For the next few months, I’ll be sharing best practices from schools like yours across the U.S. and abroad. This month, we’re starting with a bit of a surprise. Pope John Paul II (JPII) High School in Hyannis, Massachusetts is a relative newcomer to social media with a Twitter profile since March 2009 and a Facebook page “inherited” only a few months prior from a current student. But the creativity and commitment in both design and daily maintenance makes this school’s social media presence worthy of a closer look.
Al Catelli, JPII’s advancement and admission director, handles all of the school’s social media presence and his boundless energy and “what if we” attitude are evident. Consider the following:
The Twitter page uses a PowerPoint template found online to display more information and branding for the school that is available using just Twitter’s standard background features. The Facebook page includes polls, frequent photos and copy that gets noticed with comments and likes by fans.
Content Best Practices
Tweets are daily or several times daily and use shortened URLs to link folks back to the school’s site and elsewhere. Yet the posts seem fresh and not institutionalized, a challenge with such frequent posting. Writes Catelli,
Because of the nature of social media it almost happens by chance: an idea, a thought. I could even post via my Blackberry when on the road, at an event, or when that “terrific idea” jumps into my head as I’m getting ready for bed. . .Because of the brevity of both Facebook and Twitter, a sentence or two and you’re done. Off to another office project (or to bed!), yet you’ve been able to post regularly.
Promotion of Social Media
Beyond the standard notices on e-mails and the school’s Web site, a special e-mail to parents called “Countdown to Godspell” (a recent school play) invited recipients to take a Twtpoll and included links to the poll as well as links to our Twitter and Facebook pages. The Twtpoll is getting far more responses than the Facebook poll feature and Catelli is exploring how to add Twtpoll to the school’s Facebook site.
Beyond Facebook and Twitter
Catelli says the school is eager to start a Ning presence this fall “where, for example, a teacher will post a blog every other Tuesday and a student might post a video snippet of school life on the alternating Tuesdays.” Both the free nature of Nings and the ability to monitor and control members and content when necessary are attractive to Catelli.
Challenge with Followers/Fans
Without a graduating class for another two years, JPII focuses not on alumni but on current students and parents as well as prospective students/families. With alumni such a vocal and essential part of most social media presences, it will be fascinating to watch the growth pattern for this school without such a fan/follower base.
Final Words of Advice
Catelli offers the following tips for schools eager, unsure, or overwhelmed with the social media landscape:
- Just go with it: establish a Twitter and Facebook presence and don’t tell anyone. Have fun, experiment, try it out, search for examples, etc.
- When you’re comfortable with it, market the sites and begin to build a base of supporters.
- The moniker “Social Media” says it all. Don’t try to use a “classic marketing” mindset although you certainly are marketing.
- Make it friendly, folksy and invite interaction with your client base. Emphasize the social in Social Media.
- Make your site the central piece of a coordinated approach to your internet presence. Drive individuals to your site where there is plentiful and in-depth information. Use your site to drive to people to your social media sites.
Couldn’t have said it better myself. JPII may be fairly new to the scene but both its Facebook and Twitter pages show real potential for long-term, robust online communities for the school. Thanks to Al Catelli and Pope John Paul II High School for their insights and experience.