Four Lessons for Maturing Your Social Media Practice: Evidence from the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy

Over the past nine months, 20 day schools from around the country have been immersed in an intensive Academy to catapult their social media work – and strategic goals of their schools – forward.  The Academy combines training, coaching, project-based learning and peer networks to help schools develop a social media strategy, put it into action, and measure their results.

The three projects throughout the year – a social media experiment, social fundraising project (with matching funds from The AVI CHAI Foundation) and the drafting of a social media policy are intended to help schools work in purposeful and reflective ways, and then to see real results, beyond just likes and follows.

The following 4 lessons emerged from the participating schools as important themes in advancing their work, and we offer them in the hopes they help you as well.  Links go to blog posts by each school with further detail about their Academy experience.

1.  Content Content Content.  Knowing your goals, and the interest of your target audiences is critical for developing a content strategy.  Schools that previously talked all about themselves experimented with different types of content to see what resonated, with home, and how.

Shulamith School for Girls and  The Westchester Day School focused on re-engaging alumni.  Posting photos of classes from the 1970’s got many people reminiscing. People tagged their friends which brought more alumni to the page.  Some photos had dozens of comments and several shares, leveraging networks and re-energizing and reconnecting the alumni community.

Solomon Schechter School of Queens realized that people organized, intentional and reflective was the key to their success.  By creating a content calendar they were able to plan thoughtful and relevant content, and then measure the cause and effect of various approaches.  This practice built momentum on their Facebook Page which they were able to leverage throughout the Academy.

Some schools found great value in decentralizing content creation.  Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy now has several faculty members tweeting, sharing student adventures inside the school walls and around the world.  Carmel Academy realized their teachers were a great source of content, and the faculty was eager to provide stories and photograph events.

2.  It’s About People, Not Technology.  While the myriad of tools and their (seemingly rapidly evolving) functionality can seem dizzying at first, schools learned that social media is really human. It’s about connections, relationships, emotions and listening more than talking.

At the Robert M Beren Hebrew Academy, they learned this lesson through their social fundraising project.  They recognized the social part of social fundraising, and instead of just using a “social” platform to take online donations, they set up a system of ambassadors to help amplify their campaign, and reinforce that it’s about supporting the community, not just an institution.  “Our school transformed into a community of PR ambassadors and fundraisers within a matter of hours,” they reported.

Many schools learned through trial and error that people love content that they identify with, not only information that they find interesting.  When they identify with it, they comment, and even better, share with their own networks.  At the Lander Grinspoon Academy, they 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.”

3.  Demonstrate, Don’t Pontificate. Often our instincts are to market market market our schools. But demonstrating the real and authentic manifestation of the things you do well speaks volumes more.

At the Milwaukee Jewish Day School, they featured current students and alumni in their social fundraising campaign. The stories conveyed the mission, vision, culture and impact of their school and emotionally touched the viewers.  Their ‘fan fundraisers’ had powerful human interest stories to tell to their own networks, which brought in many new donors from outside their usual community of donors.

At the Stanford Eisenberg Knoxville Jewish Day School, prospective families (even those who had decided not to enroll, but were still fans of the Facebook Page) felt the benefits of the school.  Several schools reported an increase in total applications this year (without intentionally shifting any other recruitment efforts) and a few new families who enrolled specifically because of what they were seeing on Facebook.

4.  Build a Culture. Not a Billboard.   Online spaces are like any other. They have a culture, values, and social norms.  As the host of your spaces, it’s your responsibility to help set the tone.  Sometimes doing so can catalyze more conversation once people have some cues about tone, length, humor, etc.

The Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School realized that many of their parents weren’t on Facebook, for a variety of reasons.  One of their challenges was to show parents that Facebook can have real value for their lives, and is in fact “kosher”.  They recruited ambassadors and offered articles and training for parents who were just learning, all of which not only helped their social media efforts, but was an educational and relationship building experience in and of itself.

At the Lander Grinspoon Academy they set a goal of increasing the likes on their page and making it more participatory, communal space. At a major Hanukkah, instead of the typical announcement asking everyone to silence their cell phones, they began the assembly by asking everyone to get their cell phones out and like them on Facebook, and invited them to take and share photos of the evening.  It increased their likes by 40% in one day, and they soon had many comments on and shares of their content.

The 20 participating schools have progressed in leaps and bounds this year, and they have worked hard for it.  They attended webinars, pursued projects, met with their coaches, shared their progress and learning, and integrated their work into their school culture and operations.

You can do it too.  The next cohort of the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy is now in formation.  Applications are being reviewed on a rolling basis now through the end of July.  Learn more at http://darimonline.org/jdsacademy201314.

 

Beyond Tactics: Taking on Social Media Strategy and Networked Culture in the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy

There are three pillars required for advancing a networked strategy and maturing a school’s use of social media:  Strategy, tactics and culture. 

 

While you can work on one or the other, the glass ceiling will always remain low if you neglect the others.    Thus, as I reviewed the dozens of excellent applications for the 2012-13 Jewish Day School Academy these past few weeks, I was paying close attention to each schools’ ability to fully engage in this intense and powerful experience, and to take advantage of the opportunity.   Over the next nine months, these 20 schools will build and flex their social media muscles through training, experimentation, sharing and culture change. 

 

While social media has been heralded as the latest and greatest new marketing and community building tool over the past several years, and many have jumped on the bandwagon, few organizations are really leveraging these tools for building relationships and strengthening networks.  Those organizations that are using social media to mature their social culture and adapt their work for a networked age are seeing much more than a rise in ‘likes’ on their Facebook Page.  They are engaging new audiences, networking with other organizations, empowering new leaders, and listening carefully to their constituencies.  They are revising job descriptions and titles of their staff, letting go of time consuming tasks that, while traditional functions of their staff, failed to really return results that were mission centric.

 

It is our hope that has these 20 schools matriculate through the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy, they will not only advance their own schools, but will become pioneers for the field as a whole.  Joining the 9 schools that graduated from the first Academy last year, they will chart a path of maturation that others schools can use as a map for their own work.  They will develop projects that can serve as models to be adapted for other schools.  They will test new tools — like social fundraising platforms – that others can observe and learn from.  And they will develop social media policies that can serve as a resources and inspiration for others.

 

The cohort chosen represents a diverse group of Jewish day schools from across the country seeking to mature their operations, and take important risks to move themselves and their communities forward.  Some are just beginning their social media journey.  Others have been developing their work for some time, and are seeking to take their work to the next level.  The group includes schools in major cities and small communities; large, mature schools and young start ups; Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and community schools.  

We intend to share much of the journey with you, so please come along for the ride.  All representatives from Jewish Day Schools are welcome to participate in our ten-part webinar series at no cost thanks to support from The AVI CHAI Foundation.  You can sign up at http://www.darimonline.org/jdsacademy2012You can expect to see blog posts here and on The AVI CHAI Foundation’s blog, showcasing the schools’ work and their learning process. You can also join our Facebook Group where day school leaders interested in social media and networked strategies and discussing important issues, sharing case studies, and asking questions: https://www.facebook.com/groups/jdssocialmedia/

And now, announcing the 2012-13 cohort of the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy.  Drum roll, please…


Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Baltimore, MD
www.bethtfiloh.com/school
Team Leader: Joan Feldman

Brandeis Hillel Day School, San Francisco, CA
www.bhds.org
Team Leader: Sonia Daccarett

Carmel Academy, Greenwich, CT
www.carmelacademy.com
Team Leader: Nora Anderson

Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, Rockville, MD
www.cesjds.org
Team Leader: Kimberly Dudash

Charlotte Jewish Day School, Charlotte, NC
www.cjdschool.org
Team Leader: Gale Osborne

Denver Academy of Torah, Denver, CO
www.datcampus.org
Team Leader: Kathy Bashari

Gann Academy, Waltham, MA
www.gannacademy.org
Team Leader: Laura Ayer

Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy, Beverly Hills, CA
www.hillelhebrew.org
Team Leader: Lisa Arnold

Jewish Community High School of the Bay, San Francisco, CA
www.jchsofthebay.org
Team Leader: Maura Feingold

LanderGrinspoon Academy, The Solomon Schechter School of the Pioneer Valley, Northampton, MA
www.lgaschechter.org
Team Leader: Linda Minoff

Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Milwaukee, WI
www.mjds.org
Team Leader: David Hercenberg

Robert M. Beren Academy,

Houston, TX
www.berenacademy.org
Team Leader: Samantha Steinberg

San Diego Jewish Academy, San Diego, CA
www.sdja.com
Team Leader: Joshua Nunn

Scheck Hillel Community School, Miami, FL
www.ehillel.org
Team Leader: Tara Solomiany

Shulamith School for Girls of Brooklyn, Brooklyn, NY
http://ShulamithofBrooklyn.com
Team Leader: Tova Ovits

Solomon Schechter School of Queens, Flushing, NY
www.sssq.org
Team Leader: Ariela Silberman

Stanford Eisenberg Knoxville Jewish Day School,  Knoxville, TN
www.kjds.org
Team Leader: Miriam Wilhelm

Temple Beth Am Day School, Pinecrest, FL
www.tbam.org/dayschool
Team Leader: Cari Altman

Westchester Day School, Mamaroneck, NY
www.westchesterday.org
Team Leader: Daniel Shor

Yeshivat Ha’Atid,

Bergenfield, NJ
www.yeshivatheatid.org
Team Leader: Tamar Snyder



You can download the official press release for this program below. This post has been cross posted on The AVI CHAI Foundation’s blog.

DigitalJLearning Network: Online Learning and Jewish Day High Schools

Is your day school high school/ yeshiva integrating online learning in general studies as part of its formal course catalogue? Is your school gearing up to launch such a program during the 2011-2012 academic year? If so, check out the new DigitalJLearning Network, a partnership of The Jewish Education Project, JESNA, and the AVI CHAI Foundation. This new initiative provides the opportunity for up to 15 North American day school and yeshiva high schools to work collaboratively to document their work, share resources, and tap into expertise regarding the adoption and integration of online courses. Participating schools will be eligible to apply for a grant of up to $5000 from the AVI CHAI Foundation to advance their work in this area. Details, including Network structures, school eligibility and expectations, and a link to the application can be found here. The deadline for applications is June 17, 2011 and recipients will be announced on or around June 30. What are you waiting for? Apply now to be part of the national vanguard of Jewish day high schools integrating online curriculum into general studies! Not quite ready but want to learn more about online learning? Check out the DigitalJLearning website.

The Four Children as Developmental Stages of Technology Leadership: Reflections from the Avi Chai Technology Academy

(Cross posted from a guest post on the Avi Chai Foundation blog) And… They’re off! As you may have heard, the Avi Chai Foundation has gathered a diverse cohort of New York and New Jersey Day Schools to learn about social media tools and strategies, and to support them in developing their own “experiments” to develop their networks, engage with parents and alumni, and ramp up development efforts over the next several months. After two full workshops, online exchanges and a bit of homework, the teams (2 from each school) are off and running with their project plans. Or maybe, more accurately we should say that they are playing and experimenting — because this is how we learn. One thing that I enjoy about this cohort is that they ask great questions. While reading about the four children (Wise, Wicked, Simple and One that does not know how to ask) this year at our Pesach seder, I began thinking about how these archetypes apply to (adult) students of social media. When teaching about something as new and different as a communications revolution, I see all of these archetypes (and, honestly, I experience all of them myself too). In the most successful situations, I’ve seen participants progress from one to the next as their openness, comfort, curiosity and enthusiasm grow. Inspired by the four children in the Haggadah, I offer you four (non-judgemental) archetypes of the social media learner: The accidental techie comes eager to learn, ready to experiment, and with some solid social media experience under their belt. They know the tools (largely self-taught), can learn by exploring themselves, and are willing to assume a pioneering role for their organization. Encourage the accidental techie to play a leadership role in the organization, to teach others, and to explain the opportunities and successes taking place that others might miss. Give them the time and encouragement to continue to explore and innovate online, and make sure they have peers and mentors to support them. The implementer is concerned with the “how-to” of social media. This person accepts the responsibility to use the tools in their job, and is developing a skill set to be able to effectively execute this role. Without an instinctual understanding of social media culture, this person may tend to post only about events, or neglect the need to be listening and engaging online as well as speaking. An early stage implementer applies the old paradigm social norms to the new paradigm spaces. An advanced implementer has learned these skills and they are on the verge of becoming instinctual and natural as he or she develops this “fluency” – it’s not unlike learning a language. Continue to point out to this person the idiosyncrasies that take their work from good to great. The deer-in-headlights is the one who doesn’t know how to ask. While they may be overwhelmed and feel like a fish out of water, this person is curious and listening. This person needs to know that there are no stupid questions – that we are all learning all the time, and that the rate of change is in fact ridiculously fast. Make sure this participant realizes that they are not alone (most of the room feels this way too!) and help them to feel confidence and success in at least a few places. Celebrate the small successes, and guide them to focus on a small number of basic tasks in order to develop their own foundation from which they can play and experiment. The nay-sayer resists acknowledging that communications revolution applies to their work. They are often heard saying, “We’ve always done it this way and it’s working just fine,” or “Our community doesn’t use these things.” The nay-sayer is often scared of change (aren’t we all?) and finds it safer and easier to deny the influence of social media tools and culture on their work than to wrestle with the inevitable questions and issues that we all must face. The best way to engage the nay-sayer is to help them see the value of these tools personally (“oh, photos of my grandson on Facebook! This is great!” or “Wow, someone volunteered to bring snack to the soccer game in 3 minutes – that’s incredible!”) before considering how to apply them to their professional work. The participants in the Academy are largely the first two archetypes. They are eager, curious, and are asking deep, meaningful, and profound questions. Some are “implementer” questions (How can we upload a video of students that we can link to for parents without making it publicly available?); some are more strategic (Should we have multiple Facebook Pages for Lower, Middle and High schools, and another for alumni, or should we consolidate into one Page?); and others are philosophical or ethical (How can we model and teach responsible online behavior for our students when we’re not in control of what people post on our wall? Should we condone use of social media when this can lead to gossip or slander?). I know that as they begin the implement their projects, the questions will become more frequent and more fascinating. They are keeping me on my toes, and I love it! On May 5th we’ll conduct our third full day workshop. Their toolboxes will be full, their goals articulated, and coaches holding their hands for the next important phase of this experience – putting it into practice. As each school team embarks on developing their project, we’ll be learning together, reflecting and revising, and sharing with each other and with you as well. Stay tuned. We may have questions for you. In the meantime, take a moment to reflect on which archetype you are. What defines your current experience with and feelings about social media either personally or professionally? What do you need to move from one stage to the next?

Avi Chai Foundation Gets Social

Cross posted from Allison Fine’s blog, A Fine Blog In partnership with my friends at Personal Democracy Forum, I have had the great pleasure of working with the Avi Chai Foundation since last May. Our engagement has two sides; working with the foundation staff to help them use social media, and developing efforts to strengthen the ability of their grantees and community, particularly Jewish day schools, to become more adept at using social media to build and strengthen their own networks. The foundation has been very courageous and forward thinking about using social media. They are sunsetting in 9 years and want part of their legacy to be a growing “tribe” of Jews that are connected with one another and Judaism. It’s a fascinating notion. They’re not interested in leaving buildings and legacy organizations but want to leave the capacity of a network of people to continue to grow and thrive. We are beginning with a set of experiments with day schools including a training academy for which we will have the great fortune of working with Darim Online, a video contest and online fundraising match. The foundation has taken concrete steps to enter the social media waters. Staffers have started tweeting. Deena Fuchs, the director of special projects and communications, came up with a great idea yesterday. For the next two weeks, the staff is going to have a contest to see who can gain the largest number of new friends on Twitter. We couldn’t decide on a prize. Any ideas? In addition, we agreed on social media policies to provide guidance for staff and boundaries for management. A very interesting point that someone brought up at the meeting is that these really are communications guidelines, that there shouldn’t be an artificial distinction between policies related to social media versus traditional media. Here are their policies. I think they’ve done a great job of keeping them simple, manageable and direct: The AVI CHAI Foundation Social Media Policy AVI CHAI encourages staff and Trustees to be champions on behalf of the Foundation, LRP, day schools and overnight summer camps. The rapidly growing phenomenon of blogging, social networks and other forms of online electronic publishing are emerging as unprecedented opportunities for outreach, information-sharing and advocacy. AVI CHAI encourages (but does not require) staff and Trustees to use the Internet to blog and talk about our work and our grant making and therefore wants staff and Trustees to understand the responsibilities in discussing AVI CHAI in the public square known as the World Wide Web. Guidelines for AVI CHAI Social Media Users 1. Be Smart. A blog or community post is visible to the entire world. Remember that what you write will be public for a long time – be respectful to the Foundation, colleagues, grantees, and partners, and protect your privacy. 2. Write What You Know. You have a unique perspective on our organization based on your talents, skills and current responsibilities. Share your knowledge, your passions and your personality in your posts by writing about what you know. If you’re interesting and authentic, you’ll attract readers who understand your specialty and interests. Don’t spread gossip, hearsay or assumptions. 3. Identify Yourself. Authenticity and transparency are driving factors of the blogosphere. List your name and when relevant, role at AVI CHAI, when you blog about AVI CHAI-related topics. 4. Include Links. Find out who else is blogging about the same topic and cite them with a link or make a post on their blog. Links are what determine a blog’s popularity rating on blog search engines like Technorati. It’s also a way of connecting to the bigger conversation and reaching out to new audiences. Be sure to also link to avichai.org. 5. Include a Disclaimer. If you blog or post to an online forum in an unofficial capacity, make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of AVI CHAI. If your post has to do with your work or subjects associated with AVI CHAI, use a disclaimer such as this: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t represent AVI CHAI’s positions, strategies or opinions.” This is a good practice but does not exempt you from being held accountable for what you write. 6. Be Respectful. It’s okay to disagree with others but cutting down or insulting readers, employees, bosses or partners and vendors is not. Respect your audience and don’t use obscenities, personal insults, ethnic slurs or other disparaging language to express yourself. 7. Work Matters. Ensure that your blogging does not interfere with your other work commitments. 8. Respect Privacy of Others. Don’t publish or cite personal or confidential details and photographs about AVI CHAI grantees, employees, Trustees, partners or vendors without their permission. 9. Don’t Tell Secrets. The nature of your job may provide you with access to confidential information regarding AVI CHAI, AVI CHAI grantees, partners, or fellow employees. Respect and maintain the confidentiality that has been entrusted to you. Don’t divulge or discuss proprietary information, internal documents, personal details about other people or other confidential material 10. Be Responsible. Blogs, wikis, photo-sharing and other forms of online dialogue (unless posted by authorized AVI CHAI personnel) are individual interactions, not corporate communications. AVI CHAI staff and Trustees are personally responsible for their posts.