Storytelling through social media

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We have a belief here at Interactive Schools that the internet allows your school to tell its personal story to the world. Social media plays a big role in your school’s storytelling process but schools are still not practising this effectively.

By harnessing social media to tell your school’s story, you help differentiate yourself and stand out from the noise. And let’s be honest, there is a lot of noise on social media. Don’t add to it.

We’re going to discuss how to use social media to tell these stories, and also how curate your stories. Telling them is easy, but curating them and creating awareness will need work.

Storytelling

Let’s start with how to start telling your story. There are two types of stories that your school will be sharing:

  • What’s happening?
  • What’s happened?

What’s happening? (Real-time)

The ‘what’s happening?’ stories are all stories that are happening now. They are stories that are told in real-time.

School’s will need to use specific channels to tell stories in real-time:

  • Twitter
  • Vine
  • Instagram

The channels are built for real-time storytelling. The life of content in these channels diminish quickly as they are built on a timeline approach.

What’s happened? (Archive)

The ‘what’s happened?’ stories tell your audience what has happened at the school. This is more of an archive of the opportunities and memories that people have at the school.

  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Flickr
  • Tumblr
  • News (website)

These channels will act as an archive of the greats things that have happened in at the school. This can span from as short as an archive of the week, or many years.

Social media is not going away and we need to be thinking that these channels can hold memories for 50 or more years.

The archive approach will engage with multiple audiences:

  • Prospects
  • Parents
  • Pupils
  • Alumnae

For prospects, it is a great insight into what life at the school is really like. It will show all the opportunities on offer should they go to the school.

Current parents will be able to keep up-to-date with what their child is involved in. With current pupils able to view what they, and their friends, have been enjoying.

Alumnae will be using the archive to relive memories. It will be used to engage and interact with past pupils of the school, and to encourage sharing and advocation.

Curating Stories

Sharing these stories are only valuable if people can consume and enjoy them. Curating your stories effectively is just as important as sharing stories. Effective curation will increase your reach and engagement.

Some channels can be used for both telling and curating stories:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • MailChimp (email)
  • Website

Your website is key to curating stories as it has the highest reach. Most people will land on your website if they are looking for an introduction to your school. Your website should entice people to explore your stories.

Twitter and Facebook are your social media platforms used to curate and share these stories in the form of links and photos/videos.

MailChimp (or your chosen email platform) is used to send out targeted emails to people. Segment your audience to only send relevant content to them. Although social media is leading to diminishing use of email, it is still an effective means to communicate directly to people.

How does your school use these channels? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!

Naming your school’s social media channels

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Getting your school’s naming correct, and consistent, on all of the social media channels is more important than ever.

With social media names constantly being taken, it is essential to get it right now. This guide will provide you with the rules and limitations that each of the main social media channels impose.

Twitter

Twitter allows you to change your @username multiple times. There is a 15 character limit, which can cause issues for schools with long names.

Often, schools will use an shortened acronym, or abbreviation to identify there school. The benefit of this is that schools can then easily implement naming for their sub-accounts: @SHSdrama, @SHSsports etc.

  • Username / URL changes: Unlimited
  • Username / URL character limit: 15
  • Real name character limit: 20

Facebook

When signing up for a Facebook Page, a custom URL is not automatically assigned (like on Twitter). Instead, the admin of the Page will have to set a custom URL to the Page. Facebook do allow you to change this URL, but only once. So it is important to get it right first time.

  • Username / URL changes: Once
  • Username / URL character limit: 5-50 characters long
  • Real name character limit: 70

YouTube

Again, YouTube will give you a unique URL to start with which will need to be customised. A custom URL cannot be changed - so you really do need to get it right first time.

YouTube requires you to have a Google account, which will also set you up with a Google+ account - it is important that these are linked.

  • Username / URL changes: None
  • Username / URL character limit: At least 5 characters long
  • Real name character limit: 70

Flickr

Flickr requires you to set a custom URL, if you want to optimise it with your brand name. You cannot change this URL.

Flickr also requires you to have a Yahoo! account.

  • Screen name changes: Unlimited
  • URL changes - None
  • Screen name limit - No limit

Google+

Google+ doesn’t allow you to change the URL straight away. The page needs to be at least 30 days old, and have over 200 +1s.

The URL will also contain a + sign at the start. For example, google.com/+exampleschool

  • Name changes: Limited to once every 3 months
  • URL changes: None
  • Username / URL character limit: No limit

Instagram

Instagram allows you to change your username, which is also the URL, as many times as you like.

  • Username / URL changes: Unlimited
  • Username / URL character limit: At least 5 characters long
  • Real name character limit: 30
  • Characters: Letters, number and underscores

Vine

Vine requires you to have an account over 30 days old, and to have more than two posts. That will then enable you to choose a unique URL.

  • Username / URL changes: None
  • Username / URL character limit: 3-32 characters
  • Characters: Letters, numbers (hyphens, full-stops, underscores can be used for visual purposes)

Tumblr

Tumblr allows you to change your URL multiple times. This could either be a .tumblr.com sub-domain, or your own custom domain - trips.yourschool.com.

  • Username: None
  • URL changes: Unlimited
  • Username / URL character limit: 32 characters

SoundCloud

SoundCloud allows you to change your username and URL multiple times.

  • Username / URL changes: Unlimited
  • Username / URL character limit: No limit

Pinterest

With Pinterest, you only get one shot at getting it right. The username will immediately be used as the URL, so it is best to think wisely.

  • Username / URL changes: None
  • Username / URL character limit: 3-15 characters

The recommendation is to sit down and list out all of the channels (even the channels you are not currently on) and think about naming options.

In a perfect world, you will have one name that will become synonymous with your school online. This doesn’t always happen so sometimes you will need to get creative. The importance here is to be consistent.

When setting up social media, don’t think about it as the next 2-3 years. Think about it as something you will use for the 50 years. Your social media names are becoming just as important as your website domain.

Let us know how you’ve implemented a consistent naming strategy. Or, if you need help, get in touch!

How schools can use SoundCloud

SoundCloud

What is SoundCloud?

SoundCloud is an audio platform, which schools can use to share, collaborate and promote audio recordings. Schools use SoundCloud to share recordings of music performances, and podcasts.

What can you do on SoundCloud?

SoundCloud offers the opportunity for your school’s audience to discover the music performed, or created, at the school.

Podcasts are also a very popular type of audio content for schools to upload to SoundCloud.

Who is SoundCloud for?

The main target audience is the current community at the school:

  • Parents
  • Pupils

Parents can listen to musical performance that they may have missed out on. Pupils can also use SoundCloud for podcasts, debates etc.

SoundCloud is a popular channel for the younger audience. However, this would not be relevant as the sounds shared on SoundCloud will be sent directly to your school’s audience (email, Twitter, website etc.) rather than discovered on the platform.

What to share

SoundCloud is built to share audio clips. Schools should be using to platform to distribute audio recordings of individual music performances, concerts, student radio, pupil/teacher podcasts etc.

Schools can use SoundCloud to share the following:

  • Concerts
  • Music performances
  • Podcasts
  • Languages
  • Radio

How often to share?

It is unlikely people will regularly follow and refresh your SoundCloud feed. However, they may end up on the channel and will want regular updates.

Your school will be using channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, website, email newsletter etc., to update people on new sounds shared on SoundCloud.

Weekly posts to SoundCloud is ideal for a school, but consistency is key with posts such as podcasts.

How do you use SoundCloud at your school? Are you planning on introducing SoundCloud? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter.

Analysing your audience in Google Analytics

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The first thing that most people doing web analytics will look at is the audience’s behaviour.

  • How many people visited your website?
  • How long did they stay for?
  • Did they like the content?

These insights provide a basic understanding of the website performance, particularly when measured over time. Are the trends consistent or are they changing over time?

When you log into Google Analytics, the first round of data you receive is the ‘Audience Overview’. This data provides you with a very basic overview of your site performance, but that is exactly what it is: an overview.

An overview is only useful when the limitations are understood - these limitations, without understanding will only lead to misinformed decision-making.

What do these things mean!?

The true meaning of some terms are often confused, which can cause some data-driven decisions to be based on misunderstood information. Let’s look at each term and what you can dig out from the data.

Sessions

The number of times that the website has been visited in the month. Opened up the website, closed it, then reopened it? That’ll be 2 sessions.

Sessions will always be higher than unique sessions because some people will visit the website more than once in a month.

Users

Okay, so if sessions are the number of times a website is opened, then users is how many ‘people’ have been on your website. If only one person has visited your website in the month but has done so 15 times, then your session will equal 15 and unique sessions 1.

However, some people will use multiple browsers and devices - which means we cannot assume this is a true figure for the number of people visiting the website. Using different browsers/devices will count as separate sessions.

1 session on an iPhone + 1 session on an iPad = 2 users, but could be 1 person.

% New Sessions

You can imagine this as the percentage of visitors that have never experienced your school before.

Often, returning visitors will be parents or internal staff members - these are people with an experience of your school.

New sessions have never visited your website before, which means they need to be ‘sold’ into your school. You need to delight the visitor by matching the experience with their expectation.

Pages / Sessions

Generally speaking, you want this to be as high as possible. Why? Because you want people to have an engaging experience with your website.

You want them to explore as many pages as possible and consume really good content. But do not let it mislead you; a high number of pages could mean that the visitor cannot find what they are looking for.

This is where the overview can begin to give misleading information. This metric is an average of all pages, all sessions, all keywords, all referrers etc. A good web analyst will delve deeper into specific pages and visitors.

Avg. Session Duration

Similar to pages per session, this should be as high as possible - but not too high. You can be mistaking an engaging journey for a confused and lost one.

This is a very good ‘overview’ but it doesn’t beat looking at individual pages. If a page only has one line of content but yet users are spending 2 minutes on it, there is something wrong.

Alternatively, if a page has a video on but people are only spending 10 seconds on it, you can assume they are not watching the video.

Bounce Rate

This is our favourite metric. The reason being that it provides an insight into a user’s behaviour and reaction to your website.

A user ‘bounces’ when they land on a page and then leave instantly without visiting another page. This tells us that a visitor didn’t receive the experience they expected.

Hopefully, this will give you a basic understanding of the overview metrics on Google Analytics. It is such a powerful tool to use, but only when understood correctly.

We could talk for days about Google Analytics and how your school can use it effectively. No, seriously, we do training days just on Google Analytics!

Book a training session!

Keeping your school’s brand consistent on Twitter

With more and more schools using Twitter with multiple accounts, there is the worry that your school identity may become fragmented on the channel.

The idea is that schools are wanting to provide a more tailored communication, based on interests and communities. And we’re seeing more and more schools adopting this approach.

This means that people can follow specific accounts of the schools that they are interested in. For example, a parent or pupil may want to follow the sports, arts, boarding house, and trips accounts.

Even if you do not plan on using the account at this time, there is the benefit of reserving your brand names for future purposes.

Take a look at these examples of how schools have multiple sub-accounts:

A Twitter search for Surbiton High School:

https://twitter.com/search?q=surbiton%20high%20school%20&src=typd&mode=users

A Twitter search for Wellington College:

https://twitter.com/search?q=wellington%20college&src=typd&mode=users

Naming

The clearest solution is to ensure your Twitter handles abide by naming conventions. An example could be that you initialise your school name to form your collection of Twitter handles.

Surbiton High School use this method effectively. Their accounts often use the abbreviation of SHS.

NameChk is a very useful tool to determine the availability of username on many social media channels.

Lists

Lists are a great way for schools to organise their followers. A list of official accounts can be created to show all the school’s official Twitter accounts. Simply create a list, and add your accounts as members. You can then link to the feed, or members list, on your website and other social channels.

An example from Bablake School:

https://twitter.com/bablakeschool/bablake-twitter-sites/members

BBC have also used lists very well, as they have hundreds of associated accounts.

https://twitter.com/BBC/lists

Although lists are a great idea and very useful, there is the issue that lists are not well known or highly visible. Lists are hidden behind the ‘More’ button on your profile.

Following

Another option is to only follow your official Twitter accounts. Of course, you should be following them anyway, but they may be lost in a feed of hundreds of other accounts you follow. 

Header Image

Header images can be used to either add it your official accounts, or to add an ‘official badge’ to denote that the account is related to the school.

Tweeting

Yep, this is pretty simple. But it is very effective to retweet and tweet your sub-accounts. This creates awareness as somebody may not be aware of a certain sub-account, but by retweeting or tweeting to that account their visibility increases.

Description

There is the option to add a URL to your Twitter profile but this should be used to link to your school website. You can use your Twitter description to add in the link to your list of official accounts.

How does your school manage, and promote, multiple Twitter accounts? Let us know in the comments.

Does your school require training on social media? Book a social media training day with us!

How to use Twitter’s pinned tweets

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Along with their new design, Twitter have released a hugely beneficial tool to help your school’s marketing. Pinned tweets offer the ability to pin a tweet to the top of your profile. This means that when somebody visits your profile, a ‘marketing tweet’ can the first and most visible.

This is important because a lot of people will click onto the Twitter link on your website, which links to your profile page. Previously, this would have brought up all of your most recent tweets. This isn’t the most engaging because, possibly, your three most recent tweets may not have been ‘exciting’.

What types of tweets you can pin:

  • Next open days
  • Latest news article or blog post
  • The most engaging tweet of the week

There are also a couple of other types of tweets which are important for you to understand:

  • Best tweets
  • Filtered tweets

Best tweets

Tweets that receive more engagement appear larger in size. This makes your engaging tweets more visible.

Filtered tweets

Twitter has started to increase the visibility of the different types of media on offer - tweets and photos/videos.

This means that you can filter tweets by those that are just copy, and those that contain photos and videos.  And with Twitter becoming more and more visual, this is only going to become more important.

How to pin your tweets

1. Select the three dots icon to open up the ‘More’ menu.

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2. Select ‘Pin to your profile page’

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3. Hit ‘Pin’ to pin your tweet

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4. Now your tweet has been pinned to your profile. Now take a look at how it appears

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5. Your tweet now appears at the top of your profile, and has the ‘PINNED TWEET’ icon/copy

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Has your school introduced pinned tweets? How do you use it? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @intSchools!

Found this blog post useful? Great! It’s just one of the things we will go through when we come and train your school on using social media effectively.

Book a social media training session with us.

Tell your boarding house’s story on social media

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There are always lots of exciting stories waiting to be told from the boarding houses at your school. Not only does it provide your current parents and pupils with great content to consume, but it also helps with marketing your school.

People will fall in love with your school when they come to visit because they feel the personality of the school and can see the wide range of opportunities available. Why not provide some of this experience online? Great storytelling through copy, photos, and videos can emotionally engage your audience.

Getting started

Most of your storytelling about your boarding houses will be integrated into your current online communications, through:

  • News
  • Calendar
  • Videos (YouTube / Vimeo)
  • Photos (Flickr)
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Email newsletters

Should my boarding house be separate?

If you can create enough quality content, on a regular basis, then yes… do it! It can be beneficial to build your own community, and to localise your content to a specific interest. However, it is dangerous to your school’s brand to create multiple accounts that are then left to become a ghost town.

A dedicated boarding house channel is a great way to voice a house’s personality in an authentic way. If you don’t think your boarding house will be creating enough content on a regular basis, then introduce it into your main school channels.

Twitter, Vine, Instagram, and now Facebook, support the use of hashtags. Tell your boarding house’s story through these channels but use hashtags to categorise, and archive them. This way people can follow along with the hashtags to see the specific content, without the need to create a separate account.

What channels?

Of course, you can (and should) tell your boarding house’s stories on all your social channels. But if you are going to create a dedicated account for your boarding house, then you will need to choose a relevant channel.

Not every channel will be relevant to your boarding house. Channels that promote ‘micro content’ are the ones that will reap most success. Micro content is quick to consume and quick to create. This benefits not just you, but your audience.

To have your own:

  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • Vine

Only for main school:

  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Flickr (create sets)
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest (create boards)
  • Google+

The main distinction between the groups are that the first one can provide a much more real time experience - it can show people what’s happening at the school. The second group is more for what has happened at the school.

How to manage the content

Each channel has its own lingo. Twitter is short and sweet copy. Facebook is longer copy with large imagery. Tumblr is fun animated GIFs. Pinterest is imagery. Vine is short video. Instagram is photography. And so on…

The marketing person will be overseeing the social channels to ensure the social strategy is being adhered to. But, ultimately, there needs to be trust involved to allow the staff members to publish and promote the content.

This comes down to training. If your staff members are well trained, inspired, and motivated; then your school will have strong foundations to succeed with social media.

There are lots of stories ready to be told at your school, and there must be a process in place to allow these stories to be told.

Take a look at some of the examples below to get inspiration for your school.

Examples

Boarding Blogs:

Boarding Houses on Twitter:

Does your school have a good boarding blog? Tweet us yours @intschools using #BoardingBlog