We have received at least two dozen requests for some articles on how schools can and should implement social media. It’s tricky and lots of schools have tried…and failed. We have a few initial suggestions for you (start a community blogging program!) and a couple best-practices ideas for you. We’ll be featuring schools that have tried social media and succeeded…and we’ll also showcase some schools that have tried social media…and failed.
A common misconception about social media: it’s not free. After researching what other websites are advocating in terms of social media, we at EduDemic were about ready to scream. If you think social media is free, think again. Facebook updates may be free, Twitter may be free, heck even starting your own blog is free. However, it costs a small fortune in salaries and time to make any of these channels work for your school. Be sure to check out the source of this great information at the Social Media Reading Wiki (licensed under a Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 License)
What it takes for your school to succeed in social media
Identify your target market. If it’s students, try to refine your target a bit more. What about targeting certain groups to get a higher ROI. (Yes, it’s an investment so you can call it ROI!)
Find the right voice to reach your targets. You need to decide if you want to have students talking to students (more trustworthy voice but less reliable to blog, tweet, etc. on a regular basis), faculty, or administrators running your social media accounts. Users are not dumb; they’ll know who is sending out the messages and pay attention accordingly.
Have a long-term plan in place. Social media has evolved to the point where it requires a long-term marketing plan. You can’t tweet for a few months, develop a couple hundred followers, then forget about it. If you are personally responsible for updating an account like Twitter or Facebook, try to find another potential updater by asking your audience. Chances are someone out there who retweets your every word would love the chance to be the voice of your school. (Just be sure they’re trustworthy)
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Social media, as we just said, is evolving. Don’t be afraid to try new channels like Foursquare (we have a great example of how Harvard embraced Foursquare here) and Loopt to stay as relevant as possible.
Have fun! Social media makes communicating with students and whoever your audience is…fun! So be sure to make your tweets, updates, and other communications personal. People love learning about things from someone with a personality.
Examples of schools effectively using social media
Administrators and heads of schools addressing broad and meaningful issues by blog:
Gould Academy has embraced social media in a big way with feeds and links to various social media sites directly on the home page. Check it out here
Upper Canada College efforts with social media earned them the 2008 Prix D’Excellence from the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education. Read how the Communications Manager used Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter to effectively engage alumni. Full article here.
Clay Shirky is a forward thinker in social media. Check out this short video (17 minutes) in which he talks about the potential (and concerns) about these new tools.