Lander Grinspoon Academy is still fairly new to social media, having just joined Facebook in June 2011. When we were accepted to the JDS Social Media Academy we were both thrilled and overwhelmed. How could we, a small school with no dedicated marketing staff and with only 100 “likes” possibly rise to the huge challenges before us?
We knew that our first priority was going to be to increase the number of likes and to train our community to look for us on Facebook. Without these steps in place, no matter how well we would articulate the needs of the school, our spring fundraiser would be a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear.
After experimenting with lots of different types of posts we found that people want to share posts that say something about themselves: their children are highlighted; their values are reflected; they have a reason to be proud of the school and community. After Hurricane Sandy we had a series of posts asking for donations to be delivered to NYC. All were viewed by 100 and were shared widely. When we posted a picture of our team running in a 5K to support a local woman’s shelter we received 221 views (106 viral).
But we still only had 123 “likes,” which simply wasn’t enough even for a small school such as ours (89 students, 65 families). If we didn’t do something to increase the audience, our social fundraising campaign would be a total failure. People wouldn’t give if they weren’t seeing us online.
We began pushing people to FB in a couple of different ways. First, in our weekly email home to parents we kept up the drumbeat of asking parents to like us. As winter approached we let parents know that weather-related school closings and other timely information would be delivered via Facebook. More and more we made decisions about whether to transmit critical information via email or via Facebook, and often decided to put the information out first on Facebook and only later on email. We also began to tag local organizations in order to extend our reach. Tagging helped us to spread the word, and many people (including the Mayor) reposted our posts.
At our Hanukkah performance we announced that we wanted to get to 180 likes by the end of Hanukkah. We decided to connect the number of likes needed (44 more to reach 180) to the number of Hanukkah candles in a box. So, rather than the typical announcement asking everyone to silence their cell phones, we began the assembly by asking everyone to get their cell phones out and like us on Facebook, and later to share photos of the evening.
In one day we went from 136 to 190 likes, and by the end of December we were at 204. Most of our posts now were getting between 75 – 150 views (as opposed to the 30-50 before), with many shares. Again, the posts that had the most virality contained either pictures or artwork of the students, and/or showcased tikkun olam efforts such as Mission Mitzvah, our response to the Sandy Hook tragdey, etc. By January we had over 200 likes, had trained many of our community members to read and repost, and felt that we were ready to begin to plan our fundraiser.
Flash forward to spring. Our campaign, which rolled out right before Passover, raised over $28,000. We now have 235 likes. We also now have an active presence on Facebook and parents, alumni families and our larger community look for us there. They now expect to see video clips, photos and newsy updates about the school. Local synagogues and the community Jewish preschool ask us to repost some of their events, knowing that we reach a larger audience than they have. We know we have more to do, but are excited and energized to bring social media to the next level at Lander Grinspoon Academy.
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 2012-13 nationwide cohort of 20 schools was generously supported by The AVI CHAI Foundation. Each of the schools will be sharing insights from their experience through blog posts here this spring with the tag #jdsacademy
The 2013-14 cohort is currently in formation. If your school or community is interested in more information, please contact Lisa Colton.