Thank you to Magic-Hour for hosting this chat and thank you to everyone who participated.
Magic Hour Communications: Starting our Magic Hour conversation with social media experts Jesse Bardo and Steve Ritchie from edSocialMedia now. Come to our fan page to see what they have to say about the state of social media tools and best practices, and become a fan (if you aren’t already) so you can post your own questions and comments. It’s all in the Comments.
Magic Hour Communications: Jesse and Steve, thanks for joining us. Just a note to people that as the conversation continues, you may need to refresh your browser to see the additional questions and comments that are posted.So, Jesse and Steve, please tell us a little… about yourself and why you got into working in social media.
Jesse Bardo Thanks for having us! we are excited to be a part of this conversation today. I will start with myself here. I started my work with education and social media as an admission officer at Northfield Mount Hermon School. I started the facebook and twitter pages for the school and got really excited by all the success that we saw as an institution. Social media has always been fascinating to me as someone who took a great deal of sociology classes in college and it seemed a natural fit to use facebook and twitter to promote NMH when I was there. See more at www.nmhschool.org/nmhbook
Magic Hour Communications It’s great, Jesse, that you have some experience “in the trenches”, so to speak.
Magic Hour Communications: How do you define “social media”? What is it?
Stephen Ritchie: I find that the relationship and interaction aspect of social media is incredibly compelling. I enjoy being able to share my ideas, see what other people are thinking and talking about and best of all be involved with the things I find interesting.
Jesse Bardo: Social media is the sharing of thoughts, ideas, really anything through the web for interaction. Social media is taking the web and creating value around it through social interactions and sharing.
Magic Hour Communications: Good point about relationships, Steve. I’ve often heard social media described as a “conversation”. I think people sometimes forget that – it’s two-way.
Magic Hour Communications: We’ll get to the various platforms shortly, but let’s first talk about people and culture. What do you think a school has to do or think about to successfully implement and use social media?
Maura Ciccarelli: To Steve’s point, it’s making the virtual personal.
Magic Hour Communications: BTW, people, just a reminder to keep refreshing your browser so you see the new posts.
Magic Hour Communications: Maura, or the personal virtual? 🙂
Maura Ciccarelli: Both ways, yes!
Jesse Bardo: Schools need to take risks.
Jesse Bardo: They need to think about getting themselves out their. about the stories that are created around them and getting those out to the world. That was the real push for me at NMH. I saw all this great stuff going on that was not going to be in a viewbook or on a dvd but was totally worthy of getting to those who were not at the school.
Stefan Anderson: If a school is going to implement social media, then the school needs to realize that this will take staff time and resources.
George Grizzly: lol. Risk taking is a tough sell. I guess that’s why schools hire consultants like you to come in and explain why it’s important. I have always heard social media described as a cocktail party.My biggest issue with social media, specifically facebook, is the tools needed (or wanted) to engage our constituents are expensive for the white label versions. Independent schools don’t want inappropriate ads popping up after filling out a fun quiz.See More
Jesse Bardo: absolutely, institutional buy in is key
George Grizzly: Jesse, I also think that social media is much more authentic than a promo dvd. So it’s much more powerful.
Magic Hour Communications: Should there be one person coordinating all social media activities, or should each department (admissions, alumni relations, athletics, etc.) manage their own?
Jesse Bardo: George I agree but social media does not have to be an all or nothing sort of deal. Taking the risk to put up a page and start generating content is the important first step. What you get with social media is the clutter around but if your content is directed and branded (yes even with a flip video on youtube) then it will start to create positive buzz.
Jennifer Fortin: George, I agree. We have alumni, parents and friends weighing in on posts all the time which reinforces the importance of the school in our community
Maura Ciccarelli: esse, what makes it seem so risky?
Jesse Bardo: every school is of a different mind on this. At NMH we had one main page- it was geared towards admission candidates but was nothing without the stories of alumni. I made it abundantly clear to alums that this was a page to get the new generations to our school, but i need you to post your stories, your traditions and be a fan of your school. It did wonders for both the development and admission sides of things. So that is where I feel schools should be. But everyone is different.
Magic Hour Communications: Jesse, is that the NMH mash-up page that you’re talking about, that combined posts from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc.?
Jesse Bardo: Well there is always a risk of opening up your institution to the public. Negative experiences, negative comments, and just being out there in general in a none-manicured way.
Magic Hour Communications: People, this thread now has its own URL, which makes it easier to refresh the page! Go to http://www.facebook.com/magichourcommunications/posts/149716818417198
Stefan Anderson: I don’t think there is one strategy for all schools. I do think it is more effective for a school to have its own strategy. For example, we have two Facebook pages. One for what is going on currently at the school and one for alums and friends to keep connected and share with each other
Jesse Bardo: The mashup page was a result of the work i did. But it did not start out that way the communications team did a great job putting that together as they do with all of the social media that still goes out from the school today.
Magic Hour Communications: Jesse, negative comments are a risk, but I think most schools and colleges have seen overwhelmingly positive comments on their SM accounts.
Jennifer Fortin: We have two as well… an alumni page and a school
page. On the school page everyone is welcome, including alumni, parents, students, prospective students. I think it is a great way to keeping everyone connected. I always love the comments from the alumni regarding their memories of events that might be happening on campus.
Magic Hour Communications: OK, thanks, so now let’s talk about the platforms. There are dozens of social media platforms, although a few seem most popular with educators: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, LinkedIn and Ning come to mind. Do you think that these are the most-used?
Maura Ciccarelli: RE: negative comments — often fans will jump to the defense of the school if the comments are off base or too negative.
Magic Hour Communications: Stefan, good point. We’ll get to strategy in a few minutes, and the age-old “audience and objectives” issues.
Jesse Bardo: i completely agree. The real benefit of having alums and current parents on an admission geared page is that they really come to the rescue when anything negative is posted. It was always great for a negative comment to come up because I did not need or want to respond, the fan base responded and made the page very authentic.
Jesse Bardo: Yes, i would add wordpress to that list too. or some blogging platform
Stefan Anderson: Platforms: we use Facebook, YouTube, WordPress, and LinkedIn for our social marketing.
Magic Hour Communications: If they’re just starting out, is there one platform that a school should start with, or does that vary from school to school?
Magic Hour Communications: I assume that, as with any communication challenge, audience and objectives are most important when choosing a social media strategy or platform. How do audience and objectives affect the choices of which platform to use.
Jesse Bardo: again i think that is school to school. Put your best foot forward. dont get into video if nobody at the school feels comfortable doing it. If photo is your thing use flickr. Once your school is comfortable, using facebook and twitter as social megaphones is important but start with what you know and want work with.
Magic Hour Communications: I think that’s a good point, Jesse. This is all so new, and there are so many different kinds of schools, there is no ONE way it has to be done. Dive in and try and see what works.
Magic Hour Communications: Jesse, enrollment challenges are top of mind at many schools these days. What are some ways in schools are using social media to increase inquiries and applications, or improve their yield?
Stefan Anderson: Audience and objectives are important and may be different for different platforms. For example, we use our Facebook page and Facebook ads to recruit students so that is a key audience for that page.
Magic Hour Communications: Stefan, do you also use Facebook to communicate with alumni?
Magic Hour Communications: BTW, people, we’re noticing a lag on Facebook – it’s taking 1-2 minutes for some comments to post.
Jesse Bardo: Schools are doing all sorts of neat things to increase their yield. Like Stefan said, using facebook ads and events to generate buzz is good. Getting more followers on twitter and joining new conversations.
Stefan Anderson: We have one Facebook page “Conserve School” that is for the here and now and a second “Conserve School Connection” that is all about alumni including photo galleries for every year.
Jesse Bardo: But it is all about the content. You can be on a million things and try to get as many impressions as you want but if you are not putting out compelling content, not engaging the fans you already have, you are missing on social media I think.
Magic Hour Communications: Jesse, what’s an example of a Facebook event for admissions?
Stefan Anderson: Jesse – Content is the key! We have identified types of content and make sure that we have a mix of types on our main page every week including links to blog entries, noteable quotes, featured videos, and most importantly tags to other Facebook pages.
Magic Hour Communications: Stefan, sounds like a good plan. I often see schools with multiple Facebook pages or Twitter accounts: one for parents, one for alumni, one for athletics, etc. (They are free, after all… 🙂
Jesse Bardo: well what i meant was putting the events that you are holding up on facebook. Facebook allows you to update certain fans when an event comes up which is great. If NMH is headed to Chicago for an event we would put the event on facebook, blast all the fans from IL with an update and that way we did not have to inundate everyone with everything. People want to pick and choose their consumption. If you overload them, they will opt out.
Magic Hour Communications: Jesse, good point. Some people don’t realize that you can customize who your Facebook updates go to – they don’t have to go to all of your followers.
Magic Hour Communications: Let’s get into the classroom for a few minutes. How are schools using social media to supplement classroom instruction?
Jesse Bardo: Stefan this is the key, I think the more you can open to a wide audience and interject to different segments, the more you are going to get out of your facebook. Post a blog about the upcoming winter show, then post pictures from a recent math class. You are going to hit all your constituents and show all your cards.
Brendan J. Schneider: I would also like to add my two cents and encourage people to check out North Social as a way to very inexpensively customize their school’s Facebook page.
Magic Hour Communications: Good point, Brendan. There are various free or inexpensive tools for customizing Facebook. Involver is another one
Jesse Bardo: We are seeing incredible classroom use of social media every day and it is enhancing the way kids learn. One think that I feel is so important about schools using social media with their kids is that it teaches the importance of creating an online self. This is vital for kids to understand in this social media age.
Magic Hour Communications: Jesse, kids probably love using the SM tools in the classroom! Is Ning the main platform in classrooms, or some others, too?
Stefan Anderson: In the classroom we have had students create videos for YouTube, write blog entries on school activities, explore the effectiveness of Facebook pages for advocacy groups, interact with “experts” via their Facebook pages and blogs, and participate in conference calls and presentations via tools like Skype.
Jesse Bardo: I think student blogging like at Gould academy is great, the irish studies class at MKA does a mashup that is incredible, New Hampton’s live webstreaming (webinar on edsocialmedia tomorrow by the way http://www.edsocialmedia.com/2011/01/webstreaming-walkthrough/ is also a different way that kids can connect
Magic Hour Communications: That sounds great, Stefan
Magic Hour Communications: OK, terrific ideas. We’re getting near the end of our time. Two more questions. First: As if we didn’t have enough already to do, are there any even newer social media tools that are especially hot in 2011?
Magic Hour Communications: Or uses of “older” tools that are new?
Jesse Bardo: I think the new direction of Facebook groups is incredibly great for classes to start using. I have a good friend at a school who has put each of his history classes in facebook groups and does facebook chats with his kids at specified times during study hall, been very successful.
Stefan Anderson: Is anyone using phone Apps yet?
Stefan Anderson: We are using Google tools to create electronic portfolios. You can find some of these connected to our blog.
Jesse Bardo: Mobile mobile mobile. 2011 is going to be all about kids and educators starting to use their phones as a tool in and about the classrrom i think.
Magic Hour Communications: Nice idea, Jesse. FB Groups are very rich, and ideal for a course.
I hear a ton of talk about Quora, but I don’t know if it’s just a flash in the pan: http://www.google.com/trends?q=quora
Magic Hour Communications: OK, last question, anyone can chime in: most exciting school use of social media that you’ve seen lately?
Magic Hour Communications: Mobile: of course. Endless possibilities.
Jesse Bardo: I mean for me, any school use of social media is exciting! for one school having a twitter account reach 100 followers is as big as another school turning their homepage into a social media mashup so i would say it is exciting to see more and more schools using these tools and embracing them.
Jesse Bardo: Thanks to magic hour for hosting this event. I would be happy to talk more with folks on twitter (@jessebardo) and check out our blog for more great stuff on these topics- www.edsocialmedia.com.