As he walked through his cornfield in Iowa, Ray Kinsella, in the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, heard Shoeless Joe Jackson whisper the phrase, “If you build it, he will come.” As a result, Ray took a risk and built a pristine baseball diamond not knowing who would show up, if anyone. People did show up however, including a number of historical major leaguers, including Shoeless Joe himself. Ray never did fully understand why he was supposed to build his field until Shoeless Joe finally had to tell him.
I often wonder if school’s think about Field of Dreams, and it’s most famous quote, when they embark on a social media campaign. They launch a social media channel and think that by their mere presence they are through with their work. “If you build it, they will come.” Well, I hate to tell you but that only happens in the movies! In reality, the school probably began their campaign by listening to someone else and had no idea of who “THEY” really were or how the school was going to get “THEM” to their social media channel and if “THEY” came, what were “THEY” supposed to do. In order to achieve a Hollywood ending schools should remember the words, “Promote, Engage, and Patience” when they begin with social media.
After a school decides to have a presence in social media they need to promote their efforts online as well as offline. Ray Kinsella had Shoeless Joe working on his promotional efforts but I doubt that you will be that lucky. I can tell you from my own experience that getting people to like your Facebook Fan Page, follow you on Twitter, or subscribe to your RSS feed is not going to happen without work. I offer these few suggestions as a way bring people to your social media channels.
- Follow people on Twitter that have a connection to your school (e.g. alumni, faculty, staff, parents, and students) or are members of your local community.
- Cross promote and publish information between your social media channels.
- Include your social media channels in your email signature.
- Mention your social media channels in school blogs, email newsletters, and even on your website. Josie Holford, Head of School at Poughkeepsie Day School does a great job of this in her Welcome Letter on the school’s website.
- Mention your social media channels in printed school newsletters and ask people to follow or become a fan.
- Include social media icons in printed publications including admissions and alumni focused material.
- Hang posters around school announcing the launch of your social media efforts including signs at pick-up and drop-off locations.
- Include your social media channels in the official school directory.
From my experience, creating your social media channels and promoting them is the easy part. The real goal of social media should be engagement and this will be the most difficult part for schools. I will be the first to admit that I do not have all of the answers to encourage people to interact with your Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr accounts but I have a few ideas that should prove worthwhile.
- With regard to management of your social media channels, assign other people (including faculty, students, and alumni) as co-administrators with the ability to post content from their perspective and point of view. The goal of co-administration is three-fold: 1. You will have content that will appeal to a broader audience because it is being posted by a diverse subset of your school community; 2. You personally can not be at every school event so multiple administrators means more coverage; 3. Content will be posted at different times and on different days which will allow more people to see your content.
- With regard to the content itself, think multimedia. It’s no secret that video has made a huge splash recently and with the advent of smart phones and Flip video cameras, shooting and posting video has never been easier. The more video and photos you post, the more likely someone is to engage with your channel.
- Finally, this might seem rather simplistic but just ask for people’s interactions and engagement. Be polite but be direct. Don’t be afraid to ask for comments or people’s opinions.
Where engagement might be the most difficult part of starting a social media channel, patience might be the most important. Quite simply, it will take time for people to find your channels, appreciate your efforts, and engage with your content. Understand that you’re in this for the long haul and realize that this is a marathon and not a sprint. Take comfort in knowing that people will find you but it will take time.
Finally, as you move through these three words: promote, engage, and patience, remember to think of them in a circle and not in a line. You will never be done with each of these actions but will be constantly moving from promote to engage to patience and then back to promote. Through your efforts have the confidence in knowing that if you build it and then promote, engage, and have patience, they will come.
I hope after reading this post you will take some time to comment with suggestions about promoting and engaging your school communities on social media. I would love to hear what has and hasn’t worked for other people. Thanks!
Photo Courtesy: Bill’s Movie Emporium