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!

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…