So what is it like to have over 25,000 fans on your school district’s Facebook page?
I can’t answer that, so I reached out to someone who can!
Sarah Au, Social Media Manager at Orange County Public Schools in Florida recently shared the ins and outs of their well-established strategy for using platforms like Facebook and Twitter in their district.
If your school is still wondering why they should designate a person or partner like #SocialSchool4EDU to focus on just social media, then this story will help provide answers!
When did your school district school start using social media?
Orange County Public Schools has been using social media since approximately 2009. It has always been in the purview of the Public Relations department, but a reorganization of that department took place this summer. The Media Relations department was split off into it’s own and the Manager for Social Media position was created. This is the first time social media has been the major focus of any one position, and we are seeing the results of this focus.
What strategies do you use to gather content for your social media channels?
Any and all right now. We actively solicit ideas, events and photos from our 186 schools, scan their e-newsletters, share good news items from our traditional media outlets, and enterprise our own.
We go live on Facebook for event-type announcements. We’ve even just experienced the public (parents and volunteers) sending us some photos or videos because they want to be featured or want to share the great things their school is doing. We’ve found great success sharing graphics about simple things like our calendar changes. We remind parents when there’s a student holiday coming up and they share with their friends like crazy. Content like that is already there, we just have to package it up in a nice, easy-to-read, shareable graphic and then we can reap the benefits.
Additionally, we’ve started a weekly Facebook campaign called #WhatITaughtToday. This puts the spotlight on a teacher and brings our community into their classroom for a “sneak peek.” The goal is to highlight our stellar teachers and to make the connection between what happens at school and what is shared at home. We know that children don’t always answer their parents when asked “What did you learn today?”
You had an amazing Harry Potter event. Share with us the details behind it all.
One of our high schools has a Harry Potter Club and they, along with many of the school’s departments, hosted a little party to celebrate the opening of the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie. Teachers, students, business partners and many others all worked together to transfigure their media center into Harry Potter World. Engineering students made all the moving parts for a Patronus and Dementors, TV Production students created moving portraits for the halls, TCHS’ CFE Federal Credit Union branch had a Gringotts table, and more. Five hundred students were given a scroll-like invitation to attend.
We invited the traditional news media, but they were not able to make it. No problem! We covered it ourselves! I attended the 2-hour event and took video and photos, interviewing some of the teachers and students. All of this was done on the district’s iPad. I then used iMovie to create a short video (similar to a nat sound package done by a news station) and posted it, along with a description and a tag to the school and the business partners.
Total social media metrics: 44,724 People Reached 14,857 Video Views 1,362 Reactions, Comments & Shares 4,670 Post Clicks 163 Shares 59 Comments.
What impact did this event have in the school and community?
This post not only engaged parents, teachers, community and general Harry Potter fans, it also engaged graduates who were just a few years out of this school (and who were a little jealous of this project). The 59 comments were terrific. Aside from some recent grads who were a little jealous, we had many substantive positive reactions, including many that tagged other people. Some of the best comments include:
“A perfect way to promote a variety of students’ talents, showcase their learning, and involve the school as a whole. Oh, and demonstrate the dedication from the TEACHERS who guided their students to apply practical knowledge. Fantastic!!”
“Wow – bravo to the administration for encouraging such creativity and cooperation…”
How have you encouraged your staff to use social media in their classrooms?
Our district is moving in many directions towards social media usage. I’m in charge of the community/parent outreach via social media, and the district’s Digital Learning team is in charge of supporting teachers and others in utilizing social media for engagement with students.
That said, they have encouraged all media centers to start Instagram accounts for promoting reading initiatives, and they are working with many teachers who use Edmodo for their classes. They are supporting teachers who enhance classroom learning with social media and such things as games/prizes that are announced on Twitter. For example, there is a teacher at one of our high schools who posts a math problem each week on social media, the answer to which will open the “prize locker” at school.
What advice do you have for other schools using social media?
I talk with many who are a little hesitant, and I just say, “Go for it!” The benefits are real, and parents and most communities are hungry for great news about their schools and their students.
Social media can be a fun way to relate to the community, sharing good news stories, highlighting fabulous teachers and helping parents with pertinent information. It’s also, of course, a serious way to connect with parents and the community about issues of importance and during emergencies.
Building trust and rapport is essential, and your school or district’s social media presence can do just that. There’s always so much to share that goes beyond any headlines by a newspaper or TV station. Only you can tell your story, and you need to shout it from the rooftops!
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