195244498_01fbb73234_mI say, don’t be! This morning I came across an interesting article by Denise Zimmerman over at iMedia Connection called “4 signs you’re a social media failure” and in it she describes how this year many companies and organizations will make an attempt to use social media as part of thei web and communication strategy. She cites some statistics from Market Research Firm Gartner that states

“That more than 75 percent of Fortune 1000 companies with websites will attempt some kind of online social media initiative for marketing or customer relations purposes. Gartner also projects that 50 percent of those efforts will fail”

Which made me wonder; how many schools will embark on this journey towards implementing a social media communication strategy? How many new Twitter or Facebook pages will pop up and will they be successful or simply fizzle out after a few months of focused and concerted effort to get them up and running? In her article, Zimmerman does an excellent job outlining “lessons learned” from the big boys and girls and highlights examples of how you might not be approaching this whole social media thing correctly. Here are a few of my takeaways from reading the article:

  1. Transparency – If you are going to try and filter and sculpt every social media message coming out of your school, you will find yourself both exhausted and unsuccessful. She adds “Transparency is crucial to social media success and establishing trust and credibility.” This goes both ways; just as you might be trying to use social media to get the word out about a great project or program your school is doing, you might also find someone who wasn’t happy with how your admission decisions were made. Don’t shy away from these interactions, embrace them and understand that they represent the fertile, critical feedback your school needs to improve. That is not to say that you shouldn’t be monitoring your Facebook page for comments or posts that your school may deem as having an negative impact and have an appropriate reponse for dealing with them.
  2. Understand your audience before engaging with it – Who are you tweeting to? What users are fans of your Facebook page and why are they? Are you working towards connecting with current parents? Alums? Perspective students? Who is the audience for this communication and how best would you engage with them outside of social media? Once you can answer that question, you might then hold the key as to how social media can be used strategically to deliver that communication to that particular group or multiple groups of constiuents.
  3. Have a goal in mind and create value – Don’t just create a Twitter page because the school across town has one. Take your time to decied when it would be best to launch a new social media pressence and make it part of a larger launch or campaign your school is embarking on. Ms. Zimmerman adds “Know your audience. Create something of mutual value. Observe and listen to what your customers are already doing and saying. Recognize that certain aspects of social media require an ongoing commitment. If you discover that you miscalculated your resources or a path you chose was not ideal or suited to your objectives, then regroup to move positively forward. Create your own definition of success against the available opportunities and align your programs, resources, and expectations accordingly. ” She is right on! Define success on your terms and not those of another school.

What I liked most about Denise’s article is that she highlights that you should “plan for success and expect failure” but that failure in and of itself is where the greatest potential for growth exists, especially with regards to social media. She goes on to quote Oprah Winfrey, whom many of us who attended NAIS in Chicago were able to hear speak. I will chose to quote Albert Enistein who said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Social media tools can be a valuable resource to your school community, but you won’t find success using them if you see them as the ONLY solution. Schools should start rethinking the root cause of the marketing and communication problems they face and reconsider how they might solve these problems holistically. By doing so, they might find that social media can in fact, provide some answers to those problems.


Follow Antonio on Twitter @antonioviva or on his blog which has been neglecting due to lack of time @antonioviva.com

Photo Credit: DonnaGrayson

Antonio Viva

Head of School at Walnut Hill School of the Arts