“How do you get people to ‘like’ you?” is not usually a question of much concern to a group of academics, but that’s exactly the challenge we took on when our team at American Jewish University’s Graduate Center for Education endeavored to create a new communications channel to expand our online community of alumni, students, colleagues and friends through Facebook this year. Without a communications department or dedicated staffer to build our social media presence, it’s been hard to consistently lean in to our Facebook ambitions without getting carpal tunnel. That being said, we’ve come away from Darim’s Social Media Boot Camp for Educators with some great strategies for managing and promoting the page, with the valued input of our fantastic coach Debra Askanase:
1) Develop and implement a content calendar.
2) Keep experimenting with different kinds of content, and check the analytics regularly to monitor what the fans want.
3) Based on #2, we discovered that our fans love and share photos, videos and announcements of awards the most.
4) Post regularly and consistently to keep up the flow of traffic.
5) Don’t feel sheepish about buying likes (which we haven’t tried yet).
While we are proud of what we have developed so far, a challenge is that there are members of our community missing out on our shiny new vehicle for sharing content, good and welfare and relevant education news and links. Not all of our constituents (alumni and Jewish education professionals) are on Facebook. Not everyone who is on Facebook uses Facebook for professional interests. Not everyone who is on Facebook checks Facebook. And so on. We are still wondering: how many of our constituents use Facebook for really engaging with professional content?
Personally, I entered Darim’s Boot Camp committed to a pretty solid boundary between the personal and professional when it came to Facebook, resisting the invitations to post professional content and reserving my Facebook use for sharing photos of my kids with actual friends and (and viewing photos of their kids). Now I’m kvelling over the latest accomplishments of our students and alumni, sharing education news items and op-eds of interest, reflecting on the teachers who have inspired me, and posting photos of my students and campus, all with a couple of quick clicks on the Pages Manager app on my droid. My new use of Facebook has become a vehicle for work/life integration in surprising ways.
So after a few months of work, the Graduate Center for Education’s Facebook page now bears the unique stamp of our learning community and the personalities and professional interests of the faculty leadership. We discovered that Facebook is a medium that can easily convey our institutional culture of intellectual curiosity, passion for creative education, sincere caring for members of our community and deep appreciation for the hard work and commitment of educators. We can be serious and playful in one space.
We’re a boutique graduate school of education, and we take a lot of pride in the warm and nurturing yet rigorous and professional learning culture that defines the “in-person” experience of being an AJU student. With the help of the Darim Social Media Boot Camp, we have slowly begun to transmit that culture online through our Facebook presence. Our next step is to share the love with an ever-growing circle of fans! You don’t have to be an AJU affiliate to join; anyone passionate about Jewish education can “like” us at www.facebook.com/educationmasters.AJU.
Dr. Miriam Heller Stern is Dean of the Graduate Center for Education at American Jewish University. Follow her on twitter @mirhstern. The Graduate Center for Education participated in the Social Media Boot Camp for Educators, a year long program generously funded by The Covenant Foundation. This series of blog posts this spring chart the learnings of the 10 teams in this year's cohort.