Tech Leadership                                      Page 11


Facebook’s Time Has Come

in Your Schools     



 Nicole Kirby

More than a billion people actively use Facebook, and thousands of them live in your community. In fact, they are the people you most need to engage in conversations about your schools.

According to Online MBA, 40 percent of Facebook users fall between the ages of 25 and 44 — roughly the age of the parents your school district targets with its communications. More to the point, Nielsen data show more than 75 percent of mothers in the United States use Facebook.

The numbers tell the story: It’s time for your school district to have a Facebook page. When the National School Public Relations Association surveyed its members recently, 73 percent of respondents said their district has a Facebook page.

While the superintendent may not be involved in the upkeep of the site, he or she should know about using Facebook as a public relations tool.

FIT IT INTO YOUR COMMUNICATION PLAN. The staff member whose duties include public relations and communications should be responsible for your Facebook page. Think of Facebook as just another tactic to support your overall communication goals and strategies, similar to the district newsletter.

Facebook also is a wonderful way to drive traffic to other communication tools that live on your district’s website or elsewhere on the Internet.

Do you need to communicate about aligning with the Common Core standards? About your upcoming levy election? About a major district event?

Your communication plan for each of these should include strategies and tactics designed to target your key audiences, and Facebook can be valuable, especially if one of your audiences is parents.

The superintendent in Kansas City’s Park Hill School District, Scott Springston, appears in a monthly video about important district issues and updates. This is broadcast on our district’s cable TV station, on our website and on YouTube.

By linking to the video from Facebook, we not only increase the number of eyeballs on the superintendent and his message, we encourage our community to interact with him. This underscores his openness to public feedback and his accessibility.

Post content that users care about. Unlike the printed newsletter you mail to your community, it is easy to measure the effectiveness of your Facebook page. No expensive survey required. Facebook provides data about users’ responses to every post, which it calls “insights.”

The person who runs your Facebook page can use the insights to see what your users react to and provide more of that kind of content. In Park Hill, we get our greatest user reactions to photos, to awards and to anything that directly relates to users’ lives, such as approving the district calendar or calling a snow day.

While Facebook is a valuable tool for putting out your message, it is only as useful as the engagement rates in your insights. If you constantly push out information without regard to what people want to see, you will diminish the effectiveness of your page.

MONITOR FEEDBACK. Facebook is a two-way communication tool, so you must pay just as much attention to monitoring feedback on your page as to posting.

Opening up your district for comments can seem risky for some superintendents, but school districts have found it less threatening and more valuable. Most comments will be positive, and when they aren’t, users will often self-police your page, with supporters defending you from criticism posted by others.

Kala Morrissey, communication specialist at the Papillion-La Vista School District in Nebraska, says her district posted guidelines that prohibit selling products, attacking people personally, violating privacy or telling outright lies. However, she is mindful that criticism can be an opportunity for improvement.

“It is important to know the difference between opinion and a misrepresentation of facts,” Morrissey says. “Just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a voice. If people are going to say something, we want to know what they are saying and be able to respond to it.”

Nicole Kirby is director of communication services with Park Hill School District in Kansas City, Mo. E-mail: kirbyn@parkhill.k12.mo.us


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