Maybe your supervisor panicked when he saw a competitor’s robust Facebook page. Maybe your alumni donations are abysmal. Maybe Twitter is just plain fun and why not tweet for your school in your spare time?
These are all too common reasons for starting into social media in an independent school but for many such well-intentioned starts don’t end well. Social media becomes SLOW-cial because, unlike in Field of Dreams, sometimes they don’t come when you build it. Let’s examine why and more importantly, how you can avoid the void in the conversation.
1. Don’t Keep Up With the Joneses
As I speak to numbers of schools across the world, the fear of a competitive edge seems to be driving many social media campaigns. But what’s the connection to your mission and your resources? Adding one more thing to your plate may deplete precious manpower hours, time you don’t have. If you’re meeting your marketing goals (you do have a strategic marketing plan, correct?) and if you’re running an efficient office, now may be the time to explore social media methodically, not just slap together an online presence in one evening.
2. Money Matters
Couldn’t agree more. Money does matter. But, sadly, the jury is still out on the direct ROI (return on investment) in social media. You’re probably not going to see a dramatic jump in donations after a few months of a social media campaign, even a well-laid out one. Still, apps like Facebook’s Causes can help you throw the giving net a bit wider and provide the 20-somethings with a less-intrusive and more-accessible way to give. You won’t get rich from Causes or similar online techniques but you’ll build relationships and create community which you can use in your more traditional fund-raising campaigns later on.
3. It’s All Not Fun And Games
I like social media and chances are that you do, even if just a little bit. That’s why we are here, learning how to apply social media in our schools. But playing around with social media may mean that we fail to stop and listen. What does our audience – alumni, parents, students, teachers – want to hear about? Are they looking for an RSS feed out of Twitter or would they prefer a daily life/quirky reflection on Twitter. Stop, look and listen.
In the end it’s simple: plan your work, then work your plan. Tie your efforts into your school’s mission and marketing objectives. Listen to your school’s needs and not to the pressures to compete. Look long-term for results and don’t overlook the intangibles of strengthened relationships, improved school spirit and improved communication. Go slow today and you’ll accelerate a thought-out social media plan tomorrow.