This year, I had the privilege to attend Darim Online’s JDS Social Media Academy together with a team from Frisch. Our team consisted of myself who handles the academic side of our social media, Mrs. Cheryl Leiser, our Alumni Coordinator, Mrs. Rachel Roth, our Director of Development, and Mrs. Elaine Weitzman, our Executive Director. Entering the program, we already had an active presence in social media through our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube channel, Flickr, and Instagram and have used our social media effectively for high profile events like Shiriyah. We were very excited about this opportunity that would enable us to further hone our practices and expand our social media capacity.
Over the course of the year, we were given a personal coach, Ms. Farra Trompeter from Big Duck and access to regular webinars, both those presented by the ever knowledgeable Ms. Lisa Colton of Darim and those coordinated from our fellow Jewish Day Schools in the Social Media Academy. Farra gave us much to read about, think about, and discuss and the webinars also greatly expanded our knowledge base about what was “out there” in the non-profit social media world. Most importantly, our participation in this program forced us to reflect on our own practices, both what was working well, and what could be improved upon. This type of reflection is highly important, to “sharpen the saw” as Stephen Covey says, but often hard to schedule time for in the busy world of a Jewish Day School.
The numbers speak for themselves. Our Frisch Facebook page has doubled its fan base. At the start of the year, our Likes were in the 500 range, and currently we have crossed the 1000 Like threshold. More importantly, we have increased our level of Engagement with our stakeholders and this in turn has greatly expanded our Reach. These terms might seem foreign to you. I did not know much more than the idea of collecting Likes prior to attending this Academy. But through the patient prodding and explanations of our coach and the research she shared with us, I have learned how important these items are. Let me explain.
1. Learn the Facebook algorithm to increase your Reach and Engagement.. This is obvious to most users of Google. You search with Google because it does not just list every single website with a given term but has a mathematical formula to rate what it gives back to you based on level of importance. The more useful the information is to you, the more you will continue to use Google for search. What I discovered in this academy was that Facebook does the same thing, not with Search but with the ever important Timeline. Facebook is not Twitter. It does not just give you a constant stream of everything that your Friends and the organizations you follow post. Rather it collates these posts and decides to show you only the posts that it deems are most important to you.
Why should Jewish Day Schools care about this minutiae? Because we have to if we want those who Like us to see our stuff. Facebook gauges who to show our posts to based on something called Engagement. It recognizes that there every Page has a small group of highly engaged fans. It first sends each page’s posts to these fans, usually about 15% of the total number of people who Like your page. Then if these fans engage with the post by clicking on it, liking it, commenting, or sharing, then it sends it to more fans and if they engage with the post more. This is what then helps increase the total Reach of your post. So you do need to care about this if you want parents, students, board members and other stakeholders to see your posts. Our Facebook can only be a “Window into what’s happening at Frisch”, if people can look through the window. These are all items that we learned through the JDS Social Media Academy.
2. Plan Your Posts. We also learned the need to try to post every day, preferably two or three times daily. Less than that and people will not be engaged. More than that and Facebook will stop putting your posts on users’ timelines. We learned to look for the best time to post. We found that posts in the afternoon got higher levels of engagement than posts in the morning. And the time that the largest number of our fans were online was actually later at night between 9-10PM. We learned the best types of postings to maximize engagement, lots of pictures, links, and videos, not just Status Updates.
3. Putting it all together: Although we have punctuated many past fundraising campaigns with posts on our social media, we were able to put together all of these valuable lessons from this past year to run our first ever fundraising campaign primarily driven through social media, our Support the Cougar Campaign for our Sports Breakfast. In this campaign, we not only reached our fundraising goals but were able to help develop our branding and school spirit by bringing our Cougar back as a symbol of our various sports teams. This campaign involved every member of our school community including our parents, students, teachers, alumni, parent alumni, and the list goes on and on. One suggestion that Farra gave us was to photograph students, teachers, and faculty with the Cougar at various events or just around the school holding up signs saying things like “We Support the Cougar” or “The Hockey Team Supports the Cougar”. This became so popular amongst our students that out student produced newsletter decided to create graphics and write articles about Supporting the Cougar and our Frisch Student Video Production Club created a video with a Rocky theme, since our special guest at our Sports Breakfast was the Modern Orthodox boxer Dmitriy Salita. You can watch a recording of our presentation to our fellow JDS Academy members using this link. (We are around the 45 minute mark.) Here is the presentation about our Support the Cougar Campaign.
Altogether, we found this experience to be a very positive one. We learned how to utilize social media to further engage with our students, parents, alumni, and other stakeholders so we can continue to spread the word about all of the great goings on as we provide a view inside the Frisch experience. Thank you Lisa, Farra, and all of the other people at Darim Online, See3 Communications, and the Avi Chai Foundation for making this possible.
Rabbi Tzvi Pittinsky is the Director of Educational Technology at The Frisch School. He tweets at @TechRav.
The Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is an intensive program designed to help Jewish Day Schools advance their strategic use of social media in areas such as communication, marketing, community building, alumni relations and development. The 2013-14 nationwide cohort of 15 schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation. Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here with the tag #jdsacademy
Complete the Social Media Self Assessment for your school at http://www.dayschoolacademy.org/assessment