enrollment in the case of vocational schools).

Where do we get the analytics all in one place? Through SMMTs. Hootsuite and Sprout Social are two popular ones.

Scheduling and Analyzing with Hootsuite or Sprout Social?
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Hootsuite

Hootsuite helps you keep track and manage your many social network channels.” Through Hootsuite you can: post directly to social profiles; schedule posting, manage multiple profiles, have access to social content apps for additional profiles; target messages, organize team assignments, and have access to analytics. Hootsuite is free for its basic package.

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Sprout Social

Sprout Social is similar to Hootsuite in concept, but offers more robust functionality…You can connect to almost every major social media platform, schedule posts, monitor progress in terms of likes, engagements, and user activity.”  You can listen to (and learn from) customers through their conversations. And Sprout Social was created for teams!

Of course there are also drawbacks to a system. Ian Anderson Gray outlines the negatives in his articles 7 Reasons Why you Should NOT Use Hootsuite and 7 Reasons NOT to use Sprout Social, to help you determine the best one for your business.

Both HootSuite and Sprout Social allow the user to schedule posts and analyze activity on different SMSs. Which one you choose depends on what your schools’ needs (and budget) are. 

YOUR TURN…

Is your school using social media to build a relationship with your target market? It yes, what are they doing? What SMSs is working for you (if you’re using one)? I’d love to hear from you…