Social Media Branding 101
We often associate the term "branding" with the business world, which can make it off-putting to some educators, said Steven Anderson in his Monday morning session "Showing How Awesome You Are: School And Leadership Branding." But essentially, "branding is letting people know who you are.
Anderson, a former director of instructional technology in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, maintained that social media is key to establishing a school or district brand that sticks—and that evokes trust. The prevalence of social media usage in the United States by nearly all demographics makes it the perfect medium to "leverage for school communication."
When establishing your school or district brand, be prepared to consider the following questions:
What's in a name?
When selecting a username, take your time and be "very deliberate" in your decision, advised Anderson. Register a simple, short username on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and any other social media channels you plan to use. One way to identify a username is to combine your school's initials and mascot. For example, Clinton Middle School in Missouri goes by "CMScardinals" on social media
What's your plan?
Lay out a careful plan before you go live. Are you going to use social media as a one-way tool to push out information to your community? Or do you plan to interact with your followers? How many times a day will you post? Will you follow or like anyone?
Who will be in charge?
Social media branding should be a team effort, Anderson suggested. When registering your account, have your CTOs or directors of technology create a special e-mail address so that if a staff member leaves, others will still have access.
The principal, assistant principal, and lead secretary of a school may want to take the lead in managing the account, he continued. But don't rule out students: "The biggest story you have in your school is your kids," so think about how they could factor into the equation. Some schools, for instance, turn over access of their Twitter accounts to kids one day a week. Some even turn it into a competition: "The class that raises the most money this week [for a charity] gets to run the Twitter account."
How will you promote your brand?
"Every piece of paper that goes home should include your social media accounts," said Anderson. Make the accounts prominent on your school's letterhead and website, as well. Use every opportunity you have to sell yourself; Anderson advised drafting a letter to your local media at the beginning of the year to explain how you're going to document your school or district's story on social media. "Inundate them with information and remind them when something awesome happens."
If time is an obstacle, draft one post and blast it across your social media channels, Anderson continued. What social media does is "let you tell your story for free, with relatively little effort."